Brad Mahlof, The Great American Recipe Season 2 winner, on meals’ meanings, interview

The Great American Recipe Season 2 finale, photo provided by PBS
The Great American Recipe Season 2 finale, photo provided by PBS /

When PBS started The Great American Recipe, the food television program sought to gather people around the table not just for a delicious recipe but also for a meaningful conversation. Whether the dishes represent the past, present, or future, the reality is that every forkful is another chapter in a story. For The Great American Recipe Season 2 winner, Brad Mahlof, his favorite dishes are a celebration of cooking with love.

Throughout this season of The Great American Recipe, the show celebrates community in the kitchen. Without eliminations till the finale, the feeling in the space was more open. For Brad, his journey had both ups and downs. After coming out strong in the first few challenges, there were a few bumps along the way.

Speaking to this season’s vibe, Brad said, “the premise of the show is to really showcase the beauty of so many different cultures. I think that it was so nice to have the opportunity for every contestant to be there and share their story through the entire season.”

“With less risk of going home, it allowed us to push our limits. We might not do well in one week but as long as I’m doing well overall, I can make it to the finale. It allowed me to make some dishes that reflected my heritage that might have been a risk.”

The Great American Recipe Season 2 finale
The Great American Recipe Season 2 finale, photo provided by PBS /

In some ways, that lack of elimination allowed viewers to better appreciate the deeper conversations that The Great American Recipe provides. While the food will always drive this type of programming, it is the sentiment behind the gathering which makes for a more memorable meal.

As Brad explained, “any dinner is an opportunity to show gratitude towards all the wonderful things in your life. We all can have stress and problems, but that moment around the table, gathered together, over a beautiful meal, is important. I embrace the beauty of it. In my family and culture, food is such a bonder. Chopping onions might not be my favorite, but the end result is well worth it.”

In the finale, family was front and center. With Brad’s mom joining him in the cook, that surprise moment seemed to put him at ease and even give him a boost. It might not have been exactly like cooking at home, her support alleviated the pressure, let him have fun, and make another flavorful memory for a lifetime.

Brad Manhold The Great American Recipe Season 2 winner
Brad Manhold The Great American Recipe Season 2 winner, photo provided by PBS /

Looking at Brad’s finale meal, which graces the cover of The Great American Recipe Season 2 cookbook, it invites the reader with an amazing visual. One component that he has learned to better leverage is the visual in cooking. Brad mentioned that some ethnic dishes can be monotone or drab visually.

Speaking to how he evolved those traditional dishes, Brad commented, “as delicious as my parents’ and grandparents’ dish are, it is important to make them a bit more visually attractive, especially on the show. If I’m making a brown or red dish, I would think about how I could add some visual interest or some texture. The judges were really great in offering advice on how to elevate those family recipes.”

Reflecting on the season, Brad said that his favorite challenge was the holiday episode. “I loved being able to make my meatballs, which honor my grandmother who was so dear to me. When she watched it, she was in tears and she was so proud.”

That moment is why people watch and read The Great American Recipe offerings. It is about bringing together the past, present and future. It is time to put those recipes to paper. No one wants to long for the flavor of grandma’s holiday dishes that can never be recreated again because no one wrote down the process. A picture might be cherished, but those flavors can spark a million memories.

At the same time, cooks absorb concepts, ingredients, and techniques from fellow cooks. In this food television show, it is seen in every episode. The ingredient or recipe names might be different but there is a tie that binds.

Brad concurred with that sentiment and said, “Everyone’s kitchen is a little different, but I think more than our differences. What was really a focus and a highlight for me, is to me was how similar we are. We’re just all cooking for our family. We’re cooking for our friends. While our methodologies and our recipes are different, we’re kind of yielding the same result, producing beautiful food for each other.”

Lastly, when he is not in the kitchen cooking, Brad Mahlof is a real estate developer. Since he has seen quite a few kitchens, he has a few suggestions.

Brad shared, “I think that the biggest thing for me, and unfortunately it’s not something that I have at the moment, is a vented hood. The reason is when you’re searing meat or cooking food that creates smoke, you really need something good to suck all that smoke out and take it outside. Recirculating that smoke through a filter only brings it right back to the kitchen. It gets really smoky and it takes over everything. After that, some natural light, a decent amount of counter space and a big sink would be on the list.”

Now that The Great American Recipe Season 2 is over, people can read more about his cooking adventures on Cook With Brad. Also, the recipes can be found in the PBS cookbook, which is available for sale.

In the end, the biggest takeaway from both The Great American Recipe Season 2 winner, Brad Mahlof, and the series, itself, is that cooking from the heart is the biggest gift that anyone can give. Do not wait for a holiday or momentous occasion to serve that sentiment on the plate. Any day is a reason to gather and share the love around the table.

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