BOCA RATON – When Freddy Finnerty saw Andrew Schulz’ dinner request, he saw more than simply meat and vegetables.
“I saw opportunity,” Finnerty said. “You want such detailed things, Well, I’ll give you that and then some.”
The 24-year-old Finnerty did exactly that this past weekend as the chef at Laughing Spree Fest, preparing food for headliners Jim Norton, Bryan Callen and Schulz, among others.
A chef for six years and also a stand-up comic for the past four, Finnerty currently works at Holly Blue in Fort Lauderdale. The trio of headliners at last weekend’s Laughing Spree represent the biggest names Finnerty’s prepared full meals for.
Finnerty, a graduate of Johnson and Wales Miami, has helped prepare food for 500 people in a night, but at Laughing Spree he only needed enough for about 50 people per day.
“I like this because it’s a more personal and intimate,” Finnerty said. “It’s like going to a really good open mic – except with food.”
Finnerty prepared much of the food on a portable gas stove setup outside the backstage area.
Schulz requested four dinners – two chicken and two steak. Finnerty responded with four NY strip steak dinners – complete with fingerling potatoes, wilted greens and a red wine demi-glace – and four chicken dinners with rice pilaf, apple cider-braised carrots and blistered cherry tomatoes.
Finnerty also prepared a surprise for Norton, whose spoken on his radio show of eating carrots wrapped in turkey and dipped in mustard. Finnerty delivered a tray that included what Norton’s tabbed “meat carrots.”
“In my green room were some really nice treats,” Norton said earlier this week on his radio show.
Along with the headliners, Finnerty fed the other performers and the crew.
“Besides being a funny comic, Freddy’s a good chef,” Laughing Spree co-producer Warren Scott said. “I’m excited we decided to use him. He’s doing a great job getting everything ready for the headliners, following the riders, and also keeping the crew here fed.”
Considering the freckled Finnerty stands about 5-foot-6 with a mop of red hair, Finnerty looks like he may have a lifelong job as a leprechaun.
One of his favorite foods to cook, however, has little in common with corned beef and cabbage.
Finnerty loves loves the flavors of Latin food, a joy he attributes to his Puerto Rican mother. But he doesn’t like pigeonholing himself into one cuisine, noting that on any given week he can jump to preparing Asian or Greek food.
If he appeared on the Food Network’s competition show Beat Bobby Flay, Finnerty isn’t certain what his signature dish would be.
“It’s like asking a comic, What’s your favorite joke to tell,” Finnerty said.
Finnerty enjoys cooking, but making a living as a comic is his first choice.
As a chef, Finnerty likes the idea of being reliable, but not having to be relied upon to run an entire restaurant kitchen.
That’s what made the Laughing Spree gig so appealing.
“I just came out to cook good food, hang out, and make sure everybody has a good time,” Finnerty said.