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.

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.

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#TBT: Scott Conant

by in Food Network Chef, November 14th, 2013

Scott ConantIt’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.

Long before Scott Conant took his seat at the judges’ table on Chopped, he spent his days in the kitchens of some of the most-celebrated restaurants in New York City and abroad, earning his reputation as one of the premiere chefs and restaurateurs in the industry. He graduated from culinary school and soon moved to Germany for several years before returning stateside to begin his journey up the culinary ladder, first as a sous chef and eventually as an executive chef at San Domenico and City Eatery, respectively.

Throughout his training, Scott focused much of his attention in the kitchen on his passion for Italian food. He spent time in Italy cooking with renowned chefs and relatives alike, which ultimately inspired within him a style of Italian cuisine all his own. His roster of flavors and ingredients went on to be featured at the forefront of several of his restaurants, including his now-signature eatery, Scarpetta, and in many of the dishes he’s made while competing on Chopped After Hours and Chopped All-Stars.

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Restaurant Revisited: Outside the Box at Coach Lamp Restaurant & Pub

by in Shows, November 13th, 2013

Robert Irvine on Restaurant: Impossible“The place is clean, a little dark but nothing [like] what I’m used to. So I’m confused why I’m here,” Robert Irvine told Bill and Gail Darling, the owners of Coach Lamp Restaurant & Pub in Louisville, Ky. In addition to a tidy space, Robert also found good-tasting food, but it turns out that is where many of the business’ problems laid. The high-priced offerings on the menu — coupled with the too-formal ambiance that comes with white linen tablecloths — weren’t attracting locals, despite their tendency to visit a neighborhood restaurant nearby. Thanks to Robert’s tough-love approach, as well as his Restaurant: Impossible team’s work in transforming the outdoor patio into a welcoming space, however, Coach Lamp relaunched as an inviting, comfortable restaurant. Read on below to hear from Bill and find out how his eatery is doing a few weeks after Robert left.

Since Coach Lamp has reopened, business has jumped nearly 30 percent, according to Bill. “The liquor, beer [and] wine sales are 40 percent of the food sales …. The money is in the bar goods,” he says. “We are seeing more locals visiting.”

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Best 5 Tools and Tips Needed for Thanksgiving Entertaining

by in Holidays, November 13th, 2013

Thanksgiving EntertainingOn Thanksgiving, the holiday ultimately culminates when you finally set on the table a glistening golden-brown turkey featuring crispy skin and juicy, tender meat, and you surround the bird with a bounty of comforting sides and salads. But pulling off a memorable celebration takes patience, planning and a few must-have gadgets to complete the feast. Check out Food Network’s top-five roundups below to find helpful guides for hosting the holiday, the ultimate party-planning calculator and Ted Allen’s simple solutions for easy entertaining.

5. Table Centerpieces and Home Decor — Set the scene on the table with rustic centerpieces made from repurposed household products, like empty wine bottles, and such seasonal ingredients as nuts, fruits and gourds.

4. Table Setting Ideas — Buffet tables can be dressed up with a vibrant tablecloth and a mix of dishes, while sit-down dinner tables can be personalized with handwritten menus, warm-colored flowers and individual serving pieces.

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Watch the Top Emotional Reveals on Restaurant: Impossible

by in Shows, November 13th, 2013


When Robert Irvine visits a business on Restaurant: Impossible, he’s not merely knocking down walls, cleaning kitchens and revamping menus; he’s giving restaurant owners as well as their management and employees the tools they need to improve their business practices and ultimately providing them with the opportunity to guarantee future success. For some owners, Robert’s visit is a last-ditch effort to rescue their restaurants from certain failure. The idea that he has the power to improve all aspects of their business in just two quick days fully comes to life when they first lay eyes on their new restaurants, and it soon becomes too much for them to bear, forcing them to break down and become emotional at the reveal.

While nearly all of the owners are pleased with the refreshed look of their new establishment, many are brought to tears by it — not just because of the changes in decor but because of the positive and necessary opportunities these updates will bring as well. Click the play button on the video above to relive the top-five most emotional reveals ever featured on Restaurant: Impossible, then tune in tonight at 10pm/9c to watch an all-new episode.

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Traditions of All Kinds — Chopped After Hours

by in Shows, November 12th, 2013

It was Thanksgiving in the After Hours kitchen this week as Chopped judges Maneet and Chris, and host Ted, rolled up their sleeves to prepare a holiday feast in only 40 minutes, working with such classic fixings as giblet gravy, Brussels sprouts, pumpkin pie ice cream and, of course, a whole turkey. (Just like the show’s chefs, the judges were allowed an extra 10 minutes to cook on account of the whole turkey.) Thanksgiving is a holiday centered on tradition just as much as it is on food, so it’s no surprise that the judges took the timeless elements of a tried-and-true Turkey Day menu and opted to celebrate them rather than hide them.

For host-turned-competitor Ted, that meant “a very traditional Thanksgiving turkey and dressing,” he explained to Maneet, Chris and guest host Alex. To make sure he’d have time to cook such a large bird, Ted worked with only a segment of the meat and let the stuffing be a shining element on his plate. “My favorite part of the Thanksgiving meal is the stuffing or the dressing.” Ted said, noting that his offering was a “straight-up sage stuffing.” He added, “I tried to make it look a little nicer by putting it in a mold, which sort of worked.”

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Thanksgiving Live to Return with Alton, Bobby, Giada and Ina

by in Holidays, Shows, November 12th, 2013

Thanksgiving Live! 2013For the third year in a row, your favorite chefs are taking over Food Network Kitchens in the annual call-in show Thanksgiving Live to answer your most-pressing questions about Turkey Day and help you host your most-memorable holiday feast yet. On Saturday, Nov. 23 from 12-2pm, Alton, Bobby and Giada, plus first-time Thanksgiving Live guest Ina, will be on hand to chat about all things Thanksgiving. Find out their own family traditions, suggestions for party-ready recipes, and no-fail tricks and tips for serving smooth gravy, juicy turkey and flaky biscuits, all while watching them prepare the ultimate spread of eats and drinks from start to finish. Just like in years past, this show will be broadcast live, which means that you’ll be watching the action unfold right as it’s happening at Food Network’s headquarters in New York City.

While Bobby, Alton, Giada and Ina will be cooking various dishes, they’ll be putting the focus of the show on you, the fans, and your Turkey Day conundrums. They’re there to answer your questions on anything from mingle-friendly appetizers and crowd-pleasing cocktails to carving the bird, whipping mashed potatoes and rolling out pie dough. Do you have a question you want answered? Leave it in the comments section below or use #ThanksgivingLive, and it may be answered on TV. Have Vine? Fans can submit questions there, too, by using #ThanksgivingLive.

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Damaris Phillips’ Thanksgiving Tips and Traditions

by in Food Network Chef, Holidays, November 11th, 2013

Damaris PhillipsThere’s perhaps no holiday more focused on food, family and tradition — some of Damaris Phillips‘ favorite things — than Thanksgiving, which means that for this Southern at Heart host, the next few weeks leading up to America’s fall feast are especially exiting. She told FN Dish recently that she’s especially looking forward to “the Thanksgiving-adjacent episode” (airing Nov. 24 at 10:30am/9:30c) of her all-new series, which will feature classic and creative recipes to help you prepare the ultimate holiday meal.

We checked in with her to find out more about how she’ll be celebrating with her family this year. Like in most homes, there will be no shortage of comforting plates on Damaris’ Thanksgiving dinner table, and just as she’s been in the past, she’ll once again be in charge of preparing the salad. Read on below to learn Damaris’ makings of a true Southern Thanksgiving, to learn tips for turning out juicy turkey and to get advice for first-time holiday hosts.

How do you celebrate Thanksgiving these days?
Damaris Phillips: All of my cousins and aunts and uncles and grandparents all still get together, so we do a huge family Thanksgiving.

Will you be cooking Thanksgiving dinner this year?
DP: Everybody contributes. It’s like a potluck Thanksgiving. I usually get stuck with the salad. They are always making me make the salad. I always try and fancy it up, so they’ll be like, “Oh, she can really cook.” But it doesn’t matter, because nobody eats the salad .… My brother is always going to do the stuffing; I’m never going to get to do it. My sister is always going to do the greens and the macaroni, and nobody wants mine anyways because I always try and make it a little less terrible for you, which nobody’s into. I get desserts a lot. Like, I’m pretty good at baking, and so I get desserts, which is pretty awesome.

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Vegetarian Sides for Thanksgiving — Meatless Monday

by in Holidays, Recipes, November 11th, 2013

Green Bean Casserole with Crispy ShallotsWhether you’re planning to prepare an entire vegetarian menu for Thanksgiving or you’ll be cooking for just a few meatless eaters amid demanding carnivores this year, it can be tricky to keep the entire table happy. After all, the centerpiece of most Turkey Day dinners is the juicy, crispy-skinned bird, and if you remove the turkey, you’ll want to replace it with something equally hearty and comforting. The key to pleasing both meat eaters and vegetarians alike on Thanksgiving is offering an array of satisfying side dishes, as they’re a naturally must-have element of the feast that nearly every guest will crave. Most traditional sides, like mashed potatoes, casseroles and stuffings, are naturally vegetarian, and if they’re not, they can be made meatless simply by swapping in vegetable broth or stock for the chicken variety. Check out a few of Food Network’s favorite vegetarian Thanksgiving sides below to find easy-to-prepare classic recipes worthy of the fall feast.

Combining the freshness of vegetables with the stick-to-your-ribs comfort of the holiday, green bean casserole is a timeless Thanksgiving pick, and Ellie’s lightened-up version — Green Bean Casserole with Crispy Shallots from Food Network Magazine (pictured above) — proves to be light and meatless without sacrificing flavor. She mixes string beans and garlic-thyme mushrooms into a thick sauce with nutty Parmesan cheese, then bakes the casserole with sweet fried shallots until the top is golden brown.

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10 Things You Didn’t Know About Robert Irvine

by in Food Network Chef, November 10th, 2013

Robert IrvineWhen it comes to transforming America’s failing restaurants on Restaurant: Impossible and giving them a second chance at future success, fans know that Robert Irvine is all business, dedicated to teaching owners how to turn their eateries into profitable productions. And each week on Restaurant Express, you see him challenging restaurant hopefuls to survive the ultimate seven-week culinary road trip. But just recently, Robert invited fans to get to know him beyond television and divulged insider details about seemingly all aspects of his life. In an #AskIrvine Twitter chat, Robert revealed his favorite meal, deserted island must-have, packing preferences when traveling, secret to achieving bulging biceps and more. Read on below to get caught up on the highlights and learn 10 little-known facts about this longtime chef and professional restaurateur.

1. Even though he’s in tiptop shape, Robert admits, “I believe every meal should end with something sweet.”

2. When asked what single food he would bring with him on a deserted island, he answered: “Water. You can’t live without it.”

3. “I love Stella and Heineken,” Robert admits of his favorite beers.

4. For more than 10 years, Robert was a member of the British Navy.

5. Robert has been cooking since he was 11 years old.

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