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.

Exclusive: The First Look at Help My Yelp with Restaurant Consultant Monti Carlo

by in Food Network Chef, Shows, April 4th, 2017

Help My YelpThese days it seems like almost everything we do happens online, including deciding where and what to eat. Before heading out to a restaurant — even one you’ve been to time and again, perhaps — you likely do a quick search of the spot online, and with that almost surely yields an entire profile of the eatery on Yelp.com, complete with reviews, photos and a rating from fellow diners. The feedback from those guests can make or break a restaurant’s online reputation, which is exactly why restaurant consultant Monti Carlo has her work cut out for her on the upcoming series Help My Yelp, premiering Monday, April 10 at 10|9c. After members of Yelp’s elite squad visited struggling restaurants and left (perhaps scathing) reviews of the businesses, it’s up to her to work with the management and chefs to swiftly rethink their approach to service in the hopes of boosting their standing online. After all, potential diners make quick decisions based on what they read online, so business owners ought to heed Monti’s advice before the next group of Yelp members stop by for a meal.

We checked in Monti recently to find out what’s to come on Help My Yelp and to get her take on the negative restaurant reviews that permeate the web. Find out how she utilizes Yelp and what she thinks about food photography while dining out. Read on below to read her thoughts in an all-new exclusive interview.

What can fans expect from Help My Yelp? What are you most looking forward to?
Monti Carlo: Help My Yelp is a feel-good show all about transformation. It’s not a traditional restaurant makeover show in the sense that I don’t go in with a sledgehammer and knock down walls. Yelp is a mirror. I hold that mirror up and show business owners how to look at the big picture. We focus on their strengths and work on their weaknesses to quickly make changes that have an immediate impact on ratings. If you’re a fan of kitchen hacks, you’re going to learn quite a few.

What I’m looking forward to the most is seeing the long-term effects of our combined efforts. Consumer reviews are the norm in today’s economy. They’re not going anywhere. So how do we use them as a tool to help us improve our product, our customer base and our finances? When it comes to Yelp, even a half-star bump in ratings can increase a restaurant’s bottom line by almost 10 percent. A one-star bump can make a dead night into a sellout. For many mom-and-pop [places], that can mean the difference between staying open another year or closing their doors for good.

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Vote for the Iron Chef America Episode You Want to Watch on TV

by in Polls, Shows, April 1st, 2017

Vote for the Iron Chef America Episode You Want to Watch on TVBefore the action of Iron Chef Gauntlet begins, Food Network is setting up a whole day dedicated to the world of Iron Chef on Sunday, April 16. Ahead the premiere of Iron Chef Gauntlet, which airs at 9|8c, we’ll look back on some of the most-iconic moments in Kitchen Stadium on The Legend of Iron Chef, which premieres at 8|7c. And before that, we’ll spend the day in an action-packed marathon of back-to-back Iron Chef America episodes — but for that we need your help, superfans.

We want to know which episodes of Iron Chef America you’d like to watch on TV the afternoon of Sunday, April 16, starting at 3|2c. We’ve picked eight of the most-unforgettable Kitchen Stadium showdowns, and now it’s up to you to tell us which five of them you want to binge-watch during the Iron Chef America marathon. Check out clips of the top-eight episodes below, then vote for your favorite in the poll at the bottom of this post. The five videos that receive the most votes will go on to air during the marathon on Sunday, April 16.

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From Kitchen Stadium to the Gauntlet: Alton Brown Returns to the World of Iron Chef, and We’ve Got the Scoop

by in Food Network Chef, Shows, March 23rd, 2017

Iron Chef GauntletLet’s get one thing straight: No one knows food quite like Alton Brown. Whether he’s dishing on the internal organ structure of snails or explaining the etymology of soy lecithin, his ability to school us on all matters culinary is simply uncanny, and it’s for largely that reason he made a top-notch host of Iron Chef America for the 12-season run of the series. But now, for the first time since 2013, Alton is returning to the world of Iron Chef, this time as the host of Iron Chef Gauntlet, the all-new elite competition in which seven challengers are set to compete against not only each other but also a gauntlet of Iron Chefs for the chance to join their ranks.

We checked in with Alton as he prepared for this much-anticipated premiere, and he gave us the inside scoop on what’s to come on Iron Chef Gauntlet, plus his take on how to succeed in this unique beast of a contest. Read on below for an exclusive interview with Alton, then look back on some of the best culinary fun facts he’s ever shared on Iron Chef America.

In many ways Iron Chef Gauntlet will be similar to The Next Iron Chef, but the idea of a three-tiered gauntlet in the finale is new. What are you most excited to see from these six episodes?
Alton Brown: Straightforward cooking at its highest level.

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The Journey to the Gauntlet: Chatting with Challenger Stephanie Izard from Iron Chef Gauntlet

by in Shows, March 22nd, 2017

Iron Chef GauntletThis. Is. It. The fight to become an Iron Chef is unlike any other culinary competition, with the demands for precision, expertise, intuition and downright excellence the most rigorous in the business. On Iron Chef Gauntlet, seven of the country’s most-elite chefs will come together to prove that their skills are the sharpest — but ultimately just one will earn the right to the run the gauntlet for the chance to join the ranks of the great Iron Chefs.

Before the competition begins on Sunday, April 16 at 9|8c, we’re giving you, Iron Chef fans, the first introductions to the crop of challengers ready to do battle. Today we’d like you to meet Stephanie Izard, a chef from Chicago. Read on below to get to know her style in the kitchen, and be sure to come back to FN Dish all week long as we present a new contender every day this week.

What’s your style of cuisine, and do you have a signature dish?
Stephanie Izard: I wouldn’t say I have a signature dish, because I just make a lot of different things and I think my favorites kind of change, but I like to cook foods from all over the world and just keep trying to learn more and more about different flavors. So a lot of focus on Asian cuisines, I would say, whether it’s Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, Chinese. But I try to dabble in some other areas too.

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The Journey to the Gauntlet: Chatting with Challenger Shota Nakajima from Iron Chef Gauntlet

by in Shows, March 21st, 2017

Iron Chef GauntletThis. Is. It. The fight to become an Iron Chef is unlike any other culinary competition, with the demands for precision, expertise, intuition and downright excellence the most rigorous in the business. On Iron Chef Gauntlet, seven of the country’s most-elite chefs will come together to prove that their skills are the sharpest — but ultimately just one will earn the right to the run the gauntlet for the chance to join the ranks of the great Iron Chefs.

Before the competition begins on Sunday, April 16 at 9|8c, we’re giving you, Iron Chef fans, the first introductions to the crop of challengers ready to do battle. Today we’d like you to meet Shota Nakajima, a chef from Seattle. Read on below to get to know his style in the kitchen, and be sure to come back to FN Dish all week long as we present a new contender every day this week.

What’s your style of cuisine, and do you have a signature dish?
Shota Nakajima: My style of cuisine is Japanese cuisine. Old-school Japanese cuisine. Not a lot of powder, not a lot of the new-age stuff. Old-school, old-school.

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The Journey to the Gauntlet: Chatting with Challenger Sarah Grueneberg from Iron Chef Gauntlet

by in Shows, March 20th, 2017

Iron Chef GauntletThis. Is. It. The fight to become an Iron Chef is unlike any other culinary competition, with the demands for precision, expertise, intuition and downright excellence the most rigorous in the business. On Iron Chef Gauntlet, seven of the country’s most-elite chefs will come together to prove that their skills are the sharpest — but ultimately just one will earn the right to the run the gauntlet for the chance to join the ranks of the great Iron Chefs.

Before the competition begins on Sunday, April 16 at 9|8c, we’re giving you, Iron Chef fans, the first introductions to the crop of challengers ready to do battle. Today we’d like you to meet Sarah Grueneberg, a chef from Chicago. Read on below to get to know her style in the kitchen, and be sure to come back to FN Dish all week long as we present a new contender every day this week.

What’s your style of cuisine, and do you have a signature dish?
Sarah Grueneberg: My style of cuisine is Italian, pasta focused. Signature dish would be something with pasta. But what everyone knows me for in Chicago is called Ragu alla Napoletana, and it’s like an Italian grandmother cooked it. It’s the big Sunday sauce, but it’s in a big bowl and it has a big pork shank, housemade meatballs, sausage and then we make a pasta with all the sauce and the meat. And it takes four days to make, and it’s like a big bowl of love basically.

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The Journey to the Gauntlet: Chatting with Challenger Nyesha Arrington from Iron Chef Gauntlet

by in Shows, March 19th, 2017

Iron Chef GauntletThis. Is. It. The fight to become an Iron Chef is unlike any other culinary competition, with the demands for precision, expertise, intuition and downright excellence the most rigorous in the business. On Iron Chef Gauntlet, seven of the country’s most-elite chefs will come together to prove that their skills are the sharpest — but ultimately just one will earn the right to the run the gauntlet for the chance to join the ranks of the great Iron Chefs.

Before the competition begins on Sunday, April 16 at 9|8c, we’re giving you, Iron Chef fans, the first introductions to the crop of challengers ready to do battle. Today we’d like you to meet Nyesha Arrington, a chef from Los Angeles. Read on below to get to know her style in the kitchen, and be sure to come back to FN Dish all week long as we present a new contender every day this week.

What’s your style of cuisine, and do you have a signature dish?
Nyesha Arrington: My style of cuisine is called progressive California cuisine, so food that’s very globally inspired. We cook through the seasons and really understand how food affects the body as fuel. … One of the dishes I’ve been known for is the Honey Mustard Black Cod throughout the years. I just put a dish on the menu when we opened at Leona that’s our Braised Lamb Belly Wontons that has become one of the signature dishes as well.

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The Journey to the Gauntlet: Chatting with Challenger Michael Gulotta from Iron Chef Gauntlet

by in Shows, March 18th, 2017

Iron Chef GauntletThis. Is. It. The fight to become an Iron Chef is unlike any other culinary competition, with the demands for precision, expertise, intuition and downright excellence the most rigorous in the business. On Iron Chef Gauntlet, seven of the country’s most-elite chefs will come together to prove that their skills are the sharpest — but ultimately just one will earn the right to the run the gauntlet for the chance to join the ranks of the great Iron Chefs.

Before the competition begins on Sunday, April 16 at 9|8c, we’re giving you, Iron Chef fans, the first introductions to the crop of challengers ready to do battle. Today we’d like you to meet Michael Gulotta, a chef from New Orleans. Read on below to get to know his style in the kitchen, and be sure to come back to FN Dish all week long as we present a new contender every day this week.

What’s your style of cuisine, and do you have a signature dish?
Michael Gulotta: Well, right now my style of cuisine is Southeast Asia meets Southeast Louisiana. It’s my shtick. That’s what I enjoy cooking.

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The Journey to the Gauntlet: Chatting with Challenger Jonathon Sawyer from Iron Chef Gauntlet

by in Shows, March 17th, 2017

Iron Chef GauntletThis. Is. It. The fight to become an Iron Chef is unlike any other culinary competition, with the demands for precision, expertise, intuition and downright excellence the most rigorous in the business. On Iron Chef Gauntlet, seven of the country’s most-elite chefs will come together to prove that their skills are the sharpest — but ultimately just one will earn the right to the run the gauntlet for the chance to join the ranks of the great Iron Chefs.

Before the competition begins on Sunday, April 16 at 9|8c, we’re giving you, Iron Chef fans, the first introductions to the crop of challengers ready to do battle. Today we’d like you to meet Jonathon Sawyer, a chef from Cleveland. Read on below to get to know his style in the kitchen, and be sure to come back to FN Dish all week long as we present a new contender every day this week.

What’s your style of cuisine, and do you have a signature dish?
Jonathon Sawyer: We have a range of restaurants in Cleveland, so it’s really more of a narrative that we follow, which is looking at traditional food, experiencing it, and interpreting it through our farmers and modern technique. It’s reverential to the past but also looking to the future. I think The Greenhouse’s signature dishes are whole roasted pig’s head, Foie Gras Steamed Clams and our Crispy Chicken Wings Confit. Noodlecat is a ramen shop. Everything’s under $11, so our signature dishes really are probably pork miso ramen, college ramen, spicy octopus, udon and our crispy lake fish steam bun. Trentina’s fine-dining, Italian. Signature dishes [there] are beef jerky bucatini, the egg de Trentina, the huevo de Trentina, which is cooked in a spoon over charcoal, and our pane pizza with an edible candle, which is a candle in bread.

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The Journey to the Gauntlet: Chatting with Challenger Jason Dady from Iron Chef Gauntlet

by in Shows, March 16th, 2017

Iron Chef GauntletThis. Is. It. The fight to become an Iron Chef is unlike any other culinary competition, with the demands for precision, expertise, intuition and downright excellence the most rigorous in the business. On Iron Chef Gauntlet, seven of the country’s most-elite chefs will come together to prove that their skills are the sharpest — but ultimately just one will earn the right to the run the gauntlet for the chance to join the ranks of the great Iron Chefs.

Before the competition begins on Sunday, April 16 at 9|8c, we’re giving you, Iron Chef fans, the first introductions to the crop of challengers ready to do battle. Today we’d like you to meet Jason Dady, a chef from San Antonio. Read on below to get to know his style in the kitchen, and be sure to come back to FN Dish all week long as we present a new contender every day this week.

What’s your style of cuisine, and do you have a signature dish?
Jason Dady: I think that my overall style of cuisine would be considered Modern American cuisine, so it’s pretty well versed in a lot of different techniques, whether it’s French or Northern Italian, but really focused on farm-to-table, fresh, local ingredients. My signature dish would probably be a dish called Nutella Times Three, which is like a flourless Nutella torte, chocolate Nutella mousse, Nutella ganache. It’s pretty delicious.

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