Finalists Reveal Their Culinary Mentors (Who Aren’t Bobby and Giada)
FN Dish – Food Network Blog
In just a few short weeks, the Food Network Star finalists will begin the job interview of their lives. And while Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis will decide who among the finalists boasts glimmers of Star power and who ultimately does not make the grade, the judges will also be there as mentors to guide the hopefuls through the competition, teaching and inspiring them along the way. But to reach this place in their careers, and at the precipice of stardom, the hopefuls are bringing with them the wisdom and motivation of other mentors — professional and, often, personal too — who’ve helped ready them for this very competition.
Read on below as the 12 finalists reflect on their culinary mentors and what they’ve learned from these influences in years past.
Alex McCoy: Marco Pierre White has been my biggest influence. I had an opportunity to spend a little bit of time with him, and he’s just such an amazing person. He’s a pure chef, and I think the one thing that I really learned from him that I’ve taken through my entire career is his respect for ingredients.
Arnold Myint: My parents — both of them. My mother’s a chef, and I was raised cooking with her. But my father’s the one that cooked for me, so not only do I have the technique and the palate, but I also see the passion and the love behind creating a dish. Something as simple as an egg is memorable to me because of who made it.
Christina Fitzgerald: I have a lot of them. I would not want to say one, because I feel like I would hurt others’ feelings because they’ve all done so much for me. And I’m so close to them, and I’m so grateful for all of the time that they offer up to help me.
Dominick Tesoriero: Jonathan Benno. In my opinion, he’s the greatest chef to ever put on a set of whites. … The guy’s a legend and I worked for him. He doesn’t just teach out that standard of cooking, but it’s also how to be a good guy. Not many of his peers are in the kitchen doing the things that he does.
Eddie Jackson: My culinary mentor has been my father. I come from a long line of cooks in my family. And I was majority raised by my father, and he’s an excellent cook. He taught me how to barbecue when I was about 10 years old, so I thank him for that.
Emilia Cirker: There was a chef that I studied under at my culinary school; his name is Chef Patrice, and he is this snarky old French dude … he thinks he knows everything about everything. And you’re terrified to work under him. Everybody talks about Chef Patrice. And then you learn from him, and you realize he’s the most warm, loving, kind, generous, funny guy in the whole entire planet. He taught me so much, and he really kept instilling the confidence in me that I could really kick butt in this career.
Jay Ducote: I think I have two. Early on, when I first started cooking, it was my cousin Travis. When I was a freshman at LSU, which is where I went to college, the first football game of my freshman year, I went to his tailgate party and he handed me our grandfather’s old barbecue utensils and said: “Here, freshman. You’re in charge of the grill now.” And it was kind of trial by fire. But for the next eight years — five years of undergrad, a year off, then two years of grad school — while I was a student at LSU, my cousin and I tailgated together and threw an incredible tailgate party; we’d feed hundreds of people on a game day with big cast-iron pots of gumbo and jambalaya and Cajun dishes like that. … My second one is actually another guy, one of my best friends; his name is Eusebio Gongora, and he is an executive chef now. … He, for the last five years or so, as I’ve been on this journey in the food world myself as a professional chef, he has kind of mentored and guided me and given me tips anytime that I’ve needed to know something. Because I never went to culinary school, and I don’t have the restaurant experience, so if there’s been a time where I’ve been like, I have no idea how to make that, he’s the guy that I would lean on to show me.
Matthew Grunwald: Mom. Mom taught me how to cook. It’s me, Mom and Sis, and we’re tight-knit, and of course we have Grandma, Grandpa, the whole fam bam, but Mom taught me how to cook. … I was involved in sports when I was younger, and I was decent, but I didn’t start coming into my own until later on, like athletically, but she saw something with food. And Mom was the catalyst of my cooking.
Michelle Karam: All the women in my life — my mom, my grandmother. Those are the women, when everyone else was outside riding a bike and playing out in front, I was inside the house cooking with my grandma. So, I definitely draw from them as my source of culinary power.
Rosa Graziano: My mother. She’s really the star. She knows how to be with people. She’s charming. She’s lovely. She knows the food. It’s my mom. This is all her for me.
Rue Rusike: In life my culinary mentors have been Gordon Ramsay and Daniel Humm. They’ve taught me that you succeed in life when you persevere, when you work toward your goals, when you put your head down, and constantly wake up every day and you fight to do what you really want to do.
Sita Lewis: Besides my mother and my stepmother, I would have to say some of the personalities that I’ve seen on Food Network.
Get set for the Season 11 premiere of Food Network Star on Sunday, June 7 at 9|8c.
The Ultimate Packable Picnic for Memorial Day [INFOGRAPHIC]
FN Dish – Food Network Blog
98 Flawless Cubes of Food Will Soothe Your Perfectionist Soul
FN Dish – Food Network Blog
The kiwi seems clear enough. And the pomegranate and the papaya are unmistakable. Unless, of course, I’m mistaken.
I have hunch those are peppers. And … cabbage, is that you? Mushroom? Cauliflower? Corn? Watermelon? And what kind of fish is that? Or, wait, is that even fish?
Food may never have looked at once so exposed and so elemental as it does in “Cubes,” an image created by Amsterdam-based visual artists Lernert & Sander (full names: Lernert Engelberts and Sander Plug) and commissioned by Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant for a food-themed photography special feature. (You can buy a C-print or a poster on the artists’ website.)
The photograph — for which the duo, who have excited senses before, turned unprocessed food into precisely shaped cubes measuring 2.5 centimeters (or roughly one inch) on every side — has also proved quite provocative, spawning earnest guesses and even elaborate maps.
But my advice is not to click on those maps and charts and image keys too soon. Instead, simply let your mind contemplate each crisply cut jewel-like morsel and then take them in en masse, and then back again, unencumbered by labels.
Later you can learn which orange cube is a pumpkin and which a sweet potato, which a carrot and which a cantaloupe. Though the hint of green on that last one may give it away.
Photo courtesy of @lernert_sander
American Diner Revival’s Amanda Freitag and Ty Pennington Answer Fans’ Questions in a Facebook Chat
FN Dish – Food Network Blog
In honor of the upcoming season of American Diner Revival, show hosts Chef Amanda Freitag and home improvement expert Ty Pennington gave the scoop on their new series in a recent Facebook chat with fans. On the show Amanda and Ty team up to renovate the interiors and revamp the menus of struggling diners in less than 36 hours. The hosts shared their favorite diner dishes and fun facts about their careers and answered questions about the goals and challenges of the show.
Lynda: Being a Jersey girl, diners hold some awesome memories for me. Do either of you have a favorite diner from your childhood? And also, why did you choose the diners you did for the show?
Amanda Freitag: For me, it’s the Pilgrim Diner in Cedar Grove, N.J. I’m a Jersey girl too! I have a million memories [of] eating there from a young age. Many late nights and breakfasts were had!
Ty Pennington: Usually we get a plea from people that work there, or friends of the diner might reach out to us!
Elizabeth: What was the inspiration behind this show? I can’t wait to watch it.
TP: I agree with Amanda. The diner is the center of the community, and I really love when you can work with a community that has one goal. You get two things: a challenge and, hopefully, a happy ending. And you’re preserving a piece of Americana.
AF: Our goal was to rescue all-American diners around the country that were on the brink of extinction!
Carissa: What have either of you learned from going into these diners and reinventing them?
TP: I think sometimes we forget how warm the characters in a diner can be. You might not be able to find that on a menu, but it makes you feel like you’re family, and that doesn’t happen everywhere.
AF: I learned that at the heart of almost every restaurant is a family, whether blood-related or a team of people who become a family through that place. Diners have that “mom and pop” appeal, and that’s something we really wanted to save.
Linda: Ty, what challenges have you had on this job, if any?
TP: Lack of time, lack of sleep, confined space, trying to fix something built in 1962, busted waterlines … I could go on and on. Plus unexpected challenges of working in a business.
Ricky: Hi, Amanda! What dish do you think every diner should have on the menu?
AF: Every diner has to have a burger on their menu. MUST!
Alicia: One of my favorite meals to order when I eat at diners is a hot turkey sandwich! Amanda, what is your most-favorite comfort food?
AF: Oh boy! This is tough. Mashed potatoes and gravy is pretty hardcore comfort food to me. I also love a big bowl of pasta … and pizza too!
Carlos: Ty, do you know how to cook?
TP: The truth is, YES! My specialties are potatoes, mussels — the good stuff. I started cooking at age 8.
Kelly: Amanda, what is your favorite gourmet burger?
AF: I wouldn’t say it’s gourmet, but I am totally into making Juicy Lucys! You basically put cheese INSIDE of the burger patty. When you bite into it it’s like lava, so be warned! I am still experimenting with different methods of making it.
Mark: What is your favorite “2 a.m. at the diner” story?
TP: The problem with remembering a 2 a.m. story at a diner … well, that’s why you’re there and trying to eat your memory back.
Barbara: What is your favorite go-to food in a diner? Do you always get the same thing or try different things?
AF: I like trying different things, but I am kind of a sucker for breakfast for dinner, especially an omelet or a Happy Waitress (an open-faced egg sandwich with cheesy sauce all over!).
TP: Tough call — depends on the diner. Fried pickles (if you can find them), juicy burgers with jalapeno peppers, french fries with cheese and gravy. I also really love the breakfast — good seasoned home fries. And a good, pure and simple vanilla milkshake.
Culinary Adventures: How did you both start your food careers?
AF: I started in the front of the house as a busgirl and fell in love with food! I worked at a family friend’s restaurant with my brother and would take any excuse to sneak around every corner of the kitchen. They eventually let me in the kitchen myself and the rest is history. I loved the whole idea of getting ready and prepping as a team, then going to battle together, high-fiving when it was all over, and doing it all again the next day.
Shirley: Tell us one thing you didn’t know about each other.
TP: I didn’t realize she’s the kind of person that can take whatever you’ve got in your cabinets, whatever ingredients you have on hand, and turn them into something incredible.
AF: I didn’t realize how much boundless energy Ty has! Also, his ability to fire up crowds and get people motivated is amazing.
Leighann: What is your definition of a diner?
TP: My interpretation is that a diner is the one of the oldest spots in town that generations of families have grown up eating in. It’s an American icon. It’s a comfortable place where you can get comfortable food.
Vicki: So Ty, when did you change from home makeovers to food makeovers? And how did you hook up with Amanda Freitag?
TP: I really enjoy food and cooking, and it’s a creative outlet where people can put their heart and soul into something. When I heard about the opportunity to blend the renovation of a restaurant that’s an American classic and at the same time experience how you can make over a menu by working with a chef like Amanda, I jumped at it. I thrive on challenges, and so American Diner Revival gave me the chance to up the ante to not just do a home, but do a business. You can’t just tear down a business — you have to leave it running while you renovate. In the end, it’s the same job I’ve always loved doing: bring people together and save a place that’s an entire community’s home … and I also just love to eat!
Joseph: Ty! Of all the home improvement shows you’ve done, what makes American Diner Revival different for you on a personal level?
TP: It’s a completely different challenge, and it’s awesome, because the work that’s done benefits an entire community. It’s exciting because you’re working with a business that doesn’t just have to look pretty, but it has to work.
Keep up with Amanda and Ty by watching American Diner Revival on Friday nights at 10:30|9:30c.
How to Eat Red, White and Blue All Day Long on Memorial Day
FN Dish – Food Network Blog
No matter how you choose to spend your Memorial Day, eating red, white and blue foods is a good way to get in the patriotic spirit, especially when you start it off at breakfast. Gather together with family and friends over the long weekend and dig into our favorite flag-inspired dishes all day long.
Start the special day with Blueberry French Toast Casserole with Whipped Cream and Strawberries. The red and blue berries bring bold patriotic colors along with their innate juicy sweetness, while a dollop of whipped cream adds a pillowy, cooling quality to hot French toast.
It might be the most low-key bite of the day, but that doesn’t mean your daily snack can’t be colored red, white and blue too. Opt for a different hue of bagged tortilla chip, and munch on Red and White Double Dippers with Blue Corn Chips at your cookout or by the pool.
When you give one of America’s favorites, hot dogs, the red-white-and-blue treatment, you get Buffalo Puppies. Drizzled with blue cheese sauce and topped with red onions and crumbled blue chips, cocktail hot dogs nestled in baby buns have everything you need — including our three must-have colors.
Using three kinds of potatoes (skinned baby red, Yukon and purple potatoes) gives you the all-American color you need for Red, White and Blue Potato Salad. Mixed with sliced hearts of palm, piquillo peppers, scallions and an easy vinaigrette, this side dish is satisfying enough to round out any backyard barbecue menu.
Slurp down Fireworks Red, White and Blue Daiquiris, complete with icy layers of spiked frozen strawberries, blue Curacao liqueur slush and rum-infused coconut sorbet, to give even your cocktail a splash of red, white and blue spirit.
The best way to end a long weekend is with dessert. Layer up Sunny Anderson’s Patriotic Berry Trifle for Food Network Magazine with store-bought angel food cake, a tangy-sweet cream cheese mixture, blueberries and strawberries for a scoopable dessert worthy of fireworks.
Get even more ways to grill and picnic on Memorial Day here.