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.
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.
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.
“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.