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After Dark Party with Bobby Flay

by in View All Posts, View Video Only, October 13th, 2008

The Food Network NYC Wine and Food Festival kicks off with Bobby Flay’s After Dark Party, and The FN Dish was there to bring you all the action.

Junior Chefs

by in View All Posts, October 10th, 2008

Recently, I was asked to judge a culinary competition in Sacramento put on by Jr. Chef Central, an organization that teaches cooking classes for kids between the ages of 10 and 15.

The competition was part of a larger “Culinary Convention” that included classes for about 200 kids on the subjects of pasta, baking, sushi, grilling, and pizza. In addition to those classes, all of the kids attended seminars on food styling, nutrition, farm to table, table setting and etiquette, and knife skills. There were even parent education classes to loop parents in on what the kids were learning. The convention was open to all kids, not just kids in the program.

I had no idea what to expect when I flew 3,000 miles to be a part of this. I was totally blown away by what I found.

The competition part involved 5 teams of students from the classes: each team had 3 regular students, 1 Master Jr. Chef (a kid who’d been through every level of the program) and 1 Chef Mentor from a local restaurant. The teams had the same themes as the classes. Each team had to make 3 dishes based on the theme as well as a mystery ingredient: figs.

While the kids were cooking, the judges (myself, Elaine Johnson from Sunset Magazine, and 1 of the Master Jr. Chefs) got to walk around and see how the kids were working together, assess their skills, and make sure they were following safety and sanitation guidelines. I simply couldn’t believe how talented and comfortable these kids were in the kitchen. I walked by the sushi team at one point and 1 of the girls was making an unbelievable rose out of a cucumber. I asked her if her Chef Mentor taught her how and she said no, she read about how to do it online. Wow.

All in all, we tasted 15 courses prepared by the kids. They were judged on presentation, content, teamwork and sanitation. There were 2 awards, Best Dish and Best Team Overall. There was a tie for winning dish: a Fig Crostata with Basil Ice Cream from the Pizza Team and a Grilled Fig Pizza with Raspberry Sauce, Mascarpone, Fresh Mint and Caramel Sauce from the Grilling Team.

The winner: fig crostata with basil ice cream

The Best Team Overall was the Pizza Team and they prepared the Crostata mentioned above, Pizza Poppers with mushrooms, pepperoni, and a fig dipping sauce, and a Fig, Blue Cheese and Caramelized Onion Pizza with Arugula. If I hadn’t been watching these kids make all the dishes, I would never have believed that this food was made by 10 to 15 year olds!

The idea of 200 young teens in one place at one time can be a scary one, but these kids were incredibly poised and dedicated. They were so proud of what they accomplished (win or lose) and I was so proud of them. Karla Lacey Minors, who runs Jr. Chef Central, is amazing and so is her program.

Jill Novatt, Executive Culinary Producer

Breaking the Fast with Food Network

by in View All Posts, October 10th, 2008

Food Network’s Executive Chef Rob Bleifer serving up shrimp and grits at Chelsea Market After Dark kickoff event.

Breaking fast is a tradition after fasting for the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur. It consists of a light meal of bagels, spreads and smoked fish.

Well, last night I changed it up. The first ever Food Network New York City Wine and Food Festival kicked off last night, and what a kickoff it was. It started at 7pm sharp up in the Food Network studios with a VIP party. Everywhere you looked there were Food Network faces, the Neelys, Nigella, Anne Burrell, it goes on and on.

Let’s get to the food: didn’t see any bagels or spreads around the room. What I did see was amazing food that the Food Network Kitchens put out. Upside down lobster pot pie, mouthwatering pate, falafel bites, crusted lamb with fig mostarda, and house-cured smoked salmon (OK, so there was some smoked fish). The night continued downstairs with Chelsea Market After Dark, where we put out some shrimp and grits and tender duck confit.

The festival continues all weekend and it’s going to rock. Anyone going to the festival? Let us know what you thought. I have to say, it was definitely a good way to break the fast.

Dave Mechlowicz, Culinary Purchasing Manager

My Favorite Dish …

by in View All Posts, October 9th, 2008

One of you asked if I cooked.  Yep. Many times a week.  Below is my all time favorite dish for friends and family.

Saturday night dinner parties carry high expectations.  My week is stressful enough.  So I go for very casual Sunday night “family” dinners.   No candles, no tablecloths, no fancy centerpieces.  Guests bring cheese or hummus. I pop open a Shiraz or Malbec, never more than $15. Tumblers, not wine glasses.  If I can’t prepare the dish in advance, I ain’t making it.

Below is a stuffed pork recipe I adapted from a week’s cooking vacation I took in Amalfi, Italy at the beautiful  Luna Convento Hotel.  The chef who taught it was the charming Enrico Francese.  I heartily recommend Amalfi, the hotel and the dish.

Neapolitan Stuffed Pork (Braciola alla Napoletana)

Recipe courtesy Bob Tuschman


1 (2 to 3 pound) boneless pork loin

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup grated Parmesan

1/4 cup pine nuts

1/4 cup raisins

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 cup white wine

1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes

1 bay leaf

Red pepper flakes, if desired


Take pork loin and lay lengthwise on a cutting board. Slice parallel to the cutting board, down the center of the loin, but only cutting about 3/4 of the way through, so as to open the loin up, like a book. Repeat process with each side of the loin, so as to open each side even further. You want a large flat surface to lay out the ingredients and then roll up.


Season the inside of the pork loin with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Sprinkle Parmesan, pine nuts, raisins, chopped garlic, and chopped parsley on top of the meat. Roll the pork loin up, like a jelly roll, making sure to keep contents inside. Tie the roll with kitchen twine, once lengthwise, and a couple times around the sides. This will keep the roll intact while cooking. Season the roast with salt.


In a large high-sided saute pan over medium-high heat, add oil and heat until almost smoking. Sear all sides of pork loin, including ends, until completely browned. Remove to plate. Lower heat slightly and add onion, cooking until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, until the paste starts to bubble, about 2 minutes. Add white wine, and using a wooden spoon, scrape up bits from the bottom of the pan. Cook for a few minutes to let the wine reduce slightly. Crush the tomatoes with your hands and add to the pan. Stir in the bay leaf and red pepper flakes, if using. Return pork loin to the pan and bring to a simmer. Cover and let simmer for about 1 1/2 hours.


Remove pork loin from the sauce and let rest for a few minutes. Season the sauce, to taste, with salt and pepper. The sauce will have reduced by half. Slice loin into 1/2-inch slices and plate. Spoon the sauce over the slices. Serve the remaining sauce alongside.


Yield: 6 servings

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cook time: 2 hours 20 minutes

Ease of preparation: Intermediate



Ratings …

by in View All Posts, October 7th, 2008

First, thanks for all your posts.  I promise you, I read every single one.  As you can see, we have incredibly smart, passionate viewers. Who passionately disagree.  That’s inevitible when you have the large, diverse viewership we do.  Here’s a question that has come up a lot:

“How do you know what viewers like? How do you measure a ‘highly rated’ show?”:   

Like all networks, we use ratings provided by Nielsen.  They represent the 97 million U.S. homes that get Food Network and measure on a minute-by-minute basis how many viewers are watching each program on our schedule.  But we also supplement this with constant research by talking to our audience all across America.  Additionally, we read every one of the more than 20,000 viewer e-mails and letters that come in each month. 

You can imagine the broad range of interests, cooking levels, likes & dislikes of this incredibly diverse audience.  So we’re using every means at our disposal to make sure that we offer a wide range of programming that serves as many different sectors of our audience as possible.


Peanut Butter & Jelly All Grown Up

by in View All Posts, October 6th, 2008

Some special clients were coming in for a lunch and I wanted a really special dessert. For an event last fall, I made a peanut butter ice cream with a homemade concord grape jelly swirl, but this time I wanted a plated dessert rather than just a scoop.

I was discussing with Miriam, our Sous Chef, and Anthony, a freelance cook, and their ideas immediately made me think about using a classic Kentucky jam cake as the base, putting more grape jelly on top, then topping it all off with peanut butter ice cream. When testing the cake recipe, we didn’t have enough grape jelly, so I had to use fig preserves, which made the most incredible cake.

Some Syrah wine grapes were available in the market and they made the best grape jelly we had ever tasted. The dessert came together with some toasted peanuts and a sprinkle of flaked sea salt. Not a crumb was left on the plates!

Peanut butter & jelly — who knew it could be a decadent dessert for grown-ups?

Recipe Developer Sarah Copeland taste testing

Rob Bleifer, Executive Chef

Meet Chef Jeff

by in View All Posts, View Video Only, October 5th, 2008

Food Network’s newest star talks to The FN Dish about working with six at-risk youths for his new show, The Chef Jeff Project.

In Our Studios …

by in View All Posts, October 4th, 2008

On the top floor of our offices at Chelsea Market are a series of state of the art kitchens where recipes are constantly developed, tested and prepared for shows, as well as our two studios. It’s here we shoot Iron Chef America, 30 Minute Meals, Guy’s Big Bite, Tyler’s Ultimate, Cooking for Real, The Next Food Network Star, Ultimate Recipe Showdown, Essence of Emeril and Secrets of a Restaurant Chef.

We just finished taping Season 2 of Ultimate Recipe Showdown : 24 of America’s top home cooks compete to cook the ultimate recipes in 6 different categories. Guy Fieri hosts, and it’s always a kick to have Guy in the house.  Bonus question, did you happen to see Guy sitting in the audience (front row, natch) of the season premiere of Saturday Night Live ? That shock of blond spikes rising from his head is unmistakable. (Ultimate Recipe Showdown premieres Sun,  January 4th).

Speaking of Guy, have you caught Guy Off The Hook? It’s a new show on Sundays at 1:30pm ET/12:30 CT.  Guy has wanted to do an audience show since he started on air.  In fact, the show he pitched when he won The Next Food Network Star was called “Off the Hook”.  (But we changed it to “Guy’s Big Bite”)  Last February, I sat in the audience at the Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival and watched Guy as he tore up the house — a funny, electrifying, interactive cooking demo in front of hundreds of fans.  I knew then he was ready. We taped a first season of 6 eps to test out the concept, so let me know what you think.

That’s it from where I sit.  I’ll answer more of your questions shortly.


Check out this blog …

by in View All Posts, October 2nd, 2008

I read just about every day.  Jacob Strauss, the creator, is a wickedly funny and perceptive critic of the network.  The guy often skewers us.  And me.  But even when he’s at his most merciless, most times he makes me laugh out loud.  And occasionally his criticism really hits home.  Check it out.