The Best Thing I Ever Ate

Review: Crave with Troy Johnson

Let’s set the stage.  Here is how the Food Network web site describes its new food/travel series Crave with Troy Johnson:

Hosted by food critic and journalist Troy Johnson, Crave takes viewers on a cross-country journey for the most perfect versions of the foods he craves. Enthralled by the culinary wonders surrounding him, Troy will travel anywhere and try anything in pursuit of his obsession. Whether it’s pizza and pork or fried chicken and ice cream, Troy is on a quest to discover foods that make his mouth water while taking viewers on his nation-wide expedition to indulge in his food fascinations.

For those unfamiliar with Johnson he started off life as a music journalist but somewhere along the way became a food critic.  Having found his niche his star began to take off.  In 2007 he became the Troy Johnson Cravesenior editor of Modern Luxury’s Riviera magazine.  It wasn’t long after that the accolades came rolling in.  He has since branched out into broadcast media as a regular guest as a food and drink expert for KPBS radio in San Diego.

Food Network broke Troy in slowly by having him guest on shows like The Best Thing I Ever Ate before handing him the keys to Chelsea Market.  And no doubt the Network is banking on Crave to help fill the void caused by the court ordered stoppage of Diners, Drive-in & Dives.  Although the suit was settled last week and taping should resume soon it may be a while before new episodes hit the air.   Thus the nine episode deal for Crave.

His every-man style should make for a perfect host for a show like Crave.  And as a writer, Johnson knows the value of research.  Check out this gem he once gave a web site, “The Romans invented the cheese wheel and used to roll them along with everything else when they were doing battle.  They think this is why the Romans were able to kick everyone’s asses in Europe. Since cheese doesn’t spoil very easily, they always had a hunk of protein-and-fat-jammed energy source tucked up their man-skirts. Other armies’ food would spoil, leaving them weak and hungry. The cheese-eating Romans kicked their ass.”

So now you know the back story, it’s time for my take on what Johnson calls a, “series of unauthorized biographies of our favorite foods.”  The first thing that comes across is just how natural Johnson is on camera.  Not bad for a guy who has spent most of his career expressing himself in the written word.  It is not an easy transition to make.  His schtick of dropping one-liners steeped in pop culture or obscure historical references is reminiscent of Dennis Miller or Robin Williams.

As far as the show itself, Crave has many of the best elements of previous food/travel shows like Unwrapped, The Secret Life Of and yes Triple D.  It will also appeal to fans of nerdy (for lack of a better word) shows like Food Detectives and the recently mothballed Good Eats.  That is where Johnson’s pension for meticulous research pays off for the viewer.  He covers each episode’s theme from both a historical and a scientific perspective.  And best of all he does it with an irreverent (dare I say raunchy) sense of humor not scene on the Food Network since Anthony Bourdain.

I really liked Crave a lot.  I like the host and I like the way they handle the subject matter.  Visually it is shot well and seems to flow extremely well.  I kept thinking, “A commercial already?”

Crave airs Mondays at 8:30pm/7:30c on the Food Network.

Food Network Scorches Summer with Heat Seekers

Robert Irvine Returns with Season Two of ‘Restaurant: Impossible’
Plus: 5 New Episodes of ‘Food Network Star’ and 6 Daytime Season Premieres

NEW YORK – June 16, 2011 – Summer‘s heating up on Food Network with two new series, seven new seasons and five premiere episodes of its number one show, Food Network Star. It’s raining men in the series premiere of Heat Seekers as Aarón Sanchez and Roger Mooking take the country by storm in a sizzling search of the nation’s spiciest food beginning Friday, July 22nd at 10pm, and two cacophonous New Jersey sisters get down to baking business in the new series Tough Cookies (WT) premiering Monday, July 11th at 10pm. Summer fun doesn’t stop there as Robert Irvine returns to save the day in season two of Restaurant: Impossible premiering Wednesday, July 6th at 10pm while the suspense builds and contestants dwindle in premiere episodes of Food Network Star on Sundays at 9pm. Things are getting busy “In the Kitchen” with six daytime season premieres, and the action continues with countless premiere episodes of Food Network favorites including Iron Chef America and Food Network Challenge. Join the Food Network conversation on Facebook and Twitter.

FEATURED SERIES
·         Premiering Sunday, July 3rd at 9pm –“Diners, Drive-Ins and 4th of July”
In this 90-minute episode, the ten finalists must prove that they can entertain and cook. Guy Fieri explains that each finalist will take part in a taping at Mel’s Drive-In. Then, it’s all fireworks as the contestants put their spin on American classics using MGD 64 as a special ingredient for the Fourth of July All-American Food Festival, and the finalists must take the stage and serve as the live entertainment for the day.
·         Premiering Sunday, July 10th at 9pm –“Food Truck Face Off”
Tyler Florence divides the nine finalists into groups challenging them to create and brand a unique menu for a lunch truck. They must film an advertising spot promoting their truck and then serve mobile meals to viewers they inspired, but contestants have to put their best foot forward as consumers can only visit the truck they liked best.
·         Premiering Sunday, July 17th at 9pm –“Dinner Party for Wolfgang Puck”
In this double elimination episode, Bobby Flay charges the eight finalists to create a signature dish and helps them shine before each finalist demos their dish in front of the selection committee. Later, Bobbyreveals the next challenge where the remaining finalists must host a dinner party for Wolfgang Puck and create a menu with only the ingredients and supplies in the house. HGTV’s Sabrina Soto makes a guest appearance to help the finalists get the house dinner party ready, and Puck arrives with the judges to help decide which six finalists will head to New York City to finish the race to become a Food Network Star.
·         Premiering Sunday, July 24st at 9pm –“Ina Garten and Rachael Ray”
In this episode, the six remaining finalists arrive at Food Network headquarters in New York City and are greeted by Ina Garten and Bobby Flay. She challenges them to create unique cupcakes that best represent their personalities. Next, contestants are floored when Rachael Ray joins them via satellite and informs them they must put on a live demonstration on the Rachael Ray Show. Each finalist puts their twist on a traditional dinner dish hoping to impress the live studio audience and Rachael Ray herself.
·         Premiering Sunday, July 31st at 9pm –“Comedy Roast”
The five finalists begin this action-packed episode scouring the stores of Chelsea Market in New York City searching for the “Best Thing I Ever Ate.” Bobby Flay then directs them to describe how this dishimpacted them. Next, the finalists prepare a signature roast dish that gets roasted by guest star comedians Gilbert Gottfried, Aubrey Plaza, Anthony Anderson, Louie Anderson and Judy Gold.
SERIES PREMIERES
Tough Cookies (WT):Premieres Monday, July 11th at 10pm
Food Network heads down the shore this summer for the new series Tough Cookies (WT), following sisters Susan Adair and Linda Brand and their loving, squabbling, multi-generational family as they run Crazy Susan’s Cookie Company in Ocean City, N.J. Crazy Susan’s isn’t your average bakery – Susan is a mad genius, cooking up crazy new concoctions every day, and their cookies are as popular as the beach in this town. They have their hands full with lines out the door and phones that never stop ringing – all while baking and managing their employees, who are mostly family members.
Heat Seekers: Premieres Friday, July 22nd at 10pm
For chefs Aarón Sanchez and Roger Mooking, Heat Seekers is a tongue-testing odyssey to discover the most delicious and dangerous spicy food in the country—and figure out why it’s so much fun to eat. This season Aarón and Roger travel to Miami, Philadelphia, New Orleans, Santa Fe, Chicago, Seattle, Charleston and Los Angeles in search of outrageously spicy creations. In each city, they discover the secrets of everything from broiled crawfish and buffalo frog legs to fiery ribs and seafood ceviche, and then subject themselves to a test of who can handle the heat. What results is either tears of laughter or tears of pain, but usually, it’s both.
SEASON PREMIERES
Primetime
Restaurant: Impossible: Season 2 premieres Wednesday, July 6th at 10pm
·         Premiering Wednesday, July 6th at 10pm –“Dodge City”
Robert heads to Harrisburg, Pa., to save Dodge City, a Wild West themed restaurant. Robert challenges the staff to create an original dish, and the design team races against the clock to finish the restaurant’s new look before the grand opening.
·         Premiering Wednesday, July 13th at 10pm –“La Stanza”
At La Stanza in Philadelphia, Robert finds an old-world Italian restaurant being run by the owner’s daughter and on the brink of failure. He jumps into action brightening up the dining room and updating the menu while also training an inexperienced manager.
·         Premiering Wednesday, July 20th at 10pm – “Sweet Tea”
Robert travels to Chapin, S.C., in attempt to save Sweet Pea by improving the freshness of the food, quality of service and restaurant décor. With just minutes until opening, Robert puts the staff through a grueling boot camp to shake the bad service in a last attempt to save this restaurant from complete failure.
·         Premiering Wednesday, July 27th at 10pm – “Country Fare”
Robert’s mission is clear when he arrives at Country Fare in Stafford, Va., a neighborhood diner with inedible food and a repulsive kitchen. After teaching the staff basic cooking skills, he focuses on a much-needed design overhaul.
Daytime
Aarti Party: Season 3 premieres Saturday, July 2nd at 9am – “Summertime and the Cookin’ Is Easy”
Down Home with the Neelys: Season 10 premieres Saturday, July 2nd at 11:30am – “Food Spell”
Secrets of a Restaurant Chef: Season 8 premieres Saturday, July 2nd at 12pm – “The Secret to Lobster Rolls”
Barefoot Contessa: Season 5 premieres Saturday, July 2nd at 1pm – “Summertime Easy”
Ten Dollar Dinners with Melissa d’Arabian: Season 5 premieres Sunday, July 3rd at 9am – “Italian Inspiration”
Cooking for Real: Season 10 premieres Saturday, July 9th at 10am – “Taking My Lumps”
ON-AIR SPECIAL
Sunny’s All-American Celebration: Premieres Saturday, July 2nd at 10am
Sunny Anderson shows us that behind every great soldier is a good meal. It’s a very special personal and patriotic journey for Sunny as she travels to Ft. Bragg, N.C. and Fort Lee, Va. to look back on her time in the military, celebrate men and women in uniform, reconnect with her active duty family members, and show viewers why food is often the glue that holds military families together.
ONLINE CONTENT
Pull out a checkered tablecloth, fire up the grill and look no further for perfect all-American recipes at FoodNetwork.com/july4. Food Network fans get party-perfect recipes like Guy’s 4th of July Cocktail, Alton’s Fried Chicken and a new favorite, Flag Cake, from Ina Garten.
NEW EPISODES
In addition to the above new series, seasons and specials, Food Network premieres all new episodes of:
Food Network Challenge: Premieres Sunday, July 3rd at 8pm – “Star Wars Cakes”
Food Network Challenge: Premieres Sunday, July 17th at 8pm – “Chocolate Myths”
Food Network Challenge: Premiering Sunday, July 24th at 8pm – “Smurf Cakes”
Iron Chef America: Premieres Sunday, July 24th at 10pm – “Flay vs. Christensen”
Iron Chef America: Premiering Sunday, July 31st at 10pm – “Symon vs. Johnson”
Daytime: 5 Ingredient Fix, 30 Minute Meals, Bobby Flay’s Barbecue Addiction, Giada At Home, Guy’s Big Bite, Mexican Made Easy, Paula’s Best Dishes, Secrets of a Restaurant Chef, Semi-Homemade Cooking with Sandra Lee
Primetime: Chopped, Cupcake Wars, Extreme Chef, Meat & Potatoes, Outrageous Food, The Best Thing I Ever Ate

Food Network May 2011 Highlights

Press Release from Food Network:

Food Network Crowns Cake Cavalier on ‘Last Cake Standing’ Season Finale and Names BBQ King in New Series ‘Best In Smoke’
Season Premieres: Paula’s Best Dishes, Guy’s Big Bite, Diners Drive-Ins and Dives, Chopped
On-Air and Online “In the Kitchen” Theme Weekend: Mother’s Day

NEW YORK – April 21, 2011 – This May, Food Network smokes out the Guy Fiericompetition with a series premiere, a season finale, four new seasons, a Mother’s Day theme weekend and countless new episodes of hit shows. Viewers get a tasty primetime package on Sunday, May 8th from 9-11pm with the Last Cake Standing season finale at 9pm and the Best In Smoke series premiere at 10pm – it’s a lineup not to be missed. New episodes of fan favorite daytime shows honor mothers around the world with the Mother’s Day theme weekend on Saturday, May 7th from 7am-2pm and Sunday May 8th from 7am-12pm with complementary ideas and recipes at www.foodnetwork.com/mom. Food Network fans will also enjoy four season premieres: Paula’s Best Dishes (April 30th), Guy’s Big Bite (May 1st), Chopped(May 3rd) and Diners, Drive Ins and Dives (May 9th). Join the Food Network conversation on Facebook and Twitter.
FEATURED FINALE
Last Cake Standing: Premieres Sunday, May 8th at 9pm –“$100,000 Cakes”
After five grueling weeks pitting talented pastry chefs against each other in intense cake battles with crazy twists, the final cake designers are ready to create an unforgettable wedding cake for an engaged couple. The cakes must be inspired by one of the themed wedding rooms at the world famous Little White Wedding Chapel. Just as the competitors think that they are have completed their final task, one more awaits: make a cake that tells the story of their one hundred thousand dollar dream. At the end of this marathon competition, one winning cake designer receives $100,000 and bragging rights because they have the Last Cake Standing.
SERIES PREMIERE
Best In Smoke: Premieres Sunday, May 8th at 10pm
Hailing from cities across the United States, six of the best barbecue masters meet in New York to face off for a $50,000 grand prize and the right to claim the title of Best In Smoke. Hosted by Bryan Caswell (season three contestant on The Next Iron Chef), this competition tests the competitors’ endurance and skill as they take on multiple challenges in a day with limited resources and cook for vastly different audiences. From barbecue desserts to single bite hors d’oeuvres, no food is off limits. Contestants show off their personal style and quick wit throughout the competition, but a final mad dash to three separate venues around Manhattan and Brooklyn will determine which competitor will be awarded the coveted title of Best In Smoke.

·         Premieres Sunday, May 8th at 10pm –“Best Bite in BBQ” (*Note special time)
Host Bryan Caswell kicks off the competition by challenging the six teams to create their best “single bite” for the judges. Once the clock starts, it’s an all-out scramble to the meat truck, and the competitor who cooks up the best “single bite” wins immunity from elimination and joins the judging panel for the next round. Then, the competitors devise the ideal BBQ hors d’oeuvre for an upscale art gallery opening. The fate of the finalists hangs on the opinions of the gallery guests who decide which competitor is safe from elimination.
·         Premieres Sunday, May 15th at 9pm – “Unorthodox BBQ and Birthday Party”
The competitors must create a BBQ-inspired salad and dessert from pre-determined ingredients, so only their skill will separate them from the pack. After two hours of cooking, the judges’ favorite gets a special advantage going into the next competition. For round two, the competitors have three hours to whip up an appetizing BBQ snack for a children’s birthday party, but the twist is no burgers or hot dogs allowed. At the party, each kid picks their favorite dish to decide who will be safe from elimination.
·         Premieres Sunday, May 22nd at 9pm –“Vendor Wars”
The four remaining competitors take it to the streets, operating vendor carts and serving up hot BBQ to tourists. For this challenge, their assistants are off the hook, so competitors pair up and work together in teams. At the park, the tourists purchase their choice BBQ dishes with tickets. The team with the most tickets wins and will participate in the final judging of the other team, while the competitor with the least tickets will say goodbye.
·         Premieres Sunday, May 29th at 9pm – “Season Finale”
The final challenge tests the limits of the remaining competitors’ culinary knowledge, as well as their stamina, by having them cater three different events in one day. Each location will showcase a different element of the New York lifestyle including ballparks, Broadway and bars. Each finalist must feature brisket in at least one of their meals, which can take up to twelve hours to cook. After catering three distinct events, the most well-rounded pit master is named “Best In Smoke.”
SEASON PREMIERES

·         Paula’s Best Dishes: Saturday, April 30th at 11am ET/PT – “Fantastic Fiesta”
·         Guy’s Big Bite: Sunday, May 1st at 10:30am ET/PT – “Guy’s Lean Green Chili Machine”
·         Chopped: Tuesday, May 3rd at 10pm ET/PT – “The Icing On The Steak”
·         Diners, Drive Ins and Dives: Monday, May 9th at 9pm ET/PT – “Bar Food And Bon Bons”
FOOD NETWORK “IN THE KITCHEN” THEME WEEKEND

“Mother’s Day” (Saturday, May 7th from 7am-2pm and Sunday, May 8th from 7am-12pm)

Whether it’s a special breakfast in bed or a brunch with friends, Food Network chefs share their favorite family recipes for Mother’s Day. Food Network offers up premiere and encore episodes of daytime favorites designed to help moms stay out of the kitchen and let their loved ones treat her to a day of delicious dishes. Online at www.foodnetwork.com/mom, Food Network serves up recipes for crustless quiche and gives viewers a look at photos of fan-favorite chefs and their moms.
·         Big Daddy’s House: Premieres Saturday, May 7th at 9am – “It’s All About: Classics”
Big Daddy is bringing back the classics with a fit-for-a-king meal including a Shrimp Fra Diablo Appetizer, Chicken Francaise, Red Sangria and White Sangria.
·         Mexican Made Easy: PremieresSaturday, May 7th at 9:30am –“Mami’s Day Brunch Party”
Marcela serves up the perfect Mother’s Day menu with a Fruit Bowl with Mex-Granola, Chicken Enchiladas, Chorizo Hash Browns and Pecan and Caramel Candies.

·         5 Ingredient Fix: Premieres Saturday, May 7th at 10:30am – “Breakfast in Bed For Mama”
Claire makes a special brunch for her mom including Chocolate Hazelnut Stuffed French Toast, Turkey Fennel Sausage Patties, Mint Lemon Syrup, Granola Topping and Hot Vanilla Malted.

·         Paula’s Best Dishes: Premieres Saturday, May 7th at 11am – “Breakin’ For Breakfast”
Jamie and Bobby Deen are in the kitchen today cooking up a delicious breakfast feast for their mom including Easy Blueberry Skillet Cake, Cream Cheese and Strawberry Stuffed French Toast with Strawberry Syrup, Fruit Salad with Cream Cheese Pecan Topping and a Piña Colada Smoothie.
·         Down Home with the Neelys: Premieres Saturday, May 7th at 11:30am – “Let’s Hear It For The Moms!”
Pat and Gina cook up Quiche Tartlets, Sweet Potato Hash, Watermelon Salad and Flowers for Mom Cocktail for Gina’s mom and their dear friend Brenda.
·         Secrets of a Restaurant Chef: Premieres Saturday, May 7th at 12pm – “The Secret To Beef Bourguignonne”
Chef Anne Burrell breaks out French recipe tricks for her favorite Beef Bourguignon and Palmiers cookies.
·         Dessert First: Premieres Saturday, May 7th at 12:30pm – “Blue Ribbon Pies”
Anne Thornton’s mom, Maureen, joins her to make Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Cream Pie; Mama Thornton’s Peach
Pie; and Almond, Pear and Cherry Pocket Pies.
·         Giada at Home: Premieres Saturday, May 7th at 1:30pm – “Celebrating Mom”
Giada De Laurentiis invites her mother Veronica and sister Eloisa over for an outdoor Mother’s Day luncheon with Crispy Chicken with Rosemary-Lemon Salt; Sun-dred Tomato, Olive and Lemon Pasta; and Espresso and Chocolate Jellies.

·         Rachael Ray’s Week in a Day: Premieres Sunday, May 8th at 9am – “Make A Double Batch”
Rachael cooks up Double-Batch Classic Bolognese; Beer-Braised Chicken Thighs; Lamb And Rice Stuffed Peppers; Sausage, Kale And Lentil Soup; and Roasted Tomato and Roasted Garlic Puttanesca.

·         Hungry Girl: Premieres Sunday, May 8th at 10am – “Comfortably Yum”
Lisa whips up a HG version of a fan’s macaroni & cheese recipe as well as ‘Cue the Pulled Pork and PB n’ Chocolate Bread Pudding Bonanza.
·         Guy’s Big Bite: Sunday, May 8th at 10:30am – “Mama Fieri’s Sunday Roast”
Guy Fieri gets the stamp of approval from special guest, Mom Fieri, with his Family Style Pot Roast, Acme Buttered and Figs in a Blanket.
·         Cooking for Real: Sunday, May 8th at 11am – “Fish And Grits”
Sunny Anderson cooks up traditional southern fare including Catfish Nuggets, Creamy Cheesy Grits, and Simple Blueberry Apple Pie.

FEATURED NIGHTS AND MARATHONS
“Grilling Week” Kickoff(Sunday May 29th from 8-11pm)
Food Network’s grilling season officially kicks off with the Best In Smoke finale at 9pm followed by Iron Chef America “Battle Hot Dog” featuring Iron Chef Michael Symon vs. Cooking Channel’s host of Everyday Exotic, Roger Mooking at 10pm.
Bobby Flay’s Memorial Day Marathon (Monday, May 30th from 10am-4pm)
Food Network serves up a day full of outdoor fun and tasty recipes with back-to-back episodes of Grill It! with Bobby Flay and Throwdown with Bobby Flay. From specialty hot dogs and award-winning hamburgers to spicy competitions and fiery rematches, Bobby takes on all facets of grilling to get viewers ready to “throw down” at their own Memorial Day celebrations.
FOOD NETWORK NEW EPISODES
Food Network premieres all-new episodes of Iron Chef America, Food Network Challenge, and 17 additional primetime and daytime shows.

Daytime: 5 Ingredient Fix, 30 Minute Meals, Barefoot Contessa, Big Daddy’s House, Dessert First, Down Home with the Neelys, Mexican Made Easy, Secrets of a Restaurant Chef, Semi-Homemade Cooking with Sandra Lee
Primetime: 24 Hour Restaurant Battle, Chopped, Good Eats, Kid in a Candy Store, Meat and Potatoes, Outrageous Food, The Best Thing I Ever Ate, Unwrapped

7 Questions with Alex Guarnaschelli

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

Alex Guarnaschelli has long been a familiar face on the Food Network be it in her popular cooking shows The Cooking Loft and Alex’s Day Off or as a guest judge of Iron Chef America or Chopped  and soon as a contestant on Next Iron Chef 4.  She has been a polarizing figure to say the least.  It seems she is as beloved as she is disliked.  With Chopped: All Stars set to premiere in a few days perhaps we should get to know Chef Alex a little better.

After graduating from Barnard College in 1991, Guarnaschelli embarked on a lifelong culinary adventure beginning with a little time under the wing of the godfather of American cuisine, Larry Forgione.  If the name sounds familiar it should as Larry is the father of the newest Iron Chef Marc Forgione.

With the elder Forgione’s blessing Guarnaschelli took her studies overseas where she matriculated at La Varenne Culinary School in Burgundy.  From Burgundy she traveled France until landing in Paris for a four day study with famed French chef Guy Savoy.  Four years later she was still with Savoy as sous chef at one of his properties, La Butte Chaillot.  She would stay three more years before returning to America to work with the legendary Daniel Boulud at Daniel.

After moving up to sous chef with Boulud she then moved to the West Coast to work with Joachim Splichal’s Patina.  In 2003 she returned to New York to become the executive chef at Butter.  Since then she has made her reputation in the kitchen, as an instructor and even as a challenger on Iron Chef America before her keen palate was tapped as a judge both on ICA and Chopped.

In a fierce five-part tournament, 16 all star chefs battle head-to-head to win the crown as the champion of Chopped All Stars.  Competing in this battle royal are NFNS alums Brad Sorenson, Debbie Lee, Lisa Garza and Michael Proietti, as well as Anne Burrell, Geoffrey Zakarian, Claire Robinson, Duff Goldman, Robert Irvine, Beau MacMillan, Jacques Torres, Nate Appleman and former NIC contestants Anita Lo, Aarón Sánchez, Maneet Chauhan and Amanda Freitag.

Whenever discussions of culinary cuties ensue I am always aghast that Guarnaschelli’s name does not immediately come up.  She is clearly a beautiful woman but her descriptions of food are so sensual I swear they make me blush. When it comes to making food sexy she takes a back seat to no one.

Chef Alex will be a judge for this first of it’s kind event but first she answers 7 Questions.

Chopped All StarsCan you tell us what we can expect from Chopped All Stars?

It’s a week of all stars for charity where all the different celebrity chefs are competing for charities of their choice and the grand prize is a $50,000 donation to the winning chef’s charity.  It’s certainly very dramatic.

A little about you, Alex, how would you best describe your style of cooking?

I would say that I’m in touch with the American classics.  My parents were avid cooks when I was growing up; still are.  It was a lot of the French-American, French techniques and American ingredients ranging from Oysters Rockefeller and Lobster Newburg definitely is a big part of my style of cooking.  I love the green market mentality.  Some one once said to me that’s not a cooking style it’s a shopping philosophy which I thought was a very interesting way of putting it.  So I guess I would say French-American with seasonality being one of my favorite things.

Which chefs have influenced you along the way?

Many but probably the most influential definitely is Guy Savoy in Paris.  He was definitely a big inspiration, still is, to me.  Certainly Daniel Boulud is another big influence and inspiration.  You know you have mentors of many kinds when you’re a chef.  And certainly another big mentor to me is Bobby Flay who has just been very supportive of me and really helped me find my own voice as a chef on television as well as, you know, a cooking style.  I think that’s certainly important to me too.

How important do you think improvisational skills are to being a chef especially in a setting like Chopped All Stars?

When you say improvisation to me it makes me think of many other words like solutions.  As in somebody who can handle any crisis.  You know like when somebody doesn’t show up to work at the restaurant or the grease trap explodes on a Friday night or you have to put together a dish from a basket of ingredients in 20 minutes flat.  It’s all sort of that same idea of improvisation.  So I think thinking quickly on your feet is critical.  Which is why I think Chopped is such a natural extension of being a chef, being a cook.  Only now you’re being filmed and all of America is watching you.

What was the experience of being a judge for Chopped All Stars like?

Yeah, it was amazing.  Think about it.  Just think about that list of names.  Can you imagine?  It was incredible.  It was like watching the Super Bowl.

How would you describe the atmosphere in the Chopped kitchen?

The show is such a power, such a house of cards all the time.  Sometimes I like to think there’s a little mystery on the ground floor of the house you know with the basics.

How do you balance being a judge while also being a colleague with the other chefs?

We’re all professionals.  We all work together.  We’re all sort of similar in that all of us are sometimes the competitors and  all of us are sometimes the judges.  And I think that playing that game of musical chairs as professionals you definitely have a tacit understanding of what that’s going to entail ahead of time.  So it wasn’t really an issue.  I don’t think any of us would have allowed it to be.  It’s for charity.

Chopped All Stars premieres March 6th at 9PM ET on Food Network.

 

This was an excerpt from my latest Kindle Single “Dinner Conversations” which is an anthology of celebrity chef interviews. Available here http://amzn.to/kcfaBC

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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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