Q&A: Grbic Family Triumphs Sibling Rivalry Episode of 'Guy's Grocery Games'

By Katlyn Moncada
In Food

Last weekend, the three siblings of family-owned, Eastern European dining destination Grbic Restaurant and Banquet Hall competed on an episode of the Food Network’s “Guy’s Grocery Games: Family Style.” The show featured three rounds of cooking challenges presented by host Guy Fieri and with a few bumps along the way, Senada, Erna and Ermin Grbic were able to rise to the task and they not only defeated the three other sets of siblings, but walked away with $10,000.

We caught up with Senada and Erna to get the details on what it was like to be a part of the Food Network show and coming out on top.

Photo courtesy of Food Network

Photo courtesy of Food Network

ALIVE: How did you end up getting a spot on the show? Did the Food Network reach out to you?
Senada Grbic: Yes, they reached out to me first. Somebody somewhere recommended me anonymously for the show. I asked who it was and they said they wanted that person to remain anonymous, but they said only the best about me. So we did some interviews here and there, Skype interviews. It was quite a long interview with Skype, and after I gave my full background information and told her that it’s a family restaurant; that I work with mom, dad, brother and sister, she was like, “Oh, well hold on, we’re going to do a separate episode for you guys with all three of you in it.” So that’s how we got to that with all three of us in it. And then after that, we did interviews with my brother and sister in there as well.
Erna Grbic: Yeah, I think we did two or three Skype interviews with producers.

ALIVE: When was the episode recorded?
SG: It was somewhere toward the end of October. I think it was Oct. 17. They flew us out to San Francisco, and then we went to Santa Rosa where we shot the episode.

ALIVE: Wow, so this was quite some time that you had to keep the information in. I bet you’re glad it’s out to the public now?
SG:
You have no idea. It was like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders.

ALIVE: How did you celebrate the episode airing?
SG: We just invited everyone down (to the restaurant) as a viewing party to watch our episode. Everybody kept asking, “Do we know if we won or not?” Obviously we couldn’t say anything, so we were like dying the entire time. So we had a big screen out and all of our family and friends were there.
EG: And there’s a lot of family and friends, might I add. There were 250 of us.
Senada: So they all showed up—all of our family members, employees and friends were down here and we watched on the big screen and watched the whole show. When they announced we were the winners, the entire room was roaring. Everybody jumped out of their seats. Everybody was like, “We didn’t know ‘Guy’s Grocery Games’ was going to be so nerve-wracking.” Emotional. Everyone was crying, everybody was breaking down in happy tears. And once they started crying, I started crying, and my brother and sister were yelling at me, “You can’t cry because we’re going to cry.” And, you know, mom and dad got emotional.
EG: It’s a grocery game show, there’s nothing to cry about. [laughs] SG: It was just so emotional and overwhelming, but it was all happy tears.

ALIVE: How did you prepare for the show?
SG: My sister—her and her daughter—they studied the show and watched every episode they could.
EG: Me and my daughter, we watched the show constantly. So I kind of picked up on all of these, you know, little tricks and stuff—the twists they pull up. So I kind of knew, but my brother and sister were like, “We’ll wing it.” And I’m like, what will happen if we get a five ingredients or less? They just said “We’ll wing it. You can’t practice for it, you just got to do it.” I was the one that was trying to be overly prepared.
SG: It was funny, though, when my sister asked—since I’m the head chef in the kitchen— “What would you do if we get the spin the wheel and we get a can of chili?” I said we’re not going to get a can of chili, that’s not going to be the one, it’s not going to happen. So when we got to the studio and I saw that wheel had canned chili, I almost had a heart attack.
EG: When they got that wheel out, (Senada) just gave me this look. [laughs] SG: She’s lucky there were so many cameras around, because I was like, “I just want to punch you right now.”

ALIVE: How was filming at the studio?
SG:
Filming was super intense. We were in the studio for 14 hours filming everything and doing the whole process. But what I can really say about it, it definitely is “as seen on TV.” There was no TV magic almost, you know.
EG: I was so disappointed about that. I thought they were going to stop the clock for us.
SG: Literally you had five ingredients and 30 minutes. It was serious.
EG: That first round, we made that Bosnian Burek, and it did not cook. And their ovens, it was as high as it could go, and we just didn’t have enough time. We went from a frozen solid phyllo dough and we had to get it done in 23 minutes by the time we got done shopping. We thought maybe they’d pause the time to let it cook for five more minutes. No.
SG: There were seriously no arrangements, no help. You do what you’re told and that’s it. The judges really judged as they would, obviously. But I can say, it was the most nerve-wracking day of my life. I’ve never been so nervous and scared and excited all at the same time.

Photo courtesy of Grbic Restaurant

Photo courtesy of Grbic Restaurant

ALIVE: You mentioned in the show you wanted to use the money to show appreciation for your parents. How do they feel about you winning the $10,000?
SG:
We haven’t gotten a chance to really talk about it. Emotions have been at an extremely high level…we’re glad it’s sort of over with.
EG: I think it was like the last line that I said, that we could prove to our parents we could work together, because I think my parents still kind of look at us as little children…We went to the show and we won, but we worked together and won $10,000. We said we’d take the money to send them on vacation so they would stop nagging us. Like, get out of here, we got this. We work together.
SG: My dad kept telling us, “No matter what happens, you guys are winners.” I think he told me that a million times. He was really supportive. He said, “No matter what, you guys are winners, it doesn’t matter what happens, don’t worry about it.” So we took that to heart. So I didn’t want to be sent home first—no one wants to go home first. Once we made it through that first challenge, I said, “Dad says we’re winners. No matter what happens, we’re good.”

Before the restaurant, the Grbic family got its start in America back in the ‘70s when their father, Sulejman Grbic, arrived as one of the first Bosnians in St. Louis where he worked as a butcher and then in the trucking business. Their mother, Ermina, arrived in the early ‘80s and worked in a factory.

The family-run restaurant was purchased in the late ‘90s and opened in 2002. Senada—who is now the head chef—says she always knew she wanted to be a cook, and attended culinary school at Le Cordon Bleu in Chicago. Erna works as the events coordinator and their brother Ermin is the restaurant manager.

Catch the episode again this weekend on Saturday, Jan. 17, at 4pm or Sunday, Jan. 18, at 6pm CST on Food Network.

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