This week is shaping up to be one of the most momentous times in Chef Mariana Alvarado Garcia’s life.
Tonight, the Las Vegas culinary entrepreneur will be debuting on Big Restaurant Bet, a new show on Food Network.
Many Southern Nevadans might recognize Alvarado Garcia — a UNLV graduate — from her appearances at local farmers’ markets with her Masazul brand of artisanal, hand-pressed blue corn tortillas and other traditional Mexican foods. Now, she’ll be appearing before a worldwide audience as she competes in the kitchen under the watchful eye of well-known restaurateur and television personality Geoffrey Zakarian against seven other contenders. On the line: a $250,000 prize to open a new independent restaurant.
Alvarado Garcia said the show was filmed at a new hotel in Fort Myers, Florida. “There are challenges. We have to present our ideas, our concepts, our food to Geoffrey Zakarian to see if he would like to be an investor.”
“I presented a lunch menu,” she said of the first episode’s challenge, one-bite dishes. “I made a quesadilla frita with mushrooms, Oaxacan cheese, queso fresco and fresh salsas.”
“We’ll see if [Zakarian] agrees it represented my concept in one bite,” she added. She said that viewers should expect many surprises as the show’s episodes unfold.
The show’s timing intersected with a major personal development: Alvarado Garcia was pregnant during filming and wondered if she’d be accepted as a contestant.
With the encouragement of friends, she moved forward. “That’s the first thing I told [Big Restaurant Bet], ‘I’m pregnant.’ They’re like, ‘Who cares? Let’s do it.’ It’s pretty cool.”
Alvarado Garcia and her husband, Vincent Rotolo, owner of Good Pie in the Arts District, had a surprise of their own in anticipation of tonight’s broadcast. Their baby originally had a due date of Thursday, but daughter Ana Maria arrived a bit early, but safely, on Monday night.
So Food Network’s audience just grew by one person, as did Alvarado Garcia’s fan club.
Big Restaurant Bet premieres tonight at 10 p.m. PT.