Today we’d like to introduce you to Mike Newton.
Mike, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I started cooking at a young age, back when the only cooking shows on tv were The Galloping Gourmet and Julia Child on PBS. I went to work on a ranch in Paris, TX after I gave college a fair shot, and there wasn’t a lot for a single guy to do out there. Being an avid reader, I took a couple of cookbooks and started practicing. I was a bachelor until 37, so I had a lot of years to practice.
After my stint at being a ranch hand, I went to work in the restaurant business, working with such greats as Tony Vallone, Jack Baum, and Stephan Pyles at The Mansion at Turtle Creek, La Griglia, Sam’s Cafe, Hampton’s, Houston’s, Gershwin’s, 8.0, and Richardson’s. I found the best money to be made was in the front of the house as a server and bartender, but hung out in the back a lot, watching and learning from some of the best.
I moved to Phoenix, AZ to open a Sam’s Cafe and ended up with a construction, demolition, excavation, and trucking business. My career path later led me to the luxury car business with Mercedes Benz in Roanoke, VA, then back to Texas with the Park Place group.
When I moved back to Texas, I married my childhood friend, Melanie Hamlin, whom I have known since the first grade, and she still likes me! I went to work with her and The VIP Group in real estate where I still sell Farm & Ranch real estate.
Throughout all of my moves around the country, I always enjoyed cooking for friends and family, and everyone always told me I should open a restaurant. In the Spring of 2015, a dear friend encouraged me to try out for a show called Food Fighters, and I made it all the way to the point of being called to Hollywood, and they opted to go a different route at the last minute.
At the end of 2015, I suffered a mild stroke, and while I was in the hospital the casting director I’d met in my auditions for Food Fighters called and asked if I would audition for season 8 of MasterChef with Gordon Ramsay. The stroke led to me pursuing my lifelong dream of owning a working cattle ranch and our purchase of the Double N Ranch. My family has always owned farmland, and we still do up in Wolf City, but I wanted to raise cattle and ride horses. The MasterChef audition was the weekend after we closed on the ranch, and I was being a bit truculent and was reluctant to go. My wife basically told me that she didn’t care if I didn’t go, but she didn’t ever want to hear about it if I didn’t go and had regrets, so I threw together a couple of dishes from what I had on hand – Chicken Fried Pork Chops with Jalapeno Cream Gravy and Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas, and drove to Dallas.
Long story short, I made it to Hollywood this time and was part of the cast for Season 8 of MasterChef. I ended up getting sent home in a one on one elimination challenge when I wasn’t able to open a stinking jar of caviar and ran out of time to have my dish assembled. Much to my demise, I still have weakness and some numbness on the left side of my face and left hand from the stroke, but MasterChef was an awesome experience, and if I had to be sent home, being in Vegas was the best place it could have happened!
When the season aired, we held Watch Parties for each episode, which led to a pretty decent following for Cowboy Chef Newton. At each of these Watch Parties, we did something to give back to a local food bank or charity. I feel I’ve been afforded a second chance, and want to do what I can to give others the same opportunity, To date we have donated more than 50 Private Dining Experiences, raising more than $600,000 for local charities, with an ultimate goal of surpassing $1,000,000 by the end of this year, and we have met some awesome folks along the way.
I definitely came back from MasterChef a better chef, and cooking for others remains my passion. I have the privilege of providing Private Dining Experiences in homes and being a guest chef at venues across the metroplex, across the state, and at our own Double N Ranch in Lipan. I have a great crew that helps me with larger parties, and am available for groups of all sizes, cooking classes and demonstrations, and charity fundraising events.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
There have been lots of struggles along the way, but so far all have had a silver lining. Even the stroke, which led to the ranch and deeper appreciation for life and the chances we are given.
The irony of life…so many times someone afforded me an opportunity when I had an outstretched hand and needed assistance, and now a full circle has come, and I am able to afford the same opportunity either directly or indirectly. God is great.
Please tell us about Cowboy Chef Newton.
My goal as Cowboy Chef Newton is to bring the dichotomy of Texas food to the people, real food for real people, and to show folks that recipes are just a guideline. Be comfortable in the kitchen, have patience, put your own influence on the dish. We have influences from so many cultures here in our great state, much more than just Tex-Mex. The Private Dining Events are often very interactive, and I welcome guests/participants in the kitchen with me, helping and learning some of my cooking techniques.
Most people associate Cowboy Chef Newton with cast iron cooking and beef, which I do a lot of and am good at, but many would say my sauces are what put me over the top. I continually work on even my own recipes, changing and tweaking, to make them even better. My cast iron pan seared beef tenderloin filets are definitely the most requested menu items, and I am known for my creme brulee, bread pudding with whiskey cream sauce and cheesecakes.
If I could go back and change anything in my life, I would have gone into the navy as I had planned at 17 and pursued my desire to go to the Culinary Institute of America. Kids today have so many more opportunities, what with all of the cooking shows, YouTube videos, and killer culinary programs in high schools. I love working with the high school kids, teaching them and encouraging them. I am on the board for the High School BBQ Cookers Association and am constantly amazed by the skill level and drive of some of these kids. It’s exciting to be a part of.
Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
Some of my best memories from my childhood happened in the kitchen, cooking with my Aunt Anne, who was a French prima ballerina, watching her cook crepe suzette when I was five years old, and spending time with my Aunt Mary Jane, making chicken enchiladas. I have many fond memories with my father and brothers, I was the youngest of 3 when my dad would load us up in the Winnebago and take us hunting.
- Address: Double N Ranch
- Website: www.cowboychefnewton.com
- Phone: 817-705-3035
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: @cowboychefnewton
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cowboychefnewton/
- Twitter: @cowboychefnewt
Pic of Newton and horse – Robert Hart, All other pics – Melanie Newton