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It’s been said that reality TV shows reflect anything but reality. But when it comes to the Martone family, owners of Figaro’s Restaurants in Boston and Revere Beach, tasty Italian cuisine combined with zesty personalities were the right ingredients for the Food Network to create a new show called, “Chopped – Family Food Fight.”
The Martones are parents Geraldine and Raffaele and children Rosie and Giovanni (John) who have been in business for 11 years at their Boston location, which serves breakfast and lunch; and at the Revere Beach restaurant, which serves lunch and dinner.
Rosie, co-owner and chef of the two restaurants along with her brother, John, thinks one of their customers, a producer from the Food Network, discovered her family. “It was rumored that somebody from their production department had eaten at our restaurant and raved about how we were a family-owned business and that we were quite entertaining,” she said in a recent interview on Revere Beach following the show’s December debut.
When the Food Network approached the Saugus clan to be on its first episode of “Chopped” called “Family Food Fight,” they were thrilled, believing they would be facing another family. But they would soon discover that wasn’t the case.
It all started when the show’s producers arrived in Boston in March to film the promo for the show as each of the family members cooked a dish for the crew. In May the family headed to Manhattan’s Chelsea Markets in New York City to tape the show.
“It was a new idea for a show, and they wanted to see how it worked, and our family was kind of like, the ‘model family’,” said Rosie.
When the show finished taping, the family was informed that the producers felt that it was ‘beyond their expectations’ but could never do this again – replicate the family dynamic.
“We found out we were their ‘Christmas Special’ for the Chopped series – it was the best sort of scenario that we could have ever gotten,” said Rosie.
The show’s competition began when each family member was given a basket of ingredients, as well as a vast kitchen of professional ovens and refrigerators filled with everything needed to help the chefs with their creations. When the time ran out, each family member’s creation was judged and one member would be “chopped” from the competition until the last chef standing.
The first basket featured veal cutlet, preserved lemon, Mylar spinach and Panini bread.
The first to be chopped was dad Raffaele, who overused the preserved lemon in his first creation: flat bread with veal, cannellini beans and chipotle peppers.
Mom Geraldine made a breaded veal picatta with crispy flat bread on top. John made a sandwich. Rosie created a veal Milanese salad using a Panini as a crouton.
The “Chopped” judges were Chris Santos, owner of Beauty and Essex and the Santos restaurants in NYC; Geoffrey Zakarian, owner of the Lambs Club and The National in NYC; Aarón Sánchez, executive chef and co-owner of Mestizo; and the show’s host, Ted Allen.
“When they chopped my dad in the first round, they [judges] felt bad,” said Rosie. “But my dad thanked the judges, calling the event a blessing, and then looked at my brother, saying ‘Johnny, you’re really the surprise.’”
Rosie, her brother and mother were then taken to a room until the next round – where the producers hoped to bring out some competitive spirit amongst the family members thanks to some coaching.
“As much as we want to kill each other sometimes ... having to actually compete against each other; in reality, we were watching out for each other the whole time,” she said.
When she finally took the ‘advice’ – telling her mom how much winning meant to her, suddenly cameras appeared out of nowhere to capture the drama.
“Now the tears start coming down my face and suddenly there are cameras that come out of everywhere!” she exclaimed, laughing. “I had no idea there was a [camera] guy in the closet.”
And there were also a few scenes where younger brother John tells professional chef sister Rosie that he hopes he beats her in the competition – or that if he doesn’t win he hopes mom wins, which all made for great entertainment in the reality TV genre.
“We work together, we live together, we eat together, we fight together – everything is together and it’s very special for that reason,” said Rosie. “Being on national TV wasn’t as big a deal as the fact that I got to share the experience with my family – which really made the show more entertaining.”
Last year, Rosie delivered the commencement speech at the Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Institute graduation. But it was this year when “momma knew best,” when Geraldine took home the $10,000 prize – and that’s a reality.
The show can be seen in reruns on the Food Network and also on Comcast On Demand anytime.
But if you crave a taste of reality, visit the siblings at Figaro’s on Revere Beach Boulevard and you’ll see why the Martones are considered so special by The Food Network.