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.

5 Questions With Candace Nelson: Cupcake Wars Judge and Sprinkles Queen

by in Food Network Chef, Shows, May 11th, 2011

Candace Nelson

Candace Nelson, judge and blogger extraordinaire from Cupcake Wars, is about to open her 10th Sprinkles store, finally bringing the “original cupcake bakery” to New York City. We caught up with Candace and got a sneak peek at the new store while she was in town from Los Angeles with the whole family – husband Charles is her business partner at Sprinkles, and they have two young sons.

It’s been a busy week for the Nelsons, who celebrated their first Big Apple store by ringing the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange and have been riding around town in their Sprinklesmobile, handing out free cupcakes. Sprinkles New York opens its doors this Friday, May 13: “We’re not superstitious here!” Candace says with a laugh.

Read on for the inside scoop on the new location, Candace’s favorite cupcake flavors and her take on the future of cupcakes.

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In The Kitchens: Royal Wedding Cakes From Last Cake Standing Contenders

by in Behind the Scenes, April 17th, 2011
Jason from Last Cake Standing spent hours in the Food Network Kitchens working on a special royal project.

Last week, three of the talented pastry wizards from Last Cake Standing Jason, Jörg and Richard — were up in Food Network Kitchens working on a special project. It wasn’t totally top secret, so we’ll spill the beans: They’d been asked by Rachael Ray to come up with over-the-top cakes inspired by the upcoming Royal Wedding.

Each cake artist took a different direction; beyond the Royal Wedding theme, they had free rein to follow their own inspirations. Tomorrow, the guys will present the final creations on the Rachael Ray Show and Rachael will declare a winner. We hear the Royal Couple is planning to serve traditional English fruitcake at the reception, but if Will and Kate happen to catch Rachael’s show and see these beauties, I’m thinking they might reconsider.

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Chopped for Charity

by in Shows, April 1st, 2011

All-StarsOur Food Network fans are full of great ideas. In a comment on our blog after an episode of Chopped All-Stars, fan Eric Londergan suggested that we post a list of all of the contestants’ charities. We took him up on it and pulled together this rundown of the organizations that each All-Star chef played for — plus, we asked host Ted Allen to weigh in with his own charity pick. Thanks, Eric!

Of course, there are only four left standing to compete in the All-Stars finale this Sunday night: Aaron Sanchez, playing for the Greater New Orleans Foundation; Anne Burrell, supporting the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation; Michael Proietti, competing for the Jed Foundation; and Nate Appleman, representing the Kawasaki Disease Foundation. All are beyond worthy causes, to be sure, and all four chefs are hungry to win for their causes.

Which charity will get a hefty $50,000 donation, and who will walk away with bragging rights? You’ll have to watch and see! Don’t miss the super-charged Chopped All-Stars finale this Sunday at 9pm/8c.

 

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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