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.

Two Times the Trouble — Alton’s After-Show

by in Shows, November 3rd, 2013


Cutthroat Kitchen fans knows that when competitors are gifted a sabotage, no matter how treacherous or simple it may seem, it could ultimately mean disaster for them if they don’t know how or do not have the time to remedy it. But what happens when a challenge must incorporate not just one sabotage, but multiple? Will they use the double dose of damage to further fuel their creative energy, or will they succumb to the pressure of the contest and crumble?

On this week’s installment of Alton’s After-Show, the host revealed to judge Jet Tila two competitors’ attempts to adapt to multiple challenges after finding themselves victim to an onslaught of sabotages. The first set occurred in the initial round’s sandwich-and-side battle, when a chef was forced to harvest bread from prepared convenience-store sandwiches before learning that he or she would also have to make the dish on a TV-dinner-size tray instead of an oversized workspace. “And I think from there [the contestant] went insane,” Alton joked of the competitor. This chef was ultimately overwhelmed by the tasks at hand, as he or she didn’t make it past the first round of competition.

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Go Behind the Scenes of Southern at Heart with Damaris

by in Shows, November 3rd, 2013

Although Damaris Phillips survived 11 weeks of camera and culinary competitions on Food Network Star to become the newest face of food television, nothing could prepare her for the excitement and nervous energy that would come with filming her very own show. Just last week she premiered her series — Southern at Heart, airing Sundays at 10:30am/9:30c; cameras were rolling in Louisville, Ky., as she prepared to take her place in the kitchen and tape that episode.

Click the play button on the video above to watch as Damaris introduces her set and explains the props in the kitchen, and hear as she chats about her hopes for Southern at Heart.

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Gyros vs. Tacos: Which Restaurant Divided Concept Did You Like Better?

by in Shows, October 31st, 2013

Restaurant DividedCaught between her bickering fiancé, Neil Vaswani, and her mother, Terry Kipriadis, Vicky Giannakos explained: “My mother. She’s stubborn like a bull. Neil is also stubborn like a bull.” Terry opened Gyros & Goodies in Washington Township, N.J., three years ago, and Neil supported the venture as a substantial partner. But now that the Greek-focused restaurant is facing a mountain of financial struggles, Neil’s convinced the eatery should relaunch with a Mexican concept, while Terry is committed to Mediterranean fare. “The restaurant can’t continue like this, and as a family, we can’t continue like this,” Vicky admitted, just in time for Rocco DiSpirito and a Restaurant Divided transformation to decide the fate of her family’s business once and for all.

After sampling made-over menu items and overhauling the interior of the restaurant, Rocco welcomed everyday diners and esteemed restaurateurs alike for dinner at two concepts — the blue-and-white-clad Gyros & Goodies, run by Terry, and The Township Cantina, a bright spot staffed by Neil — in the same space. The future of Terry’s business, however, was ultimately in Rocco’s hands, as he number crunched profitability estimates and spoke with customers before eventually deeming Terry’s Gyros & Goodies more likely to succeed than Neil’s Mexican endeavor.

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Restaurant Revisited: Feathers Fly at Ducky’s Family Restaurant

by in Shows, October 30th, 2013

Robert IrvineFacing nearly $230,000 of debt, 33-year-old Ducky’s Family Restaurant in Kokomo, Ind., desperately needed Robert Irvine‘s help if the business was to have any chance at future success. Not long after Robert arrived, he realized that poor-quality canned food was among the largest issues plaguing Ducky’s, as was its drab interior decor akin, which Robert’s designer, Taniya Nayak, deemed “a cafeteria nightmare.” Together with Taniya and the rest of his Restaurant: Impossible team, Robert re-launched Ducky’s after two days of work on a $10,000 budget, and he helped owner Bill Duncan and Bill’s family learn essential skills for managing their family-run eatery. FN Dish caught up with Bill to find out how his business is doing a few months since the show filmed.

“Since the shooting of our episode, we have doubled our weekly sales,” Bill said. “Everyone loves the remodel.”

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Pop Stars, Princesses, Cats and Candy: Damaris Phillips’ Halloween Favorites

by in Food Network Chef, Holidays, October 30th, 2013

Damaris PhillipsGiven her penchant for quirkiness and her fun-loving demeanor, it’s no surprise that Food Network’s newest star, Damaris Phillips, is quick to embrace the lighthearted spirit of tomorrow’s spooky-sweet holiday. The host of Southern at Heart admits to dressing up for not only Halloween, but several other occasions each year, and she isn’t content with ordinary costumes for witches, pumpkins or ghosts. Her Halloween getups require a bit of imagination, as well as inspired clothing and coordination among friends. FN Dish caught up with Damaris to chat about these costumes, plus all things tricks and treats; read on below to learn her plans for this year’s fright-night bash, her all-time favorite Halloween costumes and her must-have candy.

How will you be celebrating Halloween this year?
Damaris Phillips: Me and all my girlfriends are dressing up as Britney Spears from different music videos. And she had some good outfits, like, phenomenal outfits. I really want to do the Pan Am girl from “Toxic.” Or I wanted to do “Oops!… I Did It Again” — the red pleather — but we have a guy friend that wants to do that, so …. The shoes are unfortunate, so I was OK giving it up.

So you don’t shy away from the costumes.
DP: Any reason to dress up, I am in. So I don’t only dress up at Halloween. I dress up for my birthday; we have a costume party every year for my birthday. I dress up probably seven times a year at least.

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Best 5 Brussels Sprouts Recipes

by in Recipes, October 30th, 2013

Roasted Brussels SproutsBrussels sprouts may be an annual must-have on your Thanksgiving dinner table, but these easy-to-cook vegetables can shine as the side dish to everyday suppers as well. Packed with good-for-you nutrients, these golf ball-size beauties are best when they’re not overcooked, which means that they’re often quick to prepare. Plus, Brussels sprouts pair well with salty flavors, like those of decadent bacon and briny capers, so if you’re cooking for veggie-averse kids — or adults — cook them with complementary ingredients you know your family will enjoy. Check out Food Network’s top-five Brussels sprouts recipes from your favorite stars, like Bobby, Michael Symon, Alton, Guy and Ina, to find simple sides that can be on the table in well under an hour.

5. Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta — After sauteing sweet shallots with crispy pancetta, Bobby roasts sprouts and Yukon gold potatoes until they’re tender, then finishes them with a pat of butter and refreshing lemon juice.

4. Fried Brussels Sprouts with Walnuts and Capers — Michael deep-fries his Brussels sprouts until they’re deliciously crispy, then tosses them with crunchy walnuts and a sweet-and-spicy serrano chile-honey dressing.

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Pierogi with Curried Cabbage — Meatless Monday

by in Recipes, October 28th, 2013

Pierogi with Curried CabbageIt’s Monday night, and you’re tasked with making a deliciously satisfying family-friendly meal for your family in only 35 minutes. Where do you start, and what do you prepare? This may sound like the setup of the network’s next competition series, but it’s a battle many likely face each week as the hours to dinnertime tick away.

The key to executing a simple and successful supper — meatless or otherwise on any day of the week — is taking a few shortcuts when you can. In its recipe for Pierogi with Curried Cabbage (pictured above), for example, Food Network Magazine guarantees dinner can be on the table in only 35 minutes by opting for a few prepared ingredients that don’t sacrifice flavor. Instead of making and rolling pierogi dough from scratch, then stuffing with homemade filling, the recipe suggests you start with store-bought pierogi — this will save you some time in the kitchen. Just toss the onion-and-cheese-filled dumplings in butter, then bake them until golden, and serve them with tender curry-laced cabbage and a cool lime-yogurt sauce for a homemade meal in a flash.

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Back to Basics — Alton’s After-Show

by in Shows, October 27th, 2013


Given the unexpected sabotages, limited time on the clock and looming judgment with which they’re forced to adapt, it’s likely that when chefs compete on Cutthroat Kitchen, they’re cooking under a crushing amount of stress and pressure. For some, that anxiety may serve only to better their game, forcing them to work smartly and efficiently, but for others, such a burden may get the better of them.

In this week’s competition, a chef’s inability to cope with the competition’s demands ultimately led to his or her exit. Judge Antonia Lofaso told Alton on his After-Show that the contestant’s Round 1 lasagna offering featured such grievous errors that she had no choice but to eliminate him or her on account of these seemingly elementary errors. Although inexperienced with making fresh pasta, this chef was forced to make pasta dough from scratch, but the end result proved “dense,” according to Antonia, and was only one part of an overall unsuccessful plate. “It was just poorly executed, everything on the dish,” she said, “from the cuts of the bell peppers to them not being cooked to pasta that was just completely inadequate.”

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Damaris Phillips Off the Clock

by in Food Network Chef, October 26th, 2013

Damaris PhillipsYou’ve seen her on Food Network Star, outlasting 11 rival competitors to become the Season 9 winner, and starting this Sunday at 10:30am/9:30c, she’ll star on her first-ever series, Southern at Heart. But Damaris Phillips remains relatively new to the Food Network family and perhaps a bit unknown to her fans. This Kentucky-born culinary school instructor is passionate about her large family, matchmaking in the kitchen and, of course, all things southern. But there’s more to know about Damaris, like her most-detested ingredient, favorite kitchen memory, go-to culinary tool and last supper must-have. FN Dish recently caught up with her in her hometown of Louisville, Ky., and found out the answers to these questions and others. Read on below to hear from Damaris, then browse photos to see her out on the town in Louisville.

What’s your Achilles’-heel ingredient, one that you hate to work with or encounter in someone else’s dish?
Damaris Phillips: Button mushrooms.

What was your most memorable meal? What, where, who — details, please!
DP: I don’t have a most memorable, like one memorable meal, but we had brunch every single Sunday growing up, so when I think about eating with my family, I think about having the same food every Sunday.

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Host a Kid-Friendly Halloween Party

by in Holidays, Recipes, October 26th, 2013

Vampire Blood Tomato Soup with Muenster SammiesOn Halloween, kids — and many grownups — are excited to eat just one simple thing: candy. But while a little indulgence may indeed be called for on the holiday, most moms and dads insist on offering something other than chocolate bars and peanut butter bites to their littlest ghosts and goblins. This year, whether you’re hosting a pre-trick-or-treating get-together with the neighbors or simply making dinner for your family before heading out for the night, serve up a themed menu of spooky eats and drinks to celebrate. These family-friendly recipes below for grilled cheese and tomato soup, chicken lollipops and strawberry-orange punch go a long way in making sure kids’ bellies are full before they start collecting candy.

As comforting as it is hearty, Food Network Kitchens’ Vampire Blood Tomato Soup with Muenster Sammies (pictured above) is a top-rated recipe that features a Halloween-worthy twist on a kid-approved pairing: tomato soup and grilled cheese. Here the Kitchens puree tomato-basil soup into a smooth consistency, then serve the warming mixture alongside gooey cheddar-muenster grilled cheeses built on pumpernickel bread. To achieve the ghoulish designs pictured above, opt for a ghost-shaped cookie cutter when shaping the sandwiches.

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