By Doug Ireland
---- — SALEM — When Tuscan Kitchen owner Joe Faro hires a chef for his restaurant, it usually doesn’t receive much fanfare.
But when he makes his newest hire, thousands of people across the country will be watching.
The Italian restaurant, which opened in November 2010, will be featured in an upcoming episode of the Food Network’s “Chef Wanted with Anne Burrell.” Faro will choose his new chef from among four finalists in the premiere episode of the show’s second season. It airs a week from today at 10 p.m.
A 50-member TV crew took over the restaurant for four days in October to film the episode, “Italian Empire.” But the Main Street eatery remained open, serving customers upstairs while the filming occurred downstairs, Faro said.
Burrell, a renowned New York City executive chef, introduces Faro to the four candidates, who are tested in their ability to present authentic artisan Italian dishes. The two final candidates are each handed the keys to the restaurant and battle for the honor of top chef.
The winner, now one of Faro’s dozen chefs, began work at the restaurant in December, he said. Neither Faro nor the network is revealing the chef’s name before the episode appears.
The four finalists were Jonny Giordani of New York, N.Y., Anthony de Palma of Plainville, Mass., Scott Brandolini of Boston and Valarie Carlone of Highland, Calif.
For Faro, who said he was contacted by the network in September, the filming was an exciting experience.
“It was really incredible,” he said yesterday. “It was a lot of fun for us and we would do it again.”
The four finalists were selected by the network from dozens of candidates. Faro said once the competition began, he knew he would be choosing a chef from among the best in the business.
“I got very comfortable once I started to see all the work (they did),” Faro said. “It was a great way to get exposed to new chefs. ... It’s a resource we just don’t have.”
Faro said he especially enjoyed working with Burrell, creating dishes together.
“I love Anne — she’s very passionate about Italian food,” he said. “We had a lot of fun together.”
Burrell, who trained in New York and Italy, has appeared on several Food Network shows, including “Secrets of A Restaurant Chef.”
In the episode, Burrell put the chefs through their paces, asking them to create an elegant dish with only four ingredients in one segment and testing their ability to pair their dishes with one of the restaurant’s signature beers in another. One chef was sent home in tears.
“Anne’s culinary savvy and tough love come together to put these aspiring executive chefs through the toughest job interview they will ever face,” Food Network executive Bob Tuschman said in a statement. “She brings out the best in these chefs and viewers can’t help but root for their success.”
The show premiered in June, featuring six episodes in its first season, Food Network spokeswoman Caragh Fisher said. Filming of the 13-episode second season wraps up next month, she said.
Faro, who recently opened Tuscan Market next door to his restaurant, said he’s a big Food Network fan. His favorite shows include “Chopped” and “Restaurant: Impossible.”
He said the network and its programming have been a boon to the culinary industry, helping restaurants such as his prosper as viewers develop more of an interest in fine food.
“I love the Food Network,” Faro said. “It has really opened people’s minds.”