Did Jeff Mauro write the funniest cookbook of all time? He thinks so. 
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Jeff Mauro grilling meat outside
Credit: Ken Goodman

Chef, "The Kitchen" co-host, cookbook author, and comedian Jeff Mauro not only won the seventh season of Food Network Star but also the unofficial title of the Sandwich King. His patty melt beat Guy Fieri's, Iron Chef Morimoto's, and others' at the South Beach Burger Bash in 2013. And his pre-teen son, Lorenzo, has inherited his dynamic approach to everything from sliders to grilled cheese, cooking his own mortadella melts with fig spread on the griddle.

On this episode of Homemade, Mauro fills us in on his new book, Come On Over: 111 Fantastic Recipes for the Family That Cooks, Eats, and Laughs Together, which anticipates plenty of post-pandemic gathering. He tells host Martie Duncan about a few inspirations behind his book, from gatherings with his big, tight-knight Italian-American family to his native Chicago's food, including deep-dish pizza and Chicken Vesuvio. Listen to this episode on Apple Podcasts, SpotifyPlayerFM, and everywhere podcasts are available beginning April 14.

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About Jeff Mauro

Jeff Mauro hails from Elmwood Park, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, and studied at Bradley University in Illinois. Once a comedian in Los Angeles, a career change led the chef to win season seven of "Food Network Star." He went on to star in the network's "Sandwich King," for which he received a Daytime Emmy nomination, as well as "$24 in 24." Since 2014, Mauro has co-hosted "The Kitchen" on Food Network. His newest show, "Kitchen Crash," also airs on Food Network. In 2021, he published his first cookbook, Come On Over: 111 Fantastic Recipes for the Family That Cooks, Eats, and Laughs Together. He lives in Chicago with his wife and son.

Episode Transcript

MARTIE DUNCAN Welcome to Homemade. I'm Martie Duncan. You know, author Pat Conroy once said that "a recipe is a story that begins with a meal." My guest today is full of great stories about his family, their traditions, and his beloved Chicago, a city very dear to my own heart. He's not just a chef but he's also a musician, comedian, an author, and he is a fellow "Food Network Star." Any guesses? This should help you: he's known as the Sandwich King, and he comes into our homes each week on Food Network's "The Kitchen."

That's my buddy Jeff Mauro. He's got a wonderful new cookbook called Come On Over: 111 Fantastic Recipes for the Family That Cooks, Eats, and Laughs Together. And after the year we've all had, this book is just so timely. I think all of us are ready to celebrate with family and friends again, whether it's a backyard barbeque or at the breakfast table. In addition to his family recipes, you'll also find Jeff's version of some Windy City dishes that I miss and can't wait to make. I'm so excited to welcome the man himself, Jeff Mauro, to Homemade.

JEFF MAURO Hi Martie! Nice to be here.

MARTIE How are you?

JEFF I'm doing great. It's fun to reconnect with you. You know, you're an esteemed alumnus of the Food Network Star University, if you will. And I don't even know, we might even had it harder than you like because you were season — I was season seven, and you were...

MARTIE I was season eight.

JEFF You were right after me.

MARTIE Yeah.

JEFF So I think they even loosened up a little bit. They gave you guys, like, books...

MARTIE No, no.

JEFF We didn't have any of that. No, you didn't? OK.

MARTIE No.

JEFF Good to know.

MARTIE And I think ours might have been a little bit worse, Jeff, because we had teams that year.

JEFF That's right. 

MARTIE And it was the only year they did the teams. So everything that was taped had to be taped three times. And you can do absolutely nothing. No phone, no book, no music. How does music hurt? No, magazine.

JEFF Nothing.

MARTIE No, phone calls home. No talking to each other, even. Like, you couldn't even discuss if it was hot in the room.

JEFF What they did was attempt to elicit the most dramatic response out of every cast member. And that's how you do it. But you know what? It — I guess it made great television. They had a formula and they were following it, so.

MARTIE So, anyway. I want to talk about this book and I'm just so in love with it already. Jeff's new book is called Come On Over: 111 Fantastic Recipes for the Family That Cooks, Eats, and Laughs Together. I think that's brilliant. You know, I'm Martie with the party. 

JEFF Uh-huh.

MARTIE So I'm all about gathering and getting together. Jeff, so you come from a family that spends time together around food.

JEFF Oh, yeah. I mean, my mom has three siblings. Everybody had four kids and they all had four kids. You know what I mean?

MARTIE Right.

JEFF So it's this big, tight-knit Italian-American family. Then we all live in the same area still. Well, most — you know, most of us do. And we were just always surrounded by food at any occasion, no matter what, big or small. And this book is not just about entertaining the masses. 

MARTIE No.

JEFF Or entertaining a dozen people. It's like, it's very scalable.

MARTIE Right.

JEFF And it's about, obviously, our love of food and my connection — not only as food is sustenance and something that's enjoyable to cook and eat. But also like food is like a platform for entertain — it's a stage. You know, for me, I grew up on the stage playing music, comedy, all this stuff, and cooking. This is like the perfect mesh of great recipes that are tried and true to my family, the new inventive ones that I've spun on my own and made fresh and new. It's a glimpse into my life through the stories in the head notes in each recipe. And I've told stories I've never told anybody that are in this book. I'm really, really proud of it. I wrote every word, every recipe. It took two years, and I was elated to get it in my hand last week. 

MARTIE I bet.

JEFF And unbox my first copy. And I think it's just really — it's a unique book. And dare I say, Martie Duncan, it's the funniest cookbook of all time. There I said it. 

MARTIE I think it's pretty funny. And I love the stories. Knowing the backstory of things is just so interesting. I want to tell you right off the bat, I love that you start off with the ice rules.

JEFF Come on.

MARTIE Because when I was on "Food Network Star," every day, I was like, could I have some ice? Could I have some ice? They're like, "What's with this girl and the ice?" I'm like, "I just have to have the ice, OK?"

JEFF You've got to have good ice. Like, don't make me go into your fridge or, God forbid, pull open the freezer drawer and use my hand where everybody else's hand went into that bucket full of cloudy, stinky, infused ice. Ugh. Clumps of ice. And then I'm going to pour, what, good bourbon in there? Or make a beautiful tequila cocktail? No. So, people neglect the ice.

MARTIE Get the good ice.

JEFF You can have caviar out. You can have the most beautiful high-end spread with Burgundy and all these imported liquors. And then you have a bucket of frosty, clumpy, cloudy, stinky ice. I'm out. I'm, I'm cracking open a cold one. That's what I'm going to do.

MARTIE That's the truth.

JEFF So pay attention. I have my ice rules in there.

MARTIE I love it.

JEFF And they're real. And you should abide by them. 

MARTIE I love it. I love it. Well you are definitely a Windy City boy. When I got the book, I immediately, I kind of skimmed through some things. Then I immediately saw the chapter on Chicago and went straight there because, I mean, Chicago is my second city. I have always loved it. I lived there for over 10 years, and I still have a 312 area code for a reason.

JEFF Good for you.

MARTIE I love Chicago. But, I couldn't wait to see what you went for. And I found all my favorite things there. I was so excited. That garbage salad, is that the one from Gibson's? I used to get that at least two or three times a week...

JEFF Yeah.

MARTIE On my way home from work.

JEFF It's got everything in it.

MARTIE I would order it and stop by there. Tell me a little bit about — so you've got all parts of your life in this book. You've got your Sandwich King roots.

JEFF Mhm.

MARTIE Because you've got plenty of sandwiches. You've got stuff for the kids. You've got stuff that obviously has the Italian roots to it. And then you've got this whole Chicago section. So, let's talk about that a little bit.

JEFF So, we're very passionate, right? I do have a Chicago hot dog in there with hand-cut fries, very traditional depression-style hot dog that you'd find at Gene and Jude's, the place I grew up eating. You know? I give you the tools and the guidance to make it at home without standing in line 

MARTIE See, that's beautiful. 

JEFF I got a very tried and true Lou Malnati clone recipe for a deep dish pizza.

MARTIE What!

JEFF It took me so long and I figured it out and I made 40 pizzas. I believe it's perfect. I got a Tavern's style thin crust.

MARTIE I'll be making it tonight.

JEFF Uh-huh. I got a great chicken Vesuvio, which is a classic Italian pizza joint/steakhouse preparation of chicken infused with lemon and garlic and tons of white wine and a crispy kind of crust from all these dry Italian herbs. I got a great version, you know, where the potatoes, the wedges of potatoes, soak in all that schmaltz in wine.

MARTIE Yes. 

JEFF It's just unbelievable. Where like the potato becomes its own meat.

MARTIE When I lived in Chicago, I hung around a bunch of Cubs. I had a little radio gig. Chicago?

JEFF There you go.

MARTIE And I had — I was friends with some Cubs. So I occasionally get invited to go to these team dinner things at Harry Carey's. And I had never had or heard of Chicken Vesuvio, but everybody around the table would was ordering Chicken Vesuvio. And so, the guy I was sitting beside, a very famous Cub who shall remain nameless, I turned to him and I said, "I don't know what it is." And he said, "Oh, it's garlicky." He said, "I'm eating it. You're probably going need to eat it, too."

JEFF Yeah, exactly. Right? Yeah.

MARTIE I ordered the Chicken Vesuvio and fell in love with it. So, it is a very garlicky chicken dish. And like you said, your recipe has those potatoes underneath where it catches all the chicken juices as they cook down. Can you walk us through that recipe really quick? That one's got a place in my heart.

JEFF So what I love about great Chicken Vesuvios — and there's a lot of mediocre ones out there — the saturated potatoes. Right? That cook amongst all that wine and garlic and lemon and chicken. So, I love the saturated wedges of potatoes, but I also love a crispy skin that is coated in dried Italian herbs. So, you get like this crispy skin combined with what I like to call a Chicago Italian rub, barbeque rub. Right? So you can get the tactile crunch from it. And when you bake it all together, the potatoes catch all those drippings, so you get the best of both worlds. You get perfectly cooked chicken that is elevated on those wedges of potatoes. So you get 360 even cooking. Right? You're not really braising the chicken. You're just making a perfectly roasted temped chicken. And then the wedges of the potatoes benefit from everything because they turn into their own soft, succulent, chicken-flavored potatoes and you got the crispy skin. So you got the best of both worlds. Succulent potatoes, succulent chicken, infused with all that flavor with a nice crispy skin on it.

MARTIE Oh, yeah. We're having that. 

JEFF You dunk some crispy bread in that...

MARTIE Oh, come on. 

JEFF And then I have the fresh peas in there. And you you you finish it with some fresh lemon juice, some lemon zest. 

MARTIE Yeah.

JEFF And then you take all those peas and all that au jus that's — all those pan drippings and you just ladle it all over the chicken when you're done so you get — you get everything.

MARTIE Oh, that's it, Chef. That's it.

JEFF Your breath is on fire, your belly satiated. Everybody around you is happy. And once again, Come On Over, the cookbook, saves the world. That's all I'm trying to do. One chicken breast at a time.

MARTIE So another thing I love about the book is all those family pictures that you have in there. And you came from a family that got together over food all the time. Is there one recipe that you can call out that is a family favorite, like, it's a Mauro tradition, this is our one thing. We're having this. If we don't have that, you can't come over. What is it?

JEFF It's so funny. It's turned into my recipe, which I made on the first episode of the first season of Sandwich King. And it's my Italian beef, pot roast style, that my aunts make it, my mom makes it. I make it for like all the parties, because it's, it's the perfect amalgamation of classic beef stand Italian beef sandwich mixed with a pot roast. Now, if everybody out there listening has never had a Chicago-style Italian beef, it's like shaved beef. You step in a juice, you pack it in a nice, hearty, chewy roll. You top with sweet peppers and hot giardiniera. You wrap it up and you eat it and it's messy and it's delicious. But if you don't have a meat slicer at home, you're never gonna cook a whole chuck roast. 

MARTIE You're not gonna get that.

JEFF You're not going to get it. So how do you mimic that flavor, not only that flavor, but also that mouthfeel and that texture?

MARTIE Right.

JEFF And that just supple chew of it, you braise it, low and slow, a whole big chuck roast.

MARTIE What a great idea. 

JEFF And I'm telling you, it's perfect. And we made it yesterday and I had it for lunch and dinner, Martie.

MARTIE I would have it...

JEFF And that's because it works.

MARTIE It's that good! When I lived in Chicago, I worked a block from Mr. Beef on Orleans.

JEFF There you go.

MARTIE So I lived in there. My picture's not on the wall, but it should be for the person who ate the most, you know, Chicago-style beef.

JEFF You're still —you're still holding the record internally, I think.

MARTIE Yeah, exactly. I got the crown. So there's a way you eat them. They're either dry or wet.

JEFF Mhmm.

MARTIE People probably don't know that. Right? The bread is dry or wet. So you — when you order it, they say, just like in the South...

JEFF You want it dry or you want it dipped? Some beef stands, the one I grew up going to is probably the the most famous one, Johnny's Beef in Elmwood Park, where, you know, my last house, I lived two blocks from it very conveniently. And you get the beef and you get it either sweet and hot. 

MARTIE Right.

JEFF Or just sweet or just hot or plain. And then you get a dry or dipped, or dry or juicy, or extra juicy. And that's the thing. now, I sell it. Do you know this, Martie? I got to send you some of my prime Italian beef, Mauro Provisions. 

MARTIE I saw that. The Mauro Provisions!

JEFF Yes. I make the first-ever craft giardiniera. We have four different varieties, hot, medium, mild, and now honey G coming out. A honey-agave-infused hot giardiniera.

MARTIE Oh.

JEFF We have my first-ever — you can't find it anywhere — prime, USDA prime, Italian beef. Melts in your mouth and I give you the giardiniera, the beef, the gravy as we call it or the au jus, laden with all that beautiful beef fat and it's just silky. My instructions are, like, perfect, right? Because you don't want to steep it all. You just want to steep it two minutes because it's so marbly and you get two pounds of beef — it's enough to feed, I swear to God, eight people. And you get the Toronto rolls with it. You can't get anywhere else. We ship nationwide and you get a jar of medium giardiniera.

MARTIE Nice.

JEFF You get eight jumbo links, they're like a quarter pounder. They're huge and it's made by the Bom Prezzi family, who grew up on the same block as my mom and my grandparents, who now I'm partnered with the son of the father, where we grew up, getting from this small butcher/meatpacker. So I've only used all fourth-generation Chicago families to make my peppers, to make my beef, to make my bread. The Turano family. Everybody's like family and it, it shows through this. And I'm really, really proud of it. So if you buy the cookbook, you can make the beef at home and then get all your bread and your sausage and all your accouterment from Mauro Provisions.

MARTIE Yeah.

JEFF Because we got all that stuff.

MARTIE Yeah, you need the bread. If you don't have the right bread, it's not the same. So you gotta have that Chicago bread.

JEFF Because you need that chew. You need that protein content in the bread where it does soak up all that gravy, all that juice. And if you do get it juicy, it doesn't fall apart. It just, like, saturates and becomes this thing. It's so good. 

MARTIE You're listening to Homemade. Stay tuned as Jeff and I talk about his son's love of cooking, how his wife's family actually introduced him to a proper Southern breakfast, and how he won the prestigious South Beach Food and Wine Burger Bash. We'll be right back, after the break.

I'm Martie Duncan, and my guest today is the winner of season seven of "Food Network Star," the Sandwich King himself, Jeff Mauro.

So, Jeff, during the pandemic, you and "The Kitchen" have been kind of, I don't know, a little island in the storm. And I think that your cooking videos with Lorenzo were particularly well received and like the hit of the pandemic. Did that just happen naturally because he happened to be home? Or it's something he wants to do? Or how did that come about? 

JEFF I don't know where — just you know, it's like how do we make the most of this time? We have to eat anyway. We have a fan base. He likes doing it. If he's like I don't feel like it, I'm not going to like, "Get up there." You know? 

MARTIE Right.

JEFF Like football dad him and make them run, you know, wind sprints. But it's something that he naturally, genetically maybe, gravitates towards.

MARTIE Yes. Well what's his favorite dish to make? Is that the grilled cheese that I saw?

JEFF Oh, grilled cheese, burgers?

MARTIE Cutest picture of him in the cookbook with that grilled cheese, by the way.

JEFF Yeah.

MARTIE And I really couldn't tell if that was you or him at first. I mean, he is the spitting image of you now that he's getting older.

JEFF If he's hungry, he's making his own lunch. Like he loves mortadella. And I talk about that in the book. 

MARTIE Oh, wow.

JEFF And we have one of his favorites, mortadella melt with fig spread. And anything on the griddle with a sandwich that he can flip. And he loves doming things, right? Like...

MARTIE Oh, yes. 

JEFF Like, we have a dome and he likes putting a little water, creating the steam vortex, and then doming it. You know, he's very into that because it's basically playing with fire, you know what I mean? Without any fire. It sizzles, it steams, and he gets very excited. So, you know, but he's responsible about it.

MARTIE Well, I mean, he gets a little bit of an elevated cooking lesson every day, I'm sure, too. More than most 12-year-old or 13-year-old kids would get. I only use a dome when I want to melt some cheese on something that's about it.

JEFF But that's true. You know? But if you have a closed sandwich or a grilled cheese or a melt or anything, even a couple of burger patties with American cheese on them or whatever, you dome it and you just give a little steam and boom you, you know, expedite the process without overcooking the undercarriage is how I like to say.

MARTIE So your inspiration for the book, these are recipes you just wanted to get down, things that were important and, hey, not just your family, but to Sarah's family, too.

JEFF Yeah.

MARTIE Your wife, Sarah. I noticed that there were some biscuits in there. I went, "What does a Chicago boy..."

JEFF Ah, biscuits, gravy.

MARTIE "Know about some biscuits?" And I'm like, "Oh, nah, that's not possible." But your wife's mother is a biscuit maker. And y'all would go out and party when you were first getting together and y'all would go to her mother's house for, breakfast on Saturday mornings and she'd have biscuits and gravy. Tell a little bit about that story.

JEFF My wife, Sarah was born raised in the city. Proper of Chicago, you know, she's a city girl through and through. But her parents are from eastern Kentucky. My mother-in-law's from Grapevine, a small holler, one of 17 children.

MARTIE Wow. 

JEFF Coal-burning stove. I mean, as Appalachian as you can get. Never will you meet a more bonafide, authentic Appalachian family than the Ross clan, right? They know about — asking about them in Grapevine. You know, they're notorious, right? One of those families. And I didn't have any frame of reference for this culture.

MARTIE Right.

JEFF I knew Irish guys. I knew Polish guys. I knew plenty of Italian people, everything from all walks of life. But Southern, deep Southern like this? I fell in love immediately. Because we were, you know, quote-unquote sleeping, you know, in separate bedrooms at her folks' house or my house.

MARTIE Well, you better had been. 

JEFF And they were, you know, they were a little looser, I think. But, man, we'd wake up at 8 a.m. and we'd smell the biscuits baking, the pork chops frying. Sausage patties, honey, local honey, good butter from the Amish in Wisconsin that they go — when they go hunting, they bring back good butter and good maple syrup. It was like the best breakfast foods, the most hearty thing to nurse a 4 a.m. evening. 

MARTIE Right.

JEFF The night before in our early 20s. And, you know, obviously, I fell in love with my wife. It had nothing to do with the food, but it was a nice consulate.

MARTIE Yeah.

JEFF It was a nice perk.

MARTIE I bet.

JEFF And I learned from her, you know? And she's great. You know, same skillet that her grandma used, passed down and passed down. It's all about the flour for her. You either get the Hudson Cream or the White Lily flour, that really does make a difference. 

MARTIE True.

JEFF So they like, you know, import that from Kentucky whenever they can.

MARTIE Well, I have to say, my favorite picture in the book outside of the family pictures was that big plate of fried pork chops. My mother used to do those, too. 

JEFF I mean, where was this my whole life, Mom? I'm like, what? I mean, we were very chubby. We didn't need any additional fried pig meat. But, man, when I saw it on a plate, I was like, "Is this for dinner later? Or can I eat this now?" She's like, "No, you know, this is for break..." And I'm like, so I could pour gravy on this as well?

MARTIE Yes.

JEFF As the bacon and the pork sausage to make the pork, you know, the gravy with?

MARTIE The gravy. Yup.

JEFF I'm telling you. How do I make it out? Whoo. I'm hungry.

MARTIE Speaking of pork, I was lucky enough to have a — I don't remember if it was at South Beach or whatever, but you did that pork candy or bacon candy?

JEFF Oh yeah, pig candy from back in the day.

MARTIE That is amazing. What is pig candy?

JEFF It's just candied bacon.

MARTIE How do you make it?

JEFF It's easy. It's all in the technique. Good coating on cold bacon. You could spray it a little bit with some good thick like Turbinado or Demerara Sugar, and you put it on a well-sprayed rack, and you just do it at the perfect temp, low and slow, until it renders while crisping and caramelizing without burning the sugars. It really is — it's like a perfect storm, and it takes practice because each oven is different. 

Each cut of bacon. But you don't want too thick bacon. And you certainly don't want too thin bacon. You've got to find that Goldilocks zone of bacon. But when you get it right, I mean, there's nothing.

MARTIE Oh, it was so good.

JEFF More dangerous.

MARTIE I remember to this day that was the best. I remember, I was at South Beach one time when you won the Burger Bash, too.

JEFF Oh?

MARTIE Which was a very big deal.

JEFF Huge. 

MARTIE I mean, big deal. Tell us about like that tradition. And I hear South Beach is coming back in May. I hope it does.

JEFF It does. It is coming back.

MARTIE I'm missing all these food festivals. I'm missing, you know...

JEFF I know.

MARTIE I love to do those things. And to me, for us, it's the best way to get in front of the real public and see and talk and hear what people have to say and get feedback in person. I love those things.

JEFF Yeah, I actually have a story in Come On Over about my patty melt. The recipe for the patty and a great story about winning that burger bash, which is not — it's a pretty coveted title, and it's very competitive.

MARTIE Very. No, not kind of. Very, and everybody's in it.

JEFF Everybody's in it. And everybody wants to win. 

MARTIE Yeah.

JEFF This is not I like, I'm going to get drunk and not care about it. No, like, you want to perform well. 

MARTIE Yeah. Rachael Ray hosts it, and just to get even invited to be on the you know to be in the tent, I mean to even get to walk in there is a big deal.

JEFF Yeah.

MARTIE Much less to get to cook. So you're cooking against people like Michael Symon.

JEFF Yeah. And Morimoto.

MARTIE And Morimoto and Guy. And everybody. I got a great picture of us in there. I'm going to send it to you. You're holding up the trophy.

JEFF Oh, my God. That was so much fun. I mean, it really was a great moment because, you know, I won the judges.

MARTIE Yes.

JEFF People's Choice is kind of a popularity contest. You need to be like the big dog. And I was still the little dog. I think it was my first or second year in the family, if you will. And I had my family there helping me and my brother Frank, my sister-in-law, Kellie, my wife Sarah, my cousin Tommy, my cousin Suzy. And that was like my...

MARTIE Your crew.

JEFF Esteemed culinary crew. And we're making patty melts, which was controversial because is a patty melt a burger? I think it is. And my brother kind of turned to me and he goes, "I think we need to double the cheese." I go, "What?" Early on, he goes, "I don't know, man. I have this feeling." I tried it. I go, we got it. We got to do four slices of white American instead of two. I go, "Boom. Let's do it." And we're churning and burning. You're doing thousands of these things, right? Thousands. Boom, boom, boom. Patty melts griddle and flip and rye bread. Build it. Boom, boom, out, out. And then I'm getting feedback. People are like, the judges want more.

MARTIE Wow.

JEFF You know, judges want more. I'm like, "Oh my God, the judges want more." And I'm hitting 'em. And then comes down to the big moment. Right? Fingers crossed. Judge's winner. They announced my name, and I remember Anne Burrell telling me that night she goes, "You know why you won?" I go, "Why?" She goes, "It was the perfect amount of white American cheese."

MARTIE How about that?

JEFF Brother Frank, this is your trophy, too.

MARTIE Yeah. Yeah. Frank, thanks. That is amazing.

JEFF But it was such a real moment. And that just kind of was like, you know what? I could do this. I can hire people. I can be that — a big shot. I don't know. Or I can just use my family. And that's kind of the model I've followed since then in my career. 

MARTIE Well, you can tell from the book. And I love where I come from, but I lived in Chicago for a good 10, 12 years, and it has a giant piece of my heart, and I can see why. And it is a family town. You know, when I moved there, I was so shocked by that. And it's a big city, but it is a town. You go to a place with somebody like you, you're going to know everybody in the place just like you would down here in the South where I'm from. You will go into a restaurant or it can be a store or whatever it is and it's down-home.

JEFF Yup. It's a city of neighborhoods. And that's what we pride ourselves on, you know, owning that title when you say it's a town. It is, it's a city of neighborhoods. People are very passionate about what neighborhood they're from.

MARTIE They are.

JEFF That's a first question people ask you, that are from Chicago, what neighborhood you from? Not, when they ask you where you're from. People go, "I'm from Chicago." You know, like, no. That's not what I mean. Like, what streets? What neighborhood are you from? Taylor and Miller, I'm from the old neighborhood. I'm from Grand and Western. It doesn't matter.

MARTIE Right.

JEFF It's like your village. And I do this podcast every week with my little sister that we're like 50 episodes into. It's called Come On Over, same title as the book.

MARTIE Yeah, I love that.

JEFF And it's just family. Like, it's probably easier not to have guests on because we get to do all the talking. But, literally the only guest we have on is my family. And we tell the stories. And I write songs each episode. It's very well produced. It's me and her. I think it's really, really great. I'm really proud of it. And it's growing every week.

MARTIE All right, so, I want to know, if you can invite three guests to a party to come on over at your house, who's it going to be?

JEFF I would invite... I would invite Sebastian Maniscalco, who's a comedian.

MARTIE He wrote the foreword for your book, right? 

JEFF He wrote the foreword to my book. And we're friendly. Like, listen, I'm not going to be like, me and the guy like go bowling together. But I would love to get to know him more because I think he's the funniest mind. We're cut from the same cloth. So he would definitely get an invite. Jeff Tweedy, who is the lead singer of Wilco.

MARTIE Yeah.

JEFF One of my favorite bands, he is a very funny person, you know, stage banter, real funny guy and obviously talented musician so that maybe we can jam later. And of course, ulterior motives with that. Who is the third one be? Killer Mike from Run the Jewels. I know it's an odd one...

MARTIE Really? 

JEFF He's one of my favorite hip-hop artists. And he's got a great message, and he's an interesting fellow. And I think he's funny, too. I like funny people, obviously.

MARTIE Yeah.

JEFF But this is the problem. Maybe I'll scratch Sebastian because he's probably funnier than me. I always want to be the funniest person in the room. That's been — I might have to boot him.

MARTIE So what is one other thing you want to tell us about the book before we wrap it up? What is one thing, one takeaway you want everybody to know about the book?

JEFF Uh, you know what? I worked really, really hard on it.

MARTIE It's obvious.

JEFF I enjoyed writing it, and I wanted to make it great. And I and I believe we got there. And the writing is one thing. I think it's special to look a glimpse into my life, a little secret glimpse. That's not any secret anymore.

MARTIE Right? It's out there, chef.

JEFF And it's useful. And you're going to use it, whether you're having small gatherings now, no gatherings, or big gatherings. You know, we're coming out of this. And I think it's perfectly timed when people are comfortable with having people in their backyard now.

MARTIE Right.

JEFF Maybe not renting, catering halls. But baby steps. And this is a perfect book to guide you through the evolution coming out of this pandemic. And it couldn't have been a better time. I couldn't have had a better publisher. I couldn't have been a better photographer, a better culinary lead. We did it. We hunkered down the week before the entire world was shut down, before we knew what this thing was.

MARTIE What was going to happen, yeah.

JEFF We rented an Airbnb, and we shot this book, 111 recipes.

MARTIE Wow. 

JEFF Within six days. And, I swear to God, the seventh day, when my photographer and Tim Macklin, who's the culinary producer on "The Kitchen," worked on the book, when they flew back to New York, they didn't know they were going home. Because that was the stay-at-home orders begun that day. So we like — the gravity was there. It was palpable. And it comes through in the book. It's a celebration of life. You know, this book was important to us because we just put so much energy into it during this week. 

MARTIE Right.

JEFF We were oblivious. My wife's shopping for onions and shallots and carrots and all these things while people are hoarding paper towels and toilet paper.

MARTIE Right. 

JEFF And masks, so it is real time, you know? And you'll get that, great recipes and stories obviously. Beautiful.

MARTIE Well, I do think the timing is right for it because even if we just gather with those people who are special to us that we haven't been able to see, they're now vaccinated and it's safe for them to to be around, like the grandparents and the older people that we have had to really stay away from and distance from. I think it would be wonderful to go through the book and pick out some things, one or two things that are easy for you to do, and have some people over. Right? Come on over.

JEFF Come on over. That's it. And that's the life. That's the credo now I live by.

MARTIE All right. So, Jeff Mauro, our favorite sandwich king, host of 'The Kitchen" and all-around great Chicago guy. Thank you so much for being with us here on Homemade. We have loved every minute of it, Jeff. 

JEFF Thank you so much. We'll see you next time, guys. Thank you all.

MARTIE Jeff's new book is called Come On Over: 111 Fantastic Recipes for the Family That Cooks, Eats, and Laughs Together. It's available in stores, online, or from ComeOnOver.com, where you can also hear Jeff's podcast. Plus, you can get more information on Mauro Provisions, his mail-order service, at MauroProvisions.com. Jeff's newest show, "Kitchen Crash," is airing right now on Food Network.

Coming up, I am so excited to welcome the hilarious and multi-talented Leslie Jordan to Homemade! 

LESLIE JORDAN Happiness is a habit. Happiness is a choice. And happiness is something you work for. People think, "Oh, well, I just want to be happy." I think the better word is content. You know, happy? What is happy? Nobody is going to be happy all the time. But, you know, to reach a point at 65 years of age, where I'm perfectly comfortable with who I am, what I am, and the rest here on that is just gravy.

MARTIE You probably know Leslie Best from his Emmy Award-winning role as Beverly Leslie on "Will & Grace." His new show out on Fox is "Call Me Kat" with Mayim Bialik. During th pandemic, he won the Internet with his charming "Hey There Fellow Hunker Downers" videos. Now with millions of new followers, Leslie's got a new book and a gospel album of favorite hymns coming out, and we talk about all of it, including his favorite Southern dishees he still loves to make in his Hollywood kitchen.

Subscribe to Homemade right now. so you don't miss it And, if you would, please rate the podcast and leave us a review, I'd really appreciate it. 

And don't forget, you can find thousands of recipes, meal ideas, and cooking how-tos from the world's largest community of cooks at Allrecipes.com.

This podcast was recorded in Birmingham, edited in Atlanta, and can be found wherever you get your podcasts. 

Homemade is produced by Allrecipes with Digital Content Director Jason Burnett. Thanks to our Pod People production team: Rachael King, Matt Sav, Danielle Roth, Jim Hanke, Maya Kroth, and Erica Huang.

I'm Martie Duncan, and this is Homemade.