Quick Hitter: “Next Iron Chef” Premiere Shatters Ratings

From the Food Network:

Food Network Has Best October Ever
With Record-Breaking Premiere Of ‘The Next Iron Chef’ Series

Network Finished 7th in Cable Prime
Up +20% from October 2010, Tied for Network’s Highest-Rated Month Ever

Next Iron ChefNEW YORK – November 1, 2011– Food Network harvests its best October in network history (up 20 percent from October 2010). The month was watched nightly by an average of 1.2 million total P2+ viewers, making it the highest-rated October ever posting a .6 in the core Adults 25-54 demo in prime.  The month culminated in the season four premiere of acclaimed series, The Next Iron Chef this past Sunday with a 1.4 A25-54 rating, up 40% from last season – a record season debut for the show and ranking 2ndfor the night among ad-supported cable networks. The premiere was watched by a total of 2.4 million viewers P25-54 and nearly 4.9 million P2+ viewers. The network also ranked 7th among ad-supported cable networks A25-54 for the month, up 4 spots from last year, according to Nielsen Media Research.

New primetime standouts like Halloween Wars (18 million total P2+ viewers) and Sweet Genius (nearly 15 million total P2+ viewers) propelled the month’s success, while primetime stalwart Chopped delivered its highest viewership in the series’ history with over 30 million P2+ viewers during October.

Review: Sandwich King with Jeff Mauro

Jeff Mauro Food Network StarLast week the world (OK the food geek world) watched as Jeff Mauro was anointed the newest Food Network Star after a topsy-turvey 10 weeks of some of the craziest (see Penny Davidi) TV on record.  But now the reality show is over and reality begins.  It’s time to take a look at the Sandwich King.

Star premieres have been a mixed bag.  Party Time with the Hearty Boys and The Gourmet Next Door didn’t excite viewers therefore neither is still around except in occasional reruns.  Guys Big Bite, $10 Dinners and Aarti Party were all well received and all three are still going strong.  Then there is Big Daddy’s House.

Let’s be honest, the first episode of Big Daddy’s House was not very good.  It featured a gaggle of recycled recipes from Food Network’s early years as opposed to the inventive recipes that were host Aaron McCargo Jr.’s signature during the contest.  Speaking of Aaron, throughout the competition he was repeatedly reminded to stop mumbling and to stop turning his back to the camera.  For the pilot he still had not mastered his lessons.  Though the show has improved a little over the years it still isn’t on many people’s list of favorites.

That isn’t a problem for Mauro as he’s a natural born entertainer.  Though he may not have the culinary skills of other season seven contestants like Whitney Chen or Justin Balmes at the same time he’s no Chris Nirschel.  Jeff’s cooking prowess is more than adequate for this show as he has ample technical proficiency to go with his creative flair.

Here’s how Food Network described the Sandwich King in a press release from Monday:

On his new daytime show, Mauro broadens his inspired sandwich resume as he takes Food Network viewers on a delicious odyssey, preparing dishes inspired from some of his favorite local restaurants around his hometown of Chicago, such as the Peoria Packing Butcher Shop and the Isaacson & Stein Fish Market. Whether he is satisfying his cravings for a Chicken Steakhouse Sandwich served on a crusty buttered French bread, a Chicken Vesuvio Sandwich on a French roll with peas, mushrooms and more, or a pressed panini taken to the next level – a Mortadella and Fig Focaccianini; Jeff adds his own twist to each dish – delicious proof that a sandwich is so much more than the sum of its parts.

So there’s the set-up now let’s take a look at the execution.

The first thing that jumps out is that parts of the show were shot on location at a beef stand in Chicago, Johnnie’s Beef.  That’s a nice touch; it was very Triple D-ish.  These Star premieres are usually done on the cheap.  Not so here.  In fact, there’s a great polish on the episode.  The camera work is very interesting with an unconventional angle here or there.

Jeff for his part is just what we came to expect during Star – warm and energetic.  He threw in the requisite stories that Bob and Susie love so much.  He also demonstrated a little food knowledge during his presentation.  He commanded the camera.  Though there were no full on belly laughs, Jeff did manage a handful of one-liners worthy of a chortle.

For a first episode it was extremely good.  I especially like how Jeff showed the viewer how to make both a classic recipe and one that was new and cutting edge.  If Food Network isn’t careful they may just have a hit on their hands.

Among the recipes in episode one is a homemade giardinara to go with the Chicago style Italian beef sandwich that Jeff did in the Comedy Roast episode.  But the shining star was the Mortadella and Fig Focaccianini.  I mean come on, figs and a fatty pork press meat?  How do you not love that?  The recipe for that bad boy is below or you can get all of the recipes from the premiere of Sandwich King HERE.  Be sure to check out my interview with Jeff HERE.

Mortadella and Fig Focaccianini
Recipe Type: Sandwich
Author: Jeff Mauro
Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 55 mins
Total time: 1 hour 5 mins
Serves: 4
From the premiere of Sandwich King.

  • 2 cups dried figs, stems removed and halved
  • 3/4 cups balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sugar

  • 4 squares focaccia bread
  • 8 ounces Italian sharp cheese, such as Fontinella, or asiago, sliced
  • 1 pound mortadella, thinly sliced
  • Olive oil, for brushing

  1. Bring the figs, 1 cup water, balsamic and sugar to a simmer in a small pot.
  2. Simmer until the figs rehydrate and the liquid reduces and thickens, about 15 minutes. Let cool. Once cool, place in a food processor and puree until smooth, 20 to 30 seconds.

  1. Preheat a griddle over medium-low heat or heat a panini press.
  2. Slice 1 focaccia square in half. Place a thin layer of the fig spread on the inside of both halves.
  3. Place a couple slices of cheese on the bottom, and then place 4 ounces mortadella on top.
  4. Close and lightly brush the bread with olive oil. Griddle the sandwich until golden and warm, about 4 minutes a side.
  5. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.
  6. Grab daintily with one hand and bite like a maniac.

Hungry Girl Leaves Cooking Channel for Food Network

It had to happen eventually.  Some show from the Cooking Channel would eventually make the move to the big network.  It’s easy to equate such a programming change to a pitcher being called up from the Triple A farm team but that doesn’t make it accurate.

Hungry Girl moving to Food NetworkThe reality is that the best cooking shows are on the Cooking Channel not the Food Network.  However, most of those cooking shows are geared towards cooks with advanced skills.  The cooking shows on the Food Network are geared for newer cooks.  As I wrote in my April review of Hungry Girl, “All though this may not be the kind of show to inspire professional chefs it is a great instructional series for the home cook.  It’s the kind of show that sister Food Network was built on.”

Is it arrogant to describe yourself as prophetic?  Yeah, I agree.  Anyway, here is part of the press release about the August premiere of Hungry Girl on the Food Network:

NEW YORK – July 5, 2011 – Hungry Girl Lisa Lillien indulges in summer’s most delicious treats, Hungry Girl Style, with less calories and less guilt but never sacrificing flavor, when season two premieres on Food Network August 7th at 10am ET/PT with 16 all new episodes.  There’s no challenge this New York Times Bestselling author and creator of the renowned Hungry Girl newsletter can’t take on – from overcoming potential date night disaster dishes to what to order when you want to scream for ice cream.  All 30-minute episodes begin with an eating situation that might otherwise result in an over-the-top calorie fest and Hungry Girl proves there’s no craving she can’t satisfy with creative, lower calorie options.

“There’s no better time than the hottest month of the year to show my fans how they can indulge in their favorite foods of all time and still look and feel their best this summer,” says Hungry Girl Lisa Lillien.   “The show allows me to bring my newsletter to life and take the cameras with me as I search for lower calorie treasures at the grocery store, whip up treats in my kitchen and order off the menu at my favorite restaurants.”

Review: Tough Cookies

Here’s how Food Network describes their newest reality show:

NEW YORK, – June 9, 2011 –  Food Network heads down the shore this summer for the new series Tough Cookies, following sisters Susan Adair Susan Adair and Linda Brandand Linda Blank and their loving, squabbling, multi-generational family as they run Crazy Susan’s Cookie Company in Ocean City, NJ.   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. Tough Cookies premieres Monday, July 11th at 10pm ET/PT, with new 30-minute episodes airing weekly on Mondays at 10pm ET/PT throughout the summer.

In the premiere episode, Susan and Linda gather the family together to plan a celebration for their father’s 88th birthday party and create a new cookie to honor their dad.  Everyone has an opinion, but Susan’s decision rules – so baking begins on a banana split cookie.  Using their construction background, their brother Johnny and nephew Michael come up with their own twist on a banana split and hit the boardwalk to see how it sells.


Here’s my take.  I’m tired of shows about desserts.  I’m tired of shows about bickering people.  I’m tired of shows that aren’t about food.  I tried to watch the whole show, I really did but it just didn’t have anything to keep me interested.  It was like a geriatric Jersey Shore with sprinkles.

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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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