All-Star Academy

All-Star Academy

About the Host and Mentors

Alex Guarnaschelli

Alex Guarnaschelli There are few American chefs, much less female chefs, who can boast staying power in Michelin-starred restaurants. Chef Alexandra Guarnaschelli can boast indeed — she embarked on a culinary journey in France and ended up working in some of the country’s top restaurants including esteemed chef Guy Savoy’s eponymous three-star kitchen.

Not surprising for the daughter of esteemed cookbook editor Maria Guarnaschelli, who spent her childhood surrounded by food. Guarnaschelli learned to eat according to whatever book her mother was working on at the time: one year was devoted to Indian with Classic Indian Cooking by Julie Sahni; another year was devoted to Italian with The Splendid Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper.

"My mother was always coaxing me from my ‘Barbie land’ under the dining room table to peel potatoes, knead bread or assemble a trifle,” says Guarnaschelli, who jokingly continues, "what else could a seven-year-old have wanted from life?"

This early emphasis on her palate truly shaped her future in food. On the day of Guarnaschelli’s graduation from Barnard College in 1991, she decided to explore her culinary interests and began working under the tutelage of the acclaimed American chef and restaurateur Larry Forgione.

Forgione encouraged Guarnaschelli to travel and expand her skill set, so she obligingly moved to France to do a work study at La Varenne Culinary School in Burgundy. After school and traveling throughout France, she moved to Paris to begin a four day stage at the Michelin three-star restaurant Guy Savoy. Four days turned into four years with Guarnaschelli rapidly being promoted to sous chef at La Butte Chaillot, another Savoy establishment. “The first three months were terrifying — imagine being a young American woman in charge of a French kitchen with 10 young, male cooks under you? Professionally, it was a life-changing experience,” she says.

After seven successful years in France, Guarnaschelli returned stateside. Though she left the country, she maintained her connection with the cuisine, joining the venerable Daniel Boulud at restaurant Daniel, where she quickly rose through the ranks to become sous chef at the Manhattan standard. Always looking to expand her culinary knowledge, Guarnaschelli moved to Los Angeles for two years to join Joachim Splichal’s Patina Group, where she worked at the acclaimed Patina restaurant in West Hollywood before moving to New York to open Splichal's first New York City venture.

In 2003, Guarnaschelli was given the opportunity to expand her repertoire and become the executive chef at Butter Restaurant, where she would create her own eclectic American and green market-inspired menu. In addition to her restaurant work, Guarnaschelli inspires budding chefs as a Chef-Instructor at New York City’s Institute of Culinary Education. Guarnaschelli is also helming the kitchen of the NYC modern dining and cabaret concept, The Darby.

Chef Guarnaschelli is a recurring judge on the popular prime-time series Chopped and is featured on her own shows, The Cooking Loft and Alex's Day Off, which launched in October 2009. She has appeared on Food Network’s Iron Chef America as both a challenger and a judge and competed on season 4 of The Next Iron Chef. In 2012, she bested nine rival chefs to win The Next Iron Chef: Redemption and joined the ranks of Kitchen Stadium Iron Chefs. Alex released her premiere cookbook, Old-School Comfort Food: The Way I Learned to Cook (Clarkson Potter, 2013), in spring 2013.

Robert Irvine

Robert Irvine With more than 25 years in the culinary profession, Chef Robert Irvine has cooked his way through Europe, the Far East, the Caribbean and the Americas, in hotels and on the high seas. Robert brings his experience to Food Network as host of Restaurant: Impossible; he has been previously seen on Dinner: Impossible and Worst Cooks in America

Now in its 12th season, Restaurant: Impossible continues its successful run as one of the network’s most popular shows, with Robert attempting to save America’s most desperate restaurants from impending failure in just two days with only $10,000. During the course of each extreme mission, Robert assesses all of the restaurant’s facets and then overhauls its weakest spots by updating menus, retraining staff and implementing aesthetic changes with the help of his design team, before hitting the streets to tell the community about the improved restaurant.

A native of England, Robert joined the British Royal Navy at the age of 15, and his skills in the kitchen soon came to the attention of his superiors. As part of his service for the Royal Navy, Robert was selected to work aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia, where the royal family and its entourages regularly dined. During his time training U.S. Navy chefs as part of a guest chef program, Robert worked in the White House kitchens, and his creations were served to high-ranking government officials. During his career, he has also had the opportunity to serve 6,000 servicemen and women on a U.S. aircraft carrier and plan the menu for a celebrity-studded after-party at the Academy Awards. Robert is the author of two cookbooks, Mission: Cook! (Harper Collins, 2007) and Impossible to Easy (Harper Collins, 2010), and he owns and operates two restaurants in South Carolina, Robert Irvine's eat! and Robert Irvine's nosh.

Robert was previously on The Next Iron Chef: Super Chefs, where he competed against an all-star-caliber group of chefs, including Elizabeth Falkner, Alex Guarnaschelli, Chuck Hughes, Marcus Samuelsson and Geoffrey Zakarian, for the title of The Next Iron Chef.

Curtis Stone

Curtis Stone Curtis Stone is an internationally known chef, TV host, entrepreneur and New York Times best-selling author. Born in Melbourne, Australia, Curtis first found his passion for food while watching his grandmother make her legendary fudge and his mother roast her perfect pork crackling. After finishing culinary school, he took a job at the Savoy Hotel in Melbourne before heading to London, where he honed his skills under legendary three-star Michelin genius Marco Pierre White. While living in London, Curtis appeared in several U.K. cooking shows before catching the eye of television producers in Australia. Curtis has appeared on numerous daytime and prime-time television shows. Curtis most recently opened his first restaurant, Maude, in Beverly Hills in February 2014, which has received rave reviews from LA Weekly (2014's Best New Restaurant), LA Magazine (4 out of 4 stars), Angeleno and more.

Andrew Zimmern

Andrew Zimmern A three-time James Beard Award-winning TV personality, chef, writer and teacher, Andrew Zimmern is universally regarded as one of the most versatile and knowledgeable personalities in the food world. As the creator, executive producer and host of the Bizarre Foods franchise on Travel Channel, Andrew has explored cultures in more than 170 countries. Motivated by his experiences over the years, Andrew has built a multifaceted empire that shines the spotlight on impactful ways to think about, create and live with food. He is the founder of two multimedia production companies, Food Works and Intuitive Content. Andrew Zimmern's Canteen, a fast-casual concept he launched in 2012, reflects his fascination with food history from around the world. Andrew has released three books: The Bizarre Truth, Andrew Zimmern's Bizarre World of Food and Andrew Zimmern's Field Guide to Exceptionally Weird, Wild & Wonderful Foods.