TV Dinner

Monday, October 6, 2014

Nashville's Mindy Merrell, The Cheater Chef, To Compete on Chopped

Posted By on Mon, Oct 6, 2014 at 8:34 AM

Mindy Merrell
  • Mindy Merrell
In my recent recap of upcoming appearances on national cooking shows by local chefs, I missed one. Mindy Merrell, notable cookbook author and food writer at The Cheater Chef along with R.B. Quinn, will be appearing on the Oct. 21 episode of Chopped premiering at 9 p.m. Merrell also has written the Cheater Chef "Deconstructing the Dish" monthly recipe column in the Scene's sister publication Nfocus since 2008. The self-professed "middle-aged mother, cookbook author, recipe developer, home ec major, who slung the best burgers and popcorn in Green Hills" will also be a part of the upcoming Farmhand Dinner at the Nashville Farmers' Market on Thursday, Oct. 23, at 6:30 p.m. if you'd like to try out some of her food in person.

Here's the official preview of her episode from Food Network:

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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Nashville is All Over the Cooking Channel in the Next Couple Months

Posted By on Tue, Sep 30, 2014 at 7:27 AM

Y'all certainly are a telegenic bunch of food professionals, because Nashvillians star in a host of upcoming shows on the Cooking Channel over the next two months. It's time to set your DVR to record, because I'll bet you recognize at least a few folks on these episodes.

First off, I didn't even know there was a whole shows about doughnuts, but sure enough, Donut Showdown is on the fall schedule. Premiering this Thursday, Oct. 2, at 8 p.m. CDT is an episode of the show titled "Jungle." Here's the synopsis:

An ex-lawyer running the family donut business from Nashville, Tennessee, a hipster from Decatur, Georgia, and the "pop" in a "mom and pop" shop from Redding, California, compete in a speedy elimination round with fried chicken as the mystery ingredient. Under the watchful eye of host Daryn Jones, the last two standing compete for $10,000 in a jungle-themed Donut Showdown. Judges: Elizabeth Falkner, Duff Goldman, David Rocco

Fried chicken and doughnuts? Count me in. Anybody have a guess as to who the ex-lawyer is? I told you about my experience filming with Cooking Channel's Best in Chow a few months back, and it looks like they've finished editing out my mug to compile two complete episodes about our fair city.

The Music City first episode focuses on hot dogs and stars Friend of Bites Vivek Surti as the local expert. It will air for the first time at 9 p.m. Wednesday Oct. 15. The second Nashville show was all about barbecue, so they asked my opinions about where they should visit. (Of course, they had already been to the spots during their scouting visits.) Sometimes, these shows are about which business is willing to shut down for half a day of filming rather than who necessarily makes the best food, but I will say that we ate some pretty darned good barbecue at all three spots that day. Here's the skinny on the fat:

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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Watch Sterling Wright of The Slider House on Gordon Ramsay's Hell's Kitchen Tonight

Posted By on Wed, Sep 10, 2014 at 4:22 PM

The Slider House
is hosting a viewing party at 7 p.m. tonight for grill cook Sterling Wright's appearance on Gordon Ramsay's Hell's Kitchen on Fox.

Wright has been cooking since he was 15; a press release from The Slider House says he grew up in Nashville's J.C. Napier homes and got inspired to take a culinary path thanks to a teacher at McGavock High School.

(He seems like a savvy and amiable sort; we don't expect the kind of fireworks that ensued when then-Nashville chef John "Chappy" Chapman clashed with Ramsay on Kitchen Nightmares.)

The Slider House, which specializes in slider sandwiches and craft beer served in cans, is at 1907 Division St. in Midtown. The two-hour episode, which is the Hell's Kitchen season premiere, airs at 7 p.m. CDT tonight on Fox. (Locally that's WZTV-Channel 17.)

DVR note: The Hell's Kitchen page on the Fox site says the premiere "will air in its entirety, but will pause for President Obama's speech" on the ISIS crisis in the Middle East at 8 p.m. CDT.

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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A New Food Chat/Competition Show, The Feed, Premieres Tomorrow Night

Posted By on Wed, Aug 20, 2014 at 9:17 AM

  • A&E
If you’re one of those people who believe that Guy Fieri has ruined The Food Network, there are plenty of alternatives to the pioneering cable channel and its onslaught of shows featuring the king of donkey sauce. The Cooking Channel and PBS are helping to fill the void of good old-fashioned cooking shows, and viewers can find plenty of other food-centric shows on Bravo, The Travel Channel and some other networks. A new channel, FYI (formerly the Bio channel; parent company A&E says that the “I” stands for inspiration, imagination, or innovation) also has a few food-related yet Fieri-less shows, including The World Food Championships and Epic Meal Empire. FYI's latest show, The Feed, premieres this Thursday.

The Feed features Gail Simmons (of Food & Wine and Top Chef), chef Marcus Samuelsson and comedian/food writer Max Silvestri, along with special guests, to explore the latest food trends in a roundtable, chat-show-style format filmed before a live audience. The show then adds a competition element when the three hosts challenge each other with their takes on a particular trend (the competition segments are filmed, not live).

In the premiere, their first challenge is to create the best mash-up, a quest inspired by the cronut (a mash-up of a croissant and doughnut). The inclusion of a comedian ensures that the show is playful and light, yet a guest appearance by chef (and cronut innovator) Dominique Ansel, followed by a visit to Murray’s cheese shop in New York to learn about cheese curds, helps give the show some substance.

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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Tandy Wilson Battles Kelly English on Knife Fight Tonight

Posted By on Tue, Aug 5, 2014 at 6:51 AM

Tandy Wilson in the kitchen at The Gorbals, Ilan Halls restaurant
  • Esquire Network
  • Tandy Wilson in the kitchen at The Gorbals, Ilan Hall's restaurant
I love really good food television.

Once, I compiled seven seasons worth of Top Chef data and built a formula to create a Top Chef Power Index, so I take it seriously when good chefs cook their asses off.

That's why I like the show Knife Fight so much. It's a very simple formula — two chefs, one kitchen, one hour on the clock to make at least two dishes — that doesn't feel the need to inject worthless drama into an episode. You've already got a couple of people working at breakneck speed using sometimes unfamiliar ingredients, what more do you need? Instead of bullshit, they've got skateboard-photographer-turned-hype-man Giovanni Reda pumping up an already excitable live crowd. That noise, and the fact that Top Chef winner and host Ilan Hall sometimes has to shout over the people in his restaurant, The Gorbals, where it's filmed, adds an electricity you don't find on more sterile food shows.

So I was pretty excited to hear that City House's Tandy Wilson was facing off against Memphis chef (and his friend) Kelly English. Their signature styles — Italy-by-way-of-California vs. New Orleans — are on full display.

Bites got to view a screener of the matchup and it's excellent. We will reveal no details, but it's always interesting when chefs are given a mix of ingredients and time constraints that require creativity. There's no time for a leisurely sous vide. Bring on the pressure cooker! It's a fun half-hour of food television.

The episode airs at 9:30 p.m. Tuesday night on Esquire Network. You can catch a clip after the jump.

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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Best in Chow Scours Nashville for the Best in BBQ and Hot Dogs

Posted By on Thu, Jul 31, 2014 at 8:24 AM

Definitely a social media-savvy bunch of judges
  • Definitely a social media-savvy bunch of judges
If you happened to see a bunch of folks in black T-shirts emblazoned with the word "Judge" being chased around by a group of Canadians with cameras and microphones last week, you were probably in the background of a scene being shot for Best in Chow. The Calgary-based show airs on CMT in Canada and on the Cooking Channel in the States, and features competition between restaurants in towns all over the U.S.

Last week, they came to Nashville searching for the best barbecue and hot dogs for two episodes slated to air later this fall. I had the opportunity to see the process from the inside as the "expert" judge for the barbecue segment, and I came away duly impressed. I've been on a few different food shows through the years, but this staff was more efficient with their time and more creative in their shot planning than any film crew I've ever had to spend hours waiting for.

Part of the efficiency may have been the result of who the other judges were. I had been contacted a few weeks earlier about being their on-air local guide to the barbecue scene, a duty that assured me at least a few seconds of airtime and a small stipend. So when I arrived at the hotel lobby where we met up to get on the bus to ferry us around town from pit to pit, I was interested how they rounded up the other seven judges.

The assembled crowd was a nice cross-section of ages and ethnicities, and I was immediately struck by how perky and expressive they all were. While we took turns getting a quick spackling from the makeup artist, I asked how they found out about the gig. To a man (and woman) they all responded "Craigslist." It was then that I made the connection.

This wasn't a bunch of foodies; they were actors. The small talk between shoots revolved around roles as extras on the upcoming Jurassic Park sequel being shot in New Orleans and appearances on "Web series" (a new concept to me) and whose acting coach was really helping them make some creative breakthroughs. At first, I felt like I had stumbled into a Bart Durham commercial shoot, but the group really was a personable bunch of folks who took their jobs seriously, even if they did like sticky sweet ribs. I tried my best to hold my own, but I couldn't touch their skills addressing the camera and oozing enthusiasm at the appropriate moments.

I can't tell you who won, so you'll have to wait until October. But I can say that we visited Hog Heaven, Peg Leg Porker and the Wildhorse Saloon, and all three served some pretty respectable barbecue. The host is a standup comedian named Cris Nannarone who was a consummate professional and really seemed to care about interacting with everyone he met. He was definitely impressed by Nashville, and if they get a third-season order, I'll bet they'll be back.

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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

DVR Alert: Emily Frith of Corner Market Catering on Chopped

Posted By on Wed, Jul 16, 2014 at 6:31 AM

If you missed last week’s episode of Chopped featuring Nashville’s own Emily Frith of Corner Market Catering, you have several more chances. The show will air again tomorrow, Thursday, July 17, at 7 p.m. and then again on Friday, July 18, at 2 a.m. and Sunday, July 20, at 7 p.m. on Food Network.

According to her representatives, Frith was sought out by show producers last summer, and after a stringent vetting process, she flew to New York to film the show last fall. The show pitted Frith against three other competitors in the first round, where they were asked to make an appetizer featuring sweet white fish, oysters, cinnamon candies and Pastis, an anise-flavored liqueur. Other rounds featured spiny leaves, beef kidneys, figs and lemon verbena. At the same time? Maybe! To find out for sure and to see how Frith fared, you’ll have to tune in.

You can find out now why producers were so interested in having her on the show by visiting Corner Market’s retail store near Nashville West (850 Hillwood Blvd.) or by picking up their grab-and-go selections at stores including The Produce Place and West Meade Wine and Liquor Mart. Nicki Wood wrote about Corner Market's return to retail and catering here a few years ago; they’re famous for the sesame vinaigrette salad dressing, but also tomato pies, which are once again in season.

Emily Frith is the latest is a long line of Nashville culinary talent competing on Chopped. Last month Vinny Tardo of Saffire and Jeremy Barlow of Sloco competed, and earlier this year, Matt Lackey of Flyte and Brandon Frohne of Mason's appeared on the show. Previous seasons featured Kristen Gregory of Firefly Grille, Carey Bringle of Peg Leg Porker, Roderick Bailey of Silly Goose, Laurie Potts of the Wildhorse Saloon, and firefighter Robert Corbin.

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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Nashville's Tardo & Barlow to Appear on Chopped

Posted By on Tue, Jun 24, 2014 at 9:37 AM

Chef Vinny Tardo
  • Chef Vinny Tardo
Hey, I'm a poet and etc., etc. After a season of many Nashviliians appearing on Chopped, (not even counting ex-Vanderbilt football coach Herb Hand's unsuccessful attempt to anchor down), there are two more local notables appearing in consecutive episodes starting with tonight's show.

Saffire executive chef Vinny Tardo is going to be featured as a contestant tonight (Tuesday, June 24) at 9 p.m. CDT. The episode is called "Swai Not?" and is described as:

"Falafel mix and date paste are among the mandatory ingredients in the appetizer round. Also: A fish proves puzzling for the competing chefs; and there is hesitation about transforming a cookie."

Next week on July 1, Sloco chef Jeremy Barlow will compete in an episode titled "Short and Sweetbreads" featuring:

Sweetbreads and a strong spice blend show up in the first two rounds. For dessert, the final two chefs serve dishes that are chocolaty, salty and fruity.

From chefs to coaches to a fireman, only one Nashvillian, Kristen Gregory of Firefly Grille, has brought home the grand prize from these multiple episodes. Hopefully either Tardo or Barlow can improve our average!

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World Food Championships TV Show Premieres July 10

Posted By on Tue, Jun 24, 2014 at 8:10 AM

You may notice that we (well, I) have written a lot about the World Food Championships here on Bites. There are a couple of reasons for this.

First of all, I like to participate in food competitions, particularly ones that include barbecue, so I've attended and judged both of the first two WFCs. You can too! Second, the WFC is this November in Las Vegas, which is not a bad place to be, and hotels aren't that exorbitant Nov. 12-18. Thirdly, I continue to be impressed by the scale and organization of the event, considering almost the entire staff has to put it together from thousands of miles away.

That's right, the World Food Championships are based out of Nashville, where a small local advertising agency known as MMA Creative has taken their experience as the marketing arm of the Kansas City Barbecue Society and multiplied it by many levels of complexity to create an event that crowns a champion cook from many different disciplines.

Under the leadership of president Mike McCloud, in addition to the event management and marketing, MMA also handles the production of an upcoming six-week television series coming to a new network that will share the fun and drama of the World Food Championships with the country. A&E is rebranding their Bio network as FYI on July 8. One of the first shows the new channel will feature is The World Food Championships, premiering on July 10.

Here's how the network describes the series:

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Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Nashville Pizza and Pit Masters Showcased on TV

Posted By on Tue, May 6, 2014 at 9:23 AM

Nick Pellegrino playing the spoons
  • Nick Pellegrino playing the spoons
Even if Nashville (the show) decides to leave Nashville (the city), there's plenty of television production going on around town. Particularly when it comes to culinary television, it seems like social media is abuzz about this celebrity or that production crew following around some of our favorite chefs every week.

This week, it's our pizza and barbecue culture that takes center stage .... er ... screen. Pizza Masters is a show on the Cooking Channel that features two NYC cousins, Sal Basille and Francis Garcia, as they travel the country seeking out the best pies. This week's episode features Nick Pellegrino of Mangia Nashville, the wildly entertaining weekend pop-up Italian ristorante that cranks up the Dean Martin and puts out tasty Italian food at Franklin's Cool Cafe.

Pellegrino's episode premieres at 12:30 in the morning on Wednesday May 7, but if you're not a night owl it will rerun at 8:30 that evening and again at 4:30 p.m. May 10 and 1 a.m. May 11. Check your local listings or set your DVR to watch Nick charm the heck out of the hosts.

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