Meet the rising Boston chef who managed to beat Bobby Flay

News

Lambert Givens, The Footballer turned Food Network star Hunter’s Kitchen and Bar, chats with one of the biggest names in restaurants.


Image provided

“I’m very competitive and that spirit has served him well,” says Boston chef Lambert Givens. First, on the football field, where Givens, a lifelong New England Patriots fan, dominated the gridiron while playing for his alma mater, South Carolina State University.

Lately, though, Givens’ competitiveness has won him on a much different field: Last week he Beat Bobby Flay On the hit Food Network show, a cook-off that pits the titular celebrity restaurant against a different guest chef each episode. What was Givens’ game-winning dish? His gumbo is a mainstay on the menu at Hunter’s Kitchen and Bar in South Boston, where the former athlete and current chef has been spinning American South-spanning cuisine since opening the restaurant last year. “It’s like being in the Super Bowl,” Givens said of himself Beat Bobby Flay Experience. “I feel on top of the world.”

For good reason. Boston is far from Louisiana’s gumbo-drenched restaurant scene, but Givens’ Spicy Seafood Stew — loaded with crab, shrimp, okra and andouille sausage — has earned the national bragging rights our city has placed on Southern cuisine. on the map.

Not bad for a boy who grew up in Connecticut, where Givens spent a lot of time learning to cook from his parents and especially his grandmother. Today, many of the plates on Hunter’s menu — including gumbo, as well as collard greens — are safe-up versions of many of the recipes Givens’ family brought to New England after coming here from Georgia and Alabama.

Although he had the same passion for food early on, it wasn’t always clear that Givens would become a pro chef. In fact, he studied consumer science business at SCSU — though he continued to teach himself to cook using a crockpot, toaster oven and fryer tucked away in his dorm. (“I had to hide while checking the room,” Givens adds with a laugh.) After graduation, Givens moved to Quincy to work for a telecom company. He quickly realized, though, that he really wanted to spend his career in the kitchen. “Something just clicked,” says Givens. “I was still young enough to be able to change my life, and I knew if I didn’t do it now, I never would.”

Through some contacts in the hospitality world, Givens landed a job as a line cook at Capo — the team behind Broadway Restaurant Group’s Italian eateries, some of Southie’s most popular spots. He worked his way through Broadway properties, including the sushi-oriented Fat Baby and the inventive gastropub Lincoln Tavern & Restaurant, before opening as executive chef at Hunter’s in August 2021.

It was a thrilling anniversary present when, a year later and armed with one of Hunter’s signature plates, Givens managed to dethrone Bobby Flay on his home turf. Thanks to practice playing football in front of thousands of stadium spectators, rapid-fire cooking for TV cameras and live studio audiences came naturally to Givens, he says—and what’s more, even the still-early-career chef fell behind. – Visual coaching from one of the biggest names in the biz. “[Bobby] “I told you there would be tough times,” shares, “but if you stick with it and stay passionate, you’ll get through it.”

That advice echoes the approach Givens takes in Hunter’s kitchen, where he taps into his football experience to keep his staff on the ball in a high-pressure, fast-hustling industry. “It’s all about the same team values ​​and making sure we work together like a well-oiled machine,” says Givens. “In moments when you’re tired, you have to give a little more.”

So what more could Givens want, now that he’s beaten one of the country’s most famous chefs at his own game? For one thing, with the kickoff of football season, he expects Hunter’s to become the “number-one place” for game-day dining. He also wants to open his own restaurant one day. That said, his competitive streak won’t let up: Givens likes to give Guy Fieri a run for his money. Boy’s grocery games (Hear that, Food Network?), and if Bobby Flay is ever up for a rematch, he knows what Hunter’s dish he’ll be bringing to the table for round two.

“Our mac ‘n’ cheese,” says Givens, without hesitation. His shell is a three-cheese blend with pasta, topped with a cheddar-biscuit crumble, the chef explains. “And it’s one of the best in town.”

Start the game.

Lambert serves gumbo

The winning gumbo. Image provided

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.