I watch Food Network like it’s my actual job. (Hey LinkedIn, is there not a Director of Judging Chopped Judges position out there somewhere for me?) Also, there may be slight truth to the rumor that while making basil-crusted yellowfin tuna, I’ve been known to describe the steps involved in concocting a perfect balsamic reduction sauce or explain just how finely one must chop the herbs. No one’s listening (although my dog will let out the occasional, is-that-for-me-because-all-food-is-obviously-for-me whine) but hey, a girl can dream …
Or, she can live vicariously through the Instagram accounts of REAL Food Network chefs, like these 10 hand-picked gourmands …
1. @marcforgione – Rustic with an urban twist, the meals served up by this winner of 2010’s Next Iron Chef are deliciously cool. And why wouldn’t they be? Forgione is a chef born and bred. At age 16, he joined his father—the pioneer of American-style cooking, Larry Forgione—in the professional kitchen and pretty much never looked back. Today, Chef Forgione is wieldin’ the knives at his eponymous spot, Marc Forgione, as well as at Lobster Press and upscale burger joint, American Cut. Bonus fact: His American Cut burger is in a savory skirmish for Time Out’s Battle of the Burger, so show this culinary wiz some love and vote for his meaty creation here.
2. @inagarten – Not sure if I’ve said this before but my main goal in life is to nab an invite to an Ina Garten garden party at her Hamptons house. We’d laugh, we’d sing (does she sing?), we’d set fresh basil down as a tablescape, we’d sigh because Jeffrey wasn’t there to taste our creations (he’d be out at the cheese shop getting some goat’s milk brie for the fête). And then, after the last of the softly glowing lanterns burned out and the pitcher of just-picked strawberry-mint drinks ran dry, we’d become nothing less than the very best of friends. But really, Ina Garten is our modern-day Gatsby—minus the glitz and flash—just living her understatedly lavish life a few miles east of the West Egg, and asking us all, knowing twinkle in her eye, “How easy is that?”
3. @thepioneerwoman – Oh to be Food Network’s resident Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond. Ree—Can we call her Ree? Let’s call her Ree.—cooks hearty dishes from a ranch in the middle of nowhere and her comfort-food plates will make you want to turn on some John Denver tunes, curl up by a fire with a trio of basset hounds asleep by your wool-socked toes, and enjoy a life as humbly sweet as Ree’s homemade blackberry cobbler.
4. @giadadelaurentiis – What list of Food Network chefs would be complete without the Italian darling of said channel, Giada DeLaurentiis? Also, what can I write that hasn’t already been written about the uber-famous caterer-turned-TV-star, who hails from Hollywood heritage (her grandfather was famed film producer, Dino DiLaurentiis), and whose immaculately manicured nails have shown us how to make risotto like an expert for almost 15 years? I guess we could talk about Giada’s latest series, Giada in Italy, which infuses her simple Italian cooking with the bucolic scenery of Positano. I must say, there’s not a whole lot better in the canon of cooking shows than one that includes parmesan pomodoro or tangy orzo salad created against the lustrous shoreline of the Amalfi Coast. Delizioso indeed.
5. @santoscooks – When not judging nervous chefs on Chopped, Chris Santos is perfecting the menus at his growing portfolio of NYC hot spots, including: VANDAL, Stanton Social and Beauty & Essex, which just opened a location at the Cosmopolitan in Sin City. But it’s not just for his trendy, new Vegas eatery that the chef has achieved rock-star status among the culinary world; a trip to any one of Santos’ restaurants ensures some good, good eating. And drinking. Take, for example, his grow-hair-on-your-chest potable at Beauty & Essex called The Woodsman, featuring Woodford Reserve bourbon, maple syrup, lemon, muddled pears and (naturally) allspice dram.
6. @guarnaschelli – Last week I dreamt that I got caught in a huge summer storm and it carried me on some sort of wooden, Rose-in-Titanic-style raft all the way to Chef Alex Guarnaschelli’s houses where she served warm cannolis and told me everything was going to be OK. (True story. Well, the dream, not the cannolis.) In real life, the Chopped judge and epicurean master behind Midtown Manhattan restaurant Butter, is cooking up seasonal, local eats that prove the best kind of food comes right from your own dang backyard.
7. @gzchef – When I think about Chef Geoffrey Zakarian one word comes to mind: sophistication. The maestro of elegant meals has a delicate yet deeply knowledgeable touch that comes from years spent working in fine-dining kitchens like Le Cirque and now, helming swank spots such as NYC’s The Lamb’s Club and The National, or across the coast, Georgie and The Garden Bar in Beverly Hills. More still, (because Chef Zakarian is some sort of culinary Beyoncé of productivity), he’s also the host of a new show on Food Network, Cooks vs. Cons. Geesh. I’m tired just typing this. But onto his food and sophisticated fare …
8. @chefdphillips – At this very moment in time, I’m watching Chef Damaris Phillips on “Southern At Heart” and she just said, slight and sweet drawl to her voice, “jicama slaw” then something, something “margarita.” I don’t know what you’re making, Chef Damaris, but you already win. Also winning: her idyllic date-night meals that are as easy to make as they are down-home and scrumptious. Bring on the candle-lit dinner for two and Al Green Spotify playlist …
9. @chef_aaronsanchez – The chef/partner of Johnny Sánchez restaurant (and spice-loving Chopped judge), takes the term “Mexican-inspired” to a whole new level. And by “whole new level” I specifically mean cinnamon/chili brownies and dark chocolate jalapeño bread pudding. Summer diet who?
10. @chefmarcmurphy – My favorite thing about Chef Marc Murphy isn’t that he’s one of the more chilled-out judges on Chopped. It’s that in his spare time, between whipping up five-star meals and owning a whole slew of haute cuisine restaurants, he’s also a surfer. More to love about this superstar gastronome: According to Chef Murphy’s website, there’s a whole lot you might not know about him, like how Prince Albert of Monaco was his babysitter in the late 70s—what the what!—or how he doesn’t think “any meal can be enjoyed without good wine and good company.” Well, Chef Marc Murphy, cheers to that.