• Baking
  • Old-School Italian Comfort from Josh Cellars and Chef Ken Vedrinski

    Chef KenSunday sauce is the ultimate family meal, and Chef Ken Vedrinski makes a killer version. He’s the chef of Trattoria Lucca and Coda del Pesce in Charleston, South Carolina, but he grew up in the kitchen alongside his grandma, who prepared fresh and soulful food from her native Italy. She gathered family and friends around the table for her slow-simmered, meaty pasta sauce and glasses of red wine. Through those meals, she taught Ken how good food and good wine bring people together.

    Ken recently teamed up with Joseph Carr, the founder of Josh Cellars, to celebrate the spirit of Sunday suppers. Like Ken, Joseph grew up in a family that cherished time together at the table. When Joseph tasted Ken’s comforting San Marzano Tomato Sugo with Chicken Polpettini and Pincenelle Pasta, he poured Josh Cellars pinot noir to make the whole meal even better. The wine’s hints of oak and cherry perfectly complement the subtle sweetness of Ken’s saucy pasta.

    Long before crafting award-winning dishes and pairing them with great wines, Ken went to culinary school and trained at world-class restaurants. His Charleston restaurants have been heralded as among the best in the city, and he’s a three-time semifinalist for the James Beard Award for Best Chef Southeast. But he never forgot his Italian roots. His homegrown passion for food and its power to bring people joy is what inspired Ken to pursue a culinary career and now defines his professional cooking. When he opened his own restaurant, he brought along his grandma’s little green recipe box. In it he finds inspiration for dishes that warm your body and soul.

    This dish of saucy little meatballs with homemade pasta does exactly that. Starting with caramelized onion and garlic, the sugo takes on a deep red color and rich intensity from slowly simmered crushed Italian tomatoes. Ken then stirs in a surprising secret ingredient handed down from his grandma: orange juice! In his modern spin, he uses blood orange concentrate. Not only does it have a more complex citrus sweet-tartness, but it also deepens the brick-red color of the sauce. It brings a lively bright note, perfect for pairing with Josh Cellar’s pinot noir.

    To make that tomato sauce even tastier, Ken tosses in chicken-and-pork meatballs. Tender with milk-soaked bread, the meatballs get a hit of spice from fennel and chile and freshness from parsley and oregano. That big pot of comfort gets spooned over pillows of homemade pasta.

    Ken shows us just how easy it is to make pasta by hand. He simply mixes flour with milk, ricotta and egg to create a gnocchi-like dough. After a little rest, the dough gets rolled into a rope, then cut into pieces. The hands-on cooking process is as satisfying as the end result. The light-as-air pasta makes the tomato-slathered meatballs even more delicious and comforting. The mellow creaminess of the ricotta in the pasta gets a savory punch from pecorino cheese in the meatballs and Parmigiano-Reggiano in the sauce and sprinkled over top. Eaten all together, it’s an immensely satisfying spin on classic Sunday sauce.

    As with the homemade sauce and pasta, great ingredients make for great wine. Josh Cellars pinot noir is sourced from the Central Coast of California, where cool ocean breezes ensure a long growing season, giving the grapes a chance to develop rich complexity. After years as a world-class sommelier, Joseph knew this well-balanced, elegant wine was one he wanted to pursue — and enjoy with delicious food.

    That wine came from years of careful crafting, but it started with Joseph’s dream of honoring his dad through his wine. In the same way, Ken cooks with the soul of a grandma — his grandma — even after decades of culinary training and a slew of accolades. That’s what makes this the ideal dish for everything from a weeknight family dinner to a weekend party with friends. All you need to make the meal complete is a glass (or two or three) of red wine and the people you love around the table.

    This article was originally posted on the Food Network and can be found here!

  • Baking
  • Chefs’ Picks: St. Patrick’s Day

    Fish and Chips
    As the saying goes, “On St. Patrick’s Day, everyone’s Irish.” This international holiday, which honors the patron saint of Ireland, provides the perfect excuse for everyone (whether actually Irish or not) to drink, eat and be merry. Get into the spirit with these chefs, who share their favorite spots to score Irish pub classics.

    Fish & Chips
    Fries and battered fillets are a popular pick for many pros. “I love St. Patrick’s Day!,” says Chef Nicolas Lebas of Castile Restaurant in St. Pete Beach, Florida. “Being from France, I didn’t grow up celebrating the holiday but I love everything about it.” When it’s time to indulge in a classic from Ireland’s culinary canon, Lebas especially loves fish and chips. His go-to spot to satisfy a fried fish and potato craving is MadFish, also located in St. Pete Beach. For Lebas, the allure of MadFish’s version is its “great beer batter and tasty cod.”

    Executive Chef Adrienne Grenier of 3030 Ocean in Fort Lauderdale doesn’t limit her fish-and-chips fandom to March. She regularly swings by her local pub, Waxy O’Connors, for fish and chips — preferably doused in malt vinegar — on her way home from work. “The beer-battered fish is perfectly golden and I love the thick-cut chips,” says Grenier. “I’m also a malt vinegar fiend, so it’s the perfect combination.”

    For Chef Brett Sparman of Coastal Provisions on South Carolina’s Isle of Palms, a plate of fish and chips conjures fond memories from his student days. When in college, Sparman (who is a huge fan of Irish pubs) spent many a night at Casey Moore’s in Tempe, Arizona, drinking beers while filling up on fish and chips, as well as raw oysters. “Always the best bartenders,” says Sparman. “It was a true meeting place for the neighborhood, you always could find a familiar face there. One of my old roommates was the chef there, as well.”

    Fry up the Irish favorite with this recipe for fish and chips from Tyler Florence.

    Curry Fries with Bacon and Feta
    Irish Curry Fries
    Damien Del Rio (co-founder of Brooklyn’s Loosie Rouge and Loosie’s Kitchen) also loves the personal nostalgia of Irish pubs, particularly for beer paired with good bar snacks. His favorite combination is a pint of Guinness matched with a big, crisp batch of Irish Curry Fries at Playwright Restaurant in Manhattan’s Theater District. “Every so often, I do get a craving for a pint of Guinness and those salty chips covered in a sweet and savory curry sauce,” says Del Rio. “It just brings me back to my college days.”

    Make your own sauce-soaked fries like this bacon-studded spin on the dish from Robert Irvine.

    Corned Beef and Cabbage
    Corned Beef & Cabbage
    For Chef Marcel Vigneron, the connection to Irish cooking runs deep. “My mom’s side is Irish, so this type of food is a favorite of mine,” says Vigneron, who is the owner of WOLF and Beefsteak in Los Angeles. His mother routinely makes corned beef and cabbage, and has since he was a kid. Vigneron describes her version of the dish as “super traditional; [she] brines and braises the brisket and the cabbage is fresh. She blanches and melts butter into it. It’s so good.”

    Cook up the Emerald Isle classic with this recipe for corned beef and cabbage from Tyler Florence.

    This article was originally posted on the Food Network and can be found here!

  • Baking
  • Meat and Potatoes, Perfected: Best Shepherd’s Pie Recipes

    When it comes to the “meat-and-potatoes” of comfort food, there’s one dish we think puts it together the best: Shepherd’s pie. With a juicy ground meat filling and a topping of fluffy mashed potatoes, it’s a dish more than 160 years in the making and an all-in-one meal that’s all at once simple and satisfying. Here are some of our favorite ways to make this classic dish.

    Shepherd’s Pie

    Though it closely resembles a traditional recipe for shepherd’s pie, Food Network Magazine’s dish includes smoked bacon for an extra burst of umami. For the mashed topping, the recipe adds turnips for a depth of earthy flavor.

    Lamb Shepherd’s Pie

    Though we think of a shepherd’s pie as having any meaty filling, lamb is the traditional meat of choice for the English – a dish with a beef-based filling is referred to as cottage pie. Valerie Bertinelli’s take on the dish adds an herbaceous quality by infusing the saucy filling with bay leaf, mint and sage.

    Beef and Lamb Shepherd’s Pie

    Combine the two traditional meaty bases with a filling that’s half-beef, half-lamb and all amazing. The filling is cooked with a healthy dose of Irish stout because (as we’ve mentioned in the past) beer belongs in your food as much as it does in your glass.

    Porter and Vegetable Shepherd’s Pie

    Beer makes another appearance with Damaris Phillips’ recipe for Porter and Vegetable Shepherd’s Pie. She also spices and brightens up the mashed potato topping with pepper Jack cheese, cream cheese and sour cream.

    Light Shepherd’s Pie

    If you want to tone down the stick-to-your-ribs quality of the dish, use lean ground turkey and lean ground beef.

    Spicy Shepherd’s Pie with Chorizo

    Chorizo might not have been at hand for the dish a century ago, but it is now. Add fun flavor to the dish with some spicy sausage in the ground beef filling.

    This article was originally posted on the Food Network and can be found here!

  • Baking
  • What to Watch: Time-Saving Tips and the Premieres of Triple G: Supermarket Masters and Spring Baking Championship

    Spring Baking Championship

    Before your clocks spring ahead, spend this weekend with some of your favorite Food Network chefs who are sharing their recipes for easy, time-saving and make-ahead meals. On Saturday morning, Ree Drummond is whipping up a make-ahead dinner centered around her rich and savory Shepherd’s Pie. Then, the co-hosts on The Kitchen are sharing their best time-saving tips and tricks in the kitchen. And Valerie Bertinelli makes a menu packed with the tastes of Chicago.

    On Sunday evening, it’s the first of a five-part tournament where past Triple G winners are back to take a second stab at the games of Flavortown Market. Then, it’s the two-episode premiere of Spring Baking Championship where some of the best bakers in America are tasked with making desserts inspired by Easter treats and spring vacations.

    Shepherd's Pie
    The Pioneer Woman: Dinner’s All Done – Saturday, March. 11 at 10a|9c
    Ree’s driving to town, but dinner’s all ready to go when she gets home. There’s a great Shepherd’s Pie (pictured) made from a hearty beef stew with beer and paprika, covered in a thick layer of horseradish mashed potatoes. To serve on the side, there’s a kit for Roasted Carrots with Vinaigrette, and for dessert, a stunning Raspberry Cream Pie.
    Easy Mushroom Peas and Pasta
    The Kitchen: Easy Does It – Saturday, March. 11 at 11a|10c
    The Kitchen is sharing tips and tricks to save time in the kitchen, starting with Geoffrey Zakarian’s simple Salmon and Vegetable “Stir-Fry Cheat Sheet.” Then, the hosts test kitchen tools to see if they really save you time. Chef Jordan Andino stops by to share his easy, flavor-packed Chicken Adobo Tacos. Plus, there’s Sunny Anderson’s Easy Mushroom, Peas and Pasta with 1-2-3 Alfredo Sauce (pictured) , Katie Lee’s Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Bread using boxed cake mix, and Jeff Mauro’s Banana Bread Biscotti.
    Deep-Dish Sausage Pizza
    Valerie’s Home Cooking: My Kind of Town: Chicago – Saturday, March. 11 at 12|11c
    One of Valerie’s good friends is a recent Chicago transplant, living in Los Angeles but always extolling the virtues of his hometown eats. She invites him and another recent transplant over for a taste of their hometown, including Deep-Dish Sausage Pizza (pictured), Cheese and Caramel Popcorn, an Italian Pizzeria Salad and Chocolate Hazelnut Pull-Apart Bread.
    Guy's Grocery Games
    Guy’s Grocery Games: Supermarket Masters Tournament: Part 1 – Sunday, March. 12 at 9|10c
    Sixteen chefs who have mastered and won Guy’s Grocery Games are back to compete in an epic five-week event: the Supermarket Masters Tournament. Four amazing GGG winners kick things off by making an upscale dinner that turns into an uphill battle when they discover the ingredients have to start with the same letter. Next, making a tricked-out pizza turns even trickier when Guy Fieri gives them a $12 budget. Then, the final two chefs have to serve up Asian takeout that includes high-priced and low-priced items chosen by a wheel of chance.
    Spring Baking Championship
    Spring Baking Championship: Easter Treats – Sunday, March. 11 10|9c
    Nine of the best bakers in America embrace the spirit of the Spring Baking season by creating Easter egg desserts and bunny cakes.

    Spring Baking Championship: Sweet Vacations – Sunday, March. 11 at 11|10c
    For the eight remaining bakers, spring vacations inspire tropical desserts and destination doughnuts based on locations such as a poolside resort, a spring cruise and a Vegas getaway.

    This article was originally posted on the Food Network and can be found here!

  • Baking
  • Monti Carlo to Boost Restaurants’ Online Reputations on New Series Help My Yelp

    Monti CarloIf you’ve ever found yourself scouring the web for the latest reviews of a new restaurant in town — and deciding to either book or cancel a reservation because of what you found — then you know firsthand the importance of positive reputations online. On sites like Yelp, restaurant guests can post their thoughts about service, ambiance and, of course, food, leaving potential customers able to make future dining decisions based on what they’ve read. So it’s no wonder that it’s in an eatery’s best interest to do what they can to boost their favorability online. And for some struggling businesses, Monti Carlo is just what’s needed to bring them back into good standing.

    On the all-new series Help My Yelp, premiering Monday, April 10 at 10|9c, Monti will work with chefs and business owners to overhaul their poor practices, given the feedback they receive from members of Yelp’s Elite Squad that have secretly visited their restaurants. The recommendations, critiques and ideas from those anonymous visitors, plus the behind-the-scenes antics that Monti sees on hidden cameras, will ultimately influence what Monti does to help set up the businesses for success. As a chef and restaurant consultant, she knows the inner workings of the industry, so she’ll be able to troubleshoot problems, ease tensions and offer concrete solutions on the spot — which will be crucial to do before a fresh batch of Yelp Elite Squad members stops by, ready to evaluate the business.

    Mark your calendars for the premiere of Help My Yelp on Monday, April 10 at 10|9c.

    This article was originally posted on the Food Network and can be found here!

  • Baking
  • Now You Can Run a Bar Tab Without Handing Over Your Credit Card

    Now You Can Run a Bar Tab Without Handing Over Your Credit CardRaise your hand if this has ever happened to you: You’ve opened a tab at a bar and had a few drinks with friends, only to realize, after you’ve responsibly made your way home, that, in your post-cocktail haze, you’ve left your credit card or ID with the bartender and have to find your way back to the bar to claim it. Bummer. Or, how about this: At the end of the night, you’re looking to settle up your tab with the bartender, but the bar is so packed with other revelers that you can barely get near it, let alone catch the bartender’s eye. (I, personally, seem to don some sort of cloak of invisibility every time I get near a bar. What is that about?)

    Mastercard has just come up with something to solve both of those problems. “Open Tab,” a new feature on the company’s mobile order and payment platform, Qkr! With Masterpass, lets you to open a tab at a bar, club or restaurant without having to hand over your credit card or ID. (Qkr! With Masterpass, in use in several countries around the world, is expanding to the United States this year.)

    Open Tab, which is due out this summer, also allows you monitor your tab (no surprises at the end of the night) and close it out when you’re ready to roll, paying via your mobile device. No need to spend forever trying to get the bartender’s attention when you’d rather be on your way home. (“Research shows that diners often have to wait as long as 12 minutes to flag a server, receive the bill and make a payment,” Mastercard notes in a press release, though that estimate may sound somewhat low to some of us.)

    And, bonus: Open Tab makes it easy to split the bill or pay for specific items or rounds of drinks — all good for maintaining harmony with your friends.

    The new feature is part of functionality that, according to Betty DeVita, Mastercard’s chief commercial officer for digital payments and labs, aims to offer a “frictionless retail experience.”

    Photo: iStock

    This article was originally posted on the Food Network and can be found here!

  • Baking
  • Q&A With Rebecca Scritchfield, Author of Body Kindness

    Visit any bookstore and you will be bombarded with cookbooks and diet books that promise weight loss results in no time flat. But the author of Body Kindness, Rebecca Scritchfield, MA, RDN, HFS, is trying to change all of that with one simple concept: being kind to your body. In her new book, Body Kindness, Scritchfield urges people to ditch the crazy fad diets and treat their body with the love and respect it deserves. I was lucky enough to chat with the author and dietitian, and to get the inside scoop about her new book and the message of body kindness.

     

    What prompted you to write Body Kindness?

    I can trace it all the way back to being a teenager and reading the glossy magazines about how to look good in a bikini. I developed a mindset that you congratulate yourself for the foods you don’t eat and the way you look. For most of my life, I believed that health was about being in the best shape of your life and keeping a low weight.

    I genuinely became a dietitian because I wanted to help people get healthy. Deep down, I always thought that was about weight loss. When I had my clients on my weight loss program, it reminded me of my own experience growing up. We would congratulate when pounds were lost, but they weren’t learning how to make better choices or take care of their bodies. I got frustrated because I wasn’t really helping develop long-lasting habits. When I had the opportunity to write a book, I wanted to focus on relinquishing the idea of trying to control your body and adopting what you can control — your habits.

     

    The part of the book that resonated the most with me is that “bad feelings are good for you.” How will this book teach people that all feelings have a purpose?

    When we feel negative emotion, it gives a signal that we are not safe. We kick into this running mechanism and we don’t want to feel it. When we don’t embrace negative emotions, we implement some way of avoiding them. Some people will numb their pain by comfort eating. But all emotions are there to tell you that you care about something. If you see that negative emotion as a sign that this is something that needs more attention to resolve, then you don’t need to run away from that emotion. You can now engage your rational brain and tolerate that negative emotion. Just breathe a little bit, let the feeling linger and then remove it.

     

    I love that Body Kindness shares actionable strategies for combatting emotional eating. Can you share some of those tactics with Healthy Eats readers?

    Emotional eating is a behavior that we learn. We teach ourselves that this is something that will make us feel better and it actually does work, in a sense. When we feel these intense emotions, we crave carbs because they create serotonin that helps you relax. It’s a tough situation because carbs give this release that we seek. But in the long term, it doesn’t work because we beat ourselves up the next day.

    The number one way to combat emotional eating is to be aware of the behavior. This means understanding that it’s a learned behavior and you can unlearn it. The second you become aware, you are acknowledging that it’s not real hunger and setting yourself up with another choice.

    When you feel emotional eating coming on, start with 5 minutes of deep breathing. Our breath is one of the reactions we can control, and it lowers our heart rate and blood pressure. If the breathing doesn’t work, do something else like looking at photos of people you care about. I love this tactic because it reinforces why you want to be kind to your body. Or, try doing anything with your hands, like knitting or sudoku. Sit with that urge without giving in.

     

    How does the concept of body kindness fit into a culture where 2 in 3 adults are considered overweight or obese?

    The one thing we know not to do is to diet and follow something that isn’t workable for the rest of your life. Diet is associated with depression and weight gain, and it’s a societal sickness that we overemphasize the weight rather than emphasizing the behavior. I advise the focus and attention goes to habits rather than weight loss. If you get better sleep and exercise regularly, you may notice that you are losing weight because you are taking better care of your body. If you improve your eating habits, you’re going to be much more likely to reduce your disease risk and your body may respond with weight loss. I suggest reducing the importance of weight loss and focus on creating behavioral patterns that are in line with someone who cares about their health.

     

    Natalie Rizzo, M.S., R.D., is a media dietitian, food and nutrition writer, spokesperson and blogger at Nutrition à la Natalie.

    *This article was written and/or reviewed by an independent registered dietitian nutritionist.

    This article was originally posted on the Food Network and can be found here!

  • Baking
  • Gwyneth Paltrow’s Organic Cafe Will Have a Room Dedicated to Selfies

    Gwyneth Paltrow’s Organic Cafe Will Have a Room Dedicated to SelfiesGwyneth Paltrow is expanding her empire and making it easier for the world to follow her food lead. The actress-turned-food-writer and healthy-lifestyle advocate is opening an organic cafe in New York, the next iteration in an endeavor that began in 2015 as a summer-in-the-Hamptons pop-up health-food purveyor.

    Set to open in March adjacent to Paltrow pal and celebrity fitness trainer Tracy Anderson’s new private fitness studio — where membership will run you $900 a month, not to mention the $1,500 initiation fee — the new eatery, 3 Green Hearts, will offer coffee, juices, smoothies and healthy prepared meals. (The third member of the green-heart trio is Tracy Anderson CEO Maria Baum.)

    And while fitness club members will get a discount on food (which they will either really need after shelling out that kind of dough to work out or, more likely, not need at all), the cafe is open to the public at large. There will also be a meal-delivery service offering, according to a press release, “healthy, fresh and organic” foods “with weight loss and weight management plans available.”

    What’s more, the new eatery, which is located on 59th Street in New York City and is an expanded version of a lower-key downtown location, will include not only a full kitchen, but also a “theater room” dedicated to before- and after-workout social-media selfie-sharing.

    Why is that not surprising?

    Also not surprising: the snarkiness with which the media has received news of this latest Paltrow project.

    Finally, a restaurant for people who want celebrity-curated health food served adjacent to a private $900-a-month fitness studio,” faux-gushed local news source amNewYork.

    Eater, meanwhile, characterized the cafe’s fare as “militantly healthy.” However, the site declined to note, as it did in a previous post about Paltrow’s “joyless new health food line,” that 3 Green Hearts’ gluten-free, soy-free, dairy-free, nut-free and egg-free cookies are “essentially made of air and the tears of disappointed children.”

    Put that in your smoothie …

    Photo: Getty Images, Axelle/Bauer-Griffin / Contributor

    This article was originally posted on the Food Network and can be found here!

  • Baking
  • Exclusive Interview with the Season 10 Winner of Worst Cooks in America

    Ann, Rachael, Anne and Daniel at the finale.It’s hard to believe that 10 weeks ago, 16 terrible cooks entered Worst Cooks Boot Camp, and now the two recruits who’ve excelled the most made it all the way to the finale to cook it out for $25,000. The Red Team’s Daniel and the Blue Team’s Ann came into the competition clueless about techniques and lacked any skill necessary to remotely pull off an edible meal. Remember Daniel’s frugal frittata that he overdosed on garlic powder and saffron, or Ann’s less-than desirable chicken breast with rice and tomato sauce? It’s better to forget!

    In this last cooking challenge, the two recruits had the opportunity to show off all that they’ve learned for a panel of three culinary experts. The judges tasted both Ann’s and Daniel’s three courses before picking a winner, the one cook who served the best meal overall. Hear from the winning recruit and find out which mentor earned the glory and bragging rights.

    Daniel picks up Anne after finding out he won.Daniel impressed the judges the most with his three-course meal, shedding his Worst Cooks title, and earning $25,000, a well-deserved prize for lasting through 10 weeks of Boot Camp with one of the toughest mentors, Anne. And for the Red Team’s coach, it means a seventh win. Hear what Daniel had to say just moments after winning the 10th season of the show.

    Daniel cooking for the first time in Boot Camp.When you started this whole competition, did you ever think you’d make it this far?
    Daniel Mar: No. Well, you know what, here’s the thing. I do know myself, and I can be competitive, especially if it’s something that I decide to take on, but I thought I would go far, but no one really ever thinks that they’ll go all the way, because it’s one in 16, so I was like, “Ah OK, maybe middle at least,” because I’m a relatively intelligent guy — I think at least.

    Why did you decide to sign up for Worst Cooks? What were you hoping to get out of this competition?
    DM: I really do love food. I do watch Food Network, so I’ve seen Anne Burrell before, but I never knew how to cook. As someone who really loves food and actually has a pretty decent palate — I understand foods and how food should taste — but I don’t understand how to cook it. You know, I get busy, and you just go out and eat whether it’s really low-end junk food all the way to nicer restaurants. I run the gamut as far as the type of foods that I eat, but I don’t know how to cook them. So, I was, like, you know what, I think I should do this so I could actually learn, and I’ve learned so much in this competition. It was out of control. One of the biggest things that no one will ever think about when you think about what would it take, other than the knowledge, to be a very successful cook is really sharp knives. I have the crappy little one-dollar store knives. So, really sharp knives, believe it or not, that’s what I’ve learned.

    Anne looks on proudly as Daniel plates his dishes.What was it like having Anne Burrell as your mentor, and what would you say was the number one takeaway working with her?
    DM: I love the way Chef Anne teaches, because she’s clean, concise, she’s straight to the point. All the information that she provides answers all the questions, so if you ever notice me when I do a demo, I’ve never asked one question before — not even once, because I just look and observe. Everything else is just logical, there’s nothing that’s left for the imagination. … I’m 35 years old, you can kind of figure things out. … But, I love the way Chef Anne teaches. It’s clear and concise, and it gives you the information that you need. Nothing else. She doesn’t go off on a tangent or anything. She’s great.

    You were in the top and the bottom many times. How would you characterize that emotional roller coaster of never knowing where you’d end up?
    DM: Especially the first time being in a cooking competition or any competition like this at all, it’s a new experience, so I didn’t understand, maybe it’s something that’s normal, but I was just glad that I was able to stay here and continue to learn. Sometimes when I was in the bottom I didn’t quite agree for the reason why I was in the bottom, but I’m glad I made it this far and won it.

    Anne critiques Daniel's dish.A bunch of times Anne called you out for phoning it in or not taking her directions seriously, just taking them as suggestions. When did you begin to realize that you have to work really hard to impress her?
    DM: There were a few times when Anne said I phoned it in, and right now I do disagree with that. I thought I was being clever. I was trying to use the knowledge and apply the knowledge that I’ve learned during Boot Camp into a new dish, so I didn’t think I was phoning it in, but I could see from someone else’s perspective how they could see that. But in my mind, I thought it was just like, “Wow I’m learning, I’m using your knowledge and doing that.” … I compartmentalize the way I do things, so I can’t say I didn’t follow directions. But you know what, at the end she wanted me to do certain things that she was yelling at me. I’m like, “You know what? I want to win $25,000, I’m just going to listen to her and not even argue.”

    Anne talks through the menu with DanielHow did your practice cook go the day before the finale? Did you get everything you wanted to get done? How were you feeling?
    DM: The practice cook that we had the other day was overwhelming. There was so much information. I’m a visual person. Most of the cooks, if you see most of the challenges that I’ve done before, I don’t even have to look at my cookbook, because I look at it during our break, I just visualize it and I just run it over and over again in my head, and then when I go there, I just kind of — boom. During the time, I just go in a Zen mode, and I think about all the equipment I’m going to get, so that’s why when I start the competition I just go straight and grab everything instead of being all frazzled. But this was a lot, so I’m glad that I had a full day to really go through it.

    Anne didn’t have you take any notes in the practice cook, she just ran through things with you. Were you comfortable doing that? In the past I think she called you out for being too methodical. Did it make you anxious at all or were you happy to be free of any sort of written guide?
    DM: Chef Anne reassured me that she’d run it through me. At this point in time, after week 10, she understands how I work, so she knows I’m a visual learner, so we just did hands on, and basically I was just giving myself a demo, and after that we had a brief little break, and we ran through the items that I had to create, and that was the perfect way for me to recreate it today. Obviously we won, so it worked.

    Daniel and Ann cook in the thick of the final challenge.Were you nervous at all this morning, going into the final cook?
    DM: Ann and myself — I can speak for Ann as well. We were both nervous, because it’s a lot of content to remember, and we’re cooking in a brand-new environment. We’re unfamiliar with the tools and the set-up and everything, but that’s the reason why we’re culminating this final challenge in a new place, because we need to be able to apply all our skills in a new environment … . So I think it’s still learning, we’re still continuing to learn. So if there were more weeks of Boot Camp, I’m sure we would learn even more.

    Daniel and Anne pose as winners.Does it feel like you’re no longer a worst cook? What does it feel in this moment to win, and will you be cooking more?
    DM: Definitely not a worst cook anymore. In fact, according to the culinary panelists, our meals — of competitor Ann and myself — they were restaurant-worthy, not even just regular restaurants, finer dining restaurants, as good if not better than most. … I’m sure we could apply those skills at home. Of course [I’m going to] buy a new set of knives, which is important, maybe some pans, too, and definitely I will be cooking more at home.

    Anne mentors her Red Team.How would you sum up this entire experience of being here with these other competitors, just the whole competition?
    DM: This whole experience was amazing. I’m always going to remember it unless I get Alzheimer’s — hopefully that doesn’t happen. But, I’ve never had roommates before … and I had 15 roommates. It’s crazy, and I’m a grown adult having people take care of me. It’s insane. And also learning how to cook, learning how to properly do it, you do [have], just like Chef Anne says, those lightbulb moments. Like I said, I do eat out a lot. You go to restaurants and you see these weird cuts, the shape of that vegetable is round, how do you get it like that? And it’s one of those ah-ha moments … .

    Everyone toasts to Daniel's win.What does it mean for you to win the prize money, and what do you plan to do with it?
    DM: Right now, the prize money, it’s awesome. It has not sunk in yet. It’s going to take a couple days. Right now I’m actually more happy that I actually won, because it’s a pride thing, but once the money thing, once it sets in, I’m sure I’m going to be ecstatic about it. But with the money I am going to go on an international trip. I deserve a nice trip, probably eat some awesome cuisine. I’m not sure where I want to go. I might actually, because my mom — love her to death — she hasn’t been back [to China] since she’s been to the United States, so I might take her to Hong Kong with my girlfriend. We might go there and do that, or I’ll think about going to Croatia, because it’s right next to Italy, around the Mediterranean. … So, maybe somewhere like that. So, I’m not sure yet, but I’m definitely going to go on a trip. Oh, and also most of the money is going to investment caps — I run my own stocks.

    This article was originally posted on the Food Network and can be found here!

  • Baking
  • POLL: How Do You Chill Out?

    Iced TeaWith the first day of spring only a few weeks away, Food Network Magazine editors have their taste buds focused on drinks piled high with cold ice cubes. And with so many opinions about exactly how to use ice in beverages, the editors want your thoughts. Do you dare put ice in a glass of red wine? How many cubes go into your morning iced coffee? You’ll find these questions and more in the poll, below. When you’re done, be sure to pick up a summer issue to see how your answers stack up against the rest of America.

    This article was originally posted on the Food Network and can be found here!