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.

Watch the Top 5 Worst Staff Moments on Restaurant: Impossible

by in Shows, November 26th, 2013


No matter how efficient and accommodating its owners may be, if an eatery’s kitchen and front of the house staff members aren’t all committed to their jobs, their negative attitudes could ultimately put the business at risk of failure. After all, it’s the waiters who most often interact with diners and the kitchen employees who prepare their food, so much of what guests experience is the result of these workers. That’s why when Robert Irvine and his Restaurant: Impossibleteam visit struggling establishments,

they need each and every staff member — not just the owners or core management — to accept the transformation and be willing to make changes toward improvement. For some, these revisions are easy to assume, but others don’t agree with Robert’s recommendations as readily, and what results is often temper tantrums, pointed fingers and, in some cases, downright mayhem.

In the more than six seasons of Restaurant: Impossible, the show has seen employees quit unexpectedly, get fired on the spot and storm out of the eatery, all while being filmed. Click the play button on the video above to relive the top-five worst staff moments ever recorded, then tune in to an all-new episode of Restaurant: Impossible tomorrow, Wednesday, at 10pm/9c to watch Robert tackle his latest mission.

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Lemon-Pepper Fettuccine, Fast — Meatless Monday

by in Recipes, November 25th, 2013

Lemon-Pepper FettuccineWith the Thanksgiving feast just days away, your mind is likely elsewhere at this very moment, consumed with last-minute menu planning, frequent runs to the grocery store and the requisite home organization to prepare for out-of-town guests. But no matter how long your Turkey Day to-do list may be, the question of tonight’s dinner remains, and on nights like these, only one kind of meal will fit the bill: fast.

Thanks to Food Network Magazine’s family-friendly recipe for Lemon-Pepper Fettuccine (pictured above), it’s indeed possible to get supper on the table in only 20 quick minutes. Perhaps the best part about this pasta is that its list of ingredients includes everyday items you likely have on hand already — so there’s no need for an additional trip to the supermarket. As the hearty fettuccine is boiling, get to work on this simple sauce. Start by sauteing sweet shallots in butter, then add a mixture of cream and lemon zest plus nutty pecorino cheese for contrasting rich and refreshing flavors. The secret flavor weapon of this sauce comes at the very end when you add up to three teaspoons of pepper; this seasoning will add a bold punch of flavor and complement the citrus as well. Be sure to save a bit of the pasta water after draining the noodles, as you might need some to thin out the sauce as you’re mixing the dish together.

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Damaris Phillips’ Top Tips for Making Biscuits and Gravy

by in Food Network Chef, November 25th, 2013

Damaris PhillipsJust in time for Thursday’s Thanksgiving holiday, Food Network Star winner Damaris Phillips, a lifelong southerner with a knack for baking and the host of Southern at Heart, is demystifying biscuit making so that you can skip the store-bought tubes of dough and make your own buttery beauties at home. This Kentucky native is known for enjoying her biscuits with gravy for breakfast, and just last month she took the stage with fellow Food Network Star alum Justin Warner at the New York City Wine & Food Festival to fuse her classic recipe with another morning favorite: bagels and lox. She walked fans through the step-by-step of creating this hybrid breakfast while chatting about basic biscuit-and-gravy how-tos, like simple tricks for cutting biscuits and the importance of cooking the flour in the gravy roux. Read on below to get Damaris’ top-six tips, then try her recipe for Sweet Potato Biscuits with Peppered Pork Loin, Apple Mustard Butter and Salad.

1. Don’t worry if you don’t have a fancy biscuit cutter at home; a round glass will do the trick.

2. There are two kinds of biscuits: flaky and cakey. Damaris prefers the cakey variety, as they’re better suited for sopping up gravy, so consider this if you plan on serving your biscuits with gravy as well.

3. When making the roux for the gravy — the mixture of fat (here, butter) and flour — it’s important to let the flour cook for a bit so it loses its raw flavor. The more you cook it, the darker the roux will be.

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

by in Shows, November 21st, 2013

Restaurant DividedFor Phil and Robin Schmidt, the struggling business at Phamous Phil’s BBQ & Grille didn’t just lead to an inability to pay bills; it created a significant amount of tension in their marriage as well. These husband-and-wife owners run the nearly four-year-old eatery in Collegeville, Pa., but after accruing $140,000 of debt, they decided to welcome Rocco DiSpirito and his Restaurant Divided team to the restaurant in the hopes of jump-starting profitability once and for all. They both realized the need for change, although Robin’s idea for pursuing a chop house concept in place of the barbecue menu didn’t appeal to Phil, who was committed to his smoky offerings.

Before Rocco could attempt to salvage Phamous Phil’s, and ultimately Phil and Robin’s marriage, he divided it, separating the space into two restaurants — a made-over Phamous Phil’s run by Phil himself and Robin’s Chop Shop, complete with mahogany-clad walls — for only one night of service. He worked with both teams to create deliciously approachable menus, and when the eateries opened to local diners and critics alike, both Phil and Robin managed to dish out crowd-pleasing plates. After examining the restaurants’ likelihoods of success, he ultimately reopened the business as Phamous Phil’s, as it offered the greatest opportunity for lasting viability.

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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.

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#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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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