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Restaurant Revisited: Pappas

by in Shows, May 9th, 2012

Pappas Restaurant

Robert’s latest mission brought him to Pappas, a family-owned Greek restaurant in Benicia, Calif. Feuding brothers, a drab interior and lackluster food were leading this business toward extinction. We checked in with the owners to see how things are going a few months after their Restaurant: Impossible makeover.

Pappas Restaurant has seen an increase in sales of more than 50 percent versus the same time last year. The added revenue is helping Michael, aka Pappa, pay off his tax debts: “I see a great future ahead,” he says.

Pappas is seeing an increase in new customers and some old customers from the early days are finding their way back to the restaurant. They love the blue and white decor and are curious to try the new and improved Greek-inspired menu.

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Peaches — Iron Chef America Ingredients

by in Shows, May 7th, 2012

iron chef america battle peaches
The average American consumes nearly five pounds of peaches every year, and I can’t blame them as peaches are very possibly my favorite fruit of all. If you visited my home in Los Angeles, you would be very likely to find a large fruit bowl in my kitchen laden with quite a few different varieties along with a few samples of their smooth cousins, the nectarine.

As well as eating them raw as a healthy snack, I love to use peaches in a wide variety of both sweet and savory dishes and am always on the lookout for inspiring recipes.

If, until now, you have always thought of the peach as little more than a canned filling for pie, I hope that this week’s efforts in Kitchen Stadium will persuade you that there is far more to this humble fruit than you ever imagined. You might even be inspired to head out in search of some interesting varieties at your local farmers’ market.

What are peaches?

The fruit of the peach tree is a “drupe,” which means it has a three-layered structure of skin, flesh and a hard stone or “pit” at the center. This puts it in the same family as other fruits including plums, cherries and apricots, and also relates it to walnuts and almonds.

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Chopped All-Stars: The Final Battle

by in Shows, May 7th, 2012

Chopped Finale

Last night we watched four chefs, each with a win under his or her belt, face off in the finale of the Chopped All-Stars tournament. In the four previous rounds, Michael Symon reigned supreme among the Iron Chefs, Penny Davidi prevailed against her fellow Food Network Star alums, Jeffrey Saad bested three other globetrotting show hosts and Marcus Samuelsson out-cooked his Chopped judging cohorts. But it all came down to the final battle: Only one of these chefs would win $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 and chat with the winner. You can catch the full episode here.

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Restaurant Revisited: Mama Lee’s

by in Shows, May 2nd, 2012

Mama Lee'sWhen 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

The Other Side of the Chopping Block: One Chopped Judge Moves On, Three Say Goodbye

by in Food Network Chef, Shows, April 30th, 2012

chopped judges
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.

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Chopped All-Stars Caption It: What Did We Get Ourselves Into?

by in Shows, April 26th, 2012

alex guarnaschelli and chris santos
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.

Restaurant Revisited: Pelican Grill

by in Shows, April 25th, 2012

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.

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Ron Ben-Israel Bakes a Better Chocolate Cake

by in Recipes, Shows, April 25th, 2012


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.

Get Ron’s best-ever chocolate cake recipe

One Shining “Star” Joins the Chopped All-Stars Finale Lineup

by in Shows, April 23rd, 2012

chopped all stars food network stars
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.

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The Chopped Basket Revealed: The Masterminds Behind the Mystery Ingredients

by in Behind the Scenes, Shows, April 20th, 2012

chopped basket rob bleifer
“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.

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