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Interview Fri Oct 18 2013
I live for my Friday night WTTW ritual: "Chicago Tonight," followed by "Check, Please!" I have something new to look forward to tonight, when Catherine De Orio takes over the hosting reigns from Alpana Singh following a long audition process earlier this year. The Elmwood Park native has made some bold moves in her career, having ditched her litigator gig for culinary school at Kendall, followed by consulting and writing in the food industry. In conversation, she is warm and engaging, and talks at length about her love for food and the city.
Despite her credentials, De Orio maintains that everyone has a place at the table when it comes to critiquing food. "Everyone's opinion is valid; what my palate likes is different from what your palate likes." I like her style; in a world of buzzwords and overindulgence of using "amazing" to describe experiences, De Orio is quick to emphasize that the success of the show is the conversation that arises between people who simply love food, and the great experiences that come from going outside of your comfort zone and visiting a new place that never would have crossed your mind before. As someone who accompanied a past show participant to Midlothian to check out a restaurant serving pork chops larger than my head, I know what it's like to have the uneasiness that comes with driving over an hour out of the city for a meal that someone on a television show recommended. The show serves as a tour guide of sorts to the newly minted Chicagoan who wants to get familiar with the city through its food, and to the longtime resident who can't seem to expand their horizons past a few mainstay restaurants.
Other than the set, which has gotten a makeover from 555 International (the same people who designed Girl and the Goat), the format of the show is unchanged: three people, three restaurants, and three discussions. The debut episode -- which visits Bucktown's Estrella Negra, Near North's Benny's Chop House, and Tinley Park's Tin Fish -- airs at 8pm.