Oakland chef wins on Food Network's ‘Chopped'

A celebration party brought people out to toast a rising star in Oakland's restaurant scene Friday night.

Chef Rashad Armstead, 31, was savoring his new fame after appearing on the Food Network show "Chopped". 

Armstead hosted family and a crowd of friends and guests at the Overlook rooftop venue near Lake Merritt in downtown Oakland. His cooking is a combination of his own creations and old family recipes.

"I would sit in my grandmother's kitchen and I would just watch everyone cook," said Armstead.

Chef Rashad was owner of the popular popup called Crave BBQ and then opened a restaurant called Grammie's Down Home Cooking on Market Street in North Oakland. It is named after his great grandmother Sarah Rawls who was a Bay Area cook and businesswoman.

"She was opening up restaurants running them all by herself. from Oakland, San Jose, East Palo Alto, Berkeley," said Armstead.

He said he'd auditioned for cooking shows when he was a teenager, but never made it past the third round. This year, though, he got an unexpected email. 

"I got an email in February. They said they'd heard about the popup we were doing with Crave and did I want to audition?"

He did audition and made it all the way to the "Chopped" taping in May. 

The timing couldn't have been better. He said he'd been on the verge of throwing in the towel.

"I was ready to give up. I was ready to turn in my towel and just say I'm going to find another career," said Armstead.

After the episode taping, he couldn't tell anyone what had happened, including his family. 

On Tuesday, they watched it together and learned that Armstead had won. 

"I was a bucket of tears. I was so overwhelmed. Oh, it was amazing. I told my husband, if I didn't do anything right. I know I raised him right," said his mother Cecilia Armstead.

"When we'd seen the show. we were like, all that hard work, all that perseverance, it paid off," said his father Roy Armstead. 

"I was going through a lot of hard times in my personal life and it was one of those things that said, you're meant to do this," said Chef Rashad

Now, this champion chef is cooking up bigger plans.

He hopes to open a second restaurant in Richmond and is launching an Indie-Gogo community crowdfunding effort to help hire and mentor people in the community.

"I believe in hiring young people, like you see my kitchen is full of a bunch of young adults listening to hear me scream and getting stuff done," said Chef Rashad, "The best thing I can think of is by helping somebody else find out what they're supposed to be doing. That warms my heart more than money."