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.

Robert and Monti Talk the Making of a Food Network Star

by , June 1st, 2017

Food Network StarOn Sunday's Food Network Star premiere (set a reminder for 9|8c!), mentors Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis will dole out what has the potential to be the most-important challenge of the season: the task of auditioning for them in person and on the...

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Giada Reveals Why Food Network Star Is So Hard and What Finalists Should Do Before They Get Here

by , May 31st, 2017

Food Network Star"I believe that I can see more of the heart and soul of a person. Where he sees it through their cooking, I see it in their eyes," Giada De Laurentiis says of the differences in the way she and Bobby Flay judge Food Network Star finalists. This judge...

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“Honesty, Tough Love and True Advice” — Bobby Shares What He Can Offer the Food Network Star Finalists

by , May 30th, 2017

Food Network StarJust like his fellow Food Network Star mentor Giada De Laurentiis, Bobby Flay is the very kind of Star the finalists are hoping to become. When Season 13 kicks off on Sunday, June 4 (mark your calendars for a 9|8c premiere), an all-new crop of compet...

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Exclusive: Chatting with the Newly Crowned Iron Chef Stephanie Izard

by in Shows, May 21st, 2017

Iron Chef GauntletThere’s reason to celebrate in kitchens everywhere tonight: For the first time since 2012, a new Iron Chef has joined the Chairman’s esteemed ranks. Stephanie Izard, a chef and restaurateur based in Chicago, defeated not only six challengers to earn the right to run the gauntlet but also a trio of Iron Chefs — Bobby Flay, Michael Symon and Masaharu Morimoto — following a series of three epic battles on Iron Chef Gauntlet. Each of these showdowns featured a different Secret Ingredient, and it was up to her to decide with which Iron Chef she wanted to do battle as each altar was revealed. It took only the first heat to realize that she wasn’t going to make this mission easy on herself, as she chose to face off against undisputed pepper king and Southwestern-cooking master Iron Chef Flay in Battle Pepper. From there, she challenged Iron Chef Symon to Battle Cheese and Iron Chef Morimoto, a seafood guru, to Battle Tilefish. And though she fell to Iron Chef Flay in the first heat, she ultimately out-cooked Iron Chefs Symon and Morimoto to best their combined score by three precious points.

We were on set with Chef Izard became Iron Chef Izard and caught up with her moments after her momentous victory. Read on below to get her take on where she went wrong in Battle Pepper, and find out why she told us, “I made the challenges as hard as possible for myself.”

Congratulations, Iron Chef! Take us back to the moments before Alton announced the results. You see an empty fourth podium, one that you could potentially take your place on as an Iron Chef. What was going through your mind?
Stephanie Izard: I had a feeling that Iron Chef Flay had beat me by a couple points, and I had a feeling that I had beat Symon by, hopefully, more than a couple points. … Morimoto made a soup and I made a soup, and in my mind, I was thinking, “I wonder which — even just coming down to which soup would you want to eat more.” I feel like the Iron Chefs are like: “All right, all right. You can be in our club.”

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Exclusive: Chef Stephanie Izard Looks Ahead to the Gauntlet

by in Shows, May 15th, 2017

Iron Chef GauntletFresh off a grueling five-week competition that saw both high and low moments for each competitor, Chef Stephanie Izard has bested her fellow challengers and has earned the right to advance to next week’s Iron Chef Gauntlet finale, where she’ll compete in the gauntlet. This three-tiered face-off will see her pitted against no fewer than three famed Iron Chefs — Bobby Flay, Masaharu Morimoto and Michael Symon — all for the chance to claim that coveted title for herself.

We checked in with Chef Izard moments after she learned of her victory over Chef Sarah Grueneberg in the Secret Ingredient Showdown and chatted about what awaits her next week. Read on below for an exclusive interview.

Congratulations! You’re officially headed to the Gauntlet. How are you feeling?
Stephanie Izard: Good. I’m relieved. … Now I’m just already in the zone. What are three dishes that I have not made thus far that I can bust out?

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One-on-One with the Latest Iron Chef Gauntlet Challenger to Go Home

by in Shows, May 15th, 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. Today, we’re set to break down the latest episode, so if you haven’t watched it yet, don’t read on until you do.

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One-on-One with the Latest Iron Chef Gauntlet Challenger to Go Home

by in Shows, May 15th, 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. Today, we’re set to break down the latest episode, so if you haven’t watched it yet, don’t read on until you do.

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Alex Guarnaschelli on the Secret to Iron Chef Success, the Mistakes She Won’t Forgive and a Certain Risotto by Bobby Flay

by in Food Network Chef, Shows, May 12th, 2017

Iron Chef GauntletAfter competing in not one but two seasons of The Next Iron Chef, Alex Guarnaschelli ultimately earned the coveted title in December of 2012, which means she’s all too familiar with the nerves and hopes the remaining Iron Chef Gauntlet contestants are feeling right now. On Sunday, she and Ching-He Huang will come together to judge the final Secret Ingredient Showdown, an all-important battle, as it’s the last before one challenger advances to the gauntlet.

We chatted with Alex to find out what it’s like for her to reenter the world of Iron Chef, not as a competitor this time but as a judge. It turns out, though, that being on the other side of the table doesn’t eliminate her anxieties. “I still get up in the middle of the night and have night sweats from this competition,” she told us. Taking on this role, however, means that she will expect exemplary work, especially when so much is on the line. Read on below to get her take in this exclusive one-on-one interview.

You know better than most what it’s like to both compete on and judge Iron Chef. What’s it like to be back in this world?
Alex Guarnaschelli: I still get up in the middle of the night and have night sweats from this competition, like, “The eggplant is overcooked!” The tagline was, and is, “The only title that matters.” And I think that really is still true. I think people still feel that way. It’s very iconic, and I don’t think that ever dissipates with time. And I think it’s been napping gently under a tree, and now it’s time to wake up.

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One-on-One with the latest Iron Chef Gauntlet Challenger to Go Home

by in Shows, May 8th, 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. Today, we’re set to break down the latest episode, so if you haven’t watched it yet, don’t read on until you do.

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Exclusive: Giada’s Rundown of Battle Octopus on Iron Chef Gauntlet

by in Food Network Chef, Shows, May 1st, 2017

Iron Chef GauntletOne half of the esteemed judge-mentor duo on Food Network Star, Giada De Laurentiis is no stranger to evaluating chefs. She’s quick to offer feedback to competitors, in terms of their work both on the plate and on camera. But when judging Iron Chef Gauntlet Sunday night, her sole focus was the food, as she and Iron Chef Marc Forgione came together to oversee Battle Octopus and ultimately decide whether Chef Shota Nakajima or Chef Michael Gulotta would earn the right to advance to next week’s competition.

We checked in with Giada after the battle, and though one rival was forced to go home (check out Chef Gulotta’s exit interview here), and she was indeed pleased with both competitors’ offerings. “Those guys can cook,” she said simply. “I just about cleaned every dish.” Read on below to hear more from Giada to find out why she was “a tiny bit intimidated” on that judges’ panel, and get her take on what went down the last time she was in the world of Iron Chef, when she competed in Battle Cranberry on Iron Chef America.

Did being on set bring back any flashbacks to Battle Cranberry, in which you competed with Iron Chef Bobby Flay on Iron Chef America?
Giada De Laurentiis: In those kinds of competitions, it’s all a matter of opinion. And it’s [a few] people’s opinion on your food. It might be fantastic, but [if] they don’t like it, they don’t like it. … Standing there, listening to criticism, looking at my dish and thinking, “Well, I think they’re pretty good zeppole with cranberry inside, and I think the texture’s fantastic.” I think that I had made pumpkin ravioli with amaretti cookies on top in a brown butter [sauce] with sage. And one of the judges didn’t like the amaretti cookies; they didn’t think that it should be with pumpkin ravioli. And I’m like: “Of course, it should. It is classic Italian. The mixtures work perfectly together.” He didn’t like them. So what happened? Bobby and I lost.

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