Jeffrey Saad has a tasty new gig: Traveling the country exploring iconic American foods for his Cooking Channel show, United Tastes of America. Think ice cream, burgers, doughnuts and his personal favorite, pizza. You might recognize Jeffery from his stint on The Next Food Network Star, where he was Season 5’s runner-up.
We chatted with Jeffrey about what he’s been up to since then, childhood food memories, what to expect from United Tastes and more. Catch the first episode—pizza, of course—on Tuesday, November 16 at 9:30pm/8:30c. Get the scoop…
1) How has the experience of making United Tastes of America been different from competing on The Next Food Network Star?
I could plan ahead! It was a thrill, a challenge and one of the best experiences of my life being on the NFNS but it has been great knowing what is coming. Making the UTOA has been awesome because I take the viewer on a journey to meet the great talents behind irresistible, iconic American foods.
2) What are you most excited about from United Tastes?
Bringing foods to life for viewers — you’ll want to take a bite out of the screen. I showcase the amazing evolution of our favorite American foods and how they’ve grown up with us.
3) What’s your all-time favorite American food?
- Pizza, baby!
- The burger
Way too hard to pick. I think it is the one that is prepared with the best ingredients, has the cleanest flavors and is made with the most passion.
4) Coolest place you visited making the show?
Donald Link’s Cochon in New Orleans (along with his Butcher restaurant attached) was pleasure overload. It’s Southern food gone gourmet, yet with such simple comfort. Cured meats in every form each done to perfection — I could not stop eating. It was one of those moments where I wanted to try everything for fear that I may miss something and live an incomplete life.
5) Biggest surprise during the shoot?
How dynamic basic foods can be, how they’ve evolved and how diverse they can be based on the person making them. Like everything in life, it’s about the people!
6) The genesis of Saad cooking?
I was 13 years old and got a work permit to work at a local diner behind my junior high school. Flipped my first burger and I knew in that moment that food was going to be my life. I was completely inspired watching food transform into irresistible eating experiences.
7) How has the restaurant world impacted you?
After opening and owning several restaurants, starting with my first at 25 years old, I learned that people like to be taken care of. The food is critical but the way you treat people is just as important. No matter what is going on in someone’s life, that day when I have them in a chair, they are going to get an hour of sheer pleasure.
8 Any childhood memories of foods enter into the show?
Pizza: Growing up in Chicago, I thought a piece of pizza had to weigh at least three pounds!
Burgers: Better when they are not gray and bulging in the middle! Memory really is the secret ingredient in every recipe. Somehow American cheese tastes good because it is the taste of my childhood burger.
Hot dogs: A small pot of boiling water and too much ketchup.
Doughnuts: The original “crack”. I remember the instant rush of sugar racing through my veins after eating a couple doughnuts. Weekend mustaches of powdered sugar were the norm.
Ice cream: Big sundaes covered with nuts and hot fudge while watching The Love Boat with my sisters. Walking to the local ice cream shop when visiting my uncle. Watching my grandma drop chunks of Milky Way bars into her homemade vanilla ice cream as she hand-churned it in a bucket of glacier-like salt.
9) All-time best food experience…ever?
That’s like asking an island for its favorite sunset. Food is so much about the mood, the place and the people you enjoy it with.
Just one? It might be the most perfectly cooked, sweet crab claw held in angular suspension in a glassy dish of egg white that had been cooked with a rich stock until forming a brilliant, smooth, savory custard. I was in a small restaurant in Hong Kong with a great friend eating our way across the Island.
10) Favorite meal to prepare for your family (and when should we arrive)?
Spaghetti Bolognese! It’s our family’s common denominator. The kids love pasta, I love the silky, hearty, deep meaty flavor and my wife gets to taste memories of her childhood in Italy. It is a one-pot dish and don’t forget the rustic bread dragged through the sauce to clean your plate — heavenly experience!
Catch the premiere of United Tastes of America on Tuesday, November 16 at 9:30pm/8:30c.