Adam Greenberg doesn’t have a restaurant yet, but he’s achieved something no other chefs in DC have: five wins on Chopped and Beat Bobby Flay, earning him the title of what he calls the “all-time winningest Food Network competitor.”
“Not all chefs want to be on TV. Game shows just fit my style,” says Greenberg, who’ll open the island-themed Coconut Club near Union Market in November. “I keep a good attitude. I want people to know me rather than think I just do it for TV.”
Greenberg majored in communications at Syracuse and wanted to be a sports broadcaster, but followed a passion for cooking instead. He spent a decade with the hospitality group behind Barcelona when it was still a small operation in Connecticut, and started competing on Chopped three years ago. His victory against celebrity chef Bobby Flay last week drew from his days at the Spanish chain.
“Bobby used to come into Barcelona Fairfield just for this dish: chicken pimiento,” says Greenberg. “It’s basically Italian chicken scarpariello with cherry peppers, lemon butter sauce, and sausage. There’s nothing Spanish about it, but it’s a super popular dish so they left on.” (You’ll still find it on Barcelona menus in the DC area.)
Greenberg partly chose the dish because he knew he couldn’t beat the celebrity chef in flavor or creativity, so instead “wanted to do something super simple that let the execution and ingredient speak for itself.” At the end of the day, he took home bragging rights (unlike Chopped, where he’s won money). After his restaurant opens he still hopes to continue with TV appearances, though like other chefs who’ve gotten a taste of celebrity, he says it only gets you so far.
“Whether it’s Kwame [Onwuachi] or Majorie [Meek-Bradley], we have a ton of Top Chefs in the city. They wake up and bust their asses every day. It opens up doors for you at times, but you have to keep it real and stay focused on what you’re doing.”