Rank #1: Chris Blankenship
Blankenship earned a bachelor's degree in criminal justice from the University of South Alabama. He worked for the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) as a marine resources enforcement officer and rose to the position of director of marine resources in 2011.
Blankenship was named deputy commissioner of the ADCNR in March 2017 and acting commissioner in May 2017 following the resignation of N. Gunter Guy Jr. Alabama Governor Kay Ivey appointed Blankenship to the role of ADCNR commissioner in August 2017.
May 27 2020
Rank #2: Lane Zirlott (Murder Point Oysters)
Chef Pete Blohme chats with Lane Zirlott of Murder Point Oysters!
Jan 07 2020
Rank #3: Chef Michele Ragussis
Michele Ragussis is an American chef. She is best known as a finalist on the eighth season of the Food Network series Food Network Star.
Apr 01 2020
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Rank #5: Chef Jim Binner
Jim Binner’s cooking career landed him several prestigious awards and recognition at a young age. Then extensive experience in foodservice sales, marketing and business practices, along with a desire to further his education, make him a logical choice for membership on the Alumni Council. Jim holds multiple degrees, including a Masters in Strategic Leadership. As an active member of the American Culinary Federation, New York State Restaurant Association, School Nutrition Association, and holding a seat on the Board of Director of the International Food Service Executives Association, Jim has a broad view of the industry and an acute understanding of the value of learning and teamwork. Jim is an advocate for the CIA in many ways. His support and involvement at the annual Alumni Home Coming weekend, Gift-in-Kind donations, CIA Gala Awards, Flavor Summits, and multiple Alumni Receptions around the country truly show his passion for his alma mater. You may even see a few bricks with his name on them around the Hyde Park campus. Jim truly believes “Food is Fun” and says he “bleeds CIA Green and Gold”.
May 13 2020
Rank #6: Bobby The Butcher Marcotte
In this episode of the Hot off the Press Podcast, Panini Pete Blohme interviews Bobby “the Butcher” Marcotte who is a fellow Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives alumnus and winner of Guy's Grocery Games in 2017. He is best known for Tuckaway Tavern & Butchery in a small town in New Hampshire.
Marcotte has been in the restaurant business for 25 years, jumping right into the chaos at age 13 and never looking back. His father was a former Navy chef who ended up working in restaurants. Marcotte’s help was needed in the dish pit one night, and he realized that was where fit in.
He opened Tuckaway eight years ago – a 250 seat butcher shop and steak house. He recently branched out with Hop & Grind, which focus on craft beers and craft burgers.
Marcotte said he learned a lot about the restaurant business by watching people ahead of him. From these people, he realized what he wanted to do and what he didn’t want to do and created his own style. He also reads a lot of books, and he and Blohme discuss some of his favorites and what he’s learned from them.
Marcotte’s style is to go the extra distance for his guests and focus on overall hospitality. He pays his employees well and focuses on food quality. The two restauranteurs discuss this and other important leadership skills.
After losing his daughter to cancer, Marcotte also now focuses heavily on philanthropy and giving back to cancer research. Listen to learn more.
Jan 09 2020
Rank #7: John Conley
“It’s not life and death. It’s just lunch and dinner.”
This week, Panini Pete welcomes long-time friend and restaurateur John Conley to the podcast. In this episode, Conley discusses how he got into the profession – working at a deli at the age of 13 – and how his career has grown from there. He also compares the restaurant business with the profession of smoke jumping and how the structure of the latter helped him do better at the former.
In his more than 30 years in the business, Conley has seen a shift in his priorities. He treats his employees like family and encourages them to find importance in their lives outside of their jobs. Listen to him describe this journey with Pete and why he thinks this aspect of his business and his life is so important.
Conley is well-known in Flagstaff and beyond for his restaurants Salsa Brava, which he opened at the age of 21, and Fat Olives Italian Kitchen. Salsa Brava continually wins awards for its Mexican fare in Arizona. As the father of a child with Down syndrome, Conley is also working to open a breakfast restaurant that hires people with disabilities, which is just another example of how he is now focused on family and the community at this point in his career.
Even after 30 plus years, Conley said he still loves what he does and loves going to work every day, but he also loves fishing and takes time for himself when he needs it. He encourages his employees to do the same and makes it a point to be invested in the lives of his employees.
Tune in for the details.
Nov 20 2019
Rank #8: Steve Martorano - Café Martorano
Growing up in South Philly, many would have thought Steve Martorano didn’t stand much of a chance for more than going into the family business. With his father making only $166 a week and his uncle in the mob, Steve knew one thing – he didn’t want either of those lives for himself. But what was he to do? School was never his strong suit, so he set out on his own journey to success, but not without a few failures along the way, which only made him stronger and more determined to show the world what he is made of. After spinning records for a few years as a DJ in the 70s, Steve opened up his first delivery sandwich shop in his apartment. He was a one-man show with an increasingly popular business. His sandwiches became such a hit in South Philly that Martorano outgrew his space and opened a take out restaurant in a strip mall. Here Martorano made pizza, sandwiches, pasta dishes and homemade water ice. A few years later, the demand outgrew his location again, and Martorano moved to a freestanding, sit down restaurant. In the early 90s, the US economy took a turn for the worst and Steve lost everything. He knew it was time for a change. In 1993, he moved to Ft. Lauderdale with merely $40 to his name and opened a new restaurant on Oakland Park Boulevard – Café Martorano. 18 years later, Café Martorano has become a worldwide sensation. The restaurant chain has expanded into five locations – the original one on Oakland Park Boulevard, one at the Seminole Hard Rock in Hollywood, Florida, at the Rio All Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, at Paris Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas and at Harrahs Hotel & Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The Martorano brand has also launched a wine label, pasta sauces, a Yo Cuz! apparel line, Jewerly line, a self published book “Yo Cuz! My Life, My Food, My Way and his second book “It Ain’t Sauce, It’s Gravy… How Food Saved my Life” published by Knopf. Steve Martorano has raised the bar for the restaurant industry. The “Godfather of Italian-American cooking” has taken the craft of cooking to new levels through a dream, persistence, and hard work. With his self-taught talent, Steve has created a venue in which as owner he is the cook, the DJ and the operator. The Martorano restaurants offer a unique atmosphere that combines exceptional food with extraordinary music and movies. This rare environment has allowed Martorano to create an ambiance that attracts clientele ranging from locals to the sexy, hip crowd to some of entertainment’s hottest celebrities, and has even been featured on television shows such as The Real Housewives of Miami and Joan and Melissa: Joan Knows Best? and the Jimmy Kimmel show just to name a few. Rags to riches business is the only restaurant that has managed to create a modern and cool atmosphere while maintaining that welcome-to-the-family vibe.
Feb 12 2020
Rank #9: Bob Omainsky - Wintzell's Oyster House
Chef Pete Blohme talks to Bob Omainsky of Wintzell's Oyster House!
Jan 23 2020
Rank #10: Johnny Hernandez
On this episode of the Hot Off the Press podcast, Pete welcomes Johnny Hernandez from San Antonio to the show to discuss his culinary journey, his catering background, his path towards being an expert in traditional Mexican food, and his philanthropic efforts in the San Antonio area.
Hernandez worked in his parents’ kitchen as a boy and knew that he wanted to work in the field for the rest of his life. His father encouraged him to get an education at the best culinary school he could find. Hernandez attended the Culinary Institute of America, and he feels the mentoring and education put him on the path to success.
Since then, he has made a name for himself in San Antonio, owning a catering business and a number of restaurants, with five more in the works, inspired by Mexico and focused on authentic Mexican food. Hernandez traveled through Mexico to learn about the food, culture, beverages and décor and became committed to that style. He strives to be the expert on Mexican food in his region of the United States, and that mission drives many of his decisions.
Hernandez has also established Kitchen Campus, a permanent after-school culinary program for high school kids to learn about the restaurant businesses. His annual Paella Challenge has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the program in the past 10 years.
Dec 19 2019
Rank #11: Robert Kabakoff - RHK Consulting Group
Chef Pete sits down with Robert Kabakoff of RHK Consulting Group. RHK Consulting Group’s founder and owner Robert Kabakoff has led an impressive career of culinary invention. He recognized his passion for cooking and baking at an early age and has been following through on that passion with determination ever since. In 1986, he graduated from the Culinary Institute of America which further fueled his drive. At twenty-five years young, he was named Executive Chef for Troon Golf and Country Club, earning Chef of the Year and winning the National Championship for Hot Food Cooking twice. After eight years as Corporate Executive Chef and Director of Culinary Training for Hillstone Restaurants, Kabakoff branched out to open his own consulting group along with restaurants in Bend, Oregon, Chicago Illinois, Spanish Fort Alabama, Cedar Rapids Iowa and Washington D.C.
Feb 06 2020
Rank #12: Brian Duffy
On this week’s Hot off the Press podcast, Panini Pete talks shop with a friend, and fellow Mess Lord, Brian Duffy.
Duffy grew up in Philadelphia and worked a few kitchen jobs before going to culinary school at Philadelphia’s The Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College. A few days after graduating he moved to the Florida Keys and worked in a restaurant for about a year. He then returned to Philly and worked under James Beard Award-winning Chef Jean Marie LaCroix at The Four Seasons. Since then, he has become a restaurateur and celebrity chef with his own shows on the Food Network (Opening Night) and Spike TV (Bar Rescue).
Duffy said he had no idea what he was doing when he started and learned a lot of what he knows now through trial and error and mistakes. Now, he does a lot of consulting to help other restaurants figure out what they’re doing wrong, using what he has learned over the years to help them turn things around and be successful.
With a new Food Network show based on his consulting business, Duffy and Pete discuss what skills are needed to really make it in the restaurant business and processes chefs need to master to ensure efficiency.
Duffy is also the father of two girls and makes sure they are up in time for school no matter where he is in the world. Listen to how he does it all this week.
Dec 04 2019
Rank #14: Chef Linkie Marais
The South African beauty queen, award-winning baker and grill master, Linkie Marais, is more than your average chef!With a love for exploring, cooking and the outdoors, Chef Linkie Marais' ‘will to grill’ stems all the way back to her unique blend of South African and Southern roots. Born in Evander, a town in northeastern South Africa, Linkie was raised in the kitchen, helping her mother prepare meals on a daily basis. With a lack of abundant fresh ingredients, she inher- ited her mother’s creativity, utilizing whatever they had available to create fresh and original meals. Described by Linkie as a “melting pot,” South African cuisine incorporates influences from across the globe. “We love our meats – especially lamb – but South African cuisine is really a mix of northern African and European influences,” says Linkie. “We grew up eating everything from rustic cur- ries to fine breads and cakes.” Immigrating to the U.S. in 1999, Linkie and her family settled in Tupelo, Mississippi where she began her culinary career piping cakes for a local catering company. Upon obtaining a degree in Culinary Arts and a minor in Food Arts from Mississippi University for Women, Linkie's career took off as she held various pastry and executive chef positions in Oxford, Mississippi before making the move to Massachusetts’ acclaimed Montilio’s Bakery. Years later, Linkie decided to venture out on her own and accepted the opportunity of a life- time to compete on Food Network’s hit series, “Next Food Network Star” in 2012. “My experience on the show can only be described as ‘crazy.’ It’s like driving a fast car—fun but unpredictable. It forced me to push my limits and take my creativity to a new level.” After discovering her love for grilling during a Big Green Egg® competition, Linkie’s passion for grilling began to take her career in a new and exciting direction. It’s clear that her meat-filled and resourceful South African culinary upbringing has had a tremendous impact on her cooking flair, as Linkie is considered the best among the few females who have mastered the art of grill- ing. “I love how action-packed grilling can be. My absolute favorite thing to grill is lamb! The aroma that is released when the lamb hits the fire is incomparable. But what people don't realize is that much more —from sides to desserts—can be prepared on a grill, too.” It is only natural that this outdoorsy, fun and energetic chef spends her weekend's hunting, camping and debating with her South African husband, Jannie, over who gets to do the grilling. “But ultimately, I’m always in the kitchen. That is where I spend not only my work time, but my free time. Cooking is my therapy.”
Apr 15 2020
Rank #15: Martie Duncan
In this episode of Hot Off the Press, Pete Blohme does a live interview from Ed's Seafood Shed on the Causeway in south Alabama with Martie Duncan, a former Food Network Star and Alabama culinary legend.
Duncan, who is based in Birmingham, finished as the runner-up on season 8 of Food Network Star and was mentored by Alton Brown during the show’s competition. With a background in parties and entertainment experiences that revolve around food, Duncan – the face of Martie Knows Parties – stepped out of her comfort zone while on the show. At the same time, she made a name for herself and her culinary abilities.
Duncan was told by Bobby Flay to be the best advocate that she could for Alabama, and her books have done just that. Birmingham’s Best Bites and Magic City Cravings feature some of Birmingham’s best and most requested recipes. Duncan’s third book, Alabama Cravings, was released in 2018. The book is a “road trip of food” from around the state of Alabama, featuring 97 recipes from restaurants from around the state as well as music and art.
Listen as Duncan and Blohme discuss her culinary journey, her books, her crazy experience trying out for Food Network Star, and more. The interview was done during a book signing at Ed’s so enjoy the off-the-cuff and live experience.
Dec 12 2019
Rank #16: Chef Celina Tio
After working in restaurants throughout her teens and earning a degree in hotel and restaurant management from Drexel University, Tio started cooking at Philadelphia’s Ritz-Carlton hotel. Tio moved to Orlando. There she helped open three specialty restaurants for Walt Disney World: Spoodles, Citricos, and Palo. Tio truly made her mark during the following seven years heading the kitchen at Kansas City’s renowned American Restaurant. There she garnered both local and national accolades, including 2005 Chef Of The Year by Chef magazine and the James Beard Foundation’s 2007 Best Chef: Midwest. Chef Tio has gone to open Julian, and recently the Belfry and Collection Restaurant.
Mar 04 2020
Rank #17: Chef Nick Liberato
Absorbing culture and passing it on through food is part of Executive Chef Nick Liberato's heritage. Raised believing that every day is a holiday which should be celebrated with food, wine, great conversation, and loved ones, Nick has been cooking professionally for 18 years, and now calls the Southern California coast his home. Nick is a personal chef to the stars, a revered cocktail mixologist, world traveler, husband, father & surfer.
Feb 26 2020
Rank #18: Chef Greg Buschmohle
Mar 11 2020
Rank #19: Chef Stevie Brown - PhreshPlate
As a former collegiate and professional athlete staying in shape and keeping up with my body was a part of the job description. I had to make weight and be able to perform to my fullest capabilities on the field. My diet and the food I put in my body directly affected both of those. I also grew up with a passion for food and love being in the kitchen and around food.
With my athletic background and my passion for food I was able to combine that over my years of playing to create meals to help me achieve my goals. Through trial and error in cooking I learned how to subtract calories out of some of my favorite meals but keep the flavor. Playing days are over however I am still into fitness and taking care of my body.
I spent the last year traveling and learning new recipes and flavor profiles to bring back to the kitchen.
PhreshPlate was soon born after that. I have brought some of my favorite recipes from my playing days and some of my favorite recipes from my travels. PhreshPlate the food truck will provide great tasting meals that are quick, healthy and convenient for the consumer. PhreshPlate is here to help all those who are interested in reaching their fitness goals or those who are wanting something different from the normal food truck scene.
Feb 19 2020