Category Archives: Chef In Your Ear

CIYE - Jake Donaldson Chef Jordan Andino

Jake Takes the Cake as Chef in Your Ear Juniors Champ

When 14-year-old Jake Donaldson appeared on Chef in Your Ear Juniors, his goal was simple: be a better cook than his dad, who only makes cereal. Now the first Juniors champion can brag about his winning crab cakes — and about busting out his dance moves on national television.

Dancing helped Jake deal with his nerves.

First of all, who or what inspired you to go on the show?
When I found out what it was, I just really wanted to do it.  Even the name of the show, Chef In Your Ear, it seemed like a cool concept and I was hooked right away. Why not try new things?

Since winning, have you made any more crab cakes?
I haven’t made any more crab cakes because my life is really busy with music and dancing and singing. Now I at least know how to make crab cakes — maybe better than my mom or dad — so maybe one day I’ll do it again for the family!

What has the response been like from your classmates and teachers?
It’s actually really cool because a group of my friends invited me over when the show aired. We went to my friend’s house, had a party to watch the show. They all made fun of me, because I was holding the knife upside down, and I didn’t cut the lemon in half to squeeze it to get the juice out.

Any behind the scenes secrets you can share?
If anyone has seen my episode and saw how stressful it was, it was exactly that stressful. I didn’t know beforehand what I was cooking so it was stressful trying to figure it out, but tons of fun at the same time.

Jake's winning dish, King Crab Cakes with Lemon Aoili and Herb Salad.

Jake’s winning dish, King Crab Cakes with Lemon Aoili and Herb Salad.

What do you think of the host Greg Komorowski – is he as funny in person as he is on the show?
Greg is as funny in person, yeah. He’s cracking jokes left and right and it was so fun working with him. He’s as cool as when you see him on TV.

Your competitor Liv, you’d never met before right?
It was our first time meeting each other. I haven’t kept in touch with Liv. I have to find his social media so I can keep up with him. It was such a fun time working with Liv as well.

Hopefully he’ll read this interview and reach out! You were on Chef Jordan  Andino’s team – what’s so cool about him?
He reminds me a lot of myself. Very energetic, very fun but serious at the same time, knowing we had to get the job done. It was so fun working with him. He’s basically an older version of me. That energy came through, even just through the earpiece.

Jordan Andino, Greg Komorowski, Jake Donaldson, Chef In Your Ear

So if Jordan’s an older version of you, does that mean you’ll soon have a restaurant in the Hamptons?
I have no idea if I’ll have a restaurant one day. As I said before, I’m focusing my passion on my music and my dancing right now. But you never know, one day ‘Chef’ might be a good title.

Watch Jake’s episode “Let Them Eat Cakes”, and catch up on Chef In Your Ear Juniors with a March Break marathon starting Tuesday, March 15. See schedule here

Cory Vitiello’s Ultimate Game Day Menu

Cory Vitiello’s goal for 2016 is to stay on the path of clean, healthy eating. But even those who set strict objectives have to allow themselves one cheat day. For this Chef In Your Ear expert, it happens to be football’s biggest night.

“This the one day where you can feel like you hit rock bottom with your dietary choices and be okay with it,” Cory explains. “It’s like New Years. You know you’re going to wake up lying on your bathroom floor face down in a pool of regurgitated sauce and Cheez Whiz and it’s okay!”

Here are the items Cory craves the most on game day.

nachos

California Style Nachos
“It’s the healthy kind,” he says. He prefers his nachos with lots of black beans and fresh veggies with fresh cilantro on top and a little bit of cheese. “I mean, you can’t have a Super Bowl party without nachos.” Because Cory is opting to eat less meat this year, he’s skipping out on adding beef.

Try a similar recipe: Whole Wheat Nachos with Corn

USA --- Spicy Chicken Wings --- Image by © 2/John E. Kelly/Ocean/Corbis
Chicken Wings
Just like nachos, chicken wings are a quintessential food item on game day. Cory admits he’s a simple guy when it comes to these poultry pleasures. “I fry them at a low heat for a very long time until they just get crispy and I toss a bit of salt and pepper, maybe a tiny bit of hot sauce.” Oh, and don’t forget the ranch dressing!

Try a similar recipe: Roast Chicken Wings

Hot Italian Sausages
Cory plays by the books and loves sticking to other classics like Italian sausages. Whether you prefer to grill, bake or fry, you can’t go wrong!
Try a similar recipe: Sausage with Caramelized Onions and Pepper

Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Pinwheel Cookie

Chocolate Chip Cookies
To satisfy his sweet tooth (and boy, does he have one!), Cory makes sure chocolate chip cookies are on the menu. These warm, gooey treats are easy to bake by the dozens. “If somebody showed up to a party with a platter of cookies, I’d eat 95 per cent of them myself.” Cory’s secret weapon: a dash of Chile de árbol.

Try a similar recipe: Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies

bourbon
Bourbon
Gone are the days of chugging back tall boys. These days, Cory keeps it classy with a glass of bourbon on the rocks. “I like a good slow drinking bourbon. It’s a gentleman’s drink. We’re not kids anymore. One drink every quarter is responsible,” he says. If you want the best of both worlds, there’s even a cocktail that combines bourbon and beer. Who knew?

Try the recipe: The End Zone

Watch new episodes of Chef In Your Ear Mondays at 10 E/P and catch up on episodes online.

Dishes That Still Stump Our Chefs

Call it the dish that got away, your Achilles heel — or more simply put, rice — but rest assured, we all have a recipe that never turns out the way we’d like. Yes, even the pros have them. Here are the dishes that still frustrate our very accomplished Chef in Your Ear stars.

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Baked goods

Baking, admits Craig Harding, is a temperamental science that depends on factors like time, location and weather. “There’s not one correct way, you just need to understand how it works,” he says. “Baking, bread, pastries — they’re temperamental and challenging for sure.” This doesn’t stop him from baking entirely, but you’re not going to see Harding on Sugar Showdown any time soon, either. “I just try and keep pastry extremely simple,” he says.

Diet food

Healthy eating is one thing, but Devin Connell can’t stand curbing her creativity for the sake of a few saved calories. “I would never make a low-fat health dish,” she says. “That would bother me, if I had to restrict anything.”

Cookies

Jordan Andino won’t use recipes unless they’re his own, which makes baking a particular challenge. “There are established rules for baking and you can’t deviate,” he says, “But I hate using recipes, and I rarely get cookies right. I can do bread without a recipe, and I can do some other things, cakes and stuff. But I just can’t get cookies right — it’s frustrating.”

Rice

Cory Vitiello doesn’t like following recipes or leaving food to do its own thing. “Rice is one of those where you just set it and forget it. It’s one of those dishes I try to stay away from,” he explains. Rob Rossi feels the same. “You know, I can definitely cook risotto but beyond that I have a hard time even cooking minute rice. I don’t like to follow recipes, for one. And I’m not patient enough to leave the lid on and let it actually go for 25 minutes. I can’t do that. I have to be involved.”

Watch new episodes of Chef In Your Ear Mondays at 10 E/P and catch up on episodes online.

Chefs Share Their First Job in the Industry

The Chef In Your Ear stars make it look easy, but they didn’t begin their careers as pros. For the most part, these TV chefs began their careers in entry-level positions, cooking, baking, tasting and most importantly, working their way up.

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Craig Harding

Craig Harding’s first job was working as a line cook — “If you want to call it that,” he says — at McDonalds. Eventually, he was fired from that gig, but it’s all in the past now that he’s a household name.

Jordan Andino

Jordan Andino remembers joining his chef dad at the North 44 kitchen as early as nine years old, but it’s tough for him to pinpoint the official moment he started working there. “My dad’s the chef — he’d have to babysit me,” he says. “And he said, ‘You don’t just sit around in the kitchen.’”

Devin Connell

Compared to her Chef In Your Ear colleagues, Devin Connell’s first industry job was pretty sweet. “I started my own cookie business selling cookies to a local health food store,” she explains. “It was called Devin’s Delights and I was 10. I made peanut butter cookies, chocolate chip cookies and oatmeal raisin cookies, and I even got a t-shirt made that said Devin’s Delights.”

Cory Vitiello

“I was a dishwasher at a restaurant when I was fourteen at Pizza Chief in Brantford,” says Vitiello. Although he claims he was “a great dishwasher,” it wasn’t long before management noticed his potential for more. “I was quickly promoted to the buffet line where I was serving dessert toppings on people’s cheesecake,” he says.

Rob Rossi

Like Cory Vitiello, Rob Rossi started as a dishwasher at a pizza joint — in his case, Pizza Hut. “I absolutely hated it, it was an awful job,” he admits. “But it got me in the business and it made me want to experience more. So as much as I didn’t like it, it led me to bigger and better things.”

Watch new episodes of Chef In Your Ear Mondays at 10 E/P and catch up on episodes online.

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Greg Komorowski

Comedian and slinger of zingers, Greg Komorowski is a man of many strengths but put a Neapolitan pizza in front of the Chef in Your Ear host and he goes weak.

greg komorowski

Here are some other fun facts you may not know about the Food Network Canada star:

1. He’s got a sweet tooth

Greg Komorowski works with some of the biggest names in the food industry and is no stranger to gourmet cooking. But if you want to stay on his sweet side, a chocolate bar from the corner store will do. “I’ve got a real big sweet tooth,” he admits, “so any kind of peanut M&M or O’Henry, for sure. I’ve got a big problem with those.”

2. He loves Italian food

“Even though I’m Polish, I love Italian food,” says Komorowski. He even re-enacted his own version of Eat, Pray, Love – kind of. “She eats at like this place in Naples called Da Michele. I’ve been there too.”

3. Seriously, he LOVES Italian food, especially Da Michele’s pizza

“Da Michele’s pizza is one of the best things I’ve ever tasted,” says Komorowski, joking that it’s even better than his mom’s cooking. “It’s so good you can’t leave it for leftovers. You know when you have that problem, like, I’m so full but there’s half a pizza and I won’t appreciate it but I’m still going to eat it? Yeah, absolutely that.”

4. His last meal would be . . . huge

For his last supper in this life, Komorowski would start with a bagged kale salad with seeds and cranberries, move on to king crab legs and bisque from Tracy’s King Crab Shack in Alaska, and top it off with Wagyu beef. For dessert he’d down Ben & Jerry’s Half Baked ice cream with smashed peanut M&Ms and sip on Royal Tokaji ice wine.

5. Perogies made him the man he is today

“My favourite thing to eat when I was a kid was definitely perogies,” says Komoroski. His grandma and aunt handcrafted them, stuffing them with meat, potato and cheese – his favourite. “There’s nothing like starch that’s packed inside of starch,” says Komoroski. Or perogies filled with sweet fruit! “Cherries, berries, they might even mix up the sugar with the smetana, the sour cream. And that’s why I am who I am today,” he says.

6. Europe changed him

“I always liked cooking,” says Komoroski, “but when I went over to Europe it was like a wakening, a food wakening. I was like in my late twenties or early thirties. And then I realized what food could be, which is art.”

7. He’d love to have a moment with Gordon Ramsay

“I think Gordon Ramsay is really interesting because he is so focused and frighteningly so,” he says. “I’d love Gordon Ramsay to call me a donkey. It would just be so fun to have him lay into you.”

8. He can’t resist chicken and waffles

If Greg Komorowski sees chicken and waffles on a menu, that’s what he’s getting. “This is one of my life problems because it’s kind of like a goal now,” he says. “When I see chicken and waffles, I order it.”

9. He’s a great listener

“Active listening is what we do in improvisation a lot, which is where I’m hearing what you say – every single word – and after that I will compose my thoughts based off that,” he explains. It’s a skill that’s particularly handy on Chef in Your Ear. “You kind of have to be as supportive as possible, especially with these new rookies because you don’t want to scare them off. They’ve already admitted they’re not great at what they do, which is a hard thing.”

10. He thinks every Chef in Your Ear contestant leaves a winner

“Sure there’s a winning chef and a losing chef but it’s really all about the celebration of creating food and people who never thought they could cook discovering they can,” he explains. Best of all, the food always tastes good and he loves watching contestants discover that. “What’s really cool is when people are done, they do want to taste what they’ve created, and they also want to taste the other person’s. And it’s great to see the difference because the dishes somehow always end up completely opposite ends of the spectrum. Somebody went with this theme and somebody went with that theme and then you try it and everyone thinks it’s delicious and feels good about it.”

Catch Greg and all the Chef in Your Ear action Mondays at 10 pm E/T. See more show details here.

4 Things Every Beginner Chef Should Know

Our Chef in Your Ear experts have a host of skills between them, but one thing they’re especially great at is giving advice.

It’s taken years of mentorship, experience and training for them to learn these important lessons, but you can apply them immediately.

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1. Experiment. Fail. Repeat.
“The thing about cooking is that the more you try, the more you experiment, the more you fail, the better off you’re going to be,” says Toronto-based restaurateur Craig Harding. If there’s something new you want to make, hop online, look in a book or turn on your favourite cooking show and just try it. “I still don’t know how to make everything, and if I have an idea, if I see something I like or if I taste something I enjoy and I don’t know how to make it, I always go try and figure out how to do it,” he says. “And it may fail, but then I try again.”

2. Cook from the heart.
“The best cooking advice I ever got was from a chef of mine,” says Top Chef season one runner-up Rob Rossi. “He told me that if I would always cook the dishes like I would for my family, they would always come out really well. And I think that you have to know who you’re cooking for, and appreciate them, and you’ll love the food you’re trying to make them.”

Cory Vitiello, the owner of three successful restaurants, agrees. His mentor, Scaramouche’s Keith Froggett, once told him to stop cooking what other people wanted and figure out what he loved most. “Put all your emphasis into that, and if you’re truly cooking the food that you love and you’re not worried about cooking for anybody else’s palate, that’s going to come through in your food.”

3. Taste test at every step.
“One of the things that I had done with all of the cooks [on Chef In Your Ear] is that I get them to try what they’re making every step of the way,” says Craig Harding. “Taste it when you’ve started the cooking so then you know where it is after.” If you only have the time or inclination to learn one cooking skill, focus on seasoning. “Forget about knife skills and all that,” says Harding. “Even if they can’t cut something perfectly, whatever, as long as it tastes good.”

4. Learn the basics of flavour pairing.
“If it grows together, it goes together,” says seasoned chef and business owner Devin Connell. Items that grow together in the summer – like basil and tomatoes – pair well. Same goes for winter produce like squashes, root veggies and onions, all of which are complementary. “Think about your flavours in a seasonal way, because that will never fail you,” she says.

Watch all new episodes of Chef in Your Ear Mondays at 10 E/P. Click here for full schedule.

What’s the best cooking advice you’ve ever gotten? Tell us in the comments below, or tweet us @FoodNetworkCA.

Grocery Shopping Tips From Chefs: When to Splurge, When to Save

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Say what you like about the latest “it” ingredients, but you can’t feed a family on truffle salt, and knowing when to save – and when to splurge – is as important for home chefs as it is for professionals.

Thankfully our Chef In Your Ear stars were eager to share their tips on which items they never feel bad splurging on. Save your spare dollars for these key ingredients so you can save elsewhere.

Splurge on…

1. Meats, fish and proteins

Most of our Chef In Your Ear experts mentioned meats, fish and proteins as worthy splurges, but Rob Rossi offered specific advice on how to get the freshest quality. “Not all grocery stores are great,” he says. “Some of them are better for produce and [then] you go to the meat aisles and you just don’t find stuff that you want. And that’s why I think you should completely separate your shopping. Go to the butcher’s, visit your fish market. Because the one stop shop [is] convenient, but it’s not always the way to go.”

2. Olive oil and vinegar

Our chefs agree that good olive oil is a must, but Craig Harding adds that a quality vinegar can also take your cooking from ho-hum to yum, whether it’s an aged balsamic, rice wine or red wine vinegar.

3. Herbs, spices, and seasonings, including salt and pepper

“Don’t cheap out on saffron, don’t cheap out on paprika, don’t cheap out on vanilla,” says Harding. “Those things that are expensive in your pantry? Well, there’s a reason.” To ease your financial burden and get the most out of your herbs, spices and seasonings, he suggests buying in small batches. “Buy fresh and don’t buy too much, because things don’t last long. Buy what you need and buy it frequently.”

4. Fresh produce

“When I’m cooking [I] put a lot of emphasis on the vegetable components of the dish,” says Cory Vitiello. “For me, that means going to the market, figuring out what’s in season and selecting the best produce.” Jordan Andino adds that it’s important to spend money on items “that are less cooked,” like salad greens. “So, the more cooking you do and the longer something cooks, the less money you need to spend on it. And it’s a completely inverted scale. So more time, then less money; more money, less time.”

Save on…

1. Items that take a long time to cook

It’s likely that your favourite slow-cooker recipes are also some of the most economical items in your repertoire, so if you’re looking to cut back on your grocery budget, plan to increase the number of Crock-Pot meals you serve. Long-cooking beef cuts include brisket, short ribs and stew cubes; pork shoulder and lamb shanks are also good meat choices, while dried beans and legumes are time-consuming (but delicious) veggie proteins.

2. Dry goods and flours

Go ahead and buy the good stuff if you can afford it, but “you don’t necessarily” need to, says Harding. Average-quality dry goods are easily elevated with awesome oils and superior spices.

What are your favourite items to splurge on, and where do you find the best savings? Share with us in the comments below.

Watch Chef In Your Ear Mondays 10 E/P. Click here for full schedule.

Devon Scoble is a Toronto writer and food lover who specializes in approachable home cooking. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter at @devonscoble.