Review: Chef Hunter

I have been excited about Food Network’s latest cooking competition, Chef Hunter.  A) Because it does not involve cake. 2. Because it’s real.  Finally, because I was a candidate for season one and will try again for season two.  Oh, and host Carrie McCully is a very cool lady.

McCully is the principal of Force of Nature Media, a boutique-consulting firm that specializes in recruitment and placement of culinary professionals in the United States. Carrie found her niche 15 years ago in New York City when friends who owned restaurants and clubs began asking for advice about servers’ uniforms, designs, menus, marketing and help with finding talented new chefs from her vast network of connections. Soon she realized that her passion for fine food, design and thinking outside the box, along with her innate skill of balancing tradition with foreseeable trends, was her career calling. Over the years Carrie has had the privilege of working with some stellar forces including Alain Ducasse, Terrance Brennan, Martha Stewart, Alison Price Becker, The Museum of Modern Art and Kathryn Bigelow, among others.

Here’s the gist.  There’s a restaurant that is looking for a new chef.  Maybe theirs has opened his own place, maybe theirs has retired, maybe theirs sucked.  Doesn’t matter.  Restaurants from around the country vie to have Carrie find them their new chef.  Cameras roll!

Each restaurant owner has a vision and a plan and three chefs fitting that vision go head to head to prove they are the best fit for the restaurant of the week.  In essence it is an audition for a chef’s job and there happens to be a film crew there to capture the drama.

The show started with three chefs.  They were given the task of inventing an appetizer that reflects both their point of view and the vision of the restaurant owner.  Afterwards one chef is cast off.  The other two take turns running the restaurant for a day.  Actually running the restaurant including ordering, dealing with purveyors, creating specials, cooking the current menu, expediting supervising the kitchen staff and working with the general manager.  This is the job.

My take:  Chef Hunter was exactly what I expected.  This is reality TV that is actually real.  Sure some of the responses might have been canned from time to time but that will always happen.  Sometimes someone gives a frank response at the same time a bus passes by so you have to do it over.  For the most part, though, the drama on Chef Hunter is real.  The chefs going for the position are real chefs who are actually applying for this job.  The winner actually gets the job.  That’s high drama and best of all it is not contrived.

Will it be a hit?  I hope so.  I would hate to think that people would watch crap like Cupcake Wars or Hell’s Kitchen and not watch a show this good.  I know this for sure though, I’ll be watching it.

ICA: Forgione vs. Wong

NewICAHeader ICA: Flay vs. Staib

There are lots of tricks and treats in this sweet Halloween battle, as Iron Chef Marc Forgione is challenged by Chef Lee Anne Wong. Judges are Kathy Griffin, Donatella Arpaia Stewart (bun clearly still in oven) and Kelly Ripa. Chef Wong was a semi-finalist on “Top Chef” and appears on Cooking Channel’s “Unique Eats.”

How crappy have the last few Sundays been on Food Network?  Obviously scripted taco truck challenges and Halloween candy cook-offs?  Oy vey!  Well your Sundays will stop sucking soon enough when Next Iron Chef 4 begins next week but you don’t have to wait for Kitchen Stadium drama as Iron Chef Forgione faces off against Top Chef veteran Lee Anne Wong in Battle: Halloween Candy.

Lee Anne WongSince she traded her fashion career for the culinary world, Chef Lee Anne Wong, has been bringing her modern-global fusion cuisine to the people. Born and raised in Troy, New York, Lee Anne is a 2nd generation Chinese- American. After graduating from The French Culinary Institute (The FCI), Lee Anne worked for several years at Aquavit, and later served as part the opening staff at Jean Georges Vongrichten’s Chinese venture, restaurant 66.

She has also cooked and staged in critically acclaimed kitchens all over the world.  After returning to The FCI as the Executive Chef of Event Operations, Chef Wong brought her culinary skills to an even wider audience when she appeared as a cheftestant on Season One of Bravo’s Flagship Series “Top Chef”. She returned to the show as a Supervising Culinary Producer on Top Chef, and its spin-off Top Chef Masters. She has also worked as a culinary consultant for movies and tv programs. Chef Wong has used her culinary skills to help further charitable causes, such as Women Chefs and Restaurateurs (WCR), Project By Project, and she sits on the Board of Directors for The Gohan Society.

Donatella and her husband, Dr. Allan Stewart, welcomed a son on Thursday, September 15th. They haven’t announced a name yet but did say their sweetest addition weighed 8 pounds, 3 ounces.An impressive resume to be sure but will be enough when she enters Kitchen Stadium?

Check below for the outcome.

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Forgione                      Wong
Taste: 23                      Taste: 27
Plating: 15                    Plating:  12
Originality: 13              Originality: 13
Total: 51                       Total: 52

Review: Halloween Wars

OK, Food Network has flooded the airwaves with yet another dessert competition, Halloween Wars.  Here’s what they say about it:

The four episode competition series places five teams, comprised of cake decorators, HalloweenWars 300x225 Food Network Haunts October With New Series ‘Halloween Wars’candy makers and pumpkin carvers, working in unison to create the ultimate Halloween themed display. One team is eliminated each week, with the winner taking home $50,000.  Hosted by Justin Willman (magician Justin Kredible who also hosts Cupcake Wars), and including renowned cake decorator Shinmin Li and Hollywood conceptual artist Miles Teves on the judging panel, the competitors must battle it out to prove who is the best, all the while scaring viewers pants off with some of the most amazing horror tales through their cake, candy and pumpkins.

I will say this, the fact that Halloween Wars is a seasonal show centered around a day pseudonymous with sweets makes it better than any other sugar cook-off in history.  In fact, had we not already had nine million dessert contests shoved down our metaphorical throats I might have really enjoyed this.  However, words simply cannot do justice to the exhale of frustration that erupted from me as a judge actually critiqued a cake-monster for not having enough fangs.  Seriously?

If you are a fan of cookie cutter sugar shows enjoy.  I have lost my patience with this kind of programing.  I could handle this lack of creativity from producers if they weren’t all so damned boring.  Dessert oriented shows can be broken down into two categories the good (anything including Duff Goldman) and the wretched (everything else).

Halloween Wars airs Sundays 9/8 Central on the Food Network.  I’ll be watching the NFL game until Iron Chef returns, flipping over to South Park reruns during the commercials of course.  I’m not a barbarian.

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Recipe: Steak & Mushroom and Clams Casino Pizzas

Stuart joins Joe, Cherish and the gang at Studio 10 to make a pair of incredible pizzas – Steak and Mushroom Pizza and Clams Casino Pizza.


Steak & Mushroom and Clams Casino Pizzas
Recipe Type: Entree
Author: Stuart Reb Donald
Prep time: 5 mins
Cook time: 10 mins
Total time: 15 mins
Serves: 3-4

  • 1 Naan or ready-made pizza crust
  • 2-3 TBL olive oil
  • 1 can chopped clams, drained
  • 4 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2 TBL bacon bits
  • Course Kosher salt to taste

  • 1 Naan or ready-made pizza crust
  • 2-3 TBL ready mushroom gravy
  • 4-5 cooked sliced steak, ready-made is fine
  • 4 ounces shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 can mushrooms
  • Course Kosher salt to taste

  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (200 degrees C).
  • Spread olive oil across the face of the pizza crust (Naan).
  • Spread a generous amount of chopped clams across the crust.
  • Layer on the cheese.
  • Sprinkle with bacon bits.
  • Bake in the oven for 5 – 10 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbling and the crust is toasty on the bottom.
  • Finish with a sprinkle of salt then slice and eat.

  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (200 degrees C).
  • Spread mushroom gravy across the face of the pizza crust (Naan).
  • Spread a generous amount of steak across the crust.
  • Spread a generous amount of mushrooms across the crust.
  • Layer on the cheese.
  • Bake in the oven for 5 – 10 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbling and the crust is toasty on the bottom.
  • Finish with a sprinkle of salt then slice and eat.

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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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