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John Catucci checks more food locations off his Big Food Bucket List

John Catucci vividly recalls the moment COVID-19 threw production of the second season of Big Food Bucket List into disarray. They were filming in Georgia, and things got serious really fast.

“We were in Savannah just before the lockdown happened,” Catucci recalls. “Savannah has one of the biggest St. Patrick’s Day parties in the country. We got there just the week before that was going to happen. And then everything changed. When it changed, it changed fast.” And, rather than fly back to Canada, he and the crew piled into a car and hit the road for an 11-hour-plus drive back to Canada via Pittsburgh.

Returning Saturday at 8 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. ET/PT on Food Network Canada, Big Food Bucket List once again finds Catucci travelling North America—pre- and during the pandemic—making and tasting dishes in joints you just have to check out.

You’re still filming now. I guess you’re not walking into a restaurant with a restaurant full of people.
John Catucci: We’re following the production protocols. The hand sanitizers are just pumping nonstop all day, making sure masks are on until the last second, until we start shooting and stuff like that. The crew is wearing masks all day. People are getting tested. They’re trying to stay as safe as possible.

Has there ever been anything that you’ve tasted that you didn’t like and had to fake it?
JC: I think I had clam poutine once, years back. And it just didn’t work for me.

For you, yeah.
JC: And that’s a good point. For me, right? I think it was something that I had to learn on this show is that you’re not going to love everything on the menu. Sometimes you as a customer, you ordered wrong, and that’s not on the restaurant. That’s on you. I remember going out to dinner one night and everybody got steaks. I was like, ‘You know what, I’m going to do the fish. I’m going to do the halibut. It looks good.’ It just didn’t hit. And again, it’s not their fault.

For Season 2, you went to places like Portland, Winnipeg, you were down in Florida, Seattle, Brooklyn, a wide variety of places you’ve been to. You must be really pinching yourself to get the chance to have gone to some of these cities.
JC: Portland’s got a great food scene, Seattle’s got a great food scene. San Diego’s got great food, that was great too. I love Manhattan. I love going to New York. I love going to Brooklyn, that vibe that happens in that city is unlike any other city in the world. It’s got grit, and it’s got this edge and it’s got this energy that, there’s a rush, there’s a bustle that you don’t find anywhere else. And I’ve never had a bad meal in New York. Never once. Restaurants can’t afford to have bad meals there because there are so many restaurants in there that if you have a bad meal and somebody hears about it, you’re done.

This industry has been hit hard by COVID-19. Do you think it can come back?
JC: I think it can come back. I think it might come back in a different way. Can we go back to sitting down in a restaurant full of other people? I hope so. I really miss that. I miss that energy that happens in there. I miss sitting down at a table and looking over and seeing what is that person having? Oh, that’s coming by, what’s that? I miss that. That was one of the things that I loved about going out to restaurants.

It’s not just a place where you eat. It’s the connection that it has with the people around them. And it’s the connection that it has to the community. And it’s the neighbourhood that sometimes grows around a restaurant. People come in to your restaurant, but then they go to this store and they go to that store, and they go to the paper store, and they were the card store, and they go to the park. That’s how important a restaurant is.

You’re very active on Instagram. Your garden this year has been incredible.
JC: The company is called The Good Seed. Melissa Cameron helps design and create gardens for small spaces, whatever space you have. But my backyard is a small Toronto backyard and she was able to help me design the garden space, what I could grow, and what grows together with what. And even though I’ve got a limited space of two raised beds in a little side garden, the amount of stuff I was able to grow this year was incredible. And again, it comes a lot with her knowledge and this spring, summer, I was able to be home and tend it.

For the past years, I’ve been on the road every spring, summer because that’s when we shoot our show, but I’ve been able to slow everything down and watch this garden just create food for my family to eat. And every morning, I’d go out there with my espresso and I’d water the garden, and I’d see how the tomatoes were doing and how the beans were doing, and my zucchini and my carrots. The garden this year was just spectacular. It was one of the places where I found solace. It was one of those places that helped with my mental health, was able to ground me. There’s nothing like putting your fingers in soil to connect you with the earth. It was a beautiful thing. And I was so, so happy.

Big Food Bucket List airs Saturdays at 8 and 8:30 p.m. ET/PT on Food Network Canada.

Images courtesy of Corus.

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John Catucci returns to Food Network Canada with Big Food Bucket List

In June 2017, Food Network Canada made it official: they had cancelled You Gotta Eat Here! after five seasons. I, like many, was upset. It seemed like the series, with host John Catucci, could go on much, much longer.

But all is forgiven. This is 2019, and Catucci is back on Food Network Canada with a new series. Big Food Bucket List, from the same production company as YGEH, finds Catucci gamely travelling around sampling food and interacting with the folks who make and taste them. What sets Big Food Bucket List—bowing Friday with back-to-back episodes at 9 and 9:30 p.m. ET/PT—apart from his previous project? We asked Catucci.

Before we talk about Big Food Bucket List, let’s go back. I just want to get your reaction to You Gotta Eat Here’s cancellation.
John Catucci: You know what? It was mixed feelings. It was hard because I loved shooting the show, and I had an amazing crew, and the production company was fantastic. It was just nice to grow with everybody. So, that was definitely hard. There was part of me that was like, ‘OK, I could do with a little break. I could do with being home for a while.’ It had been five years of being on the road pretty steady. So, it was kind of like mixed emotions. I mean, definitely sad. I don’t think it hit me until a good maybe month after.

Big Food Bucket List is on Food Network. It’s starring you. It’s from Lone Eagle Entertainment. You’re eating food. What’s setting this apart from You Gotta Eat Here?
JC: The main thing is the style of restaurant that we’re hitting. On You Gotta Heat Here, we were doing a lot of diner stuff and Mom and Pop shops. We’re still doing the Mom and Pop stuff. That exists. But the restaurants are elevated a little bit. On You Gotta Eat Here, we never talked about the idea of having a farm-to-table kind of place. It’s just like, ‘No, no, no, we’re going to do burgers.’ We’re really celebrating that food, or celebrating a lot of farm-to-table restaurants, and celebrating restaurants that are doing really unique and interesting dishes. If the restaurant makes a sandwich that is completely out of this world, that’s the thing we’re going to go for. Is that dish something you want to knock off your bucket list.

We’re also travelling all across North America, so it opens up a different market for the show and for myself. It was pretty cool, man. It was pretty exciting. I forgot what it was like to start a new show because it happened such a long time ago. It was a lot of, ‘OK, what’s the show going to be? Do we like this? Do we not like this? We definitely don’t like this.’

The first two episodes are back-to-back, where you’re in Chicago and then Toronto. What are some of the cities that you go to?
JC: We’re going back to Vancouver and Calgary and Halifax. We’re bouncing all over the States, too. We’re going to Philadelphia, New Orleans, Austin, and we got to go to Lafayette. I went to Houston for the first time, St. Louis, San Diego. We got to go to San Diego and L.A., so that was pretty wild. San Diego was just like shooting right down the street from the ocean here. We’re like, ‘OK, we’re on a five-minute break, we’re just walking down to the ocean right now.’

Big Food Bucket List airs Fridays at 9 and 9:30 p.m. ET/PT on Food Network Canada.

Image courtesy of Corus Entertainment.

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John Catucci shares his Big Food Bucket List beginning May 24 on Food Network Canada

From a media release:

This spring, Food Network Canada takes viewers on a one-of-a-kind food adventure across North America in the new Canadian original series from Corus Studios, Big Food Bucket List (14x30min). Fan-favourite host and comedian John Catucci (You Gotta Eat Here!) takes viewers along as he checks the most buzz-worthy, crazy, delicious food and must-see culinary stops off his bucket list. Big Food Bucket List premieres Friday, May 24 at 9 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. ET/PT on Food Network Canada.

Viewers know John Catucci from his five seasons as host of the Food Network Canada hit series, You Gotta Eat Here!. Now he’s back for another helping of over-the-top, delicious food, but this time around, he’s on mission to find highly-recommended favourites to check off his Big Food Bucket List. Each episode, John visits three restaurants across North America and tries their must-eat meals. Then he hits the kitchen to lend a hand and learn how the chefs make their mind-blowing creations.

In the premiere back-to-back episodes, “Rolling in the Deep Dish” and “More Than Meats the Eye”, airing May 24 at 9 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. ET/PT, John dives into the original deep dish pizza in Chicago, Ill. and learns how to make a mile-high pizza pie. In Toronto, Ont., he’s off to feast on a burger with a sweet pineapple bun and jerk lobster fit for a king at a spectacular Jamaican-Chinese joint. Then John visits Louisville, Ky. to try out some truly authentic Kentucky fried chicken at a world-famous historic location before heading to Boston, Mass. to dig into the ultimate surf and turf burger topped with a juicy lobster tail, as well as mind-blowing fried lobster and waffles.

This season, John will try drool-worthy dishes that include an Instagram-famous, ooey-gooey spaghetti grilled cheese from Irvine, Calif., seared scallops straight from the sea in Halifax, N.S., hand-rolled pasta perfection in Vancouver, B.C., and authentic New Orleans, La. fried chicken said to be Beyoncé’s favourite. John also satisfies his sweet tooth with treats like authentic New Orleans Bananas Foster, sinfully delicious hazelnut chocolate French toast from Calgary, Atla., and fluffy blueberry pancakes from a Nova Scotian sugar shack. Along the way, John also takes part in some unforgettable food adventures including a decadent medieval feast where no forks are allowed, learning the tricks of the trade at an apple orchard, getting smoked meat lessons from a pit master, and venturing to an authentic Canadian sugar shack.

Tourism Nova Scotia joins as a sponsor for three episodes, providing John with restaurant recommendations for bucket list-worthy dishes that highlight the province’s rich culture and fresh and local way of life.

Big Food Bucket List is produced by Lone Eagle Entertainment in association with Corus Studios for Food Network Canada.

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