As we mentioned in our IHHS 2017 wrap-up, there’s a lot going on during the International Home and Housewares Show. With 2,200 exhibitors and 5 separate expos, at any moment you can turn a corner and find an event. The Dine and Décor and Wired and Well expos frequently have celebrity chef guests, from Rick Bayless to Ming Tsai. This year, we took a trip to the Wired and Well expo where Food Network chef Jeff Mauro, a Chicago native and owner of Pork and Mindy’s in Wicker Park, was demonstrating some new products for Black and Decker and George Foreman brands. During the demonstration, he made a fantastic sweet potato skillet hash with chorizo and bell peppers and a “Chicago-style” cheesesteak, using the latest gadgets from both brands. For Black and Decker, this was a Multi-Prep Slice and Dice tabletop prep device with multiple discs for julienne, grating, slicing and chopping, and for George Foreman, it was the Five Serving Grill and Broil device, with a multi-plate design that allows for moving the heating element closer to or farther away from what you’re preparing, much like a restaurant salamander would. We asked Mauro a bit about the products he was using and a lot about his local preferences, and had a great time getting the answers. Take a look below for our interview!
3CR: Hi Jeff, and thanks for doing this with us. Tell us a little bit about the things you like about the new products you’re demoing:
Jeff: Well, with all the functions of the Multi-Prep, I’ll be out of a job very quick I think. And I love the broil function on the George Foreman. It’s really, for a sandwich guy for quick broiling, it’s very clean and easy.
3CR: And it is hard to get a flat top or a salamander in your house….
Jeff: Exactly. Most wives would not let their husbands spend 18 grand on a piece of commercial grade equipment in their house. Once you start having to knock down walls to fit the equipment, it’s a done deal.
3CR: Let’s talk unsung heroes of the kitchen, toolwise. What’s your favorite? Mine is half sheet pans- we use them for ev.ery.thing.
Jeff: That’s a good one. Can I steal yours? I use a ton of half sheets and quarter sheets. Wait. I’ll tell you what it is: parchment paper. I use it for everything, whether it’s to keep a pan from getting dirty while I let something rest on wire rack sheet or when I do my bacon in the Mauro method. I do a full 1 inch border around the sheet and lay the bacon…it renders all the fat, fries it in its own fat, and then all you do is let it harden and throw it away, totally clean pan. It’s the Mauro method, I’ve tagged it years ago.
3CR: People call you the Sandwich King. But if you’re in Chicago and NOT eating a sandwich, what do you eat?
Jeff: Pizza. I love pizza. I’m a thin crust, kinda neighborhood tavern style kind of guy. I like Jim and Pete’s pizza in Elmwood Park, sausage giardiniera pizza. That’s my favorite thin, and I think for deep dish I’m a Malnati’s guy. Butter crust, well done pepperoni. And for stuffed pizza, Giordano’s, of course, for nostalgia’s sake. For Napoletano, I like Forno Rosso.
3CR: When you’re not home in Chicago, what do you miss the most?
Jeff: My son. My wife. We still live in Elmwood Park, so when I’m away, I miss them. Bed is good and missing your couch is one thing but you know, but that’s what makes it real and makes…the hardest part about this job is travel, and I miss ’em.
3CR: What’s harder to tackle at home, beef or deep dish pizza?
Jeff: I’ve made both at home but it’s definitely deep dish pizza. I mean, you have to get a cast iron pan and you can use your skillet…but it depends, there’s two different styles. You can do the butter crust cornmeal style or the more biscuit crust style like Giordano’s, there’s so many different directions you can go and it’s easy to mess up. It’s about that balance of getting everything melted in the middle without overcooking the crust.
3CR: I can never get the sauce.
Jeff: I think it’s all about sugar. Keeping it simple, not cooking it, Malnati’s, I think, doesn’t cook their sauce.
We thank Jeff heartily for the time he spent with us at this year’s show and hope to visit him at Pork and Mindy’s on Milwaukee Ave in Wicker Park. We hope you will, too.