Rainbow Gardens plans viewing party when Chopped airs next week

Some familiar faces will star on the popular Food Network show Chopped Dec. 15: The owners of Rainbow Gardens Restaurant and Bar downtown competed in Chopped, the family edition, and viewers will get a chance to see who won the competition when they tune in next week.

The family-themed Chopped is a bit of a twist on the traditional episodes of the popular culinary competition, where chefs from different areas and different establishments compete against each other for the cooking crown — and the cash prize. In Family Chopped, family members compete against each other.

In this case, it will be Heather Profetto vs. John Profetto vs. Ryan Profetto vs. Kate Campbell.

John and Heather are the owners of the downtown restaurant, a Milford mainstay since the Profettos moved their restaurant into an 1855 Victorian home on Broad Street along the Milford Green.

Ryan, 22, is their son, who bartends at the restaurant when he hasn’t been attending college classes. Campbell is Heather’s sister.

The show will air at 10 p.m. Dec. 15, and then again at 1 a.m.

It was taped last spring, about 15 hours here in Milford and then another long day in New York.

The idea of the show is to pit family members against each other in the kitchen, but also to spice things up a little with some gentle digs and ribs against each other.

Heather said that was the tough part.

“We’re so successful because we’re so bonded,” she said.

She had a hard time taking any jabs at her sister, husband or son. And she’s wondering if they felt the same. She won’t know until the episode airs and she can hear what each “chef” said in his or her personal interview.

“We also don’t know what the judges said about us,” John added.

While interviews and profiles of each contender may have seemed like a cakewalk in some regards, the cooking was high-pressure, just as it looks on TV, the couple said.

“The cooking is real — it’s one cut, and everybody has a camera in their face,” John said.

Each of them got a basket with four food items, plus they could use whatever was available in the kitchen to create their dishes for the hourlong show.

Heather and her sister are both graduates of the Culinary Institute of Art in New York, so they’ve got cooking credentials and their experience to back them up.

John said he and Ryan were at a bit of a disadvantage because they are not trained chefs, but working in the restaurant, “you learn by osmosis,” John said.

Heather and Kate’s credentials might have some people hedging their bets on who won the competition — Heather and John aren’t saying who won, though they do know.

But Heather waves a cautionary finger. Don’t be too quick to speculate, because in many ways they were all on the same playing field.

“Kate and I were at a disadvantage in some ways because we’re professional cooks, and we wanted to achieve more,” Heather said.

John added, “Me and Ryan were just trying to survive.”

The Family Chopped saga started for Rainbow Gardens more than a year ago, when Heather sent an application to be on Chopped. She was interviewed, but nothing came of it.

“Out of the blue we were called to be on Family Chopped,” she said.

But the producers ultimately chose a different family for that segment, and so another year went by and Chopped called again.

Rainbow Gardens, which Heather describes as cross-continental with a concentration on healthy and fresh ingredients — or bar meets spa — started out as a takeout and catering business in a small building on Bridgeport Avenue near Bridges, a local health agency. In 1993 the couple opened the Rainbow Cafe in New Haven. Then in 1995 they bought the house on Broad Street to house Rainbow Gardens, which has become a destination restaurant in downtown Miford.

The kitchen staff here numbers about a dozen, with about 40 employees altogether. The restaurant seats up to 125 guests, not counting the outdoor seating area.

Even though friends, family and customers have been asking which of the four family members won the $10,000 Family Chopped prize, the four contestants have held on to their secret — and they won’t say who the judges were either.

They will say that a piece of the show was shot at the Milford Fire Department because the restaurant sometimes brings meals to the city’s firefighters. So there’s a chance viewers may get to see some of the city’s firefighters on the show.

Heather said Rainbow Gardens will hold a viewing party Dec. 15 when the show airs, and will probably have some giveaways and maybe some chances on guessing who said what during the interview portion of the show.