November 2018

Pomodori Goes Oven Mitt to Oven Mitt on The Food Network

Author: Becca Edwards

We are elbow to elbow at the bar at Porter and Pig with our eyes hyper-focused on the television screen to see Amanda Russ of Pomodori duke it out with other top local culinary talents Orchid Paulmeier (Marley’s Island Grille), Mir Ali (Lili’s Restaurant and Bar), Neil Youngblood (Blowin’ Smoke) and Kenneth Brown (Sisters of the New South) on the Food Network’s reality show Bite Club. Russ, who has kept us all in suspense as to who the winner is since she filmed the cooking competition several months ago, is in the crowd, too. She looks calm. Cool. Confident. But then again, when does she not?

As Tyler Florence introduces the chef-contestants, we get soundbites from each contender and the show picks up momentum; we become aware of Russ’s passion for her culinary craft and how supportive and respectful she is toward others in her industry. On screen, and in real life, there is something deliciously awesome about her level of professionalism. When we comment on this to Russ she said, “It is impossible to achieve anything in life without learning from different people along the way. I’m so grateful to have wonderful chefs, amazing guests and the best staff I could ever ask for helping me every day. I wouldn’t be here without you.”

Bite Club’s premise
Five chefs draw to see which three will compete and which two will judge in the competition. The competing chefs must incorporate secret ingredients into their dishes (they also have access to whatever else they can find in the hosting restaurant’s kitchen) in two eliminating cookoffs.

When Russ draws and is allowed to compete, everyone gathered to watch her claps. When Russ makes it through the first elimination with her peer-judges praising her summer Georgia peach gazpacho and ricotta gnocchi, everyone high-fives. And when Russ wins Bite Club with her seared loin of lamb with an Asian chile sauce caponata and wilted spinach, everyone erupts into cheers, chugs and group hugs. We are celebrating Russ, on many levels.

As locals, we always root and holler when one of our own accomplishes national success as Russ did on the Food Network that night. We also think to ourselves, “Thank God, her restaurant is only a 10-minute drive from me having an amazing meal.” But, as foodies, we also consider what it means to be a chef these days.

Not only do true chefs like Russ respect time-honored, finger-licking traditions like that of Pomodori’s Italian-inspired cuisine, but they also innovate and introduce current trends and elements to their patrons. This fusion of old and new cooking is as tasty on the palate as it is to us personally. With dishes like the ones created by Russ—and by extension her restaurant Pomodori—we can experience and appreciate different cultures, various food movements and food that truly feeds the body and soul.

Russ credits her win to her friends and family members. “What you see on the screen is pretty wonderful, but what you didn’t see were the two weeks leading up to the competition where I was a nervous wreck,” she said. “Aram Haroutunian, a brilliant chef and a dear friend, came over every other day with ‘mystery baskets’ of food to help me practice. I had never made lamb before Aram brought it in a basket, and I’m so grateful that he was there to coach me and help me hone and focus my skills.”

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