NORRISTOWN >> Dads will be playing all kinds of fun games with their kids on Father’s Day, but only a small handful of fathers and sons can say they did so on national TV.
Chef Keith Taylor and his son Zachary, the namesake of his dad’s immensely popular eatery, Zachary’s BBQ Southern Comfort & Catering, 1709 Markley St., Norristown, will be featured players on “Guy’s Grocery Games,” airing Sunday on the Food Network.
In the competition series, hosted by Guy Fieri, chefs battle each other for a grand prize of $20,000, testing their culinary skills as they make their way through the grocery store aisles.
“I know Guy from working with him a few times and we were contacted by them several months ago,” Taylor said. “They were looking for chefs for a specific type of show, a special episode of ‘Guy’s Grocery Games’ that would air on Father’s Day.”
Taylor and Zachary, who will be a junior at Penn State in the fall, play to raise money for Taylor’s favorite charity, Norristown-based Convoy of Hope, which provides free groceries and other services.
Paying a bit of homage to the 1950s TV sitcom “Father Knows Best,” the episode is titled “Father Cooks Best” and will premiere at 8 p.m. June 18 and air again on June 19 at 3 a.m.
The summary noted: “It’s a Father’s Day feast when three dads and their kids pit their family recipes against each other for a shot at $20,000. First, they must make their greatest grilled dinner using the processed ingredients found in the store’s middle aisle. Then, dads and kids enjoy a round of bowling that will determine the store ingredients they’ll have to score for their game day favorites.”
Taylor admitted he’s no fan of the Food Network’s trend of “cook or die” competition-oriented programming.
“It’s no secret I wasn’t a huge fan of the Food Network, at least not the current programming. There’s something to be said about the old ‘dump and stir’ shows, as they call them, where somebody’s talking about the ingredients. You learn something. You don’t learn anything from reality TV,” Taylor said. “My whole career I’ve walked away from big clubs and restaurants, just trying to simplify things with food that evokes comfort and soul. I’m a real chef that makes real people food.”
However, there was some aspect of “Guy’s Grocery Games” that wasn’t so much “Cutthroat Kitchen” but more benevolently human — and that appealed to Taylor.
“I do love and respect Guy Fieri, and the show didn’t involve tearing down other people, or being the biggest loser, or who got chopped,” he allowed. “The show is a fun concept. It’s basically ‘Supermarket Sweep’ meets ‘Beat the Clock’ meets ‘Chopped’ … all mashed together. And then you have a chef and a great host like Guy Fieri who keeps things interesting by throwing every kind of curveball that chefs normally would not see in their kitchens, all at the same time. But, it was really about the opportunity to raise money for my favorite charity,” Taylor added. “I don’t really like a lot of the shows on the Food Network but this represented the opportunity to be part of a show that illuminated fatherhood and that was going to be airing on Father’s Day.”
Taylor consulted with his son before saying ‘yes’ to participation, he recalled.
“I asked him ‘what do you think?’ And we both decided that it was an opportunity that most dads won’t ever have with their sons.”
So, father and son headed for Santa Rosa, Calif. last November for the taping of the show.
“We did it and we had a blast,” said Taylor, who, of course, is forbidden from revealing the outcome of the competition.
“It gave me the chance, if we won, to raise $20,000 for Convoy and feed 5,000 people here in Norristown. And I got to do something with my son that most guys can never say they did. My son and I went on a game show, and that’s a memory most dads don’t have. I went there to have fun, and that’s exactly what I did.”
As his success has mushroomed over the years, Taylor, whose core company Chefsoul Culinary Enterprises, is positioned to go worldwide with its branding in the near future, has remained adamant about giving back to the community.
He pointed out that the best thing about “Father Cooks Best” is that it gave him the chance to do that in a big way.
“It was also a great opportunity to represent the town where I live, Norristown, and an opportunity to represent my hometown, Nutley, N.J. And more than anything,” he added, “it gave me the chance to raise money for Convoy of Hope and have fun with my son.”