When Robert Irvine and his Restaurant: Impossible team visited Mama Lee’s soul food restaurant in San Antonio, it had never turned a profit and was just weeks away from closing down. A few months after Robert’s major revamp — he even called in reinforcements from HGTV’s Kitchen Cousins — we caught up with Ken, the owner, to see how business is going.
Four months later, Mama Lee’s is closer to turning a profit. Sales are up 15 percent and Ken is seeing many new customers in addition to his old regulars. With the increase in sales, he is slowly catching up on overdue bills.
Ken still feels reinvigorated as a leader. “We’re holding staff meetings every other Sunday,” he told us, in order to address service issues and discuss customer feedback. “I’m re-energized.” Read more
Last night we watched one of the most anticipated Chopped All-Stars episodes of the series. Four Chopped judges — Alex Guarnaschelli, Marcus Samuelsson, Marc Murphy and Chris Santos — took their place on the Chopping Block to compete for the fourth and final spot in the finale and $50,000 for their charity.
If you missed the show and recorded it, don’t read any further — we’re about to break down the episode, divulge the winner and chat with the runner-up.
In possibly one of the most anticipated Chopped All-Stars episodes of the series, four Chopped judges — Alex Guarnaschelli, Marcus Samuelsson, Marc Murphy and Chris Santos — will take their place on the Chopping Block to compete for the fourth and final spot in the finale. Pictured above, all-star chefs Alex Guarnaschelli and Chis Santos look curiously at each other as they enter the kitchen. Will the judges be pleased with their colleagues efforts or will their dishes leave more to be desired?
The winner of this episode will join Iron Chef Michael Symon, Cooking Channel’s Jeffrey Saad and Food Network Star finalist Penny Davidi in the grand finale for a chance to win their charities $50,000.
Before you tune in this Sunday at 9pm/8c to watch the action unfold, we’re challenging you, Chopped All-Stars fans, to write your best captions (tastefully appropriate, please) for this moment in the comments below.
Robert Irvine swooped into Seabrook, Texas, to help owners John and Laura Walker save their breakfast and lunch spot, the Pelican Grill. The Walkers filled us in on how business is going a few months after their Restaurant: Impossible makeover.
Three months later, the Pelican Grill is thriving with a 40 percent increase in business and expanded hours that include dinner service.
The success comes on the heels of a bizarre setback. One month after the renovation, a car crashed through the front door of the restaurant in the middle of the night, causing $6,000 in damages. Thanks to the generosity of friends and family, repairs were made quickly and the Pelican Grill remained closed for only eight days.
It is no secret that Chef Ron Ben-Israel tastes some of the best, most impressive dessert dishes around on his show, Sweet Genius. But did you know that Chef Ron also creates his own ingeniously inspired and impeccably decorated cakes? Yes, he is a New York City-based wedding cake baker who has a passion for designing whimsical confectionary creations that taste as heavenly as they look.
A few weeks ago I caught up with the Sweet Genius himself and we chatted about what it takes to make a classic, tried-and-true dessert: chocolate cake. Not surprisingly, Chef Ron shared that he has discovered two tricks to baking the best-ever chocolate cake and they are both easy, no-fail techniques.
Vic “Vegas” Moea, Penny Davidi, Justin Balmes and Chris Nirschel know the pressures of competition cooking. They also know what it’s like to be in front of a camera. These four Food Network Star finalists gave it their all last season, but still came up short in the end. That wasn’t enough for them, though. They’re still out to prove that they’ve got what it takes and they’re still out to take down each other — they did just that on last night’s episode of Chopped All-Stars.
If you missed the show and recorded it, don’t read any further — we’re about to break down the episode and chat with the winner.
“Ugh! Who comes up with these crazy basket ingredients?” This is a statement that I commonly hear and read after watching an episode of Chopped. But the truth is, someone does have to research and choose what four ingredients will go into a Chopped basket — three different baskets per episode. Do the ingredients get tested first? Has there ever been a repeated ingredient? And why are four ingredients the magic number and not three or five? These are all questions I asked Food Network Executive Chef Rob Bleifer last week when I sat down with him in Food Network Kitchens.
How are the ingredients picked?
Sara Nahas, the culinary producer of the show, and myself sometimes work together, sometimes work apart, but then come together to compare each other’s work. We’ll sit across from each other weeks in advance and knock out themed shows or random baskets — potential flavor and color combinations that will end up on the plate and, of course, that one ingredient that will get people talking. We have a list of ingredients we’ve already used in front of us, which is around 15 pages long, so I cross-reference that. In the past, we may have used an ingredient twice, but sometimes it’s intentional.
Is there a secret to a good Chopped basket (one part this, two parts that, etc.)?
While we’re creating the baskets, if we have to think too long about the possibilities of dishes, the baskets go away. If it takes us more than 15 seconds for a solution, it’s out. The contestants don’t have that much time.
We’ll often try, certainly in an entrée, to have a grain or starch or one ingredient that is substantial, whether it’s a protein or produce. But there’s no hard and fast rule that there has to be this, there has to be that.
Week two of Chopped All-Stars had gourmet globetrotting contestants Marcela Valladolid, Keegan Gerhard, Jeffrey Saad and Aarti Sequeira dealing with some offbeat ingredients. Some would even argue that the ingredients were more difficult than those dealt to the Iron Chefs the week before.
While we may not be running out to the market to pick up a pound of tripe, some of the ingredients are more commonly used, like chicken feet, which are great to flavor chicken broth.
What do Marcela Valladolid, Keegan Gerhard, Jeffrey Saad and Aarti Sequeira have in common? They are masters in global cuisine and they spent several nerve-wracking moments together on the Chopping Block last night during the second episode of Chopped All-Stars. Last week, Michael Symon advanced to the finale as he took on his fellow Iron Chefs. This week’s episode was just as competitive, and some would argue that the ingredients were more challenging. If you missed the show and recorded it, don’t read any further — we’re about to break down the episode and chat with the winner.
Appetizer: pancake mix, strawberry papaya, blue foot mushrooms and precooked chicken feet
Entrée: maraschino cherries, peas in the pod, parsley root and tripe
Dessert: ostrich eggs, plantains, dried strawberries and galangal
Last Sunday night on the premiere episode of Chopped All-Stars, the Iron Chef contestants opened up their baskets to find sour trahana. I quickly found myself Googling the term, only to find out several minutes later from Ted Allen that it’s a traditional Greek pasta that is essentially flour kneaded with sour milk, buttermilk or yogurt and some salt.
I couldn’t get a good glimpse of the grain on TV, but imagine a substance similar to couscous.
According to The Food and Wine of Greece by Diane Kochilas, “Until a generation ago, sour trahana was the shepherd’s and farmer’s breakfast. It was made at the end of every summer all over Greece in preparation for the winter months.”
So what can you do with sour trahana? Try cooking it in a soup, like Cat Cora’s Chicken Soup. The longer you cook the grain, the thicker it becomes.
If you can’t find sour trahana in the international aisle of your local supermarket, try searching for it online at a Greek specialty store.
Tune in this Sunday at 9pm/8c when four gourmet globetrotters — Keegan Gerhard, Marcela Valladolid, Jeffrey Saad and Aarti Sequeira — take their place on the Chopping Block.