American chef Aaron McCargo is hoping that bold versions of American comfort food will appeal to new fans.
The 37-year-old New Jersey native won his own show, "Big Daddy's House", on the Food Network in a gruelling television competition last year. The second season, which started in January, features his twists on familiar fares like hamburgers and Buffalo chicken wings.
Q: What is the biggest difference between the dishes you make in the new season and the first season?
"I'm offering a lot more suggestions if you want to go either the high-end of cooking or the low-end of cooking. I'm also teaching people that they can bring kids into the kitchen and what to have the kids do once they are in the kitchen."
Q: Times are tough. Can families still afford to liven up their meals?
"No one really wants to spend money on groceries. I want to prove them wrong because you want to treat yourself every now and then. My whole outlook is to show how you can treat yourself to that one great dish if you decide to break the bank, whether it's a salad or an entree."
Q: What is the best tip to stretch the food budget?
"Buy something universal. For example, pork butt which is a very inexpensive cut of meat. You can have it with potatoes and carrots one night. Maybe you can shred it up the next night and make quesadilla. On the third night, you may want to make tacos or Sloppy Joe. There are a lot of marketable items in the supermarket you can bring into the house and use that one cut of meat and make four to five dishes out of it. I also suggest people make portions and freeze them so you don't waste them by leaving them in the refrigerator."
What do cook for yourself and your family at home?
"I call myself a freak of nature in the kitchen. I just keep it really simple at home – like a one-pot meal with pasta, Italian sausage and fresh vegetable. The dishes you see on my show are ones I still make at home."