Canned pig brains in milk gravy.

That was the most memorable memory basket item Christian Hayes, chef and owner of Yarmouth-based Dandelion Catering, worked with on Tuesday night’s episode of the Food Network’s popular television show “Chopped.” The entree he made with the “really disgusting” ingredient helped him win the show and its $10,000 prize.

“I made a brain cream with it, and (the judges) really liked it,” Hayes said. “I was getting hashtags for brain cream all day on my phone because it was sort of the thing of the episode, I guess. It was absurd.”

Hayes was a reluctant contestant, but was “relentlessly encouraged” by one of his employees, a chef whose work he admires, so he flew down to New York to film the episode, aptly titled “Pork on the Brain.”

Hayes said he had to be at the studio at 4:30 a.m. Producers took him to an unmarked building in Harlem, where he and the other contestants wandered through nondescript hallways for a while “and then just all of a sudden you’re in this TV studio.” They took away his phones and checked his pockets. If he needed to use the restroom, he had to ask permission.

“They try really hard to preserve the integrity of the show,” he said.


The episode was filmed over one 16-hour day.

Pork was included in every round of ingredients. Hayes thought the pig brains in milk gravy was “super vile, and then it’s taken to the next level by being canned.”

“You could rub it between your thumb and forefinger and it would just melt,” he said. “It was really disgusting.”

Hayes said he found the entire experience difficult and “really intense.”

“It was very jarring and disorienting,” he said. “The first round I did not get my landing gear up. I felt like there was a fog around me the whole time. The environment is so alien. There’s about 20 people in black with boom cameras around you, and you can hear the judges, and you know they’re talking about you. There’s a giant clock ticking away on the wall.”

Hayes said he and his wife, Christine, who manages their catering business in the Sparhawk Mill, will probably use his winnings to open a little restaurant sometime next year.


Hayes doesn’t want to do the show again, but he would if they asked him, simply for the public relations value. He said the minute last night’s episode started, the Dandelion Catering website was bombarded by fans of the show from all around the country.

“Even if you get chopped, the PR is so invaluable I would have to do it,” he said.

Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at:

Twitter: MeredithGoad

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