Johnston’s Alexia DiGiglio-Mancini was set to relaunch her show, “U Had Me At Kitchen,” and she was filming for the premiere on March 17.
DiGiglio-Mancini was at D. Palmieri’s Bakery filming on March 15 for her program, keeping on a theme for the new season of visiting local restaurants and different landmarks across Rhode Island. Then, the state shut down in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
“On March 17, everything was shut down, so we did film on the 15th and then the 17th everything came to a halt and that was it. I started, since we’re all home, really focusing on my social media and my recipe videos,” DiGiglio-Mancini said in an interview on Monday afternoon. “I follow all of the Food Network stars of course, all the people I love so much – the hosts and cooks and chefs – and watch all the shows.”
What happened next was innocent enough, but it led to an opportunity DiGiglio-Mancini could never have imagined.
Alex Guarnaschelli – one of DiGiglio-Mancini’s Food Network idols – asked her Instagram followers about the best ways to repurpose chicken. DiGiglio-Mancini posted her comment, and within moments Guarnaschelli liked it. Then, her comments received a like a couple of other times.
Later, DiGiglio-Mancini was checking her spam folder on Instagram when she received a delightful surprise.
“I happened to see a message and it was someone from the Food Network, from the show ‘The Kitchen,’ and literally my eyes popped out of my head because I saw that the message was from one week prior and I had never received it because it was in spam, obviously,” DiGiglio-Mancini said. “I do get a lot of messages, so once in a while I go through and weed them out. Some are legit and some are spam, so this was like, ‘Wow! The Food Network.’”
The message noted that the network was pleased with her suggestion on chicken repurposing, and requested to use it during an upcoming “foodie fan feedback” segment. DiGiglio-Mancini happily obliged, as they were going to promote her profile picture and Instagram handle as well.
She was emailing back and forth with a producer, who then asked DiGiglio-Mancini to send in a 30-second video detailing who she is, what she does and why she likes the Food Network.
DiGiglio-Mancini sent that over within the hour, and about three days later she got the notice that more that just her recipe would be appearing on the show.
“They sent me a message asking for my phone number and they called me and said you and two other people have been chosen to appear on our Foodie Fan Feedback show in a virtual happy hour with all of the hosts from ‘The Kitchen,’” DiGiglio-Mancini said. “They have over one million followers and I don’t know how many people commented on Alex’s post, but for some reason they liked what I had to say and maybe liked my profile or knowing I’m doing what I’m doing.”
DiGiglio-Mancini seized her chance to appear on the program, though she was sworn to secrecy until the channel gave her clearance. There were a few Zoom meetings prior to the taping to discuss scheduling, and soon after she was on-camera for 15 minutes during the virtual happy hour. She said that chunk of taping was cut down into a four-minute discussion.
“I was blown away. This is really real,” DiGiglio-Mancini said. “It’s a humongous opportunity. I’m a huge fan of the show, a fan of all the hosts and I have some really great contacts now. It’s a stepping stone, it’s a door that has been opened and hopefully will open more doors, so it’s exciting.”
She said she has received nothing but positive feedback from her appearance, and she’s gained new followers every day since. Folks from all over are reaching out, including as far as Buffalo and other parts of New York.
“I didn't enter a contest, I didn't think anything like this was ever going to happen in this particular way,” DiGiglio-Mancini said. “It wasn’t like I was answering how to repurpose chicken because it was a contest, it was just my legitimate answer it turns into this amazing opportunity and out of so many thousands and thousands of people, it was like, ‘Wow, I was found. This is so incredible. So exciting’…The exposure was amazing.”
DiGiglio-Mancini took a moment during the interview to offer some tips to those who are stuck inside looking to absorb new cooking knowledge. Her advice was to keep it “simple and easy,” but take advantage of the time to dive into all the possibilities.
“There’s so many things that you can make,” DiGiglio-Mancini said. “Cooking is so versatile, so many opportunities to make things and create things, so I would express to people [to] be creative and try something new and don't be afraid of the kitchen. That’s pretty much it.”
DiGiglio-Mancini has still been posting recipes and short videos to her social media accounts despite her show being off the air – a task that isn’t easy when there are so many other parts of life to juggle as well.
It’s all in a day’s work for DiGiglio-Mancini, though, even if day trickles into the late night.
“My husband films them and I edit them so the amount of work that goes into these little shorts is a lot. I’m also a mother going through the home schooling,” she said. “There’s a lot of stuff going on. I don’t care if I stay up till 3 o’clock in the morning, I get it done, because that’s the passion I have.”
Alexia DiGiglio-Mancini, bottom left, host of “U Had Me At Kitchen,” recently appeared on a segment during the popular Food Network show “The Kitchen.” DiGiglio-Mancini guested alongside a couple other lucky show followers, as well as all of the hosts. (Courtesy Food Network’s Instagram page) HOW IT’S DONE:
Alexia DiGiglio-Mancini shows off how to make some of her famous orzo salad during a recent video. (Screenshot / U Had Me at Kitchen Facebook page)