Tag Archives: Food Network

Congrats, Gaetano’s!

Countless Westporters — including scores of Staples students — know that Gaetano’s is a great deli.

Now the rest of America knows it too.

The Post Road East place — it’s in a basic mini-strip mall diagonally across from Stop & Shop — has just been named the Best Deli in Connecticut, by the Food Network.

The Westport location shares the honor with 2 other Gaetano’s, in Stratford and Monroe.

The Food Network says:

Here’s a NYC insider tip: Manhattan’s Little Italy may draw the tourists, but locals head instead to Arthur Avenue in the Bronx.

It was there that the owners of Gaetano’s Deli got their start. Guy Catalano and Milanno Ukehaxhaj worked together at the famous Mike’s Deli on Arthur Avenue before bringing their own Italian-style delicatessen to Stratford, Connecticut, more than 2 decades ago.

The pair have since expanded their operation into 3 locations to keep up with local demand for Gaetano’s mix of Italian grocery items (including housemade mozzarella) and stuffed breads crammed with pepperoni and cheese, eggplant parm and the like.

The Food Network used this photo to illustrate Gaetano’s great menu.

The selection of panini alone takes up nearly an entire page of the menu, with more than 20 different ways to fill the grilled sandwiches. Each one starts with Italian bread picked up daily from Addeo’s Bakery in the Bronx, which is then piled high with classic deli meats.

Options include bresaola (cured filet mignon), Oldani salami and plenty of Boar’s Head varieties.

If you haven’t tried Gaetano’s yet, that should whet your appetite.

If you need even more, here’s a link to their mouth-watering menu.

Tell ’em the Food Network sent you.

(Click here for the full Food Network story, with all 50 Best Deli in the State selections. Hat tip: Frank Rosen.)

Maizy Boosin’s Got Chops

“Chopped” is a popular cooking show, combining the ingredients of skill, speed and ingenuity.

Each week, 4 chefs turn a mystery basket into a 3-course meal. Along the way they’re “chopped” by a panel of expert judges, until 1 winner remains.

Oh yeah: The chefs have only seconds to plan, and 30 minutes to cook, with items they don’t know about beforehand.

This Tuesday (August 9, 8 p.m., Food Network), Westport’s own Maizy Boosin puts herself on the chopping block.

What’s especially impressive is that she’s only 13 years old.

Maizy Boosin waits to open her basket on "Chopped."

Maizy Boosin waits to open her basket on “Chopped.”

The rising 8th grader at New Canaan Country School appears on the junior version of Chopped. But it’s no less intense than the show with the big boys (and girls).

Her episode — taped last May — features chefs Maneel Chauhan and Andrew Gruel, plus actress Meghan Markle.

The show begins with a 3 1/2-pound peanut butter cup, and a too-hot griddle. The basket also includes pork and strong-flavored candy.

I can’t tell you how Maizy does. (Because I don’t know.) Tune in Tuesday to find out.

Maybe with a nice big bag of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.

(Maizy’s Chopped Junior episode will also air on Wednesday, August 10 at 3 a.m.; Saturday, August 13 at 4 p.m., and Sunday, August 21 at 5 p.m. For more information, click here.)

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Hannah Bukzin Has Some Chops

Hannah  Bukzin is a busy girl.

When she’s not volunteering as an EMT or interning with a catering company, the rising Staples sophomore can be found cooking. Her style is “classic dishes with a modern twist.” Her favorite creation is hanger steak marinated with chimichurri sauce, and a side of roasted potatoes.

But in April, Hannah found time to head to the Food Network studios in New York. There, she spent a full day filming a segment for “Chopped Teen Tournament.” The show airs Tuesday, July 29 (10 p.m.).

What makes her story particularly noteworthy — besides the fact that she is a local girl who may or may not make good (Hannah is sworn to secrecy) — is that she’s completely self-taught.

Hannah Bukzin, on the "Chopped" set)

Hannah Bukzin, on the “Chopped” set)

Hannah has been interested in cooking ever since age 6, when she saw her first — surprise! — Food Network show. The mystery and variety of ingredients drew her in.

Almost a decade later, she applied to the “Chopped” teen show. After interviews, a camera crew came to film her at EMS headquarters — and watch her cook. (That dish was pan-roasted bronzino with quinoa salad.)

She made the cut, and joined 15 other teenagers. They competed in 3 30-minute rounds, creating dishes with 4 ingredients that (a press release says) “could stump even top professionals.”

Did I mention that Hannah was the only one of the 16 who does not attend a culinary program in a specialized high school? In fact, she has not even taken one of Staples’ highly regarded culinary classes yet.

“Everything I know is in my head,” she says.

food network logoBut like any well-trained cook, Hannah knew she had to prepare. A chef friend of her parents trained her, using his own “mystery ingredients.” She is “not much of a baker,” Hannah says, so she practiced a few desserts just in case.

Filming took an entire, long day. As in any kitchen, there were surprises — and not just at the stove.

“I was amazed that the judges judged us like we were adults,” Hannah reports. “They told us the truth as if we were 30 or 40 years old, not 14 to 17.”

But in some ways, Hannah is closer to 30 or 40 than 15.

As soon as our interview was over, she was out the door.

Work beckoned. The catering company she’s interning with had a wedding.

On the Vineyard.

Chef Grace Plays “Kitchen Casino”

Alison Milwe Grace thrives on chaos.

The 1988 Staples High School graduate is in her 10th year teaching a full load of culinary classes at her alma mater. She also owns AMG Catering, a thriving business that for over 17 years has served a full course of weddings, b-mitzvahs, parties, fundraisers and corporate events — while also offering cooking classes and corporate team-building kitchen events.

Oh, yeah. She has 3 kids, ages 11, 8 and 5.

But nothing could have prepared Chef Grace for the chaos of one day in January.

Chef Alison Milwe Grace. (Photo courtesy of Town Vibe)

Chef Alison Milwe Grace. (Photo courtesy of Town Vibe)

For a wild 17 hours, the Institute of Culinary Education grad — whose resume includes a stint as the only female chef at Manhattan’s Patroon — competed in the Food Network’s “Kitchen Casino.”

The Food Network placed 4 talented chefs in “a high-stakes game of chance that is all about skill, speed and adaptability.” Racing a clock, competitors have to “outcook and outsmart their competition in 3 casino-themed challenges — slots, poker and roulette — for a chance to win a $30,000 jackpot.”

One test: The kitchen spins like a roulette wheel. Each chef gets someone else’s dish in progress, and must deal with it. While making suitably pissy comments.

Chef Grace calls it “cooking your brains out, with a time limit.”

The "Kitchen Casino" set includes a revolving roulette wheel, with 4 cooking stations. Each has an oven and stove top.

The “Kitchen Casino” set includes a revolving roulette wheel, with 4 cooking stations. Each has an oven and stove top.

The Food Network found Grace, and asked her to appear. (She has no idea how.) She knew nothing about the show — it’s new, so no one did — and producers said little. They did mention, though, that contestants “might sabotage” each other.

Grace prepped for the shooting by “Googling random recipes, to get proportions right in my head.” She also watched a lot of “Chopped” and “Cutthroat Kitchen.”

The loooong day of shooting — on Martin Luther King weekend — was “the most exhausting, emotional, validating, energizing, exciting day of my culinary career,” Chef Grace says.

She likens the feeling to the middle of a huge catering event. She’ll work with a bride or fundraising organization for over a year; when the big day arrives, it all comes together. But there are tons of moving parts. It’s chaotic.

“The TV show was all that,” Grace says. “It was a very good fit for my personality.”

Alison Milwe Grace on TV

Her Staples students are just finding out their teacher will be a TV star. But her family has known for months.

“They love watching the promos on TV,” Grace says. “They’ve been totally supportive of my career.

“My kids know that Mommy works weekends. For them, seeing me on TV is way cooler than watching me leave every morning.”

So how did she do? Did she win the $30,000 jackpot?

Chef Grace can’t say. She signed tons of non-disclosure agreements. She not only can’t tell “06880” — she has not told her children. Or her husband.

They’ll find out when the rest of us do. The show premieres April 7. Grace’s episode airs Monday, April 21 (9 p.m.).

It’s the 50th wedding anniversary of her parents, Jeff and Judy. Alison and her family will be celebrating with the extended Milwe clan in Florida.

So she won’t even have to cook.

(For more on “Kitchen Casino” — including a trailer — click here.)




Kyle Martino’s Cupcake Wars

Kyle Martino is everywhere.

Kyle Martino and Eva Amurri. (Photo: Jeff Vespa/Wire Images via ESPN Page 2)

The 1999 Staples graduate’s October wedding to actress Eva Amurri —  Susan Sarandon’s daughter — was covered by People Magazine (in a story written by, of all people, Kyle’s classmate Jen Garcia).

Last week, as an ESPN2 analyst covering the Major League Soccer college draft, the former national team player gave a shout-out to Staples soccer. He told a national TV audience how much he enjoyed the camaraderie with his teammates, and hearing the cheers of the large crowds on the Loeffler Field hill.

In between, Kyle served as a cupcake judge.

Last Sunday, the Food Network featured him in an episode of Cupcake Wars. (Never seen the show? Each week 4 of the country’s top bakers face off in  elimination challenges. The sweet prize: $10,000, and the opportunity to showcase their cupcakes at the winning gig.)

In Kyle’s episode, the winner took cupcakes to the Major League Soccer championship game in Los Angeles.

Kyle — one of the league’s most popular players during his career with the Columbus Crew and LA Galaxy (where his teammate was the even more popular David Beckham) — told ESPN Page 2:

I probably ate 5 entire cupcakes. Each cupcake was like a 3-course meal. Hey, if I had stayed off sweets, I probably would still be playing soccer.

I was blessed with a good metabolism. Younger, I was running 8 miles a day and still able to eat a pint of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. But that was then. These days, I might be the only ex-professional athlete who gets winded going up the stairs.

Be A Food Network Host!

Ilana Phillips — a 2007 Staples graduate — now works as a casting assistant for “Food Network Star,” Food Network’s hit reality series.

So when her bosses planned a New York City open casting call, Ilana wanted to make sure her home town heard about it.

The call is for this Friday (August 5, 9 a.m.-noon) at Sutton Place (1015 Second Ave.).

Anyone with skills, “personality that pops” and a passion for cooking — chefs, line cooks, caterers, home cooks and “culinary enthusiasts” — is invited.

The bait:  the chance to host your own show on Food Network.

Other qualifications include extensive food knowledge, and “lots of energy and enthusiasm.”

Interested reality show hosts should click here for info; then click the tab for a downloadable application.  Bring it, plus 2 photos of yourself and a resume, to the casting call.

A batch of homemade brownies couldn’t hurt either.

Unless I made them.

(Interested, but can’t make it on Friday?  Click here for info on submitting a home video.  Questions?  Email:  fns8NYC@gmail.com)

Great Cake!

The Staples culinary program of 1987 was nothing like today.  Nonetheless, Catherine Ruehle has become one the high school’s most famous gustatory graduates.

At Miche Mache restaurant, the self-taught baker’s artistic eye and flair for innovative flavor combinations won a rave review from the New York Times (“breathtaking in both artistry and taste”).  Since then she’s catered, managed a restaurant, published cookbooks, and developed and tested recipes.

Catherine Ruehle, and something she just whipped up.

Two years ago Catherine launched Sublime, a retail bakery and cake studio in Fort Worth.  Its custom cakes, eat-in and takeout desserts, breakfast pastries, catering trays and private cake decorating lessons and online store — including vegan, gluten-free and sugar-free items — have earned Texas-size praise.

Soon the entire country will see if Catherine will rule the reality TV world.  This week she finished taping her 1st Food Network Challenge.

Details and air date not yet available.  Of course, Catherine’s friends and fans in Fairfield County can’t see anything on the Food Network at all right now.  Cablevision and Scripps Network have effectively told their viewers:  Let them eat cake.

The Duck Gets Its Due

A good-sized crowd was on hand last night at the Black Duck.  That’s not unusual.  But the attraction this time was not the burgers, steamers or nachos.

Nor did the TVs show the Yankees or Mets. In what may be a Duck first, the sets were turned to The Food Network.

Black Duck Cafe, Westport CT

“Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” — one of the network’s most popular shows — featured the Black Duck.  Customers hooped and hollered as they watched the restaurant, the food, even themselves on national TV.

It was so loud, owner Pete Aitkin had a hard time hearing.  But the words were all good:  kudos for the clams casino and steak au poivre.  Back-and-forth banter between Pete, host Guy Fieri and chef Tim Miller.  And plenty of props from satisfied patrons.

The show didn’t just happen.  A “local radio personality” — the network would not reveal more — suggested a feature on the Duck.  Pete was asked to send menus, photos of the food and restaurant, even a copy of his latest Health Department report.

A camera crew spent 2 days at the Duck last October.  It was a homecoming of sorts for Guy.  As a kid he visited relatives in Weston, and fondly remembered riding his bike to Westport Pizzeria.  (Delighted to hear it’s still here, he asked Pete how to get there.)

Several hours of filming was edited down to 8 minutes.  But the result pleased Pete, his staff and his regulars.

It will also please Pete’s purse strings.  This morning, he fielded several calls from people needing directions.  One man lives out by the casinos.

The show was first scheduled for January, then April.  Like a table at any good “diner, drive-in or dive” — or the Duck — it was well worth the wait.