Oh to be John Catucci. I dream of it sometimes. The opportunity to travel across Canadaâ€”with the occasional stop in the U.S.â€”sampling Â things roasted, broiled, barbecued, grilled and steamed? It’s worth what it would do to my waistline.
Catucci is back for Season 4 of Food Network’s You Gotta Eat Here! on Friday night with the same formula that’s worked for the past three. In it, the affable, comedian, writer and actor drops by a trio of eateriesâ€”Pizzeria Via Mercante in Toronto’s Kensington Market neighbourhood,Â Moonshine Barbecue in Montreal andÂ The Cheshire Cat in Carp, Ont., outside of Ottawaâ€”to munch and mingle with the staff and customers.
I wiped away slobber as Catucci and Romolo Salvati worked their way through pizza and pasta atÂ Pizzeria Via Mercante, exclaimed at the size of the smoked ribs and “totini” (tater tots smothered in pulled pork, gravy and cheese) at Moonshine Barbecue and stared in wonder at the pub fare sampled at The Cheshire Cat.
A die-hard fan of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, I at first dismissed YGEH as a cheap Canadian rip-off of what Guy Fieri’s been doing for years. How wrong I was. Yes, Catucci is travelling to restaurants, talking to people and eating plates of food, but his sense of humour, shameless mugging for the camera and open-eyed wonder at the foods placed in front of him makes this project unique. And it’s proved to be quite the triptych of dining moments for me. Thanks to YGEH, I’ve added several fantastic places to chow down to my contacts list and I’m look forward to adding a bunch more thanks to this newest season of 26 episodes.
You Gotta Eat Here! airs Fridays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Food Network.
The food truck genre is one that’s quickly becoming as packed as a mall parking lot on a Saturday. Travel + Escape has Rebel Without a Kitchen, and Food Network is jam-packed with Eat St. and The Great Food Truck Race, and every cooking competition on the channel devotes at least one week to a food truck challenge. Is there really room for another one? Well, yeah.
Debuting Sunday on Food Network, Food Truck Face Off combines aspects of Dragons’ Den with the home chefs featured on Masterchef. Hosted by former Recipe to Riches host Jesse Palmer, this project from Peace Point Entertainment Group (Fresh with Anna Olson, Colin & Justin’s Cabin Pressure) awards one winning team their own food truck to operate for an entire year, a pretty unique twist.
Sunday’s first episode takes place in Miami Beach (future stops in the 13-episode run include Toronto, Austin, Los Angeles and Niagara Falls) as four teams of rookie chefs pitch their food truck ideas and business plan Ã Â laÂ Dragons’ Den–along with samples–to a trio of judges (in this caseÂ TV and radio personality Steak Shapiro, Chicago restaurateur Alpano Singh and food truck owner Robyn Almodovar) before the quartet are trimmed to a duo. Those two final teams move on to the next test: manning a food truck for two services with the most amount of money raised by them winning the vehicle for a year.
These being home chefs or people who cook for fun, they’re quickly overwhelmed by A) shopping in bulk, and B) learning to make food on the fly while collecting money and keeping up a patter with customers. What entertained me the most about Food Truck Face Off was wondering whether I could do what these contestants were trying to. In short? Probably not. I like eating stuff from food trucks too much to be hemmed in by making my own. Palmer is an affable enough host, but he’s largely relegated to just announcing what wrinkle the producers are throwing at them and hitting the button on a bullhorn.
Of course, the show isn’t about who’s hosting; the real stars are the yummy-looking dishes being served up for hungry customers.
Food Truck Face Off airs Sundays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Food Network.
Noah Cappe comes by his love of food naturally. The lanky TorontoÂ actor (Bitten, Being Erica) is part of a large family that went on road trips to carnivals and is the guy who orders a second deep-dish pizza on a night out with friends. Cappe is therefore the perfect guide to the culinary craziness that is Carnival Eats.
Debuting Friday on Food Network, Cappe travelled across North America challenging his mouth (and waistline)Â withÂ some of the most inventive and outlandish foods offered at country fairs and summer spectacles like Toronto’s Canadian National Exhibition.
“I stopped coming here in my 20s,” Cappe tells us from the CNE Food Building where cameras are rolling on an upcoming episode. “And then the deep-fried butter happened and people were going crazy. That was ground zero for popularity in the CNE food taking off.” Cappe and Alibi Entertainment staked out space atÂ Fran’s Restaurant kiosk, where he was learning to construct the Thanksgiving Waffle, a savoury plate boasting turkey and gravy piled on top of a waffle made out of stuffing.
The iconic stop represented the last day of filming on a four-month journey for Cappe and the crew; 13 half-hour episodes represent Season 1 and showcased the Ohio State Fair, Miami Dade State Fair, Edmonton’s Klondike-Days Fair and the Calgary Stampede, to name a few.Â Friday’s debut spotlights Virginia Beach’s Pungo Strawberry Festival where Cappe samples strawberry shortcake and strawberry arugula pizza, and Guthrie’s ’89er Days Festival where he partakes in chocolate-dipped Belgian waffles on a stick and a breaded pork tenderloin sandwich so big the meat can be used to fan hot customers as they walk through the midway.
Cappe is able to combineÂ his love of improvised conversation with a love of food and he’sÂ not afraid to get dirty in the name of good television, talking to vendors with dollops of sauce on his face. And while the goal of Carnival Eats is to showcase the foods–outrageous (scorpion pizza!) and otherwise (deep-fried Oreo cookies!)–available for consumption at these fairs, it serves to celebrate the people who bring it to the masses.
“I think there is a misconception about carnival food,” Cappe explains. “These people have a lot of training and are incredibly passionate about what they do. They grew up doing this with their grandfather since they were 14 and it’s been in their family for 60 years.”
Carnival Eats airs Fridays at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT on Food Network.