Downtown Durham-based burger joint Hop + Grind was in the spotlight after being featured last Friday on Food Network in a takeout edition of Guy Fieri’s “Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives.”
The new episode aired on Friday, May 1, and enlisted the help of a few chefs that have previously appeared on shows with restaurateur and Food Network presenter Guy Fieri. They sent components of some of their latest dishes to his home kitchen, for him to cook, eat, and judge himself.
The chef with the best dish at the end of the episode would get their name on a $500 dollar donation to the Restaurant Employee Relief Fund (RERF), created to help restaurant industry employees in need of financial assistance during the extenuating circumstances of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
Among these selected chefs was Bobby Marcotte, executive chef and owner of two Hop + Grind locations, in Durham and Peabody, Massachusetts, and executive chef of Tuckaway Tavern & Butchery in Raymond, New Hampshire.
Marcotte announced on Facebook live he would be featured on the new takeout episode last Tuesday, and also took the opportunity to thank both Food Network and Fieri. He said in an email to The New Hampshire that Guy is “CRITICAL” in times like these.
“Guy has always focused on the little guys but it’s not JUST the little guys. It’s the mom and pop joints who do it right, are focused on quality but also support and are supported by their communities. These are the restaurants that are going to dig us out of this,” Marcotte said.
With the restrictions on restaurants being loosened in the coming weeks, Marcotte said he doesn’t think having them opened with restricted capacities is much better than leaving restaurants in their current state. “I think it may actually get harder before it gets easier,” he said, due to the food supply chain being so “out of whack.”
Although it “may sound crazy,” Marcotte said balancing Tuckaway Tavern and the Hop + Grind locations during this hectic time has been “FUN.” He said he thrives on pressure, and the circumstances have forced him and his staff to think and improvise, “exactly what we are trained to do in this industry.”
Fieri introduced “Bobby the butcher,” with a mass unboxing from the butchery at Tuckaway Tavern. In addition to what was sent for the show, Tuckaway Tavern has sent the same packages to over 100 people to enjoy and cook along during the episode. Fieri received so much meat that he exclaimed, “it’s like Christmas!” and then began on the first dish of the episode, one of Marcotte’s Hop + Grind burger creations, the “Karate Pig” burger.
Hop + Grind is known for its “funky infused patties,” as Fieri said. The “Karate Pig” is an Asian dumpling themed burger with a pork base, topped with soy glaze, spicy and salty house made “dojo sauce,” and Marcotte’s “quick-like-ninja kimchi.” Fieri’s first reaction to the finished product was “dynamite, man.” He said the burger does a good job of capturing similar flavors, and that the “Karate Pig” is a “stir fry, Chinese takeout, all in a burger combo.”
“We knew that ‘Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives’ takeout was going to be crazy,” Fieri said during the episode, “this just solidified the entire reason we did this. Outstanding.”
Marcotte appeared through video chat with both his “Triple D All-Star Tournament” and “Triple D Triple G Tournament” championship trophies in the background, in each of which he beat one of the other chefs featuring in the episode—Chef Peter Campbell from Red Wagon Pizza Company, and Chef Domenica Catelli from Catelli’s Restaurant respectively.
Marcotte said the competitive nature between him and the other chefs has helped him “professionally and personally,” the challenges keeping him “motivated and hungry.”
When the time to decide a winner came, Campbell said “he’s [Marcotte] got enough trophies Guy.” Fieri gave Campbell the victory for his Cuban sandwich inspired pizza, to which Catelli said, “at least it wasn’t you, Bobby.”
Marcotte said his biggest success is his staff. “I could not be more proud of the passion they all bring to perform every day for all of our businesses. They are truly the best, which in turn only puts us on top as well. EXTREMELY proud and thankful for every one of them!”
Rylee Saunders, a sophomore biomedical science major at the University of New Hampshire, has been working at Durham’s Hop + Grind since August of 2019 and said it’s “basically like a family.” According to Saunders, they “all have a passion for what we do, and what we’re all about at Hop + Grind.”
What they’re all about is the food experience, and it says so on their website. The food at Hop + Grind is all scratch made, “how grandma used to do it.” The creations at Hop + Grind “push the limits” of the kitchen environment to make creative options for customers to enjoy, like the “Karate Pig” and many more familiar favorites in burger form like the “Parma Sutra” (chicken parmesan style) or the “Bomb Diggity” (steak bomb style).
Marcotte said his most frequently asked question is how he comes up with his ideas, and it’s the “lamest” answer he can give. “They just come out of the blue much like when artists suddenly grab an easel and start painting. An idea hits and I run to the kitchen,” he said.
Hop + Grind and Tuckaway Tavern are now focused on shipping and takeout, according to Marcotte. Curbside pickup is available at Hop + Grind daily from 12-8 and Tuckaway Tavern is offering in-store pickup as well as door to door shipping.
To help the already eight million restaurant workers and more in the U.S who have lost their jobs due to COVID-19, visit the RERF website to donate or find out more.