"Kitchen Crash" comes to Malverne on Tuesday at 10 p.m., when the Food Network competition airs the first of three shows this season taking place on Long Island.
"Thanks to everybody on Long Island, man!" enthuses host and chief judge Jeff Mauro, 44, by phone. "They showed up and they helped us make great shows. Pound for pound it's our best location" on the series, which in its one previous season shot throughout New Jersey; in Austin, Texas; and in Bay Shore. A West Babylon episode airs next week, and Farmingdale stars on Aug. 2.
In each episode, Mauro brings three chefs to neighborhoods that have been told only that a TV show will be shooting their local block party. Once there, the chefs each have 10 minutes to convince a household to let them rummage through their refrigerator and cabinets for a single bin of food that chef will stretch out to create three dishes. The winning chef and household split a $10,000 prize (and all households receive "100% reimbursement for any and all things used or unused," Mauro clarified last year).
In Tuesday's episode, "Garden Party," shot on Malverne's Lexington Avenue, Mauro and chef Marc Murphy judge the contestant chefs Brandon Campney of Stirling Tavern in Morristown, New Jersey; Claude Lewis of Freetown Road Project in Jersey City, New Jersey; and Sara Nguyen of Wangs Fried Chicken in Brooklyn. Each competitor is tasked with making what the network describes as "a cheesy Mexican-inspired dish, a sweet and savory surf-and-turf masterpiece and a dessert with a surprise filling."
Heather Zwillick, 46, a teacher, and her education-administrator husband, Matt, 44, were among the homeowners who agreed to have their pantry raided.
When the "Kitchen Crash" crew arrived, "I was actually just getting out of the shower because we thought we weren't supposed to be ready until later on," recalls Heather Zwillick. “I was in shock because we really were just planning for the block party, and we didn't do our main shopping. And when [Campney] was going through our cabinets, I was, like, ‘Oh, my God, I don't even know what's in there.’ ”
Which is generally the case, says Mauro. "They all wish they would've gone shopping the night before, and since we're shooting on the weekends, I mean, I don't know about your house, but for us, Friday's pizza night and then Saturday we're going out. So our fridge is not stocked. The crisper drawer," he says, chuckling, "is not bountiful with cruciferous vegetables."
Heather Zwillick, who with Matt is the parent of 10-year-old daughter Shelby and 7-year-old son Chase, said everyone connected with the episode was "phenomenal. Jeff was awesome and Marc was awesome — and they were playing with the kids all day!"
"I'm respectful of the time and effort the families and the blocks put into this show," says Mauro. "It's TV — it's a long day. So I wasn't scurrying away to my trailer between takes — I was there having fun with the block, throwing the ball around with the kids, whatever I could do, y'know?"
"We made such a connection with our chef," says Matt Zwillick, "that I told him, 'I'm gonna go back down to the house. If you're bored, I'll be in the backyard.' And so after he was done, he came out and hung with us for two or three hours after shooting everything.
"It was a great experience overall."