About the Host and Judges
Since 1997, Ted Allen has been a contributing editor to Esquire magazine, where he writes about food, wine, style and everything else the American man needs to know. He was a finalist for a National Magazine Award for his Esquire feature on the little-known phenomenon of male breast cancer. Before joining Esquire, Ted was a senior editor and restaurant critic at Chicago magazine. He is author of The Food You Want to Eat: 100 Smart, Simple Recipes, a cookbook that features easy, all-natural recipes.
Ted also serves as the spokesman for Robert Mondavi Private Selection wines. In that capacity, he works with media and consumers on wine education and food/wine pairing. He has been a judge on Bravo's Top Chef and Food Network's Iron Chef America. Ted holds an M.A. in journalism from New York University, with an advanced certificate in the school's Science and Environmental Reporting Program, and a B.A. in psychology from Purdue University. He lives in New York with his longtime partner.
Jeff Mauro Born in Chicago, Jeff Mauro was a ham on a roll from the very beginning. Raised in a large family with four kids, he competed for attention not by making his sisters cry, but by making his family laugh. Jeff’s flair for the stage was discovered early, and from that point on, he immersed himself in the performing arts. When Jeff discovered the power of food, all bets were off. After graduating from Bradley University in Peoria, Ill., he opened up Prime Time Deli & Catering in Westmont, Ill., with his cousin and instantly fell in love with cooking. During the day, Jeff would craft sandwiches, soups and salads; at night, he satisfied his performing bug playing the role of Tony in Chicago’s Tony and Tina's Wedding. With his professional cooking knowledge and his acting and improvisation skills polished, he moved to Los Angeles in an attempt to meld his two loves — cooking and comedy. After a few years in Hollywood, he upped the ante and enrolled in the Le Cordon Bleu culinary program to refine his cooking skills. Jeff graduated valedictorian, packed and returned to Chicago, where he taught cooking lessons, was a successful private corporate chef and sandwich artist, and performed on stage during the weekends. He won Season 7 of Food Network Star and currently hosts the Emmy-nominated series Sandwich King, which begins its fifth season in 2014. Jeff lives in Chicago with his wife, Sarah, and their 5-year-old son, Lorenzo, and Jeff's favorite color is pastrami.
Marcella Valladolid Growing up around expert and traditional cooks in Tijuana, Mexico, Marcela was raised to be passionate about food, and she jumped straight into a culinary life with her first job working at her aunt’s cooking school in Baja, Mexico. Marcela realized she, too, wanted to pursue this growing love for food full time and enrolled in the Los Angeles Culinary Institute. She then went to the Ritz Escoffier Cooking School in Paris to become trained as a classical French pastry chef. Marcela later returned home to run a catering company and teach children about the culinary arts in Tijuana, all while collecting recipes and applying her knowledge and skills of her family’s cooking traditions to map out her dreams. She successfully translated her culinary knowledge and passion to the small screen as the host of her own Food Network series, Mexican Made Easy, which premiered in 2010. Wanting to share her expertise on great Mexican food that combines freshness and flavor with kitchen ease, Marcela published Fresh Mexico: 100 Simple Recipes for True Mexican Flavor” (Clarkson Potter) in 2009 and Mexican Made Easy (Clarkson Potter) in 2011. Marcela lives in San Diego with her 9-year-old son, who often doubles as her sous chef.
Aarón Sánchez is chef and partner of Paloma in Stamford, Conn., and Johnny Sánchez, with locations in Baltimore and New Orleans, alongside friend and colleague John Besh. He is the co-star of Food Network’s hit series Chopped and the host of Cooking Channel's Emmy Award-nominated Taco Trip. He is also the host of two Spanish-language TV series on Fox Life: 3 Minutos con Aarón and Motochefs. Aarón’s passion, commitment and skills have placed him among the world's leading contemporary Latin chefs.
Celebrated by critics and contemporaries alike, Aarón recently appeared at the White House as a guest chef and received the National Award at the Flavors of Passion Awards honoring the nation’s best Latin chefs. He has also starred on multiple Food Network shows, including Heat Seekers, Chefs vs. City, The Best Thing I Ever Ate, Best. Ever., The Best Thing I Ever Made and the first season of The Next Iron Chef.
In addition to being a restaurateur, television personality, consultant and spokesman, Aarón is an author and entrepreneur. His first book, La Comida del Barrio, was published in May 2003. His second book, Simple Food, Big Flavor: Unforgettable Mexican-Inspired Recipes from My Kitchen to Yours, was released in October 2011. Aarón has also designed a line of cookware products in collaboration with IMUSA and is a spokesman for its Global Kitchen line.
Aarón works with many charitable organizations. He is a chef ambassador for Why Hunger?, a leader in building the movement to end hunger and poverty. He is also a chef mentor for Chefs Move!, a scholarship program with the mission is to diversify kitchen leadership by providing minority applicants the opportunity to train and become leaders in restaurant kitchens and in their communities.
Aarón’s creativity extends far beyond the kitchen. He is a partner at Daredevil Tattoo in New York City, one of the country’s most-legendary shops and home to an amazing tattoo museum. Aarón is also an avid music lover; he enjoys cooking to the sounds of Alabama Shakes, Amos Lee, Sade and The Cure. Aarón lives in Brooklyn.
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.
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.
Amanda Freitag is the chef and owner of Empire Diner in Chelsea, where she serves a menu of her signature dishes along with classic American selections inspired by staples from diners across the country. She frequently appears as a judge on Food Network's Chopped and is currently a host, alongside home improvement expert Ty Pennington, of the new series American Diner Revival. On the show the two transform struggling diners in an effort to revive their original charm.
Growing up in New Jersey, Amanda's passion for food was fostered by everyone from her grandparents to her high-school home economics teacher. They encouraged her to pursue a cooking career and to enroll at The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y. Amanda's first position after graduation was in a New York City kitchen as rotisseur and garde manger at Vong under the guidance of Jean-Georges Vongerichten. It was there that she was introduced to marrying French techniques with Southeast Asian ingredients and flavors.
In 1994 Amanda began working with Chef Diane Forley at Verbena, where Amanda rose quickly through the ranks to become the restaurant’s chef de cuisine. Forley taught Amanda the importance of using local, organic ingredients and introduced her to the Union Square Greenmarket. During her time at Verbena, Amanda realized how much she had yet to learn about the culinary world, and in 1999 she traveled extensively through France and Italy to explore the bountiful markets and progressive restaurant scene.
While in Paris, she spent two weeks working under Chef Alain Passard at his venerable L'Arpege restaurant. While her time there was short, she learned life-changing lessons. At L'Arpege, Passard insisted on the freshest ingredients and, therefore, there was nothing left in the walk-in refrigerators at the end of service besides butter. This eye-opening experience helped Amanda to further develop her deep appreciation of superlative ingredients and the flavors of the Mediterranean region.
Upon returning to New York, Amanda worked at some of the city’s most-popular restaurants, including 'Cesca, which earned two stars from The New York Times while she cooked alongside Tom Valenti as his chef de cuisine. After 'Cesca, Amanda accepted the position of executive chef at Gusto in the West Village, where her food was met with critical acclaim.
In January 2008 Amanda took over as the executive chef at The Harrison in Tribeca. During the three years that she helmed the kitchen, The Harrison received numerous accolades from local and national media, including a two-star review from The New York Times. Frequently on Food Network, Amanda has battled Bobby Flay on Iron Chef America, is a recurring judge on Chopped and, in 2009 and again in 2012, competed for the title of Next Iron Chef. She can also be found contributing to Unique Eats on Cooking Channel.
When she is not in the kitchen, Amanda enjoys traveling the world and collecting restaurant menus to add to her ever-growing collection.
Geoffrey Zakarian, a master of modern American cuisine, has presided over some of the country’s top kitchens in the past 25 years. He opened two New York City restaurants, Town and Country, both of which received three stars from The New York Times. Currently, Geoffrey is chef/partner at The Lambs Club and The National in New York City as well as at The Water Club at Borgata in Atlantic City.
Outside of his restaurant ventures, Geoffrey's cookbook, Town/Country: 150 Recipes for Life Around the Table, was widely acclaimed when released, and his second cookbook will be published by Clarkson Potter in Fall 2014. Geoffrey is also the host of Sirius XM’s Food Talk radio show, which premiered at the 2013 South Beach Wine and Food Festival. He has partnered with Norwegian Cruise Line in a three-restaurant deal aboard its newest, most-luxurious ship, Norwegian Breakaway, which set sail in May 2013. Geoffrey will also bring these concepts aboard Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Getaway in 2014.
In August 2013, he was named culinary director at The Plaza, New York City’s most-iconic hotel. He will oversee The Palm Court, The Oak Room & The Oak Bar, The Rose Club, The Champagne Bar and In-Room Dining.
Geoffrey is an Iron Chef, having won the title in The Next Iron Chef: Super Chefs in 2011. He is a regular judge on Chopped and has also appeared on The Best Thing I Ever Ate and 24-Hour Restaurant Battle on Food Network.
Celebrity Chef Maneet Chauhan's passion for all things culinary started at an extremely young age. Seemingly born with a ladle in her hand, she started her culinary "journey" in her homeland of India, where she graduated at the top of her class at the Welcomgroup Graduate School of Hotel Administration, India's top culinary and hotel management school. After interning at India's finest hotels and kitchens, including names like the Taj Group, Oberoi Hotels and Le Meridian, it was off to the U.S., where she attended The Culinary Institute of America and graduated with high honors, sweeping all awards in her class.
After some valuable fine-dining field experience on the East Coast, it was time to conquer Chicago. This task began with her being the only woman to go up against 40 male chefs for an executive chef position. Once again successful, Chef Chauhan was ultimately the opening chef of Vermilion restaurant. As executive chef of Vermilion, she was at the helm of executing the Indian-Latin cuisine developed by Rohini Dey and her kitchen teams in New York and Chicago. With Chef Chauhan at the helm, the restaurant earned many accolades, including Chicago magazine's Best New Restaurant, Esquire's Restaurant of the Month and Wine Enthusiast's Best New Restaurant in the U.S. Vermilion then set its sights on New York City and launched an equally impressive outpost in the heart of Manhattan. Soon after its doors opened, Chef Chauhan was nominated as the Best Import to New York by Time Out magazine.
During her tenure with these landmark restaurants, they received exceptional reviews from Bon Appétit, USA Today, Time, Esquire, Travel & Leisure, Gourmet, Town & Country, Business Week and O, The Oprah Magazine, as well as getting a stunning three-star review from the Chicago Tribune.
After eight years of leading the kitchens of Vermilion in both New York City and Chicago, Chef Chauhan ventured out on her own and founded Indie Culinaire, an avant-garde culinary and hospitality company. In a short period of time, she has established herself as an honorary figure and a leading volunteer for prestigious culinary schools, industry events and premier nonprofit foundations. After being the only Indian female ever to compete on Iron Chef and a fierce competitor on The Next Iron Chef, Chef Chauhan is now a full-time judge on the Food Network hit show Chopped, which has been nominated for a Critics' Choice Award and granted Chef Chauhan the honor of receiving the prestigious James Beard Award of Excellence.
Along with Chopped, Chef Chauhan has established herself as a go-to figure when it comes to Indian cuisine and spices, as evidenced by being invited to teach the multinational audience of ABC's The View how to cook Indian food. Additionally, Chef Chauhan was chosen as the only chef to cook at the first-ever Indiaspora Inaugural Ball, honoring the re-election of President Barack Obama.
A big supporter of culinary education, Chef Chauhan credits her success to the solid culinary foundation she received at the Welcomgroup Graduate School of Hotel Administration, India, and the Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park. She was recently honored by an invitation back to the CIA campus as the commencement speaker. She also received recognition of Distinguished Service to the Foodservice and Hospitality Industry as the ambassador of the Culinary Institute of America. She is constantly mentoring new graduates and is involved with the educational arm of the National Restaurant Association's ProStart program, which educates high school students in the areas of hospitality and culinary arts, giving them "real life" skills and encouraging the culinary world as a career.
An active supporter of various charities such as CRY (Child Rights and You) and P.A.V.E. (Partnerships for Action, Voices for Empowerment), ProStart, Chef Chauhan is highly devoted to giving back to the community that has given her so much. Recently she has provided her culinary skills to cook at the prestigious Chef's Garden, Guggenheim Museum, Willie Mae Rock Camp and many more.
She is currently in the process of opening a restaurant in Nashville, Tenn., planning a book-signing bus tour across the country for her new book, developing a signature spice line and hard at work on another cookbook, and her ongoing research, trials, travels and zest for experimentation keep her at the forefront of cutting-edge cuisine. Her energy and creativity, combined with polished culinary skills and the courage to follow her passion, have proved to be the right ingredients for success.
Chef Chauhan currently resides in New York City with her husband and her daughter.
Ask Chef Marc Murphy where he grew up and he’ll fire off a list of cosmopolitan destinations — Milan, Paris, Villefranche, Washington, D.C., Rome and Genoa — “and that’s before I turned 12,” he’ll explain. This dizzying list of hometowns served as an excellent education in French and Italian cuisine, though as a teenager this was not his first passion. When the reality hit that he didn’t have the funds to become a professional racecar driver, Marc followed his brother to the Institute of Culinary Education. After graduation he apprenticed at restaurants in France and Italy before returning to New York, where he landed a job as a line cook at Terrance Brennan’s Prix Fixe. He stayed there for almost two years, working his way through every station in the kitchen and forging a professional bond with Brennan’s Sous Chefs Joseph Fortunato and David Pasternak.
Eager to return to Europe, Marc flew to Paris and landed a position at the one-star Le Miraville, where he stayed for one-and-a-half years. Afterward, he staged at the famed Louis XV in Monte Carlo, where Executive Chef Alain Ducasse was so impressed with Marc’s skills that he personally made arrangements for him to work with Sylvain Portay at Le Cirque once he returned to the States. Marc still considers Portay to be his greatest teacher. “Sylvain was above all concerned with coaxing out the most-vibrant, interesting flavors any ingredient had to offer, yet he insisted on minimal manipulation,” he recalls. Following Le Cirque, Fortunato tapped him to work as a sous chef at Layla, Drew Nieporent’s Middle Eastern fantasy in Tribeca, where he met consultant Georges Masraff. When Masraff joined forces to open Cellar in the Sky at Windows on the World, he recruited Marc to serve as executive chef. After receiving critical acclaim, including a two-star review from The New York Times, Marc headed uptown to serve as executive chef of La Fourchette, where NYT critic Ruth Reichl awarded him another glowing two-star review, citing his “open desire to transform food [so that] in his hands, even a simple green salad ... looks like a ruffled hat in a painting by Renoir.”
In March 2004 Marc opened his first solo enterprise with Landmarc [Tribeca], which won rave reviews both for its eclectic French and Italian menu as well as its highly untraditional wine list. Following its success, Marc opened Ditch Plains in the West Village in 2006 serving casual, beach-style cuisine such as lobster rolls, fish tacos and the infamous ditch dog, as well as other comfort food favorites. In 2007 Marc was given the opportunity to open another Landmarc restaurant in the prestigious Time Warner Center, where he brought his bistro-style cuisine midtown. In October 2013 Marc opened Kingside at the Viceroy New York hotel on New York’s iconic West 57th Street, serving his interpretation of New American cuisine. Marc’s restaurants now fall under the Benchmarc Restaurants by Marc Murphy name, where he acts as executive chef and owner. In addition to the restaurants, Marc also heads up the company’s catering division, Benchmarc Events by Marc Murphy, where his signature style of accessible contemporary cuisine transcends the boundaries of what is offered in his restaurant locations.
Today Marc’s involvement in the industry moves beyond the restaurants as well, with a regular role as a judge on Food Network’s top-rated hit Chopped as well as appearances on other hit series such as Guy’s Grocery Games, Beat Bobby Flay and Worst Cooks in America. Marc also appears on The Rachael Ray Show and The Today Show, among others. He is the president of the Manhattan chapter of the New York State Restaurant Association, a board member of City Harvest, Culintro and Passport NYC at the 92nd Street Y Culinary Camp, as well as a member of the Food + Finance High School’s Industry Advisory Board, a member of the Leadership Council for Share our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign and the national spokesperson for Share Our Strength’s Dine Out For No Kid Hungry. In 2012 Marc joined the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Culinary Partnership, where he takes part in public diplomacy programs that engage foreign audiences abroad as well as those visiting the United States. Marc’s debut cookbook, Season with Authority: Confident Home Cooking, was released by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in April 2015.
Marcus Samuelsson is an award-winning chef, restaurateur, cookbook author, philanthropist and food activist. His most recent restaurant is New York City’s acclaimed Red Rooster Harlem, which opened in December 2010. The restaurant celebrates the roots of American cuisine in one of New York City’s liveliest and most culturally rich neighborhoods. Chef Samuelsson has been featured on Iron Chef, Chopped All-Stars, Top Chef Masters, 24 Hour Restaurant Battle, The Martha Stewart Show, the Today Show, and his own television show, The Inner Chef, on Discovery Network.
Marcus was recently honored as a guest chef at the White House under the Obama administration, where he planned and executed the administration’s first state dinner for the first family, Prime Minister Singh of India and 400 guests. While he has been honored by the prestigious James Beard Foundation on multiple occasions, including “Rising Star Chef” (1999), “Best Chef: New York City” (2003) and “Best International Cookbook” (2007), Marcus continues to maintain humility with regard to the art of food and his UNICEF endeavors, working toward immunization and curbing malnutrition for children throughout the world.
Scott Conant brings a deft touch and unwavering passion to creating singular dining experiences with soulful food and a convivial atmosphere. His career spans nearly 30 years, including multiple restaurants, an enthusiastic following of fans and an ever-expanding brand. He has established himself as one of the country’s top chefs and restaurateurs.
A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Scott broke out onto the restaurant scene in his 20s, running the kitchens of famed Italian spots such as Il Toscanaccio, Chianti and City Eatery, which earned glowing reviews under his leadership. Scott officially put his name on the map when he opened the beloved L’Impero in 2002. It garnered a three-star review from The New York Times, the title of “Best New Restaurant” from the James Beard Foundation and praise from top publications such as Gourmet and Food & Wine, which named Scott one of America’s Best New Chefs in 2004. Following the success of L’Impero, Scott opened Alto, an elegant Italian restaurant in midtown Manhattan. Always looking to raise the bar, Scott eventually moved on to bring his own vision of sophisticated, savory Italian cooking to life with Scarpetta, which he now operates in Las Vegas, Miami and Los Angeles.
In recent years, Scott has also opened D.O.C.G. Enoteca, a casual wine bar at The Cosmopolitan Las Vegas, and unveiled his SC Culinary Suite, a beautiful private loft in New York's SoHo where he can interact directly with guests and bring them his special brand of hospitality through private dinners, cocktail parties and cooking demos. In 2013, he debuted a signature menu at McCarran International Airport’s new American Express Centurion Lounge. In December 2014, Scott opened Corsair by Scott Conant at Turnberry Isle Miami resort in Aventura, which serves rustic, seasonal cuisine inspired by the farmhouse cooking of America and the Mediterranean.
Scott has served as a regular judge on Food Network’s top-rated series Chopped, as well as a guest on many of the network's other programs. He has appeared on the Today Show, The Chew, CBS’ The Talk, Live with Kelly & Michael and Good Morning America, and has also published three cookbooks: New Italian Cooking, Bold Italian and The Scarpetta Cookbook.
Scott looks forward to the continued growth of his brand and is excited to embark on new opportunities that reflect his enduring philosophy: to savor the pure pleasure of food down to its last taste.