Chef Larry Delgado at Salome on Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021, in McAllen. (Joel Martinez | [email protected])

If before this week no one outside of the Rio Grande Valley knew who Larry Delgado was, now they know. And Bobby Flay certainly knows who he is.

Delgado — chef and owner of McAllen restaurants house. wine. & bistro., SALT – New American Table, and Salome on Main — made his way to the Food Network popular show, Beat Bobby Flay, where he did just that.

The Edinburg native had no trouble making his mark on TV, holding his own against Flay in a 45-minute cookoff.

Delgado said since the show aired Tuesday, he has been taken aback by the overwhelming support from the Rio Grande Valley. 

While going from the kitchen to the studio was a bit of an adjustment, Delgado said he felt in his element the second he began cooking.

“I was able to, thankfully, just focus on the cooking, on getting my flavors in and making sure that I presented a beautiful dish that was tasty, and somehow I was able to drown out the lights and the cameras and the people cheering and just get it done,” he said.

His aim going into the showdown was to face Flay with flavors he is familiar with.

“He’s known for his southwest flavors and I thought well we’re known for that, the Valley’s known for that,” Delgado said. “And I thought if I’m going to do this I’d like to take him on head on.”

Chef Larry Delgado at Salome on Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021, in McAllen. (Joel Martinez | [email protected])

He said his original competition dish was to serve a flour tortilla with fajita and a strong salsa. However, as the dish progressed he went for a more authentic carne asada flavor wrapped in a thin tamal.

“Naturally the mole-rich, mole verde to accompany the tamal just kind of came to me and then when I put it together it was delicious and I said, ‘That’s a winning dish,’” Delgado said.

That winning carne asada dish can be enjoyed at Salome on Main. The name of that menu item, however, may be changed in the future to honor Delgado’s win on the Food Network.

“I think that it’s huge not only for our restaurants and for our team and for our brand but I think for the Valley,” he said. “To bring to McAllen and the Rio Grande Valley something positive on a national stage because I think a lot of times we’re portrayed in a negative way. … To have something positive to talk about, about the talent and our cuisine and to talk about our culture in a positive light is huge for all of us, and that’s really what I’m most proud of.”

While his conversations with Flay were brief he did appreciate his humble style. Delgado also shared that the episode was filmed in a single day in 2019 and was delayed from premiering because of the pandemic. 

Delgado got the opportunity when a Brownsville native and producer for the Food Network wanted to highlight talent in the Valley.  

Chef Larry Delgado at Salome on Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021, in McAllen. (Joel Martinez | [email protected])

A long way from where his passion for cuisine originated, Delgado attributes his skills to his mother who encouraged his love for cooking. Among three sisters, the chef said he took up the most time with mom in the kitchen.

“I was passionate about cooking from an early age and I have a love for preparing family meals and watching people eat,” he said. “That was nurtured from a very young age in my family.”

After graduating high school, Delgado discovered a newfound appreciation for food when he worked as a farmworker in Indiana at 17. 

Chef Larry Delgado at Salome on Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021, in McAllen. (Joel Martinez | [email protected])

His experience there made him respect the earnest and grueling work involved in what it takes to create fine cuisine — a labor of love for Delgado.

“Tasting a vine-ripened tomato for the first time when I was 17 years old was an eye opener, you know,” Delgado said. “The burst of flavor from a vine-ripened tomato was something that I had never had before at 17. I had eaten tomatoes but not right off the vine, not out of my own garden, not from the field. … So, when I started to understand more and appreciate the work that goes into farming, and the dedication to farming, it went hand in hand with my love for cooking.”

While his love for cuisine helped put his work and the Valley on the map, Delgado looks forward to returning to business as usual and continuing to serve the families of the Valley. 

“It’s been a tough two years of the restaurants being kicked in the teeth, and tomorrow it’s just going to be business as usual,” he said Friday. “We have a responsibility to all the people that work in our restaurants and a responsibility to the community to keep our business moving and going forward.”

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