All Posts By Maria Russo

Maria Russo is an online editor at FoodNetwork.com, covering top-tier show and talent packages and managing the FN Dish and Star Talk blogs. She grew up in a tight-knit Italian family in Michigan, where food was the focus of most conversations and it wasn't unusual to talk about the next day’s lunch and dinner menus while eating breakfast. Maria graduated from Barnard College in 2012 and currently lives in New York City. She likes her pasta cheesy, her eggs runny and her oysters briny.

Star-a-Day: Caodan Tran

by , April 20th, 2017

Food Network StarIt was just last week that we here at Star Talk broke the news about the upcoming season of Food Network Star, which kicks off on Sunday, June 4 at 9|8c. Among a crop of talented hopefuls judge-mentors extraordinaire Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentii...

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Star-a-Day: Blake Baldwin

by , April 19th, 2017

Food Network StarIt was just last week that we here at Star Talk broke the news about the upcoming season of Food Network Star, which kicks off on Sunday, June 4 at 9|8c. Among a crop of talented hopefuls judge-mentors extraordinaire Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentii...

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Star-a-Day: Amy Pottinger

by , April 18th, 2017

Food Network StarIt was just last week that we here at Star Talk broke the news about the upcoming season of Food Network Star, which kicks off on Sunday, June 4 at 9|8c. Among a crop of talented hopefuls judge-mentors extraordinaire Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentii...

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Star-a-Day: Addie Gundry

by , April 17th, 2017

Food Network StarIt was just last week that we here at Star Talk broke the news about the upcoming season of Food Network Star, which kicks off on Sunday, June 4 at 9|8c. Among a crop of talented hopefuls judge-mentors extraordinaire Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentii...

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Exclusive: Chatting with the First Iron Chef Gauntlet Challenger to Go Home

by in Shows, April 16th, 2017

Iron Chef GauntletWith the title of Iron Chef on the line, the stakes for the seven Iron Chef Gauntlet challengers couldn’t be higher. Of course each of them craves the opportunity to run the gauntlet against a trio of revered Iron Chefs, but ultimately six will fall in their quest to do so. After each week’s new episode, check back here to find an exclusive exit interview with the chef most recently eliminated.

All seven chefs put forth a strong showing tonight when they made their debut in Alton Brown‘s hallowed arena, but with a premiere Chairman’s Challenge featuring “wild” Secret Ingredients, it was only a matter of time before the competition got the best of one competitor. If you haven’t watched the episode yet, don’t read on until you do. We’ll be breaking down the episode and chatting with the eliminated chef.

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Chatting with Iron Chef Gauntlet Judges Geoffrey Zakarian and Donatella Arpaia

by in Food Network Chef, Shows, April 13th, 2017

Iron Chef GauntletThe quest for gauntlet glory begins this Sunday night, when seven of America’s most-esteemed chefs will face off for the ultimate culinary title on Iron Chef Gauntlet (premiering at 9|8c). There’s no telling what challenges host and Chairman Alton Brown will have in store for these fearless hopefuls, but one thing is certain: To outlast each other and to prepare to run the gauntlet against not one but three Iron Chefs in the finale, these challengers must come prepared with both kitchen savvy and the fiercest of ambitions.

Ahead of this all-important premiere episode, we caught up with Iron Chef Geoffrey Zakarian and Donatella Arpaia, who together will be judging the Secret Ingredient Showdown in Round 2. Read on below for what it’s like for them to return to the world of Iron Chef and what missteps they simply won’t forgive on a challenger’s plate.

Geoffrey, how does it feel to be on this side of the battle, judging instead of competing in an Iron Chef battle?
GZ: Well, I judge a lot, so it’s very familiar. But this is a very high level of judging, and I relish it.

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Exclusive: The First Look at Help My Yelp with Restaurant Consultant Monti Carlo

by in Food Network Chef, Shows, April 4th, 2017

Help My YelpThese days it seems like almost everything we do happens online, including deciding where and what to eat. Before heading out to a restaurant — even one you’ve been to time and again, perhaps — you likely do a quick search of the spot online, and with that almost surely yields an entire profile of the eatery on Yelp.com, complete with reviews, photos and a rating from fellow diners. The feedback from those guests can make or break a restaurant’s online reputation, which is exactly why restaurant consultant Monti Carlo has her work cut out for her on the upcoming series Help My Yelp, premiering Monday, April 10 at 10|9c. After members of Yelp’s elite squad visited struggling restaurants and left (perhaps scathing) reviews of the businesses, it’s up to her to work with the management and chefs to swiftly rethink their approach to service in the hopes of boosting their standing online. After all, potential diners make quick decisions based on what they read online, so business owners ought to heed Monti’s advice before the next group of Yelp members stop by for a meal.

We checked in Monti recently to find out what’s to come on Help My Yelp and to get her take on the negative restaurant reviews that permeate the web. Find out how she utilizes Yelp and what she thinks about food photography while dining out. Read on below to read her thoughts in an all-new exclusive interview.

What can fans expect from Help My Yelp? What are you most looking forward to?
Monti Carlo: Help My Yelp is a feel-good show all about transformation. It’s not a traditional restaurant makeover show in the sense that I don’t go in with a sledgehammer and knock down walls. Yelp is a mirror. I hold that mirror up and show business owners how to look at the big picture. We focus on their strengths and work on their weaknesses to quickly make changes that have an immediate impact on ratings. If you’re a fan of kitchen hacks, you’re going to learn quite a few.

What I’m looking forward to the most is seeing the long-term effects of our combined efforts. Consumer reviews are the norm in today’s economy. They’re not going anywhere. So how do we use them as a tool to help us improve our product, our customer base and our finances? When it comes to Yelp, even a half-star bump in ratings can increase a restaurant’s bottom line by almost 10 percent. A one-star bump can make a dead night into a sellout. For many mom-and-pop [places], that can mean the difference between staying open another year or closing their doors for good.

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Vote for the Iron Chef America Episode You Want to Watch on TV

by in Polls, Shows, April 1st, 2017

Vote for the Iron Chef America Episode You Want to Watch on TVBefore the action of Iron Chef Gauntlet begins, Food Network is setting up a whole day dedicated to the world of Iron Chef on Sunday, April 16. Ahead the premiere of Iron Chef Gauntlet, which airs at 9|8c, we’ll look back on some of the most-iconic moments in Kitchen Stadium on The Legend of Iron Chef, which premieres at 8|7c. And before that, we’ll spend the day in an action-packed marathon of back-to-back Iron Chef America episodes — but for that we need your help, superfans.

We want to know which episodes of Iron Chef America you’d like to watch on TV the afternoon of Sunday, April 16, starting at 3|2c. We’ve picked eight of the most-unforgettable Kitchen Stadium showdowns, and now it’s up to you to tell us which five of them you want to binge-watch during the Iron Chef America marathon. Check out clips of the top-eight episodes below, then vote for your favorite in the poll at the bottom of this post. The five videos that receive the most votes will go on to air during the marathon on Sunday, April 16.

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From Kitchen Stadium to the Gauntlet: Alton Brown Returns to the World of Iron Chef, and We’ve Got the Scoop

by in Food Network Chef, Shows, March 23rd, 2017

Iron Chef GauntletLet’s get one thing straight: No one knows food quite like Alton Brown. Whether he’s dishing on the internal organ structure of snails or explaining the etymology of soy lecithin, his ability to school us on all matters culinary is simply uncanny, and it’s for largely that reason he made a top-notch host of Iron Chef America for the 12-season run of the series. But now, for the first time since 2013, Alton is returning to the world of Iron Chef, this time as the host of Iron Chef Gauntlet, the all-new elite competition in which seven challengers are set to compete against not only each other but also a gauntlet of Iron Chefs for the chance to join their ranks.

We checked in with Alton as he prepared for this much-anticipated premiere, and he gave us the inside scoop on what’s to come on Iron Chef Gauntlet, plus his take on how to succeed in this unique beast of a contest. Read on below for an exclusive interview with Alton, then look back on some of the best culinary fun facts he’s ever shared on Iron Chef America.

In many ways Iron Chef Gauntlet will be similar to The Next Iron Chef, but the idea of a three-tiered gauntlet in the finale is new. What are you most excited to see from these six episodes?
Alton Brown: Straightforward cooking at its highest level.

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The Journey to the Gauntlet: Chatting with Challenger Stephanie Izard from Iron Chef Gauntlet

by in Shows, March 22nd, 2017

Iron Chef GauntletThis. Is. It. The fight to become an Iron Chef is unlike any other culinary competition, with the demands for precision, expertise, intuition and downright excellence the most rigorous in the business. On Iron Chef Gauntlet, seven of the country’s most-elite chefs will come together to prove that their skills are the sharpest — but ultimately just one will earn the right to the run the gauntlet for the chance to join the ranks of the great Iron Chefs.

Before the competition begins on Sunday, April 16 at 9|8c, we’re giving you, Iron Chef fans, the first introductions to the crop of challengers ready to do battle. Today we’d like you to meet Stephanie Izard, a chef from Chicago. Read on below to get to know her style in the kitchen, and be sure to come back to FN Dish all week long as we present a new contender every day this week.

What’s your style of cuisine, and do you have a signature dish?
Stephanie Izard: I wouldn’t say I have a signature dish, because I just make a lot of different things and I think my favorites kind of change, but I like to cook foods from all over the world and just keep trying to learn more and more about different flavors. So a lot of focus on Asian cuisines, I would say, whether it’s Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, Chinese. But I try to dabble in some other areas too.

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