Perhaps one of the most-persistent restaurant owners ever featured on Restaurant: Impossible, Carolyn Cuneo from Mom & Dad’s Italian Restaurant in DeFuniak Springs, Fla., admitted to Robert Irvine early on that she is “not very good with change.” After her husband, George, passed away six years ago, she’s been hesitant to make any updates to the eatery, a dark, wood-covered space serving mediocre Italian-inspired food. Carolyn was in thousands of dollars of debt, which Robert realized could be attributed to the large amount of free food she regularly gave away to her staff and customers alike. In just two days and with a $10,000 budget, Robert and his team worked with Carolyn to rethink her management habits and ultimately reopen Mom & Dad’s as a thriving restaurant worthy of a second chance. FN Dish checked in with Carolyn a few months after the renovation to find out how the eatery has been doing.
Immediately following the overhaul, Mom & Dad’s saw a 67.7 percent increase in sales. Although the growth has since slowed a bit, “business is still good and it will be a much higher percentage than prior years,” Carolyn says, adding that she’s making stellar progress on paying back her debt.
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Recently, FN Dish caught up with Ted Allen, the multitalented host of Chopped, for a Facebook chat. Ted answered all kinds of questions about the show, including what the judges are like in person and what the competition is like behind the scenes. Fans also wondered whether Ted ever gets to taste the food and if he’ll ever compete himself.
Read Ted’s chat
This weekend on Food Network it’s all about having fun in the kitchen with dear friends and moms.
Start off your Saturday morning with a big breakfast, Southern style, from Paula Deen, Rosanne Cash and her daughter. Afterward, Giada’s hosting a special baby shower for her friend who’s expecting twins. Then on Sunday morning, Guy’s cooking up a meal with his mom; they’re making pork roast with beans and rice, a childhood favorite. And on Sandwich King, Jeff is learning the secrets to baking biscuits from his mother-in-law.
On Sunday evening, watch a poker-themed episode of Cupcake Wars with special guest judge Mimi Rogers. Finally, it’s Round 2 of the ICA tournament as Iron Chefs Jose Garces and Marc Forgione face off in Kitchen Stadium.
Read about the shows
During Season 3 of The Next Iron Chef, I probably gave Chef Forgione more grief than both of the other judges combined did and called him out a number of times for various reasons.
Despite that, he managed to make it all the way to the finale, where his superb take on a Thanksgiving dinner made him my clear winner. Since then, Iron Chef Forgione has gone on to prove himself a very worthy addition to the culinary pantheon.
Here are 10 questions and answers that will hopefully give you more insight into the youngest of their order.
Your father, Larry Forgione, is often called “The Godfather of American Cuisine.” Was coming from a family of such astonishing culinary provenance a help or a hindrance as you climbed the ladder?
MF: A little bit of both. I think it definitely helped open doors for me, but at the same time everything I did was a lot more closely watched. There’s nothing worse than getting yelled at by a chef and then having them say to me, “Do you think your father would be happy with that?”
Some of the mystery basket ingredients that get used on Chopped are pretty unusual, to say the least. But the culinary producers who come up with them don’t just draw them out of a hat — though sometimes it does seem that way! They take their time to decide on the ingredients, making sure the basket components are just right and actually manageable. FN Dish queried the culinary producers to find out the top 16 weirdest basket ingredients they’ve had on the show. The list of ingredients ranged from goat brains to gummy eggs over easy — almost no ingredient is off-limits.
Now, Chopped fans, in the past four weeks, you’ve been voting in this Bracket Tournament to determine the weirdest mystery basket ingredient ever used in the show’s history. What started out as 16 ingredients was narrowed down to just one. Today, FN Dish is revealing your winner.
Find out which ingredient you voted the weirdest!
The Chopped judges have seen their share of odd, uncommon ingredients come out of the mystery baskets — haggis, goat brains and shad roe sack, to name a few. But sometimes what trips up the competitors more than any strange products is a selection of ordinary ingredients, like eggs, flour tortillas and apples. If the competitors are judged on their abilities to use the basket ingredients, they’ll have to think beyond omelets, tacos and fruit salads, for example, if they want to avoid the Chopping Block.
On tonight’s all-new episode of Chopped, judges Alex Guarnaschelli, Maneet Chauhan and Marc Murphy welcomed four moms to the kitchen with baskets of familiar ingredients that home cooks would likely use. In the entree round, that meant a spread of mustard greens, pork butt, red quinoa and carrot baby food — products that, while perhaps difficult for these nonprofessional cooks, should have been a cinch to prepare for the chef-judges, who later tried their hands at this very basket.
Alex admitted that, with the exception of the baby food, “It’s like a nice, innocent little basket.” But that didn’t stop her and the rest of the panel from facing some of the same challenges the moms did, like how to make a tough piece of pork tender and how to quickly cook quinoa with limited time. During their friendly face-off, Marc resorted to using a meat grinder to break down the pork and make it into meatballs. Maneet incorporated the meat into a casserole-style dish, and Alex took advantage of almost every second of the competition to fully cook her quinoa.
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Every week, Justin Warner, winner of Food Network Star Season 8, is back remixing the Chopped All-Stars baskets as seen in the episode Sunday night in pure Justin Warner style: edgy, intense, passionate and full of wit. If you’ve ever watched an episode and found yourself yelling at the TV, “I would have made this and that instead!” then these are the posts for you.
by Justin Warner
Welcome to the final installment of the Chopped All-Stars Rebel Remix. It is bittersweet to pen this, as it signals an end to a really fun five weeks of shouting at my TV, but as you are about to see, the finale is where one retires the pea-shooter in favor of the potato cannon, and I really love potato cannons.
Appetizer: soft-shell crabs, sake, crunchy peanut butter, sea beans
I spent most of my formative years and adolescence in the great state of Maryland, where we enjoy soft-shell crabs whenever possible. Nothing is more gratifying than a sandwich with crunchy legs sticking out of a nice potato roll. If you’ve never had the treat, head to your local sushi bar and order a spider roll. Don’t be scared, it’s 100 percent cooked and 110 percent spider-free. You’ll notice it has a crunchy texture that reveals silky sweet meat with a whisper of funk. That’s the mustard, aka the guts, highly prized among many. Fancy chefs here in Brooklyn are smearing crab guts on brioche and charging as much as a whole crab would cost. Anyway, the soft-shell crab is a very tasty morsel I hold in very high regard. To prep them, cut off their faces without hesitation. Flip them over and pull open the key. This will open up the body for you to remove the feathery gills. Voila.
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Earlier on FN Dish, we broke down the final round of All-Stars, including an interview with the runner-up (spoiler alert).
If you missed the show and recorded it, don’t read any further — FN Dish is about to break down the episode and chat with the grand champion.
SPOILER ALERT: Find out who won
Five episodes, 15 baskets and 60 out-of-this-world ingredients later, there’s a new All-Stars champ to crown. And while there can be only one winner, who can forget the All-Star chefs and celebs who have turned out one impressive dish after another in an effort to win $50,000 for a charity of their choice?
If you missed the show and recorded it, don’t read any further — FN Dish is about to break down the episode and chat with the runner-up.
SPOILER ALERT: The exclusive interview with the runner-up
Earlier this week, FN Dish caught up with Geoffrey Zakarian for a Facebook chat about Season 3 of Chopped All-Stars. Geoffrey answered questions about the current season, what it’s like to judge a wide array of dishes and how his experience as an Iron Chef informs his judging. He also chatted about what he’s up to next in his career.
Read highlights from Geoffrey’s chat