Elmwood Park’s Jeff Mauro, the self-styled “Sandwich King” was crowned the next “Food Network Star” during the series finale Sunday night. His new show, also titled “Sandwich King” premieres Sunday, Aug. 21 at 10:30 a.m. Central Time on the Food Network.
Sandwiches were his proverbial shtick during the entire series, in which an ever-smaller circle of contenders undertake cooking and other on-air challenges to determine which has the making to be a star. Sandwiches also had a starring rolling in the 33-year-old’s life.
“As a kid, I always would much rather have had a sandwich than any other food,’’ Mauro said in a telephone interview Monday from his Elmwood Park home. “Sandwiches always excited me, I started packing my own lunches for school…I just couldn’t have an ordinary sandwich.”
His mantra, as recited many times on “Food Network Star,” sums up his philosophy: It takes only a couple of steps to turn any meal into a sandwich, and any sandwich into a meal. He showed that to great effect in his final challenge: A sample show in which he turned rolled beef braciole into a heart sandwich., For his final series hurdle
Mauro certainly had experience in sandwich at his job as corporate chef for a Chicago mortgage company, Guaranteed Rate, in Ravenswood. His last day there was Thursday.
“There’s no better practice than making a sandwich 120 times a day and then inventing another one the next day,’’ he recalled. “I have an encyclopedia of ideas in my head ready to explode. I can look at any meal, of any ethnicity, and know how to make that into a sandwich.”
Viewers will get a chance to see Mauro make some of his sandwiches ideas during the six-episode series, which will feature footage shot in and around Chicago. On the menu: A Chicago steakhouse sandwich; a mortadella and fig “focaccianini”; and a play on a Chicago icon – a chicken Vesuvio sandwich on a French roll with peas, mushrooms and pepper.
Mauro will also be busy promoting the first-ever book produced in conjunction with the series: “Food Network Star: The Official Insider’s Guide to American’s Hottest Foods Show” (William Morrow, $21.99). He is scheduled to sign books at Macy’s, 111 N. State St., with fellow contestant Vic “Vegas” Moea” at 2 p.m. on Aug. 27.