All Posts By Maria Russo

Maria Russo is an associate editor at Food Network, now living in New York City after being born and raised in the great state of Michigan. She likes her eggs runny, her pasta cheesy and has been known to throw back dozens of oysters at a time.

Star-a-Day: Donna Sonkin Shaw

by , May 8th, 2014

Donna Sonkin ShawDonna Sonkin Shaw, 42, is dedicated to making health and nutrition taste delicious. She believes eating properly leads to overall health inside and out. She is a certified holistic health coach who works privately with clients, and her twist on healthy comfort food delivers the flavor and satisfaction to keep anyone on track. Read on below to hear from Donna, and learn about her style of cooking and thoughts on the competition.

Describe your cooking style or culinary point of view — in one sentence, if you can.
Donna: My culinary point of view is healthy comfort food. … I like to say I put the good in the bad and the bad in the good because I feel that people always want real flavor: butter and bacon and chocolate and things like that. There are two of us that come to the table when we come to eat. There’s the part that wants pure pleasure, then the part that knows that what we eat becomes our body. So we’re also eating for our vibrancy and health, so I try to satiate both sides.

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Star-a-Day: Christopher Lynch

by , May 7th, 2014

Christopher LynchChristopher Lynch, 39, graduated from the Culinary Institute of America, spent time working with some of the country’s finest restaurateurs and has become a rock star chef in his own right. Christopher carved his own food path with a modern take on the Cajun and Creole cuisine of his adopted hometown of New Orleans. Read on below to hear from Christopher, and learn about his style of cooking and thoughts on the competition.

Describe your cooking style or culinary point of view — in one sentence, if you can.
Christopher: My culinary point of view is through my 20-plus years of cooking professionally; I’m taking all my experiences and everything I’ve done and putting it through a New Orleans lens, where I’m cooking currently.

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Best 5 Chicken Parmesan Recipes

by in Recipes, May 6th, 2014

Chicken ParmesanEndlessly versatile and guaranteed to please even the pickiest eaters, chicken is a family-friendly staple. It’s a blank canvas that absorbs flavor quickly and easily, and it pairs well with myriad ingredients, especially the Italian-inspired tastes of tomato sauce and creamy mozzarella cheese, which, when combined, create classic chicken Parmesan. While you may be used to indulging in this hearty dish at local restaurants, it’s surely possible to replicate it in your own kitchen; the secret lies in the steps. Once your sauce is ready and the chicken golden brown and crispy, finish it with tomatoes and add a layer of cheese for over-the-top decadence. Check out Food Network’s best-five recipes for chicken Parmesan below to find top-rated takes on this timeless dinner from Bobby, Giada, Tyler and more chefs.

5. Chicken Parmesan — This better-for-you recipe uses lean boneless, skinless chicken breasts and whole-wheat breadcrumbs to achieve lighter results, but it maintains a traditional flavor thanks to the addition of tried-and-true marinara sauce and a duo of cheeses.

4. Skillet Chicken Parmesan — Save time — and effort when cleaning up — in the kitchen by preparing both the juicy chicken and garlic-laced tomato sauce in a single pan, then finish them under the broiler to melt the cheesy topping.

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Star-a-Day: Chris Kyler

by , May 6th, 2014

Chris KylerChris Kyler, 32, received culinary training while in the Navy, where he was known for his charisma and slick sense of humor. After working in other’s restaurants, he opened his own catering company, which specializes in fresh and healthy foods. Read on below to hear from Chris, and learn about his style of cooking and his thoughts on the competition.

What are you most looking forward to in this experience?
Chris: I am looking to see how far I can go. … I believe my whole life is not an accident. This is not an accident. This is not a coincidence where I am today. I have a really compelling story of where I come from. … I’ve been rock bottom, and, like, [with] this opportunity I’m, like, almost back at the top from rock bottom. This, right here, I know if it’s for me, I’m going to win. This is my destiny, so I kind of have that head on my shoulders. I’m just going to give it my all. Everything I have within me — my body, mind and soul— I’m just going to leave it on the stage. And when it’s over, if I don’t win, I know this wasn’t for me but something else is. And if I do win, I know this is where I’m supposed to be.

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Raise a Glass to Cinco de Mayo

by in Drinks, Holidays, May 5th, 2014

Classic MargaritasWhile it may be a Monday, it’s also Cinco de Mayo, which means that as you’re indulging in a platter of tacos or a bowl of creamy, cool guacamole, it’s only fitting to mix up a refreshing cocktail to pair with it. Margaritas often steal the show come Cinco de Mayo — and for good reason, given that they’re endlessly versatile — but there are surely other sippers to celebrate the day. Check out a few of Food Network’s favorite adults-only cocktails worthy of Cinco de Mayo below; each is easy to prepare and guaranteed to impress your friends at tonight’s fiesta.

Whether you like it on the rocks or chilled and frosty, the margarita with a base of tequila is a Mexican must-have. Most traditional recipes, including that for the Classic Margaritas featured above from Food Network Magazine, showcase a base of tequila and plenty of fresh lime juice, but the cocktail can be dressed up with other fruit juices or blended to become a frozen concoction. Browse photos of 10 Cinco de Mayo Margaritas to find more inspiration and get the how-tos for making them at home.

While you could indeed drink your margarita, there’s also the option of eating it — in the form of a gelatin shot. Made with just a handful of ingredients, Lime-Shaped Margarita Gelatin Shots are bright-green party bites that use hollowed-out limes as a mold for an extra-special presentation.

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Chiles Rellenos — Meatless Monday

by in Holidays, Recipes, May 5th, 2014

Chile RellenosWhile Mexican-inspired meals, like tacos, quesadillas and tortilla soup, may be in frequent dinner rotation in your home, there’s perhaps no better day of the year to cook them up than today, Cinco de Mayo. Celebrate the event with an impromptu fiesta complete with an inspired spread featuring rich refried beans, Rachael’s fresh guacamole and Alton’s tres leches cake for dessert. As a main course, skip such meaty dishes as fajitas and burritos and instead focus on chiles rellenos; showcasing peppers and cheese, these over-the-top indulgences are often naturally vegetarian.

Food Network Kitchen’s top-rated Chiles Rellenos (pictured above) is a fan-favorite recipe packed with the bold flavors of poblano peppers and tomato sauce spiced with a serrano chile. After charring the poblanos, stuff them with Mexican string cheese and dunk them in flour and a cumin beer batter to create the light coating ideal for deep-frying. The key to making these chiles lies in the stuffing process; after filling them with cheese, it’s important to seal the openings shut with a toothpick so the cheese doesn’t seep out into the oil. Serve these crispy, golden-brown beauties atop the smooth tomato sauce for an impressive plate worthy of Cinco de Mayo.

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Star-a-Day: Aryen Moore-Alston

by , May 5th, 2014

Aryen Moore-AlstonAryen Moore-Alston, 31, is a self-taught cook who was raised abroad in Italy. She has dabbled in many careers, but food has always been her passion, and some of her fondest childhood memories involve making family meals in the kitchen with her father, who passed away when she was young. After living in Atlanta, Japan and Los Angeles, Aryen settled in Memphis to raise her daughter. Read on below to hear from Aryen, and learn about her style of cooking and her thoughts on the competition.

Describe your cooking style or culinary point of view — in one sentence, if you can.
Aryen: The experience. I feel like if you don’t enjoy the journey, it will all go so fast. … I’m really excited. I’m blessed and humbled to be here. And I know that all of this is going into making me shine. I enjoy the process.

Describe your cooking style or culinary point of view in one sentence.
Aryen: My culinary point of view is international cuisine in the comfort of your own home.

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Meet the Wheel of Heat — Alton’s After-Show

by in Shows, May 4th, 2014


From ingredient swaps and time-sucks to inferior utensils and makeshift workstations, Cutthroat Kitchen sabotages are notoriously evilicious and designed to keep the competitors guessing at all times. On tonight’s all-new episode, the chefs were wowed when host Alton Brown introduced a never-before-seen challenge, what he deemed the Wheel of Heat.

Labeled with multiple heat sources like oven, microwave, stove and broiler, this sabotage would forced the rival who was gifted this challenge to spin the wheel while cooking and switch his or her cooking method to whichever heat source was landed upon. It turns out that the wheel offered no beginner’s luck, as Chef Renae found out when she was forced to work with it during the Round 2 blackened-fish test. “Every time she spun it, it came up ‘microwave,’” Alton explained to judge Simon Majumdar during the After-Show. “This, I think, was the end for Chef Renae because she had to do her entire blackened dish with a microwave,” he added. Simon admitted, “The fish was dry. It lacked that crust, which you expect from blackened fish.” But he noted that had other elements of her dish been executed better, he may have been more likely to excuse her microwave seafood. “There were too many things wrong,” Simon said, “whereas I could have forgiven her if she’d served that fish that wasn’t perfect with a really good accompaniment.”

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Robert Irvine Reflects on 100 Episodes of Restaurant: Impossible

by in Food Network Chef, Shows, May 4th, 2014

Robert Irvine and the Restaurant: Impossible TeamThe nature of Restaurant: Impossible is such that Robert Irvine doesn’t know what he’s going to walk into when he begins his missions at eateries across the country. This week marks the show’s 100th episode, and while he’s found filthy kitchens and ruthless employees at some business, he’s stumbled upon disjointed menus and disjointed decor at others. But no matter the condition of the business when he arrives, he and his team have always used their two days and $10,000 budget to give restaurants the best second chance at success possible.

Just in time for Wednesday’s special episode, airing May 7 at 10|9c, to celebrate the 100th show, Robert looked back on the nearly eight seasons of renovations and reflected on some of his most-memorable missions to date. Read on below to hear from Robert in an exclusive interview and find out what he’s learned along the way, as well as his top tips for business owners.

What’s been the single most-rewarding moment from 7+ seasons of Restaurant: Impossible?

It’s impossible to just choose one moment. The restaurants that we visit on the show are not just “missions,” they are like children to me. Each has its own challenges, personalities and outcomes. Each family will always be special and hold an important place in my heart — even the really difficult ones.

What’s one thing you have learned from or experienced on this show that you didn’t expect to when you first began it?

I began the show focused on fixing businesses but quickly realized that, more important than food cost and menu changes, the families and relationships involved need to be fixed first if anything we do is going to remain a success. That’s why you may have noticed the change in dynamic from the first season to now, where I evolved too, from business consultant to being more of a counselor.

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Marcela Valladolid’s Cinco de Mayo Must-Haves

by in Food Network Chef, Holidays, May 3rd, 2014

Tres Leches CakeThis morning’s episode of The Kitchen was largely dedicated to Cinco de Mayo — plus mayonnaise at times — so the co-hosts came together to host a celebratory fiesta complete with warm, sweet churros, more than 50 types of tacos and a colorful pinata. While on the set of the show recently, FN Dish caught up with Marcela Valladolid to get her take on Cinco ahead of Monday’s holiday. Read on below to learn her tips for pulling off a Mexican-themed bash at home, and find out how she puts her signature spin on traditional eats and drinks, then check out her top-rated recipe for Tres Leches Cake (pictured above).

How do you celebrate Cinco de Mayo in your home?
Marcela Valladolid: I don’t. … Nobody in all of Mexico celebrates Cinco de Mayo. … Many folks on this side of the border confuse it with Mexican independence day, which is actually Sept. 16. … I didn’t really start getting into the holiday until I moved to the U.S. about five years ago, to San Diego. ‘Cause in downtown San Diego, it’s huge. It’s margaritas all over the place. Growing up in Mexico, I was like, it’s so crazy that they’re even celebrating, but now I like to embrace the fact that they’re just celebrating Mexican culture, and there’s such wonderful beauty about that.

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