The Urban Oyster Owner Jasmine Norton Competes on Food Network’s Guy’s Grocery Games

| June 2, 2020 | 0 Comments

The Urban Oyster owner and chef Jasmine Norton competed on Food Network’s Guy’s Grocery Games (GGG) on May 27th. The Urban Oyster opened at McHenry Row in Locust Point in April 2019. The business has also been appearing at farmers’ markets for the past three years.

Norton told she got a call in August asking if she’d want to compete on GGG. Norton said she has a nervous and shy personality, but knew this would be a great opportunity to shine a positive light on her hometown of Baltimore. Norton was supposed to film the episode in October at the Santa Rosa, California grocery store studio, but it was delayed until February due to the wildfires in the area.

GGG, which is hosted by Guy Fieri, has four contestants cook food in kitchens set up in a grocery store setting. Every round features a different challenge involving a specific budget or specific items in the store. One cook is eliminated during each round until a winner is crowned. In Norton’s episode (Season 23, Episode 26) the contestants had to compete with tight shopping budgets.

In Round One, the four contestants had to make a “sweet and savory” brunch meal for the three judges for $16. Norton made cornmeal fried catfish and a cinnamon sugar waffle with citrus chili syrup for her meal. “Being from Baltimore, I have to incorporate seafood,” Norton said in the episode. The judges advanced Norton to the second round.

In Round Two, the contestants got to pick an envelope with different budgets and Norton got $23 to shop with. They had to make a “five-star” lunch in just 20 minutes, shopping included. Norton made steak frites with chimichurri. Norton said she had just 13 minutes left to prepare the meal after she was done shopping. The flank steak didn’t cook through as well as Norton wanted. She said her nerves took over and she wishes she would have cut the steak down thinner.

Norton did not advance to Round Three, but it led to a fun moment when judge Eric Greenspan, told her she has chutzpah, a Yiddish word meaning “guts and shameless audacity.”

“There’s a word my people like to use to describe this sort of thing, and that is chutzpah,” he said, getting a laugh out of Fieri and the judges. “You have chutzpah. The fact that you went for it this hard – I am making my own fries, I am cooking a large piece of steak, I am cooking a bright chimichurri – is a bold move.”

Norton told that she should get an “I have chutzpah” shirt made.

Norton called the appearance on GGG a “really great experience.” She said Fieri is “as nice as he seems on TV,” and said he was constantly joking with the judges and crew to keep everyone loose. She hopes he’ll come visit her in Locust Point. Fieri owns two restaurants in Horseshoe Casino Baltimore and is always traveling the country to film his popular show Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. She said the entire crew was “so hospitable” and treated everyone well. Norton also said she formed a friendship with the three other contestants and they all keep in touch.

The Urban Oyster got a bump in business after the appearance on the Food Network last week, and Norton put the two plates from GGG on the menu. She said her social media following and Google searches spiked after the show aired as well.

Like most restaurants around the world, The Urban Oyster has been dealing with the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Urban Oyster had all of its events and farmers’ market appearances cancelled and it does not have an open dining room at McHenry Row, a restriction that currently applies to all Maryland restaurants. The Urban Oyster is relying on takeout and is now offering outdoor seating, which was allowed to resume last Friday after restrictions were loosened by Maryland Governor Larry Hogan and Baltimore City Mayor Jack Young.

Norton said things at The Urban Oyster are about as good as possible right now. She said they are not able to make a profit, but they are able to keep their employees working, which is important to her. She thanked her landlord of 28 Walker for working with her during these times. The restaurant is currently open Thursday to Sunday for dinner.

The Urban Oyster has been doing weekly pop-up concepts to “take customers on a culinary vacation” since most people aren’t traveling right now.

“We are definitely looking forward to a return to normal, but we are not in a rush. We want to be sure that when we decide to open, it’s safe and the employees feel safe.”

When things do return to normal, Norton will continue her search for another The Urban Oyster location in Washington, DC.

Screenshots from the Guy’s Grocery Games episode on Food Network

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