NIC 7 Questions

7 Questions with Maneet Chauhan

7 Questions is a series of interviews with the culinary movers and shakers you want or ought to know better.

This October, The Next Iron Chef returns with its fieriest season-to-date. Ten of the country’s most accomplished chefs bet on their skills and put their reputations on the line for the chance to join the industry’s most elite culinary society: the Iron Chefs.  Hosted by Alton Brown and filmed in Los Angeles, Las Vegas and New York City, season three premieres Sunday, October 3rd at 9pm ET/PT on Food Network and challenges the chefs’ culinary skills and mental toughness as they enter a clash of culinary titans.

For all the info on the new season of The Next Iron Chef, check out this link (has press release, episode descriptions, bios, video, etc).

The great thing about NIC is that all of the combatants are serious, award winning chefs.  Maneet Chauhan (Chef at Vermillion in Chicago and New York) received her culinary education at India’s Welcome Group Graduate School of Hotel Administration and the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y. Chauhan is at the helm of executing the provocative melding of Indian and Latin cuisines of Vermilion, based on both deep historical and geographical cross-influences. The cuisine is inspired jointly by Maneet’s ongoing research, zest for experimenting and concept originator Rohini Dey’s vision and travels. Since opening, Vermilion has been lauded by USA Today, Esquire, Travel & Leisure, Bon Appetit, Gourmet, and O Magazine among others. Maneet completed internships at India’s finest hotels and kitchens.  In addition to having been an Iron Chef America challenger, Chauhan is an honorary figure and leading volunteer for prestigious culinary schools, industry events, and premier nonprofit foundations.

With the premiere of NIC 3 just days away Chef Maneet Chauhan answers 7 Questions.

1. How old were you when you first started to cook?

Chef Maneet Chauhan of VermillionI have been cooking for as long as I remember.  Cooking has truly been my first passion.  From an early age I would be intrigued by the various ingredients, spices and methods of cooking.  Every Sunday I would accompany my father to the farmers market and be so fascinated by new ingredients and force 😉 or plead him to buy those so that we could try it at home and then create new dishes with my mom.  I grew up in a small town in eastern India called Ranchi and I was lucky enough to have people from all over India living close to us.  Each and every state in India has a completely unique style of cooking and I would actually spend time at my neighbors house observing them cook.  So for me this life long love for food started at a very early age.   My mom jokes and says that I was born with a ladle in my hand.

2. When did you decide that you could make food your career?

During my 9th grade my sister went to college, I used to go to meet her and would always take food for her and her friends.  Her friends and she would be overjoyed and seeing that kind of joy that food brought to people was my foundation of deciding that this is something I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

3. Which chefs have influenced you the most?

I have been deeply influenced by each and every chef or even  cook that I have come across in my journey.  Be it a street food vendor in India, or the executive chef of the biggest hotel chain in India, to my Chef instructors in WGSHA, Manipal (I did my Bachelors in Hotel management there) and the CIA (Hyde Park), from the line cooks to the legends, from the owner of Vermilion – Rohini’s vision to my wonderful group of fellow NIC contestants – each and everyone has influenced me and impacted the way I think and create.

4. If you hadn’t followed this career path, what other career could you see yourself in?

I don’t, never had a back up career that I saw myself in.

5. How would you describe your cooking style?

At Vermilion the concept of the restaurant and cuisine which was founded by Rohini Dey is Latin and Indian.  That is what we do here, fusing these two bold cuisines to create a remarkable experience.  To me cooking is like life, its all about evolution, about creating something new, that is how I would describe my style of cooking.

6. What motivated you to enter the Next Iron Chef competition?

It is just such an honor to be invited to be a finalist in the competition, who wouldn’t do it. To be considered to be among the top 10 chef’s in the country is indeed a big honor, and who can resist the opportunity to be the “Next Iron Chef”   And I guess all of us who are in this field are glutton for punishment, pushing ourselves further and further to see how we would perform in adverse circumstances

7. What’s next for Chef Maneet Chauhan?

To enjoy this experience thoroughly and use this exposure to educate people on the beauty and complexity of a very unique cuisine – the Indian cuisine, a heritage and a foundation I am very proud of.  To work to bring a respectability to Indian Cuisine which has been so badly represented in the past.  Vermilion has for the past 8 years successfully, bringing people to appreciate bold flavors and to enjoy this amazing fusion of cuisines, we hope to continue this with a flourish and from two cities take it to a few more.

Be sure you check back each Sunday for the NIC Recap.

7 Questions with NIC3’s Mary Dumont

7 Questions is a series of interviews with the culinary movers and shakers you want or ought to know better.

This October, The Next Iron Chef returns with its fieriest season-to-date. Ten of the country’s most accomplished chefs bet on their skills and put their reputations on the line for the chance to join the industry’s most elite culinary society: the Iron Chefs.  Hosted by Alton Brown and filmed in Los Angeles, Las Vegas and New York City, season three premieres Sunday, October 3rd at 9pm ET/PT on Food Network and challenges the chefs’ culinary skills and mental toughness as they enter a clash of culinary titans.

For all the info on the new season of The Next Iron Chef, check out this link (has press release, episode descriptions, bios, video, etc).

The great thing about NIC is that all of the combatants are serious, award winning chefs.  Mary Dumont (Executive Chef at Harvest in Cambridge, Mass.) stuck to her New Hampshire family’s restaurateur roots and, after attending Simmons College, got her start in the business working under such culinary talents as San Francisco’s Jardiniere, Campton Place and Elizabeth Daniel. Upon returning to New Hampshire after stints in Chicago and California, she established her signature contemporary New England cuisine with classic French inspiration which she showcases as executive chef of Harvest. Dumont is the first-ever New Hampshire chef to earn the Food & Wine “Best New Chef” accolade.

With the premiere of Next Iron Chef 3 on the horizon Chef Mary Dumont answers 7 Questions.

1.   How old were you when you first started to cook?

Chef Mary Dumont of HarvestI grew up in New Hampshire and was raised in a family of restaurateurs, but being a chef is not what I originally thought I would do. After attending Simmons College in Boston for Literature, I followed a whim and moved to San Francisco at the age of 21. There, I immersed myself in the culture of food and dining and knew it was my calling. Then, I started cooking professionally at age 23.

2.   When did you decide that you could make food your career?

After the sudden death of my mother, I knew that the only way to succeed was to plan a serious course. I started working at San Francisco’s Jardiniere with Traci Des Jardins, and I saw what an amazing job Tracy did and what an incredible life she had; I was truly inspired. I felt deeply that this was what I was meant to do. It aligned with how I was raised and what I thought was important, it made a lot of sense for me.

3.   Which chefs have influenced you the most?

Chef Laurent Manrique of Campton Place in San Francisco taught me so much. He really looked at how I was cooking and taught me the whys of it all – why things are supposed to be certain ways and not others, why it’s important to be a problem solver and how to fix things, why things go together in the kitchen. This greater understanding of food and how everything works helped me see the bigger picture and is now something I try to teach to all my cooks.

Traci Des Jardins of San Francisco’s Jardiniere built a really great empire of restaurants in San Francisco. She is really into flavors and using a lot of local farms, aspects I incorporate into my cooking today. When I was working with her and so young, I was like a sponge and I was psyched just to be there with her, learning from her and even getting yelled at sometimes (she knew I existed!). I just wanted to learn and be better.

I have always respected what Barbara Lynch does. She has an amazing palate and business acumen. Nobody in this area has what she has; nobody can touch it.

4.   If you hadn’t followed this career path, what other career could you see yourself in?

Before I chose literature, I was really starting on the course to be a doctor. Then I realized I just wanted to cook! But, I am still providing a great service and helping people.

5.   How would you describe your cooking style?

Contemporary New England with French influences and farm-to-table focus.

6.   What motivated you to enter the Next Iron Chef competition?

I was excited by the idea of becoming an Iron Chef to share my passions with a larger audience – from my food and cooking style to my passion for sustainable agriculture and farm-to-table food. This is a unique aspect and outlook I would bring to the group.

7.   What’s next for Chef Mary Dumont?

No matter what happens in the competition, I am excited to bring all my experience back to Harvest and someday even have my own restaurant. As far as Harvest, we have our monthly farm dinners and we have many exciting things going on including a great staff and series of special events.

Be sure you check back each Sunday for the NIC Recap.

7 Questions with Chef Celina Tio

7 Questions is a series of interviews with the culinary movers and shakers you want or ought to know better.

This interview was done when Chef Tio was on Food Network’s The Next Iron Chef.  Recently she competed on Bravo’s Top Chef Masters.  You may continue.

This October, The Next Iron Chef returns with its fieriest season-to-date. Ten of the country’s most accomplished chefs bet on their skills and put their reputations on the line for the chance to join the industry’s most elite culinary society: the Iron Chefs.  Hosted by Alton Brown and filmed in Los Angeles, Las Vegas and New York City, season three premieres Sunday, October 3rd at 9pm ET/PT on Food Network and challenges the chefs’ culinary skills and mental toughness as they enter a clash of culinary titans.

For all the info on the new season of The Next Iron Chef, check out this link (has press release, episode descriptions, bios, video, etc).

The great thing about NIC is that all of the combatants are serious, award winning chefs.  Celina Tio is a classic example.  The Coatesville, PA native is a James Beard Award winner for her work at Kansas City’s The American where she earned a reputation for making everything from scratch.  This past summer, Tio made the move to her own restaurant, Julian and to stake her claim as The Nest Iron Chef.

Chef Celina is a 1992 graduate of Drexel University where she obtained a B.S. in hotel and restaurant management.  She is also a certified sommelier.  Prior to her heading the kitchen at The American she was the executive chef of at a Disney seafood restaurant, Narcoossee’s, which capped a rich career with the Disney corporation.

With all of the things going on for her right now, Chef Celina Tio was still kind enough to answer 7 Questions:

1. How old were you when you first started to cook?

Celine Tio of Next Iron Chef 3I was eight years old.  I asked my dad for a Holly Hobby oven.  He pointed to our oven and said, “There’s a real one, use that.”  So I learned to use the oven and range at an early age.

2. When did you decide that you could make food your career?

I wanted to go to culinary school out of high school, but it wasn’t quite as common then, so I compromised and got a B.S. in Hospitality Management with minors in Business and Psychology from Drexel University.  I’m jealous because they now have a four year culinary program!

3. Which chefs have influenced you the most?

Julia Child because I saw her on TV.  It never dawned on me that it wasn’t common for women to cook professionally.  I was watching one on TV, how much more socially acceptable is that?  Also, my father, Cesario Tio and grandfather, Julian Rodriguez – the men in my family did all the cooking.

4. If you hadn’t followed this career path, what other career could you see yourself in?

Hard to say, I’ve been doing it for so long and have always loved it!  When I was younger, I was always into math and art, so maybe something in either field.  After having filmed NIC, I love the entertainment industry – the production side, anyway. What a learning curve!  I have a much greater appreciation for everything I see that is filmed now!

5. How would you describe your cooking style?

“Feel Good Food” is the tag line for JULIAN, but mostly straight forward, simple food.

6. What motivated you to enter The Next Iron Chef competition?

I was called on a Friday night and was asked if I’d be interested in being on the show.  I said sure and we set a few more interviews then I was flown out for an on camera interview.  After they saw that, I guessed they still liked me.

7. What’s next for Chef Celina Tio?

Maintaining and always working on improving JULIAN, hopefully have my book concept that I’ve had ready for three years come to fruition and perhaps work on a new concept.  Basically stay busy!

Be sure you check back each Sunday for the NIC Recap.  If you haven’t yet, be sure to check out my recent interview with the newest Iron Chef, Marc Forgione 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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