If you’re a fan of Alex Guarnaschelli, then you’re probably a fan of Chopped, too. Come for the contestants and the nail-biting culinary rivalries (and the bizarre mystery baskets), stay for the judges and their humorous commentary. That’s what many fans find to be true when it comes to the popular cooking competition show.
Guarnaschelli, who’s been a recurring face on Chopped for over a decade, has also appeared on Iron Chef America, Supermarket Stakeout, Beat Bobby Flay, and a handful of other Food Network shows. Not only that, but she’s the owner and executive chef at Butter Midtown, a Manhattan restaurant that serves up seasonal American fare.
For as much as you see Guarnaschelli’s smiling face on your TV, you may feel like you’re already friends with the Food Network star. But there’s a lot you probably don’t know about Guarnaschelli, from her favorite junk foods to her biggest accomplishments. Here’s the lesser-known details of Alex Guarnaschelli that may surprise you.
Guarnaschelli got her love of food from her parents
Alex Guarnaschelli isn’t the only foodie in her family — it turns out some of the other members of the Guarnaschelli clan are equally culinary-savvy, namely her parents. Her late mother, Maria Guarnaschelli (who passed away in February of 2021), was a celebrated cookbook editor who worked on big-name projects like Classic Indian Cooking by Julie Sahni, and even a revision of Joy of Cooking. And Alex’s late father, John Guarnaschelli, was what she describes on her website as "an Italian and Chinese cooking enthusiast."
Alex says her parents were the ones who originally got her interested in preparing food. "I always loved to eat but I also loved watching my parents cook," she recalled in an interview with USA Today. "My father enjoyed cooking Chinese food while my mother took a liking to French cuisine. The fun, creative energy my parents had together in the kitchen led me to start my culinary career."
Guarnaschelli has a few guilty pleasure foods
Think everything Alex Guarnaschelli eats is a five-star gourmet dish made with only the finest and freshest ingredients? Think again. Since she is human, after all, like many of us, Alex has a few foods she likes to indulge in every now and then. For starters, she loves burgers. But not just any burger — In-N-Out Burger, according to an interview with Food Network. In the same vein, A can get down with a hot dog, too, telling Food & Wine that "a good American hot dog" is one of her favorite foods.
Guarnaschelli is also a big fan of carbs (because who isn’t?!) in all forms. She shared on her website that after a long day of filming Chopped, she craves a simple slice of toast. "All I ever want when I get home from a day like that is to eat two to four slices of buttered and salted sourdough toast," she revealed. And when USA Today asked her what her favorite dish to eat is, Guarnaschelli confessed, "Doughnuts, all day every day."
Guarnaschelli’s favorite cuisine is French
Like many chefs, Alex Guarnaschelli can cook almost any type of cuisine, from Italian to Chinese. But also like many chefs, she has a favorite kind. Having trained under Guy Savoy for years in Paris and studied at La Varenne Cooking School in Burgundy (via Food Network), it should come as no surprise that Alex says her favorite cuisine to cook is French. Her mother also had an influence on her love of all things French. "I really do love French food and it’s because my mother cooked it so much while I was growing up," she told a fan in the "Ask Alex" section of her website.
As for Guarnaschelli’s favorite French dish to cook? "There is a recipe online for a cheese soufflé that I make and without a doubt that’s the best recipe I’ve made and eaten," she told the same fan. She also describes her cooking style as "French American," explaining on her website, "What that means is that I use French techniques and American ingredients to make my dishes."
Guarnaschelli has two major accomplishments — and only one involves food
Guarnaschelli has accomplished a lot both in and out of the kitchen in her life, but ask her about two things she’s most proud of and she’ll answer without hesitation. "Being a mother and becoming an Iron Chef," she shared on her website’s "Ask Alex" section. "Hard work got me both."
Guarnaschelli earned the title of Iron Chef in 2012, when she beat out nine other chefs in The Next Iron Chef: Redemption. And as for her daughter, Ava Clark? Guarnaschelli says she’s her biggest accomplishment, "end of story" (via USA Today). The Chopped judge did admit to Star Chefs that the pregnancy made being a chef difficult, between the cravings, the weird food aversions, and the fatigue — but she wouldn’t trade it for the world. "One look at her and it’s all worth it," she gushed.
Guarnaschelli also told Food Network that out of all the celebrity chefs she’s cooked alongside — and that’s a lot of incredibly talented people — her daughter is her favorite person to cook with.
Guarnaschelli refuses to make fried seafood or ketchup at home
While Guarnaschelli is a pro at whipping up incredible dishes, whether she’s tackling a mystery basket on Chopped or manning the kitchen at Butter Midtown, there are some things that the Food Network chef doesn’t make herself at home. For starters, she’s a firm believer that store-bought ketchup is always better than the homemade kind. "I enjoy making mustards, mayonnaises, pickles, jams, and such at home," she told Food & Wine. "I do not, however, think I can better replicate store-bought ketchup. I’ll always buy and serve ketchup." She later tweeted, "Do not tell me any homemade ketchup is as good as the bottled stuff. Just impossible."
Ketchup isn’t the only thing Guarnaschelli doesn’t like to make — she also stays away from frying seafood at home. When Food Network asked her what dish she always orders out instead of cooking herself, she said "fried squid and/or clam," adding that it "tastes like deep fried ocean!"