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Food Network launched Chicago stars Jeff Mauro, Ted Allen

Elmwood Park's Jeff Mauro winner 'Food Network Star.'

Elmwood Park's Jeff Mauro, winner of "Food Network Star."

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Updated: December 1, 2013 7:45AM



Over the years, Food Network has been a key ingredient in several local foodies’ recipe for success:

Jeff Mauro

The Elmwood Park chef/comic got his big break in 2011 when this self-proclaimed sandwich king was crowned “Food Network Star” on season seven. Mauro, a former cast member in Chicago’s interactive theater show “Tony ‘n’ Tina’s Wedding,” had tried to make it in Los Angeles as a TV chef. Things didn’t pan out — until he won the network’s televised talent search that landed him his own show, “Sandwich King” (10 a.m. Sundays), where he has featured signature sandwiches throughout the Chicago area. He’s on a roll: The network last year gave him a new primetime series, “$24 in 24,” that has him traveling the country in search of budget-friendly eats for less than $24 in 24 hours.

The Hearty Boys

When “Food Network Star” started in 2005, a couple of Chicago caterers were the first to take the cake. Dan Smith and Steve McDonagh, a k a the Hearty Boys, beat out some 10,000 applicants in a nationwide search and shot a short pilot of themselves cooking lobster pot pie to clinch the win. Their program, “Party Line with the Hearty Boys,” lasted only one season, but they still pop up on TV occasionally. They went on to write a cookbook and a collection of cocktail recipes and continue run their catering company and Hearty restaurant in Boystown.

Ted Allen

Bravo’s “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” catapulted former Chicago journalist Ted Allen to fame, but he’s become a mainstay on Food Network. Frequently appearing as a judge on “Iron Chef America” and “Food Network Star,” Allen also hosted the science-flavored series “Food Detectives” and continues to host the network’s popular cooking competition “Chopped.”

Are you next?

Food Network has scheduled an open casting call in Chicago for season 10 of “Food Network Star” on Nov. 16. The event will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Westin hotel, 909 N. Michigan. Visit www.foodnetwork.com/casting for an application that must be filled out in advance.

— Lori Rackl, Sun-Times TV Critic



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