Abington native Stephen Coe conquering culinary world
2020 was a year most people want to forget.
It’s also a year Stephen Coe won’t forget.
The Abington native, who has been a rising star on the competitive cooking circuit for years, hit the big time last year summer when he defeated celebrity chef Bobby Flay on his own show, Chopped: Beat Bobby Flay.
Coe also hunted alligators in the bayou and shot wild hogs from a helicopter for an upcoming reality show. And he put the finishing touches on his first cookbook, “Lobsta Love”.
“We’ve been pretty good at adapting and this year was our challenge,” said Coe. “The strongest team I ever had was actually during COVID.”
Coe will once again be on television screens across the country this week, as he takes part in Chopped: Grudge Match Battle 4. The episode will air Tuesday, Jan. 26 at 9 p.m. on the Food Network.
Since graduating from South Shore Vo-Tech and Johnson & Wales University, Coe has grown his reputation as a chef nationally and internationally. His website boasts a number of his greatest hits, including winning “Chopped: Ultimate Redemption,” “Chopped Grill Masters: World Food Championships,” the Food Network’s “Tyler Florence Recipe Contest” and the American Culinary Foundation’s “Boston Junior Chef of the Year.”
But Coe says giving Flay his first loss on his own show last summer really elevated his profile. Now if you see Coe in a kitchen or at one of his food trucks, there may be a video crew trailing him. He’s also doing online cooking classes via Zoom.
“The doors are kinda opened for me now,” said Coe. “People are calling me about cookbooks instead of me having to hustle around harder…Anything I want can happen.”
It’s not a bad place to be for a kid from Abington. In fact it’s the South Shore upbringing – and the penchant for being outspoken and outgoing — that’s helped him out. For Tuesday’s Chopped episode, he’s billed as the “smack-talking champ.”
“They love that character, too. ‘Oh, here comes that boy from Boston,” he said.
Coe said he was inspired early by visits with his grandfather to Pomeroy’s Donut Shop in West Bridgewater. The owner, Joe Pomeroy, often kept the shop in a state of chaos.
“He used to yell at people, throw stuff at people, just for the comedy of it,” Coe recalled.
Cooking quickly became his life. He chose the culinary program at South Shore Vo-Tech, where he was also class president. After-school and on the weekend’s he worked at Peppino’s in the former Farmer’s Market Produce location.
“He worked his ass off there, getting as much experience as a kid with food before going onto [Johnson & Wales],” his brother, Gary, remembers.
His talent has long been obvious to his family.
“Once he made up his mind to enter the culinary program…he has been laser-focused on his career,” his father, Gary Coe, Sr., said.
Coe’s brother remembers a Thanksgiving after college when the young chef said he’d take care of dinner.
“He showed up like two or three hours before it was supposed to be ready. He deboned the turkey in minutes and had everything ready when he said it was supposed to be,” Coe said. “That was pretty amazing.”
The unique buzz and bustle that comes with working in a professional kitchen snagged Coe immediately.
“The life, the craziness of a Friday and Saturday night because you know you’re going to be throttled,” said Coe, who is currently the executive chef at Marshfield Country Club. “The camaraderie is always good, too, building solid teams with a bunch of characters.
“I trained pretty hard and I run my kitchens hard. My cooks are always on point. You can’t have off days. You can’t make mistakes or you get crucified.”
And it will soon include a reality show called “Dangerous Eats”. The show follows Coe as he travels around the country, and the world, hunting and then preparing unique main courses. For one episode, Coe shot wild boars from a helicopter. For another, he hunted alligators on a 53-acre preserve. He then prepared the ‘gator right there on set.
“We were all there together having this crazy dinner on the bayou,” said Coe, who expects the series to debut this coming summer.
His successes, which include being named World Bacon Champion, naturally, have his family proud.
“Since he’s graduated, we have had a number of chances to ‘test his wares’ and the kid rocks the culinary world, and has just begun to show them how it’s done” said Gary Coe, Sr., who still lives in Abington. “Spoken like a proud papa, right? You bet I am.”
“Stephen has had to sacrifice a lot and works very, very hard and that’s why he is where he is,” said Coe’s brother, Gary, also an Abington resident.
That hard work — plus a healthy dose of attitude — contributed to Coe’s big win this past summer.
Coe, who had to run through a gauntlet of fellow chefs before squaring off against Flay, came in prepared. He did his homework before the tournament started, studying the legendary chef’s strategies and tendencies, as well as taking note of his own shortcomings, such as adding extra elements that don’t need to be included.
It just happened one of the final ingredients involved lobster, a particular specialty of Coe’s. A significant dash of his signature trash talk also helped.
“I went in freeform and made mine look a lot more presentable and crushed him on technique. Then I started playing head games, and started chirping him,” Coe said.
A judge asked Coe what was in his pot. “Bobby’s self-esteem,” Coe said.
When Flay’s pasta machine broke, Coe tossed his over. “I want to make sure when I kick his ass, it’s a fair game and he can’t make excuses,” Coe said.
It’s all part of the show and what’s made Coe a rising reality television star.
“I’m quiet until it’s showtime and then I turn on the competitive fight,” said Coe, who is married and lives in Plymouth with his wife and three children.
“It’s pretty entertaining, especially being a smartass from Abington.”