Guy Fieri

Panini Pete Does Mobile

Panini Pete's InteriorAlmost six years ago a CIA grad named Pete Blohme opened a casual little sandwich shop in the Fairhope French Quarter.  Blohme’s “everything from scratch” approach was a refreshing addition to the Mobile/Baldwin dining scene.  His mixture of upscale ingredients and novel flavor pairings were tailor made for the artsy Eastern Shore crowd.

Panini PeteThe chef’s panini were so good that people started to take notice.  Important people, like the Food Network.  A few years ago Panini Pete’s was featured on the hit food/travel show Diners, Drive Ins & Dives.  Pete and host Guy Fieri made fast friends and it is a friendship that has open a few doors.  Doors I’m sure Pete had never even considered back when he was the Executive Chef at the University of Alabama.

Since being featured on Triple D, Blohme has appeared on numerous TV shows on the Food Network and CMT.  He is also a member of Fieri’s culinary caravan called the Traveling Road Show and a member of America’s Chefs, a group performing cooking demos for and feeding our troops.

Pete’s fame these days is enough that he is bringing his act across the bay to the state’s second largest city, Mobile.  Occupying the old Loretta’s space in the heart of LoDa.  It’s a prime location with a lot of history, the perfect fit for the guy who has reinvented the sandwich.

Panini Petes MobileFor the second week in a row downtown Mobile has been treated to an age old tradition that is rarely seen in South Alabama, the soft opening.  Last week it was Culinard’s new training restaurant the Kitchen on George this week it was Pete’s place.

The interior is comfortable and trendy while the exterior is pure Mardi Gras, the ivy covering the brick walls is adorned with hundreds of beads from carnivals past.  Pete was of course on hand to meet and greet and was kind enough to give me a private tour of the new kitchen.  I’m a chef; I geek out on stuff like that.  The crowd was happy and full.  Notables on hand from the local food scene were Bob and Buffy Donlon (the folks who rescued Wintzell’s Oyster House) and LuLu’s at Homeport owner Lucy Buffett.

For guests there were ample samples of Pete’s culinary genius being distributed like his amazing beignets, inventive burgers (I was blown away by the Eastern Shore – onion confit and herbed goat cheese) and of course his name sake panini.  So many panini in fact I didn’t get to try them all.  I did make sure to try the famous ones – the Pete’s “Muffaletta” Panino and the House Roasted Turkey (see video below for the 411 on that).  Also available for noshing was Pete’s homemade potato chips.  See what I mean about everything made from scratch?  Oh, for the record Pete makes his own mozzarella cheese, too.

The new Panini Pete’s is a welcome addition to the Port City.  This town has earned the right to have fast food that is also good food.  The restaurant is located at 19 S. Conception Street and Pete plans on opening to the public Thursday; once open they’ll be serving breakfast and lunch Monday through Friday.

Cheflebrity Death Match – Anthony Bourdain vs. Paula Deen

So it appears that Tony Bourdain and Paula Deen are in a pissing contest.  Well, this should be fun.  FOOD FIGHT!!!!!!!!

Anthony BourdainAnthony fired the first shot in an interview with TV Guide saying that, “The worst, most dangerous person to America is clearly Paula Deen. She revels in unholy connections with evil corporations and she’s proud of the fact that her food is f—ing bad for you. If I were on at seven at night and loved by millions of people at every age, I would think twice before telling an already obese nation that it’s OK to eat food that is killing us. Plus, her food sucks.”

Tony, via Twitter, later said he was slightly misquoted, “My comment was actually‘worst, most dangerous to America cook on FN [Food Network].”  Oh, yeah.  That’s much better.

It was part of an article where TV Guide had asked Bourdain his take on a number of Food Network faves.  He also voiced his distaste for Guy Fieri, Sandra Lee and of course his favorite whipping girl Rachael Ray.  As far as Tony’s thoughts on Paula’s cooking I have to say that I’m a Southern chef who grew up one state over from Deen.  I’ve never cooked like her and I’ve never known anyone who cooked like her.  Most people in the South can’t afford that much butter.

Deen has not been quiet on the subject nor particularly honest saying, “Anthony Bourdain needs to get a life.”  Just today she retorted in an interview with The New York Post. “You don’t have to like my food, or Rachael’s, Sandra’s and Guy’s.  But it’s another Paula Deenthing to attack our character.”  Oh no she didn’t go there did she?  Paula Deen has been sued more times than Obamacare.  Check that out HERE.

She continued saying, “I wake up every morning happy for where I am in life. It’s not all about the cooking, but the fact that I can contribute by using my influence to help people all over the country. In the last two years, my partners and I have fed more than 10 million hungry people by bringing meat to food banks.”

Deen zinged that Bourdain’s only contribution to society is “being irritable.”  I think the folks at Doctors Without Borders would disagree with her.  Bourdain has been one of their most vocal supporters.

Deen was kind of right.  Smithfield donated roughly 150,000 pounds of protein to food banks across the country.  Deen and her boys joined Smithfield in ten cities to help hand out some of the delivery.  If you go by Paula’s “10 million” number then that means each person got about 3 ounces of meat.  Merry Christmas.

Perhaps when she said 10 million what she meant was the dollar amount she’s been sued for, repeatedly.  And for Tony’s part, his harsh words about Paula were nothing compared to his feelings on Sandra Lee, “Pure evil. This frightening Hell Spawn of Kathie Lee and Betty Crocker seems on a mission to kill her fans, one meal at a time. She must be stopped.”

Now, discuss it amongst yourselves.  That’s what the comments section is for after all.

WTVC Exclusive: Food Network Star Winner Jeff Mauro

Food Network Star 7castSome ten weeks ago the nation watched footage of 15 wannabe TV chefs meeting on the steps of world famous Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood and each of us thought the same thing, which one is it?  Well, two and a half months later the mystery is solved, Jeff Mauro is the latest winner of Food Network Star.

Throughout the competition Jeff’s warm personality and quick wit were his calling card.  It was a gift that he rallied into a winning performance.  His POV, the Sandwich King is one that is long over due.  There are few things in life better than a well made sandwich.  This may be the perfect vehicle for Jeff’s particular skill set but will a show about sandwiches go over?

That’s exactly what Steve Cavendish of the Chicago Tribune asked Jeff just a few weeks ago.  His response?  “A lot of people’s sandwiches these days come from fast food chains,” Mauro said. “It’s bad meat. It’s bad bread. It’s questionable vegetables. Why not bring this stuff home and teach you the fundamentals? How to braise. How to roast. Fry. Grill. All while having a between-two-hands delicious meal.”

So just what do we know about Jeff Mauro?  This is what the Food Network site has to say, “After pursuing a career as a comedian in Los Angeles, Jeff switched gears to spend time doing what he loves most: cooking. His down-to-earth personality coupled with his comic relief make a great combo in the kitchen.”

Mauro’s stardom is no overnight success story.  He’s been working towards this goal for seven years.  That’s when he pulled up stakes and headed to LA to try and forge a new cooking show in his own image.  He attended the Hollywood Kitchen Academy (which is now Le Cordon Bleu) and even came dangerously close to achieving his TV show after meetings with Spike, MTV and Comedy Central.  But every time it looked like the door was opening it would close in his face.

“It was like, ‘it’s happening!’ And then L.A. was like, ‘Nope. It’s not happening. I’m Los Angeles, I win every time, you lose,'” he told Cavendish.  Frustrated Mauro headed back to the Windy City where he became the private chef at a Chicago corporate headquarters of a large mortgage company.  Three years later he sent an audition tape to Food Network Star.

“Jeff has the perfect mixture of strong culinary chops, a breakout personality, and boundless food passion – a true triple threat we value in our stars,” said Bob Tuschman, General Manager and Senior Vice President, Programming and Production, Food Network. “Jeff’s humor, warmth and smart ideas to make sandwiches into satisfying meals make him a perfect addition to join the Food Network family.”

After struggling in the beginning of the competition Jeff put it all together on episode five, the Fourth of July episode.  He says, ” I pretty much maxed out my abilities and personality and it went over well.  I felt like I can be big and huge but I don’t think I ever want to go bigger than this.”

Jeff credits Guy Fieri with pulling him aside and giving him great advice, “He was the only judge who was like I want to talk to you privately.”  Fieri just told him matter-of-factly how to handle different situations and gave, “very sincere advice.  Not only on camera.  Off camera he was kind of like a buddy.  That was helpful because there’s a separation between the the finalists and judges.  They are proven and we are proving.”

Since Star wrapped in early June Jeff says he’s been living dual lives.  One working his old job in Chicago and the other doing covert assignments as a celebrity chef.  “Going to the Atlantic City Food & Wine Festival out there.  Going to shoot my show which was obviously top secret.  Shooting the finale which was top secret.  Going and doing all of these things, in my mind, very large things then coming home and making a hundred point sandwiches.”

Jeff plans to stay in Chicago where he can spend time with his family, “My goal is to stay here always.  That’s the beauty of it; I can go shoot a show every three or four weeks and not have to uproot my entire existence to New York or LA.”  He then added, “And eventually shoot here when I’ve got a little clout, a little bargaining power.”

Jeff Mauro Food Network Star

How closely does Sandwich King resemble the show you conceived seven years ago during your time in LA?

Chef Jeff and Ali?  Very different; that was more of a party-based barbecue show where we would go to barbecues and record the hijinks, the people.  I wanted to provide a younger, I don’t know a more irreverent, party-based ride to cooking on TV

As fun as that was it doesn’t have any legs.  So it’s really different.  I’m still myself.  I might not be ripping from a bottle of Jack any more but it’s still me minus my other half, Ali and minus the party and all that.

Can you describe the elements of the perfect sandwich?

Well handled fresh bread.  Not just a loaf of French bread that you get at the bakery that’s pretty.  That’s taking that and taking it to the next level with buttering and griddling to temperature.  You want to start with that.  You want to make sure when you take your bites out from top to bottom there’s not a lot of resistance.  If there is resistance it’s good resistance like crunch or a great chew or crispness.  You know it’s all about paying attention to not only flavors but textures; I think that’s often overlooked in a sandwich.

 

My predictions – Susie gets a show on the Cooking Channel, Vic on Food Network. Whitney becomes a judge on Iron Chef/Chopped.  The Sandwich King premieres this Sunday at 11:30AM on the Food Network and the King’s reign will like be a long one.

Drop back by the site tomorrow and check it out as another new Food Network star, Roger Mooking (Everyday Exotic on the Cooking Channel, Heat Seekers on the Food Network) answers 7 Questions.

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Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives Canceled?

Guy Fieri on the BeachPage Productions which produces Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, Outrageous Food and a handful of other popular food shows is suing the Food Network.  They are accusing the network of pulling a chew-and-screw.  The term refers to people who order dinner at a restaurant then skip out on the bill.

According to a law suit in Minnesota Federal Court, Page alleges that Food Network agreed to purchase three more seasons of Diners totaling 39 episodes.  But one year into the agreement Food Network wants to pull out.

Apparently it isn’t a ratings issue as Food Network wants to keep running Triple D they just don’t want Page involved in it anymore.  So it isn’t really canceled per se it just isn’t currently in production.  Food Network, who owns the contract with star Guy Fieri, claims to be unable to “provide the services of the host.”

Though things should work themselves out in court for now the uncertainty is sure to leave Food Network fans feeling shell shocked.  Especially considering Alton Brown’s announcement this past spring to shut down production of his hit series Good Eats.  If things do not work out that means that two of the network’s most popular shows would no longer be a part of their line-up.

Page Productions also alleges that Food Network has not paid them for work already completed.  The suit was filed by Minneapolis-based law firm Fredrikson & Byron on behalf of Page on May 13th of this year.  The suit does not interfere with Page’s other Food Network property Outrageous Food staring Tom Pizzica.

UPDATE: The Triple D law suit has been settled.  Learn the outcome HERE.

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Stuart in 80 Words or Less

Stuart is a celebrity chef, food activist and award-winning food writer. He penned the cookbooks Third Coast Cuisine: Recipes of the Gulf of Mexico, No Sides Needed: 34 Recipes To Simplify Life and Amigeauxs - Mexican/Creole Fusion Cuisine. He hosts two Internet cooking shows "Everyday Gourmet" and "Little Grill Big Flavor." His recipes have been featured in Current, Lagniappe, Southern Tailgater, The Kitchen Hotline and on the Cooking Channel.

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Stuart’s Honors & Awards

2015 1st Place Luck of the Irish Cook-off
2015 4th Place Downtown Cajun Cook-off
2015 2nd Place Fins' Wings & Chili Cook-off
2014 2015 4th Place LA Gumbo Cook-off
2012 Taste Award nominee for best chef (web)
2012 Finalist in the Safeway Next Chef Contest
2011 Taste Award Nominee for Little Grill Big Flavor
2011, 12 Member: Council of Media Tastemakers
2011 Judge: 29th Chef's of the Coast Cook-off
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Wing Cook-off
2011 Cooking Channel Perfect 3 Recipe Finalist
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Gumbo Cook-off
2011 Culinary Hall of Fame Member
2010 Tasty Awards Judge
2010 Judge: Bayou La Batre Gumbo Cook-off
2010 Gourmand World Cookbook Award Nominee
2010 Chef2Chef Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2010 Denay's Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2009 2nd Place Bay Area Food Bank Chef Challenge
2008 Tava: Discovery Contest Runner-up

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