From the table to the kitchen: Raleigh cook competing on 'Live with Kelly and Ryan'

Michael Perchick Image
Tuesday, July 24, 2018

RALEIGH, NC (WTVD) -- In an area full of critically-acclaimed chefs and foodies, it takes a lot to stand out.

So when a man with no traditional culinary training is gaining national recognition for his homemade, er parking lot, recipes, it gets noticed.

"My friends were always ready to come over and eat if someone else was cooking for them," explained Sejal Patel, inside his Raleigh home.

Patel is not a chef, and his lone food-business experience was as an investor in a restaurant that has since closed.

But Cafe Seju, the name his friends refer to his kitchen as, is busier than ever.

This, fresh off an appearance on "Live with Kelly and Ryan," where his Korean BBQ Taco recipe was one of three chosen from across the country.

Tuesday, he entertained ABC11, showing off his recipe step-by-step for viewers during a Facebook Live segment.

So how did a Senior Pricing Manager at IQVIA become such a sought-after cook? He said it all began while a student at NC State.

"The cafeteria food was too bland for me, so I actually carried around a bottle of sriracha around in my book bag," Patel explained.

The sriracha devotion hasn't faded either. In his living room, there's a book out titled "Sriracha Cookbook."

When he moved off-campus, Patel began to experiment with different recipes, eventually bringing those to tailgates.

"It started from like having five to six people over, to 15-20, to 30-40," Patel said.

As it's grown from his time as a student to an alum, the crowd has only grown.

"We actually have a couple of cops that drive around NC state in the parking lots come over and be like 'oh can we try some of your food because it smells really good,' and of course we are gonna make friends with them," Patel laughed.

Despite the popularity, Patel said when he graduated in 2006, he never seriously considered entering the food industry. A dozen years later, and with two national TV appearances under his belt (he also appeared on "Rachael Ray" in 2016 in a lead-up to Super Bowl 50), Patel says he still has no plans to enter the kitchen full-time.

"For me, it's just that if I were to do it for a job, or I were to do it for a living, I'd just lose that passion, I wouldn't do it as much," Patel explained.

Patel, who works from home, credited his company for their flexibility and support in allowing him to try out new ideas in the kitchen.

As he gears up for another tailgate season, you can find Patel with the same group of friends, but likely a different menu. As the Triangle has undergone a culture growth, Patel's experimentation has expanded.

"I have a lot of family recipes that I want to get out there. Like I said, I do a lot of fusion-type of cooking, taking different cultures and blending them together," Patel said.

Now, he needs your help to take home the "Fired Up Friday: Fan Foodie Face Off" crown.

There are four different ways to vote:

Facebook: Click any positive reaction to the post

Twitter: Like or retweet the post Click the heart button in the bottom right corner of the video and sign up thru the site

YouTube: Like this video on YouTube

Voting runs through 3 p.m. Wednesday.