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.

Photos: Food Network Kitchens Prepare for Thanksgiving Live

by in Shows, November 21st, 2013

Food Network KitchensMuch like you’re probably spending the week preparing for next Thursday’s Turkey Day feast, so too has Food Network Kitchens been pulling out all of the stops to get ready for the third-annual Thanksgiving Live, airing Saturday at 12pm EST. This year’s all-star bash will include returning stars Bobby, Giada and Alton, plus first-time Thanksgiving Live guest Ina. But before these Thanksgiving pros take over Food Network Kitchens to answer your questions, it’s up to the team in the kitchens to buy each and every ingredient needed for the chefs’ dishes — as well as to gather the utensils, pans and serving pieces needed to prepare them — and transform the test kitchens into a seasonal space worthy of a holiday celebration.

FN Dish headed to Food Network Kitchens to get the first look at the preparations going on behind the scenes, and what we found was no fewer than six knife blocks, dozens of pots and pans in every imaginable size and shape, and both wooden and plastic cutting boards, plus specialized tools to help Bobby, Giada, Alton and Ina prepare their dishes with ease. Check out these insider snapshots to take a peek inside Food Network Kitchens and find out what you can expect to see on TV come Saturday at 12pm EST.

Read more

#TBT: Jeff Mauro

by in Food Network Chef, November 21st, 2013

Jeff MauroIt’s Thursday, and while that means everyone is just one day away from the weekend, it also means it’s time to throw back — to an earlier period in Food Network’s history. Check back on FN Dish every Thursday to find the latest #tbt of your favorite chefs and get a retro look at their earliest days on TV.

While Jeff Mauro is now a firmly ingrained Food Network chef, his first days on TV weren’t actually as a star — instead, he was a star in the making, as he was one of 15 finalists to compete on Food Network Star, Season 7.

During the run of the competition in 2011, Jeff offered a sandwich-focused point of view in the kitchen, explaining, “You are only a couple steps away from turning any sandwich into a meal and any meal into one fantastic sandwich.” His unique culinary niche, coupled with his on-camera charm and comedic timing, caught the attention of the Selection Committee, including Food Network executives Bob and Susie, and they ultimately welcomed him to the Food Network family as the first-ever Sandwich King. Jeff’s premiere series, titled after his nickname, aired that summer with a mix of sandwich recipes inspired by his Italian heritage, his hometown of Chicago and some of his favorite meals.

Read more

Restaurant Revisited: Soul Searching at Georgia Boy Cafe

by in Shows, November 20th, 2013

Robert Irvine on Restaurant: ImpossibleOverrun with filth in the front of house and back, Georgia Boy Cafe in Hagerstown, Md., was in desperate need of rescuing when Robert Irvine and his Restaurant: Impossible team arrived. Perhaps more than the restaurant, however, the relationship between the owners, partners Chuck Holman and Montez Dorsey, was on the brink of ruin, as their lack of communication and stress about the business were tearing them apart — and ultimately having a damaging effect on their eatery. With just two days to work and a budget of only $10,000, Robert relaunched Georgia Boy Cafe with a contemporary interior design and overhauled menu to match. FN Dish caught up with Chuck and Montez a few weeks after Robert left to find out how their business is doing today.

“The business is doing much better than before the show,” Chuck and Montez tell FN Dish. “We are … being more creative on ways to get customers in the door, and not only having new customers but repeat customers.”

Read more

Southern Cooking According to Damaris

by in Food Network Chef, November 20th, 2013

Damaris PhillipsAs a competitor on Food Network Star this past summer, Damaris Phillips didn’t stray from her Southern point of view in the kitchen. She used her lifelong experience of living in Kentucky and her passion for traditional Southern ingredients to establish herself as the ultimate authority on the cuisine, and when she told Bob and Susie in her pitch that “Southern food is the food of love,” they were quick to believe her. She’s maintained her tendency for Southern-style cooking on her first-ever series, Southern at Heart, airing Sundays at 10:30am/9:30c, where she helps love-struck guys turn out deliciously comforting Southern dishes with the classic ingredients of the region. FN Dish caught up with Damaris in her hometown of Louisville to find out more about her penchant for Southern cuisine, like her ultimate down-home meal. Read on below to hear from Damaris and find out her go-to Southern goods, the secret to making the best-ever grits and more.

What’s your favorite Southern meal, the one down-home dish you’re always craving?
Damaris Phillips: Cornbread and milk. It’s my favorite. I also love beans and cornbread. First you have pinto beans or butter beans and cornbread for dinner, and then the next morning, inevitably, there’s leftover cornbread. You take that cornbread into a glass, cold milk over the top and you just eat it — [with] maybe some honey. I like to put a little honey on there. It’s like cornflakes, kind of. Not really, but kind of.

Read more

Best 5 Thanksgiving Desserts

by in Holidays, Recipes, November 20th, 2013

Lemon Meringue PieNo matter if you’ll be brining your turkey or deep-frying it, whipping sweet potatoes or smashing golden spuds, stuffing the bird or serving the dressing alongside it, one thing is certain about your Thanksgiving spread: There will indeed be dessert. This year, in addition to the classic apple pie and pumpkin cheesecake, serve a mix of creative, crowd-pleasing treats, like Sunny’s mini pumpkin pies, Giada’s turkey-decorated cookies and Alton’s deliciously tart lemon pie. Check out Food Network’s top-five Thanksgiving desserts below to find recipes for these family-friendly picks, plus more sweet inspiration for your Turkey Day feast.

5. Mini Pecan Pumpkin Pies — Use tiny muffin tins to shape pecan-studded dough into sweet cups, then fill them with a mixture of pumpkin and vanilla, and finish each with a pecan for an extra-special presentation.

4. Thanksgiving Turkeys — Giada starts with store-bought cream-filled sandwich cookies to make these kid-approved cookies, decorated with seasonal candies and colored frosting to transform them into turkey look-alikes.

Get the top-three recipes

Watch the Top 5 Dirtiest Restaurants on Restaurant: Impossible

by in Shows, November 19th, 2013


While some businesses on Restaurant: Impossible struggle with problems that are in full view of the customers, like a feuding wait staff or dingy carpeting and chipped paint in the dining room, others’ issues are trapped behind closed doors in the kitchen. It’s only when Robert Irvine and his Restaurant: Impossible team arrive and shine a light on the back of the house that the horrible truths of some eateries’ kitchens are revealed.

Over the years on Restaurant: Impossible, Robert has discovered a range of uncleanliness in restaurant kitchens — some simply untidy and many in need of a solid scrubbing. But then there are those that are infested with insects, have surfaces caked in several years’ worth of grease and are outfitted with refrigerators full of spoiling food. The cleaning of these establishments often requires not only time and money from Robert’s budget, but also a serious lesson from the host himself on how to maintain proper food standards in the restaurant.

Read more

Italian Eggplant Gnocchi Bake — Meatless Monday

by in Recipes, November 18th, 2013

Italian Eggplant Gnocchi BakeFor most, the goal come dinnertime is to serve your family a healthy, satisfying meal, something that offers a main element plus a vegetable side or salad. But between limited time to shop for ingredients and the need to get food on the table quickly, offering a complete, well-rounded meal can be difficult. Enter the all-in-one dinner. Boasting built-in vegetables, it’s easy to serve your kids a hefty portion of nutrition for the night, as it’s already incorporated. Stir-fries are timeless one-pan suppers that can be customized to whatever ingredients you happen to have on hand, as are casseroles, which often come complete with every element of the meal.

Food Network Kitchens offer a family-friendly casserole that’s easy enough to make on a weeknight with their recipe for Italian Eggplant Gnocchi Bake (pictured above). While homemade gnocchi can be tedious to prepare, especially on school nights, store-bought gnocchi promises convenience without sacrificing flavor. Pick up a package to star in this 55-minute dinner, laced with tender sauteed eggplant, prepared roasted garlic tomato sauce and just a pinch of red pepper flakes for subtle heat. Once the ingredients have been combined, cover them with a layer of creamy provolone cheese and bake the casserole for just a few minutes until the cheese becomes deliciously gooey and golden brown.

Read more

One-on-One with Marc Murphy: Inside His New Restaurant, Kingside

by in Food Network Chef, November 16th, 2013

Marc Murphy's KingsideWhile so many restaurateurs struggle to launch and maintain businesses in New York City, Chef Marc Murphy appears to have found the secret to success. When this Chopped judge isn’t joining his fellow panel members at the table in reviewing contestants’ best attempts at basket dishes, he’s busy running restaurant kitchens at his five Manhattan restaurants: two locations each of Ditch Plains and Landmarc, plus his newest venture, Kingside. Having opened just last month, Marc’s Kingside is the first of his restaurants to reside in a hotel, and it is his only “new-American” menu, featuring a list of offerings with French, Spanish and Italian influences. FN Dish caught up with Marc at Kingside, located in midtown Manhattan’s Viceroy Hotel, to chat about his latest project, learn more about his goals in opening the restaurant and find out how he manages his busy schedules, both in the kitchen and on Chopped. Read on below to hear from Marc, then browse exclusive snapshots to take a photo tour of Kingside and see some of Marc’s most-popular dishes at Kingside.

What are you most excited about in opening Kingside?
Marc Murphy: I haven’t done a new concept in about five years, and in those five years, I think I’ve gotten a lot more popularity on Chopped, and I think a lot of the times people are like, “Oh, those chefs on TV kind of thing,” and I’m like, “Well, yeah, I’m still a working chef,” and I love doing what I do, and I’m excited to be able to produce new food and [a] new concept to my beautiful city.

How is Kingside different from your other restaurants, Ditch Plains and Landmarc?
MM: I guess I’ve opened myself up to be able to do different cuisines here, in the sense we’re calling it “new American,” where I can really sort of branch out and pull different influences from other countries, like Spain. You sort of let loose a bit with new-American cuisine, I feel. I can have a little more liberties, because Ditch Plains is really a New York-style fish shack, so I kind of have to stay within that vocabulary, and Landmarc is a bistro with some Italian influences, so you can’t start making sushi if you’re doing a bistro. I feel as though if somebody is going to come to your restaurant, you have to sort of keep true to what the concept is.

Read more

Marc Forgione Looks Back on Three Years as an Iron Chef

by in Food Network Chef, November 16th, 2013

Iron Chef Marc ForgioneWith almost three years of Iron Chef America battles behind him since winning The Next Iron Chef, Marc Forgione is in no way the rookie of Kitchen Stadium anymore — after all, Iron Chefs Zakarian and Guarnaschelli have both accepted the famed title after him. He clinched the win in 2010, and from that point on he’s been reinventing the secret ingredients to make Chairman-worthy plates in each and every battle, and challenging not only his opposing chefs but also himself to compete at a higher level. Fresh off the opening of his third New York City restaurant, American Cut, FN Dish sat down with Marc to reflect on the past few years of Kitchen Stadium contests and to find out how he balances the demands of restaurant cooking and Iron Chef competitions. Read on below to hear from Iron Chef Forgione and learn which of his restaurants’ dishes he’s re-created on television and more.

It’s been almost three years since you won The Next Iron Chef. What’s been the most-surprising thing you’ve learned in that time?
Marc Forgione: Especially being in New York City, you can’t — whether you want to or not — you can’t rest on your laurels. There’ll be somebody just as hungry, or hungrier, or just as hungry as you were right there waiting for you to fall down so that they can start taking your customers and people can start talking about them. New York is the cliche: If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere. But once you get there, it’s tough to stay there. You have to make sure that you can.

Read more

Diner vs. BBQ: Which Restaurant Divided Concept Did You Like Better?

by in Shows, November 14th, 2013

Restaurant Divided“Anytime you mix friendship with business, there’s always inherent conflict, and you can see it’s sort of coming to the surface,” Restaurant Divided‘s Rocco DiSpirito said not long after arriving at Against Da Grill, a Staten Island, N.Y., eatery specializing in diner-style classics. Co-owners Kurron Mangin and Vinny Lima — the chef and the business manager at Against Da Grill, respectively — are longtime best friends facing imminent closure of their restaurant if they can’t turn around the business. While Kurron is committed to maintaining the original diner concept at Against Da Grill, Vinny believes a change is in order and proposed they begin serving traditional barbecue instead. “I feel that the Island is missing that,” Vinny explained. “If we could bring something that no one else is doing, we have a better chance at success.”

The team at Against Da Grill is a tightknit one: The staff is like family, and the restaurant is well-ingrained in the community. So for Rocco to decide what the best next step should be for Against Da Grill, he ultimately divided it. After a complete interior overhaul and menu redesign, Kurron served customers at the new Against Da Grill while Vinny ran S.I.Q. on the other side of the restaurant. Rocco listened to customer and critic feedback, tasted dishes from both eateries and reviewed both restaurants’ chances for lasting success before deciding that S.I.Q. offered the most opportunity for viability.

Read more