Justin Turner, the chef behind the now-shuttered Bernie's Burger Bus, has a busy 2021 on tap, and it begins tonight with an appearance on the Chopped "Grudge Match $100K Tournament," which starts at 8 p.m. on the Food Network, and continues over the next four Tuesdays at 8 p.m.
In the tournament, judges and former Chopped champions (Turner won against three other Houston-based chefs in 2016) will compete in separate qualifiers, and the four winners (two judges, two champions) will meet in the finals. As always, competitors will have to make an appetizer, entrée, and dessert all while using mystery ingredients in a short amount of time. The winner of the tournament will get $100,000.
Whether or not Turner wins the competition, he'll have more to prepare for in 2021. As previously reported, Turner will be running operations for multiple concepts at Generation Park at Lake Houston. But now we know some of what Turner is bringing to the 4.2-acre master-planned business and lifestyle development.
Turner's first Generation Park concept is Bocca Italian Kitchen, a chef-driven, seasonal Italian restaurant, which will celebrate a grand opening on January 15, according to a representative.
Bocca's menu showcases pasta dishes, like spaghetti and meatballs, linguini and clams, and spaghetti in coconut basil cream with crab; traditional Italian small plates, like arancini, calamari, and carpaccio (in this case tuna); and entrées, like osso buco, chicken piccata, and pork two ways (tenderloin, belly). A tidy selection of wines and original, Italian-influenced cocktails are also on offer.
Also marking its grand opening on January 15 is Lupo Pizzeria, Turner's take on American-style pizza, with a focus on New York-style pies. Specialty pies include the Carmine (white sauce, ham, onion, hot sauce, shoestring potato) and the Franky (barbecue sauce, pulled chicken, pancetta, barbecue shoestring potatoes), while Lupo also has a build-your-own pie option.
Bocca and Lupo will be open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday. Brunch will be served from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday-Sunday.
Turner made the move to Generation Park after closing in May all locations of his burger concept Bernie's Burger Bus, which grew quickly but was impacted deeply by mandated shutdowns related to the spread of Covid-19.