Malcolm Mitchell is like a lot of chefs: He dreams of being the Food Network’s next big thing. The only difference: He has a good chance at actually getting his name on the cable giant’s line-up. The Washingtonian is a finalist on Season 8 of “Food Network Star,” (Sun., 9 p.m.) Mitchell, an exmember of the Navy and personal chef for celebs like Mary J. Blige and the NBA’s Washington Wizards, is under the tutelage of Bobby Flay in the 15-person competition that awards one deserving chef with his own Food Network show.
What’s the difference between being a personal chef and cooking on the show?
The nerves add up when you got that camera in front of you. Your confidence level goes slightly down because you’re getting critiqued. I’m used to being critiqued, but not on this level. I wanted to look good in front of Bobby. I wanted to make him proud he picked me on his team.
What’s Bobby Flay like?
He’s kind of like me, but just a different color. He’s smooth, he’s got a little swagger and he has crazy cooking chops.
How good is his burger versus others in D.C.?
That’s tough for me because my good friend is [Good Stuff Eatery’s] Spike Mendelsohn. They’re neck and neck. I’m going to go with … that is tough. Put it like this: They got great burgers, but let me tell you what I’m impressed with at Spike’s spot. He’s got the sickest milkshake in the city. That toasted marshmallow is sick.
If you win, what’ll you do?
I want to open up a restaurant. I’m looking in D.C. and Richmond. As a private chef, with these A-list celebrities, my food is private. I want more people to taste my food.
If you could cook only one meal for yourself, what would you make?
Turkey loaf with mashed potatoes, green beans and a little marinara sauce — like my mom makes. Pure comfort food.
How did serving in the U.S. Navy influence you?
I got to travel all over the world and taste different foods and cultures. Growing up in D.C., you get that American palate. Hot dogs, burgers, you know. Travel opened my eyes for food. It helped me to see this is what I want to do.
Did any country stand out?
Italy. There’s no fuss, no muss. It’s just real straight-forward food.
Which Wizards did you cook for?
JaVale McGee, John Wall, Rashard Lewis, Kevin Seraphin. Wall can eat anything!
Would you rather cook for yourself or have someone cook for you?
I’d rather have someone cook for me. Are you crazy?