All Posts By Sara Levine

Sara Levine is a Senior Online Editor at FoodNetwork.com and a culinary-school-trained home cook. Several years ago she quit her magazine job to go to Le Cordon Bleu, which led to a stint in Food Network Kitchen. Although cooking professionally wasn’t her thing, she loves frequenting restaurants and putting her own amateur culinary skills to work in her tiny kitchen.

Behind the All-Star Chopping Block With Geoffrey Zakarian

by in Shows, March 25th, 2011
Chef Geoffrey Zakarian faces off against three of his fellow Chopped judges this Sunday night.

There’s just one spot left in the Chopped All-Stars finale battle on April 3, and four esteemed chefs are determined to lock it down. In the previous three All-Star battles, some chefs didn’t quite know what they were getting into when they stepped onto the Chopped set. In Round Four, however, these chefs are intimately familiar with the intensity of the show — but they’re usually seated on the judges’ panel.

Geoffrey Zakarian, Aaron Sanchez, Amanda Freitag and Maneet Chauhan are accustomed to doing the chopping, not being on the chopping block, but all four were excited to turn the tables and compete for their favorite charities. We chatted with Chef Geoffrey about the experience of being a Chopped competitor, the camaraderie among his fellow judges, and where he’ll be watching the battle unfold this Sunday night.

Did you hesitate at all before signing on to compete on Chopped All-Stars, since you know just how tough it is?
I didn’t hesitate a bit. It was terrific, although it’s very difficult. I’ve done Iron Chef and this I believe is more difficult. Everything is wilderness. I mean, 20 minutes? It’s borderline impossible when you really come to grips with what you’re trying to do. It was as hard as I thought it would be. I was ready to do it, but when you get there in the morning it’s very nerve-wracking.

Did the experience change the way you judge at all?
We always knew it was hard, but this just really emphasized how hard it actually is. The reality is whether you get bad ingredients or good ingredients, it’s hard. It’s almost harder when you get good ingredients! When you’ve got rack of lamb, sometimes all the plates turn out the same. With some wild stuff, you get a small chance of putting together some very interesting combinations.

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Nadia G. Unplugged at South Beach

by in View All Posts, March 24th, 2011
Meet Nadia G., Cooking Channel host and South Beach reporter extraordinaire

At this year’s South Beach Food & Wine Festival, Cooking Channel’s Nadia G. — the hilariously irreverent host of Bitchin’ Kitchen — was on the ground chatting it up with everyone from Duff Goldman to our newest Iron Chef, Marc Forgione. Check out some footage from this Canadian rising star’s whirlwind weekend down South.

At the Best Thing I Ever Ate at the Beach party, Nadia posed a question that’s bound to get any chef fired up: What’s the worst thing you ever ate?

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During the day, Nadia chatted with Guy Fieri about cooking with kids, a subject near and dear to both of these personality-packed chefs, who also share a penchant for tattoos.

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Then Nadia hung out backstage during Guy’s standing-room-only cooking demo, which truly looked like a rock concert. Check out her guest appearance on stage — it was a surprise to everyone, including Nadia!

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Want to see more Nadia G.? Check out more videos from South Beach on our sister blog Devour and catch Bitchin’ Kitchen on Wednesdays at 10:30pm/9:30c on Cooking Channel.

 

On the Triple-D Trail

by in View All Posts, March 22nd, 2011
Louie and the Redhead Lady in Mandeville, LA celebrated its DDD appearance with this tasty tribute to Guy. Image courtesy Louie and the Redhead Lady.

It’s not news to anyone that Guy Fieri is a total rock star. His “Chef-Dude” magnetism has been chronicled by the New York Times: It all started with his win on The Next Food Network Star; then came Guy’s Big Bite and soon after, the wildly popular Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. More recently there’s been Tailgate Warriors, a game show and cooking demonstrations that rival sold-out pop concerts. When Guy’s yellow Lamborghini went missing a couple of weeks ago, it was national news.

Diners at Louie and the Redhead Lady watch Guy's visit to the restaurant on a continuous loop.

But Guy’s rock-star status was never more evident to me than when I stumbled upon a mom-and-pop restaurant in Mandeville, Louisiana (a suburb across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans), that had received a visit from Triple-D. The episode featuring Louie and the Redhead Lady aired this winter, and Chef Louie and his wife Ginger (a.k.a., you guessed it, the Redhead Lady) are still flying high from the experience — and the huge boom in business that it set off.

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Behind the All-Star Chopping Block With Nate Appleman

by in Shows, March 18th, 2011

On Chopped All-Stars this Sunday, Nate Appleman faces off against three other well-regarded chefs. Read on to find out who he considered his biggest threat.

This Sunday’s episode of Chopped All-Stars features four celebrity chefs with serious culinary chops. Anita Lo is a longtime fixture on the New York City restaurant scene, Beau MacMillan helms an applauded restaurant in Phoenix, pastry chef Jacques Torres is often credited with creating the best chocolate chip cookie on the planet and Nate Appleman has run successful restaurants on both coasts and has a James Beard Award (for Rising Star Chef) under his belt.

In anticipation of his Chopped appearance, Nate sat down to chat with us about competing for his son, how this experience compared to his run on Season Two of The Next Iron Chef, and what motivated him to recently make the move from an upscale restaurant kitchen to…Chipotle? That’s right — visit New York’s Chelsea location and you just might score a burrito made by a celebrity chef.

Did competing on Chopped bring back memories of your experience on The Next Iron Chef, Season Two?
It did, it brought back a lot of memories, just the competition aspect of the whole thing. By doing The Next Iron Chef, I realized how much I missed competition like that; I mean like when you’re a kid and you compete in games or whatever it is. It brought back that desire to want to compete. It was just really fun to do.

Was Chopped very different from NIC?
The timing of everything is very different, not only that Chopped is just one day but the timing of the battle, it’s 20 and 30 minute rounds versus…I think the shortest Next Iron Chef challenge was 45 minutes. It’s also different because on The Next Iron Chef I felt like I was really competing for myself. This time I was competing for everybody out there who went through the same thing I went through with my son. I did it to raise money for his disease through the Kawasaki Disease Foundation. I felt like I was doing it for everyone besides me.

Was Chopped harder than you expected?
It is at least twice as hard as The Next Iron Chef. It truly, truly is. Here, they open the basket and go. It was mind-blowing. I was trying to peek in the basket to see what was in there; it is a real surprise. I’ve always been a fan of Iron Chef, so watching that and Chopped, I’d think, what would I do with that as quickly as possible? That ended up being something that helped me; I was used to thinking that way, in a very quick manner. Then again, actually putting that to the test is very different from sitting on your couch watching.

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Behind the All-Star Chopping Block With Claire Robinson

by in Shows, March 11th, 2011
Claire is cool, calm and collected. Of course, this was before the battle began!

The premiere of Chopped All-Stars scorched TV screens Sunday night, posting the highest-rated, most-watched episode in series history and the highest-rated March night in network history. Keep watching, because it only gets better…

As the host of Food Network Challenge and 5 Ingredient FixClaire Robinson knows a thing or two about intense competition shows and is used to cooking on camera. But Chopped All-Stars is Claire’s first foray into cooking as a competitor. Before she goes up against fellow FN rockstars Anne Burrell, Duff Goldman and Robert Irvine this Sunday night at 9pm/8c, Claire gave us an insider’s look at the Chopped experience. In short: It’s no joke, even for these All-Stars.

What motivated you to sign on for Chopped All-Stars?
I’m a competitive person. I did competitive slalom water skiing and am an athlete at heart, so that comes with a competitive spirit. I live for that stuff — win or lose, I love every second. It’s the adrenaline that I love. I chose St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital as my charity. I’m from Memphis, so I’ve seen what amazing things that hospital does for so many.

Did you prepare at all for Chopped?
Ha, actually when we filmed Chopped I was kind of in a crazy shooting period. I was in Denver shooting FN Challenge, so I flew in the night before and I landed at almost 2 am the morning of the show. Of course, my flight was delayed. So I slept for a few hours, got up and went straight to the Chopped set for 5:30 am. We had no idea what to expect, we didn’t know anything in advance about the baskets, but I watch and love the show so I knew it could be anything. I told everyone on the Challenge set that I was going to be doing Chopped and their suggestion was a really smart one. I went to eat at this one place in Denver that’s known for avant-garde pairings. They put pop rocks on sashimi, things like that. It opens your mind to think about the possibilities of how delicious some unusual ingredients can be. If you think really out of the box, it’s not that it’s really weird for weird’s sake, it’s actually really delicious, pop rocks on sashimi! It got me thinking about how can I actually play with an ingredient rather than just sneak it in. So I didn’t do much to prepare, but that one dinner I had, I was glad I did that because it really helped.

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Behind the All-Star Chopping Block With Alex Guarnaschelli

by in Shows, March 4th, 2011
On Chopped All-Stars, Alex is tasked with judging some good friends.

There’s never been an episode of Chopped that wasn’t intense, but starting this Sunday night, things are about to get crazy. Alex Guarnaschelli is a fixture on the judges’ panel for Chopped All-Stars, where she’ll taste the mystery basket creations of Food Network heavyweights (Robert Irvine, Claire Robinson, Anne Burrell, Duff Goldman), some of The Next Food Network Star’s most memorable finalists (Brad Sorenson, Michael Proietti, Lisa Garza, Debbie Lee), celebrity chefs (Beau MacMillan, Nate Appleman, Jacques Torres, Anita Lo) and even fellow Chopped judges (Geoffrey Zakarian, Aarón Sanchez, Amanda Freitag, Maneet Chauhan).

The chefs will compete in four rounds, tournament-style, and the winner of each will go on to the finale battle on April 3. Before the five-week mini-series kicks off this Sunday at 9pm/8c, we chatted with Alex about what it was like to critique the food of her peers and friends, whether she’d ever throw her own hat in the ring, and the difficulty of Chopped vs. Iron Chef America.

Were these Chopped All-Star battles more intense than “regular” rounds? Or did the chefs come to have fun and play for charity?
Honestly, every episode of Chopped is insanely stressful. When people are colleagues and know each other and then engage in a competition like this, it adds a whole other layer. People are amped up. They want to get along and they also want to win. That really added more complexity and tension, which is cool.

Did you have to judge chefs you know well?
Many. I didn’t enjoy it at all. It’s very painful to factor in. Anyone who competes on Chopped, you end up developing a personal relationship because you go through the whole thing with them. When you add knowing them personally on top of that, it makes decisions much more complicated.

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Oscar Eats: The King’s Speech and 127 Hours

by in News, Recipes, February 23rd, 2011

No glammed-up Oscar gala invite for you this year? Grab your ballot, don your best red carpet couture (or sweatpants) and make snacks instead, themed to match all the nominees for Best Picture.

Every day this week, we’re featuring a new batch of ideas for two of the films (See all the posts here.) Today: The King’s Speech and 127 Hours. Both movies recount true stories: World War II-era royal drama vs. the modern-day survival story of a (very good-looking) mountain climber trapped under a boulder. You’ll need some serious snacks.

See our movie-themed snack picks »

Pigskin (and Potato Skin) Playoffs

by in Recipes, January 21st, 2011
This Sunday, munch on Food Network Magazine's NFL-inspired riffs on the classic potato skin.

Four teams are just one win away from the Super Bowl. Sunday’s matchups will determine who’s going to the big dance in Dallas on February 6, and here on the FN Dish, we’re cooking up a potato skin showdown in their honor.

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Worst Cooks Exit Interview: Eric Ricupero

by in Shows, January 3rd, 2011
No words of advice could save Eric's botched chicken dish.

Why did you need or want to be on Worst Cooks in America?
I need to learn how to cook in order eat healthier and save money. Eating out 10 times a week in killing both my pocket and waistline.

What was the most valuable tip/piece of advice that you learned from Chef Robert?
Preparation and organization – it makes everything else easier.

What did you take away from the experience?
I am not only a bad cook, but apparently I’m also a bad cooking student.

Will you continue to work on your culinary skills?
I will continue to work on my cooking and using what I learned on the show should help.

If you could have a do-over of the challenge that sent you home, what would you do differently?
I wouldn’t have cut out the bone of a bone-in chicken breast.

When you presented your final dish, Chef Robert’s Pan-Seared Chicken Breast, how did you feel about it?
I knew I’d blown it when I cut the bone out.

What advice would you give to future Worst Cooks competitors?
Listen, remember and be patient.

What was the first dish or meal that you attempted to cook back at home after being eliminated? How did it go?
I tried to cook that bone-in chicken breast. I blew it again.

What was your most memorable or funniest moment while shooting the show?
Anytime Joshie and Priscilla had an argument.

Read Lina’s Exit Interview, find out more about Worst Cooks in America and catch the show on Sundays at 9pm/8c.

Worst Cooks: A Winner Looks Back

by in Shows, December 31st, 2010
Rachel Coleman was stunned at the announcement that she'd won the first season of Worst Cooks in America.

Rachel Coleman, a former website editor from Brooklyn, was crowned “Best of the Worst” on Season One of Worst Cooks in America. Before the new season kicks off this Sunday night at 9pm/8c, we asked Rachel to take a look back on her win and share how she’s doing in the kitchen a year later. Plus, this boot camp survivor lends some advice to the Worst Cooks of Season Two.

Listen up, new recruits!  Here are a few bits of inspiration from Rachel:

“I now cook at home all the time! At this point it’s hard for me to even remember what I DID eat before, since now I cook at least 5 nights a week. I even cooked dinner for my roommate and 10 of her friends for her 30th birthday party; my roommates love having me around.”

“The best advice Chef Anne gave me was to READ THE ENTIRE RECIPE before cooking. I honestly think that (and being disorganized) was my biggest mistake pre-show, I wouldn’t know where I was going so I’d get lost on the way there. Now I make sure I understand the entire recipe before starting.”

“Just focus on every step and don’t get overwhelmed. It’s easy to think ‘This is impossible!’ and get flustered and mess up, but to succeed they need to just keep moving forward and working with purpose.”

Read the rest of the interview here. Rachel’s victory also made her red team leader Chef Anne Burrell a winner…can Chef Anne do it again on Season Two? Don’t miss the premiere of Worst Cooks in America this Sunday night at 9pm/8c.

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