Bethany Clough

A top Fresno chef competed on a Guy Fieri/Food Network show. Here’s what he wanted to prove

Contestant Vatche Moukhtarian of Cracked Pepper Bistro in Fresno plates his dish on “Guy’s Grocery Games” season 20 on the Food Network.
Contestant Vatche Moukhtarian of Cracked Pepper Bistro in Fresno plates his dish on “Guy’s Grocery Games” season 20 on the Food Network. Food Network

As the owner of Cracked Pepper Bistro, chef Vatche Moukhtarian doesn’t have much to prove.

He’s the chef at one of the top fine dining restaurants in Fresno. But when the opportunity to appear on a Food Network show with TV chef Guy Fieri came up, he went for it.

Moukhtarian competed in “Guy’s Grocery Games” on the Food Network, with the first episode airing Wednesday and repeatedly over the next two months. Keep reading for air times.

“Fresno never gets any love or any representation,” Moukhtarian said. “We have so much produce that comes out of Fresno, we have a lot of good restaurants. We get skipped over, so when the opportunity came up … I think it was exciting that I could represent Fresno.”

“I think Fresno needs more attention than we get,” he added, citing quality area restaurants like the Annex Kitchen, Trelio, Max’s Bistro and Erna’s Elderberry House.

“Guy’s Grocery Games” pits four chefs against one another in Flavortown, the northern California grocery store-like setting where the shows are filmed. Typically, the contestants are given limited ingredients, or certain ways of preparing food that they must use to see who can come up with the tastiest dish.

Moukhtarian is constrained in what he can say about his time on the show, including who won. He sticks mostly to the network’s description of the episode, which is titled the Ultimate Grocery List.

It says: “Four chefs visit Flavortown to tackle Guy Fieri’s worst grocery list yet, featuring ingredients they’d never dream of putting in the same dish. The chefs must use every item on the list during the three rounds of competition or face elimination, but Guy adds lots of extra twists. The chef with the skills to turn the groceries on Guy’s worst list into the best dishes earns a shopping spree worth up to $20,000.”

“It was pretty challenging,” he said. “When you have all those cameras coming at you, you got to make decisions.”

Moukhtarian connected with the show after representatives of it reached out to him. After several interviews, he was given the OK to compete.

Since then he’s heard of other local chefs getting calls too, he said.

Moukhtarian‘s episode (episode 12 of the latest season) of Guy’s Grocery Games will air at 9 p.m. Wednesday; midnight April 24, midnight Thursday, April 25, and 8 p.m. May 19 and 3 a.m. May 20.

Bethany Clough covers restaurants and retail for The Fresno Bee. A reporter for 20 years, she now works to answer readers’ questions about business openings, closings and other business news. She has a degree in journalism from Syracuse University and her last name is pronounced Cluff.