Washington Born Chefs Bring Northwest Flavor to PBS Show ‘The Great American Recipe’

PBS viewers will get a taste of western Washington this week.

Seattle-born celebrity chef Graham Elliot is a judge on PBS’s new home cook competition series “The Great American Recipe” (June 24, KCTS 9), while contestant Nikki Tomaino Allemand grew up in Kenmore and Kirkland. She now resides in Boise, Idaho.

Although they both now live outside of Washington, Elliot noticed Tomaino Allemand’s Pacific Northwest-inspired cuisine.

“Some of the ingredients she was using, the salmon and the berries” showed her food culture, Elliot said. “She’s one of those people that if she wanted to get into the cooking world professionally right now, she could easily do it. It’s one thing to be passionate about food or cooking and it’s another to actually be able to produce great things on demand.”

Presented by Alejandra Ramos, the eight-part “Great American Recipe” seeks to celebrate the country’s multicultural culinary delights as chefs share their signature dishes and stories of the foods they grew up with.

Elliot is joined at the trial by Leah Cohen and Tiffany Derry. Judges rate the dishes prepared by each of the 10 cheftesters based on taste, presentation, execution and how well the dish presents the week’s theme. One contestant is eliminated each week.

As this is PBS, the grand prize is not a huge dollar amount, but the honor of having your recipe on the cover of a “Great American Recipe” cookbook that will be published on August 12th.

Filmed an hour away from Richmond, Virginia, in September and October 2021, this week’s season premiere sees chefs creating a dish that expresses their culinary history. Prepared flank steak Tomaino Allemand with roasted red potatoes and chimichurri sauce. For the second creation of the debut, the chefs should bet on regional dishes with local ingredients. Tomaino Allemand made cioppino inspired by a dish she loves at a restaurant in Lincoln City, Oregon.

Tomaino Allemand, whose parents divorced when she was young, says her father’s family was “a family of cooks,” while her mother introduced her to varied flavors.

“She took me to every Asian and Indian restaurant in Seattle,” said Tomaino Allemand. “My father’s Italian side gave me the gift of physically cooking. I didn’t know it was a gift at the time.”

When Tomaino Allemand was a student at the University of Idaho, and after graduation with roommates, she would cook in batches and make dinners they could eat for a week, or cook something on the spur of the moment with ingredients at hand.

She worked in the legal department of a Boise microchip maker, and when a co-worker had cancer, co-workers got together and donated money to Tomaino Allemand to prepare meals for a month. Soon, other co-workers wanted to pay Tomaino Allemand to prepare meals.

“I was that person walking into the corporate field in a suit, rolling a cooler with me, handing out food to people,” she said. “So I finally thought, there’s something to that.”

She quit her job and founded Eazy Peazy Kitchen, which offers ready-to-heat and eat meals to customers in Idaho’s Treasure Valley.

Tomaino Allemand landed on “Great American Recipe” when an acquaintance who had been cast had to drop out and recommended her to the show’s producers.

Elliot only lived in Seattle for the first six months of his life while his father finished his studies at the University of Washington. Elliot is primarily known as a guy on the Chicago food scene, though he moved to Hawaii, where he spent part of his childhood, and is now culinary director at the Polynesian Cultural Center on Oahu.

“But my love of baseball brought me [to Seattle] a few times to check out some games and I also met with [Seattle restauranteur] Ethan Stowell and I was able to see some of his places and I tried a few other places, obviously the [Pike Place] Market,” Elliott said. “It’s a beautiful area, especially for foodies.”

Elliot’s TV career began as a contestant on “Iron Chef” and “Top Chef Masters,” and then moved into the role of judge on “MasterChef” and “MasterChef Junior.”

“We all thought that food TV was maybe just a fad,” said Elliot. “At first, there was real politeness involved, and then it became more, ‘OK, you have two minutes to cook with your hand tied behind your back using a blunt, rusty knife.’

“With ‘Great American Recipe,’ you really get to see what makes America tick when it comes to food, originality and the stories behind it. There were no big countdowns and people stealing each other’s ingredients to try and win. The ages of competitors are also different. They are much more mature. It’s not just 20-year-olds from LA who are made for TV.”

Elliot, who now hosts a podcast called Pop Chef, said the hardest part of judging the “Great American Recipe” revolves around cultural norms.

“Let’s say your family is from a certain part of India and you make a curry. It tastes amazing, you have a great story, but it shouldn’t be served in that kind of bowl,” Elliot said. “And they just look at you and say, ‘This is what my mother and her mother and her grandmother did.’ Like, who was this white guy telling me now that I should serve deconstructed on this type of dish?

“So what I tried to do was really focus more on technique and story. And then when you’re pitting that against the other dishes, which one would you really like to enjoy more?”

Check out KCTS 9 this week to see how long the western Washington culinary connection lasts.

“The Great American Recipe”

Premieres at 9 pm on June 24 on PBS (KCTS 9).

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: