Dishalicious, a new cooking show from the creator of Check, Please! and hosted by award-winning Monteverde chef Sarah Grueneberg, debuts at 8:30 p.m. tonight on WTTW Chicago. The show’s premise takes a theme — it’s Italian food for the premiere which features Spiaggia’s Tony Mantuano, GT Prime’s Giuseppe Tentori and Nico Osteria’s pastry chef Leigh Omilinsky — and allows chefs to prepare dishes and interact in a relaxed studio kitchen setting. The show’s inspiration comes from chef’s demonstrations at festivals such as Chicago Gourmet.
That relaxed feeling creates a unique experience that showcases Chicago, said David Manilow, the creator of both Dishalicious and Check, Please! Instead of contestants at each other’s necks, the chefs are put into a position to share ideas and experiences. Chicago’s food industry is known for its collaborative and generous nature, and Dishalicious underscores that. It’s the antidote for competitive shows like Masterchef and Top Chef.
“Nobody’s showing off, they’re learning from each other and they’re tasting, they’re joking,” Manilow said.
Three episodes have been recorded. A Mexican episode (premiering April 13) features 5 Rabbit’s Alfonso Sotelo and his mentor, Rick Bayless. That episode also features Bayless’s first meeting with Mi Tocaya’s Diana Dávila. This is must-watch TV considering Dávila’s feelings about potential homogeneity in Mexican cooking in Chicago. A Korean episode features Bill Kim (Urban Belly), Beverly Kim (Parachute), and Dave Park (Hanbun).
It’s also refreshing for Grueneberg. Before opening her West Loop Italian restaurant and winning the 2017 James Beard Award winner for Best Chef: Great Lakes, Grueneberg raised her profile during her appearances on Top Chef in 2012. Dishalicious isn’t heavily edited to create tension.
“I think we’re tired of doing that,” Grueneberg said. “We’re tired of doing it, it really puts a negative light on our industry.”
Manilow pointed to the Korean episode (premiering on April 20) where Grueneberg mentions to Park that her staff regularly uses a wok at Monteverde to fry pastas and onions for a skate wing schnitzel. It’s a somewhat surprising revelation that allows the chefs to relate to each other. Amid the banter, viewers and the studio audience may also pick up a pointer or two. All the recipes will be listed online, though novice home cooks may be challenged.
Just like a chef with an idea to scale a restaurant across the country, Manilow sees potential in Dishalicious. While the show would be based in Chicago, he sees opportunities to invite chefs from across the country to record episodes. Manilow’s other baby, Check, Please!, has translated to other markets such as San Francisco, Miami, and Phoenix after debuting in 2001 on PBS Chicago. Perhaps, as the show evolves, they’ll tweak the format. Instead of food genres, they could hone in on a specific neighborhood, for example.
A June appearance by Grueneberg on CBS This Morning caught Manilow’s attention and convinced him to pursue her as his new show’s host. He’s been developing the show since last year. It’s only been three shows, but Manilow said Dishalicious has already exceeded expectations.
“The pictures, the things that I really like are when I see these four chefs together,” Manilow said. “It’s what you don’t see on TV — you don’t see four smiling chefs together.”
Dishalicious premieres at 8:30 p.m on Friday right after Check, Please! on WTTW, Chicago’s PBS affiliate.