Q&A with Robbie Jester, the Chef Whose Dish Beat Bobby Flay, and He’s Teaching a Cooking Class in Delaware on 3/15

Many chefs have gone head-to-head on the Food Network competition show Beat Bobby Flay, but not everyone can say that he or she emerged victorious. However, Chef Robbie Jester can.

As the culinary director of High 5 Hospitality, executive chef of Stone Balloon Ale House in Newark, Delaware and chef/partner of Full Circle Food, Chef Jester has a wide array of experience creating unique culinary offerings. He was able to show off his cooking prowess while competing against Celebrity Chef Bobby Flay. The winning dish? His exceptional shrimp scampi.

Now, Chef Jester is providing access to his special recipe by heading up the CROP Foundation March cooking class on Thursday, March 15. The CROP Foundation is an organization which pursues a mission “to foster educational and employment opportunities for students who are driven to study and promote the art, science and soul of food.”

Before you sign up for this one-of-a-kind, limited-space cooking demo class for a great cause on March 15, read on to learn more about the chef who took on Bobby Flay and won!

PA Eats:  How did you get involved in the culinary field?

Chef Robbie Jester: I grew up in a restaurant family. I started at age 9 or 10 helping my parents by sweeping floors and cleaning bathrooms in their sports bar. Then, when I was 12, my father took over a seafood restaurant in Maryland. I was washing dishes and making salads, then I moved to the line at 14 and starting running the line at 15. When I graduated high school, I went to massage school before leaving for culinary school at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. After that, I returned home and held positions at the Hotel DuPont and DuPont Country Club, Piccolina Toscana and Toscana Catering, 16 Mile Taphouse and now Stone Balloon Ale House.

PA Eats:  How did you become involved with the CROP Foundation?

Chef Robbie Jester: Kip Poole and his team at William Penn have done tremendous things for the culinary education of our youth in this state. I’ve judged CROP Foundation award-winners at the ProStart Competition and have also employed several scholarship candidates and winners at the Stone Balloon Ale House. As chefs, we always cross paths at events, and the CROP Foundation reached out to me to see if I’d be interested in doing this class. How could I not choose to be a part of this?

PA Eats:  Why should people support the CROP Foundation?

Chef Robbie Jester: I would argue that there is no other organization doing more for the progression of modern culinary education in our state than the CROP Foundation. Everyone eats, and it is because of the CROP Foundation and ProStart by the Delaware Restaurant Association that Delaware has fast become a force to be reckoned with in terms of up-and-coming culinary talent. Just last week, I visited the Culinary Institute of America and the admissions adviser said that the kids coming from Delaware are among the top performers at the college level in culinary arts. If you love high-quality food experiences and believe in creating pathways and opportunities for young people, supporting the CROP Foundation is a must.

PA Eats:  When did you compete on Beat Bobby Flay, and how was it going head-to-head with Bobby Flay?

Chef Robbie Jester: Beat Bobby Flay was filmed two years ago and aired about a year and a half ago. Going head-to-head with Bobby is intimidating more so because he competes every day than because of his celebrity status. I had my timeline worked out in my head, down to the four minute increments, and although I hadn’t rehearsed, I was extremely organized. That helped alleviate the stress. In comparison, I think competing first on Guy’s Grocery Games was incredible practice, because you have less time, and not only do you have to cook the dish but you have to fully conceptualize it and shop for the food.

PA Eats:  How did you come up with the recipe for your winning shrimp scampi?

Chef Robbie Jester: Shrimp scampi was the first sauté dish I ever learned how to make. My father taught me when I was 14. All that was needed was to make it my own so I added cavatelli pasta, which is my absolute favorite pasta for its texture and versatility. From there, I thought it would be nice to incorporate the cherry tomatoes for tart sweetness and arugula for a little peppery bite. It needed a crunchy element, so the garlic bread crumble was for texture.

PA Eats:  What will class participants learn during the event on March 15?

Chef Robbie Jester: Class participants on March 15 will learn to make classic simple shrimp stock, macaroni-style pasta dough making and shaping, how to build flavor by stacking building blocks from step-to-step in the dish, simple sauté technique and pan sauce technique.

PA Eats:  In your opinion, what is the secret to making the best possible shrimp scampi dish and/or pasta dish?

Chef Robbie Jester: The right amount of acid and tasting your food. Taste the food during each part of the process and make the adjustments needed. We all have our preferences, but if you season and taste our food as we go, then you will have a well-balanced plate.

PA Eats:  Touching back on your statement that you also participated in Guy’s Grocery Games, how was that experience?

Chef Robbie Jester: Fantastic! Although he gets a bad rap from chefs, Guy is a one-of-a-kind dude that really cares about people. At least in my experience he does. When I returned for my redemption tournament, he remembered everything about me, including my mother and father’s names. As many people as he must meet on a daily basis, that is a skill that has to be a part of you.


Don’t miss out on helping the CROP Foundation pursue their mission by attending this fundraising class and learning how to create a tempting shrimp scampi dish, along with learning other cooking tips courtesy of Chef Jester.

Less than 10 spots remain for this special class at William Penn High School in New Castle, Delaware, so be sure to reserve your seat today! The cost is $60 per person and includes the following:

  • Snacks
  • Hands-on instruction in a professional teaching kitchen
  • Printed recipes and tasting notes
  • All the food you make to eat or take home.

Many thanks to Chef Jester for taking the time to participate in this Q&A with PA Eats!

  • Photos: Robbie Jester