In a special episode of Restaurant: Impossible, Robert Irvine faced his toughest challenge yet when First Lady Michelle Obama assigned him the task of rebuilding Horton’s Kids, a children’s community center that provides many services such as serving after-school meals in one of Washington, D.C.’s neediest neighborhoods. Mrs. Obama gave Robert three missions: Give Horton’s Kids a dining room, update their kitchen and create a community garden for them.
A few months after Robert’s Restaurant: Impossible-style transformation of Horton’s Kids, we checked in with Executive Director Brenda Chamberlain to see how the organization is doing. “Everyone loves and is impressed with the new, transformed Horton’s Kids!” says Brenda. “The vibrant space establishes a sense of community for the children.”
If you were to enter any fish and chip shop in North England and request anything but haddock for your deep-fried delight, the servers would look at you as if you were an alien from outer space.
I would have to agree that this beautifully firm and flaky white-fish makes the absolute best fish and chips you will ever eat. But, haddock is so much more versatile than just being deep-fried and, as I hope you discovered from watching the Iron Chef and his challenger on “Battle Haddock,” it makes a delicious and sustainable alternative to cod.
What is haddock?
Haddock is a firm-fleshed white-fish that can be found in both the European and North American waters of the North Atlantic. The adult fish can grow to around 3.6 feet in length and migrates each year from shallow waters in the summer to colder, deeper waters in the winter.
Overfishing meant that haddock stocks became severely depleted in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Fortunately, this fish reproduces very rapidly, with the female of the species laying an astonishing 3 million eggs a year. This fact, added to strict fishing quotas and more sustainable forms of fishing, means that haddock is now off the danger list and ready for your table.
Behind the scenes on Iron Chef America, Food Network’s culinary production team is responsible for making sure that the rival chefs have everything they need to cook and present their dishes — from a stocked pantry to plenty of serving vessels — even outside of Kitchen Stadium. Daniella LaRosa from Food Network Kitchens recently shared some fun facts about what it took to pull off last night’s special episode for Grilling Week — the first-ever Military Grill Battle in Hawaii — that pitted Iron Chef Cat Cora against Iron Chef Michael Symon and Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto. They weren’t alone, though: Each Iron Chef was paired with a sous chef from the Navy, Army or Marine Corps.
Was setting up Kitchen Stadium in Hawaii more difficult than the mainland?
Creating Kitchen Stadium from scratch took a lot of time. We had treated both the Tailgating and Grilling battles like they were challenges from Next Iron Chef — specifically in that equipment and pantry items were going to be limited, and they might have to share during the battle. Because shipping anything to Hawaii was so expensive, we ended up having to spend about four full days personally shopping for equipment and specialty foods in Hawaii for the Iron Chefs and their sous chefs to use during the battle. We used all local produce — the Secret Ingredients were all sustainable and local. We used as many local vendors as we could find or found through word of mouth while we were there. It was also very difficult on both shoot days when we had to set up Kitchen Stadium at 6:00 am using the headlights from our rental car.
On the latest episode of Restaurant: Impossible, Robert headed to Memphis to help Pollard’s, a barbecue restaurant that was at risk of going up in smoke. The eatery was experiencing growing pains after upgrading from a takeout operation to a giant dine-in establishment. We checked in with owners Tarrance and Torria Pollard to see how business is going after their Restaurant: Impossible intervention.
A few months after Robert’s Restaurant: Impossible makeover, sales at Pollard’s Bar-B-Que have grown an impressive 20 percent.
On a recent visit to Budapest, the capital of Hungary, I was lucky enough to enjoy a terrific meal at a restaurant called Bock Bisztro, which served many dishes made from Mangalitsa pork. Although I had eaten the meat of this particular breed of pig before and knew just how delicious and fully flavored it could be, this was the first time I noticed how incredibly versatile it is. The meal easily rates as one of my best in recent years.
I hope that watching the Iron Chef’s work with this magnificent beast in Kitchen Stadium will inspire you to go in search of this alternative to traditional pork breeds, either in the restaurants of some of the nation’s top chefs or in your own kitchens.
You won’t regret it.
What is a Mangalitsa pig?
Mangalitsa pigs, or as they are known in their native Hungary, Mangalica pigs, are a breed of hog that is renowned for their deeply flavored meat and for their high fat content. The name Mangalica literally means “hog with a lot of lard.” They are sometimes also known as “wooly pigs” because of the curly haired fleece that covers their body.
The famed Secret Ingredient: It’s destroyed some chefs while others have succeeded in Kitchen Stadium. In past years, we’ve seen the Chairman unveil everything from eggs, canned tuna, kale and mozzarella to cowboy rib-eyes, seaweed, whole pigs and sea whistle. From everyday ingredients to hard-to-find cuts of meat and fish, the culinary wizards of Food Network can find just about anything.
Have you ever wanted a say in the Secret Ingredient? Now’s your chance.
Instructions: Vote once a day until next Tuesday for your favorite Secret Ingredient in our poll below. Then stay tuned to an upcoming episode to see if your ingredient was chosen.
At the University Grill in Burlington, N.C., Robert Irvine faced three co-owners who refused to get along. Siblings Eleni, George and Manny opened the restaurant five years ago to help provide for their retired parents, but they were facing failure when Restaurant: Impossible came along to help. We checked in with the siblings after their restaurant’s makeover to see how business is going.
A few months after Robert and his Restaurant: Impossible team arrived on the scene, sales at the University Grill are up 15 percent. “Everyone loves the new decor,” says Eleni.
If you’ve got a sweet tooth, chances are you’re a fan of Sweet Genius, now in its second season. Back with more whimsy and wonder, each episode has four of America’s premier pastry chefs competing against one another through three rounds of challenges judged by Master Pastry Chef Ron Ben-Israel, testing their creativity, ingenuity and imagination. The chefs are given surprise ingredients, inspiration and a limited amount of time; with those three elements as a guide, they must create a delectable chocolate, candy and cake dessert. The winners from each round advance for a final test, with Ron crowning the remaining chef Sweet Genius and awarding them a $10,000 cash prize.
Now we need your help and inspiration for the third season. Have you thought of a surprise ingredient or challenge that would be perfect for Sweet Genius?
Get creative: We’re hoping to see suggestions that include live animals, colorful objects, items with moving parts (think the robot from this season or our bubble machine) or wacky things like a baby doll or ventriloquist’s dummy. Tell us your suggestions in the comments below and they may be featured in the upcoming season.
In Aptos, Calif., Robert and the Restaurant: Impossible team faced the daunting task of turning things around at Ristorante Barolo. Owners Giovanni Guerisoli and Cristina Locke struggled with the changing economy as well as family health problems, and could barely keep their 10-year-old business afloat.We checked in with the couple to see how things were going after Restaurant: Impossible.
Three months later, sales at Ristorante Barolo have increased by 37%. “The new decor and also all the publicity because of the show have brought new customers,” says Cristina. “People watch and really like Restaurant: Impossible.” Read more »
Food Network Star kicks off its eighth season this Sunday night, but this year’s competition will be like nothing you’ve seen before. Three of Food Network’s finest chefs and superstars – Alton Brown, Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis – are joining the contest, not as judges, but as guiding mentors to groups of five hand-picked Star hopefuls. With the advice and support of their coaches, finalists on Team Alton, Team Bobby and Team Giada will battle it out week after week in the ultimate job interview to prove they have what it takes to host their own Food Network show.
Get to know each of the contestants before Sunday night’s episode by watching a never-before-seen casting special on Saturday, May 12 at 9pm/8c. Alton, Bobby and Giada reveal why they chose each finalist for their respective teams and offer a behind-the-scenes look into this season’s competitive casting process.
Then tune in to the season eight premiere of Food Network Star on Sunday, May 13 at 9pm/8c to see which finalists are early favorites and who gets sent home first.