Tri-State residents competing in Food Network reality show

July 28, 2010|By TIFFANY ARNOLD
  • Sara and Mitchell Matzek are a husband-and-wife team whose roadside Texas barbecue stand in Martinsburg, W.Va., came to end last summer after the stand was struck by a car. They will be featured on an August episode dubbed "Texas vs. Ex's battle."
Photo courtesy of Food Network,

Reality television is about to get another taste of the Tri-State.

A former Hagerstonian and a Harpers Ferry, W.Va., couple will join the ranks of aspiring restaurateurs cooking up kitchen drama on Food Network's "24 Hour Restaurant Battle."

Two of the show's eight episodes will feature residents with local ties, said Food Network publicist Michelle Betrock.

South Hagerstown High School graduate Justin Warner, 26, of New York, will be featured in the "Battle of the Couples" episode Wednesday, Aug. 11.

Harpers Ferry couple Sara and Mitchell Matzek will be featured in an episode dubbed the "Texas vs. Ex's Battle," set to air Aug. 25.

Making its Food Network debut last Wednesday, "24 Hour Restaurant Battle" adds more nosh to the food-themed reality TV show menu. After all, it was only last fall that local TV fans were rooting for Bravo TV's "Top Chef: Las Vegas" cheftestant Bryan Voltaggio, chef at Volt Restaurant in downtown Frederick, Md.


But instead of going knife to knife against other established chefs, contestants in "24 Hour Restaurant Battle" are tasked with conjuring, planning and opening a restaurant within the confines of a naked, but kitchen-equipped TV studio in New York City.

The twist: They've only got a day to pull it off. The team that wows the judge panel walks away with $10,000 at the end of each episode.

Could the local guys and gal stand the heat?

"We'll wait until the episode airs and see if we want to stick together," joked Sara Matzek, a 38-year-old network engineer.

"I don't know what was said behind closed doors," she said, laughing.

Neither Warner nor the Mat-zeks were willing to say whether they won. But they were willing to talk about the experience.

Sara and Mitchell Matzek are a husband-and-wife team whose roadside Texas barbecue stand in Martinsburg, W.Va., came to end last summer after the stand was struck by a car. The Matzeks were pitted against a Washington-based couple attempting to salvage a rocky business amid a rocky relationship.

The Matzeks never gave up their dream of opening up a restaurant.

"This is the thing we had always been working toward," Sara Matzek said. "Why not take a chance to get in front of the right people to find out if we really are who we think we are?"

The couple had invested thousands of dollars in a mobile kitchen. To see it destroyed was devastating. Mitchell Matzek said hoped the experience would translate to future business investors once the show aired.

"Doing this show was one of the hardest things we've ever done in our lives and probably one of the most rewarding things we've ever done in our lives," said Mitchell, a 44-year-old long-distance biker who works in construction. "We'll never forget it."

Warner, the former Hagerstown resident, is a waiter in New York City. He matriculated as a dishwasher at Oliver's Pub & Restaurant at Long Meadow Shopping Center. He also worked at Bentley's Bagels and Roccoco in downtown Hagerstown. He said he graduated to flashier front-of-the-house gigs at high-end restaurants in bigger cities before moving to New York.

Warner said he and his new boo, J.J. Pyle, 37, were working as wait staff in New York when they heard about the casting, which he said they attended on a lark.

Pyle and Warner paired an array of sweet and savory jellies with waffles and pancakes. Warner said he had to improvise the jelly using agar - a concept he picked up from working around Japanese cuisine - because the process of making jelly takes more than a day.

Warner and Pyle's concept, which he called "... & Jelly," was up against Philadelphia couple Zach Gaynor and Lisa Fernandez's retro comfort food. He said described his and Pyle's effort as "a mess."

But was it worth it?

"It's a nice thing to be able to say, 'Hey I did that,'" Warner said. "The next time I'm working at some crummy job I can think back and say I did this in 24 hours, with greater success."

When to watch

"24 Hour Restaurant Battle" airs 10 p.m. Wednesday nights on Food Network. According to, these are the episodes featuring local contestants:

"Battle of the Couples," featuring Hagerstown native Justin Warner:

o 10 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 11

o 1 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 12

o 4 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 14

"Texas vs. the Ex's Battle," featuring Sara and Mitchell Matzek, of Harpers Ferry, W.Va.

o 10 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 25

o 1 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 26

o 4 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 28

The Herald-Mail Articles