Where are you living and working now?
I just bought and moved into a house with my girlfriend, Kate, six blocks from my restaurants in Washington, D.C. I am splitting my time between Granville Moore's and The Capitol Lounge, and continuing to consult on other projects.
What have you been up to since FNS?
A lot. My business partners and I finally opened "The H Street Country Club", a restaurant and indoor miniature golf course a block away from Granville Moore's. Immediately after, I jumped into a consulting and ownership role at The Capitol Lounge, and have successfully revitalized the famous Capitol Hill staffer hangout. Over the next year there are three other projects on the horizon: Vendetta, a red sauce Italian restaurant and bocce ball hangout (think Il Vagabondo, in New York, with a hipster twist); Joe's Coal and Ice, a casual steakhouse and blues music venue; and a yet to be named po'boy shop.
I have continued to teach and volunteer with Brainfood, Food and Friends and several other charities, raising more than $30,000 since July. And, just to keep it interesting, I am the co-founder of DC Beer Week, which pursues the beer and food connection. I have been working with the Brewers Association, appearing and presenting at the Great American Beer Festival, and this year at SAVOR with Brewery Ommegang.
What was your favorite thing about being on FNS? And your least favorite?
My favorite things were the cast and crew. We became a tight family, and although the camera doesn't always show it, truly cared for one another. My least favorite part of the show was not being able to see our presentations to learn from them.
Do you keep in touch with other finalists?
What was the funniest/coolest/weirdest (or worst!) incident to happen behind the scenes?
Coolest were the family dinners; weirdest was Brett's dancing; and worst was when Debbie had an asthma attack on set and the film crew decided filming her in distress was more important than getting her inhaler.
How did being on FNS affect your culinary career?
I lost some respect from some of the members of the culinary community, but I've been regaining it since. Kidding. It has actually brought the restaurants more attention from what we call the Food Network Hangover. Whenever our Throwdown or NFNS airs, we get a boost in business the next day.
What advice would you offer the next round of finalists?
Be prepared to leave life as you know it. Once you get there, don't sweat the small things. In the end this is about your performance and what you do. It's not what others do or are trying to do to you. Be calm and bring beer money. You're going to need it.
When you look back, what would you have done differently?
Calmed the hell down and given them more of the guy I am, not what I thought they wanted. After watching the show I still cringe looking back at how I came across.
Do people recognize you from being on the show?
No, not really.
What was the greatest lesson you learned from your time on NFNS?
Orange is a BAD color to wear on TV. What the hell were they thinking?
What's your current favorite recipe or signature dish?
Right now I'm really loving the Bison Steak and Cheese at Granville's.
Considering she out-cooked all of us, I would love to see an Iron Chef or Throwdown of sorts between Melissa and one of the finalists from this or previous NFNS seasons — or Chef Flay! I think it would be hilarious.