For Sejal Patel of Raleigh, cooking on national daytime talk shows is becoming something of a habit.
Patel’s tacos are part of the show’s “Fired Up Friday: Fan Foodie Face Off” summer challenge, which invited viewers to submit their favorite recipe in one of three categories — burgers, skewers, tacos — with the best entries being prepared on the show and voted on by viewers. Viewers of the Kelly Ripa and Ryan Seacrest-hosted show will have from Friday until next Wednesday (July 25) to vote.
Patel originally submitted an Indian taco recipe, a twist on the chicken tikka with cilantro mint chutney he prepared for Rachael Ray’s “Fantasy Foodball” challenge in 2016. But producers wanted something fresh, so he came up with Korean chicken BBQ tacos with fire roasted cole slaw and poblano-tomatillo Asian salsa.
He flew to New York on Wednesday morning so he could tape the segment on Thursday (the show isn’t live on Fridays in the summer). He’ll stick around after taping to record an additional instructional video, which will be on the “Kelly and Ryan” website. He is one of just nine contestants picked to be on the show.
Patel said it’s his love of food and cooking that has fueled these TV appearances.
“I really like to cook,” he said. “I don’t want to do it as a full-time job, I think that would stress me out. But my passion has always been food. My whole family is into food and cooking, and I grew with a family who gardened at home and cooked with fresh ingredients. I do it as a hobby, but it came about because I had a lot of people around me who cooked.”
Patel grew up in South Boston, Va., but moved to Raleigh in 2001 to attend N.C. State. While in college he started hosting parties and tailgating at football games at Carter-Finley Stadium.
“I started tailgating with five or six people and then it turned into 50,” he said. “I still do big tailgate parties at least a couple times a year, and I’m always hosting dinner parties. That’s not going to go away.”
One of his favorite parts of cooking, he said, is trying out food from different cultures. “I like doing something different and fun,” Patel said. “It takes you out of your comfort zone.”
The Rachael Ray appearance (he didn’t win; judge Bill Cowher didn’t like spicy food) was one of those fun, out-of-your-comfort-zone experiences, he said. It turns out his personality works well on camera.
“I had a great time at ‘Rachael Ray’ and since then, people reach out and recommend other things I should try out for,” he said.
Patel actually tried out for the current season of Fox’s “MasterChef” and made it onto the show, but had to pull out at the last minute.
“I was supposed to fly out to LA but had a family tragedy come up that week, so I had to say no,” Patel said. “It was really disappointing, but they told me I can try out again.”
And he plans to.
He also plans to get into the restaurant business with his first cousin, BJ Patel, who owns The Viceroy in Durham. Or get back into the restaurant business, we should say. Sajel was a part owner of The Oxford restaurant in downtown Raleigh with another cousin, G. Patel. The restaurant closed in January 2016 after eight years on Fayetteville Street.
“The goal is to open something up with a menu of home recipes and foods I grew up eating — seasonal Indian food,” he said. “Hopefully within the next year or so we can have something to announce.”
Watch and vote
“Live with Kelly and Ryan” airs at 9 a.m. locally on WTVD. Voting for Sejal Patel’s taco runs from Friday, July 20, through Wednesday, July 25. The winner in the “Taco” category will be announced Friday, July 27, 2018. There are several ways to vote.
▪ KellyandRyan.com: There is one food video posted at a time. Visit the site during the allotted time and click the “heart” to vote.
▪ Facebook: If you click the “Like, Love, Haha or Wow” emojis or share the video, that counts as a vote.
▪ Twitter: If you like or retweet the “Live with Kelly and Ryan” tweet of the video, that counts as a vote.
▪ YouTube: Watch the video on the “Live with Kelly and Ryan” YouTube channel and click “thumbs up” to vote for the video.