Fanshawe chef overcomes tough competition on Guy’s Grocery Games

A screenshot of Chef Erin Circelli-Russell competing on Guy's Grocery Games. CREDIT: MAURICIO PRADO
Chef Erin Circelli-Russell remains undefeated after securing her third win on the popular Food Network competition show, Guy’s Grocery Games.

Chef Erin Circelli-Russell, one of the head chefs and an instructor at Fanshawe College’s student training facility, the Chef's Table, has won for the third time on the popular Food Network cooking show Guy’s Grocery Games (GGG).

“I was honoured when they called me,” Circelli-Russell said. “That is a pretty heavy title to carry a three-time Triple-G winner.”

Host and celebrity chef, Guy Fieri invited four past winners back to the Flavourtown Market for a non-stop super battle in the episode titled, “Winners Whammy Auction.”

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“It was scary because I was competing against other chefs who had already won in other episodes,” Circelli-Russell said.

She said that in this episode, Fieri gave them $100 to buy food to make an appetizer and an entree. But they also had to bid on auction items.

“The starting bid was $40, so I spent at least $40 on an item I did not want,” Circelli-Russell said. “I was the last person to buy one of the items, so Fieri charged me $60 for the black liquorice.”

She said she had only $40 left to buy all the rest of the food.

“The most challenging part was purchasing a nice cut of beef steak for under $40 and serving eight plates. It was extremely nerve-wracking,” Circelli-Russell said.

Circelli-Russell came home with $20,000 for her win. She said it feels good to remain undefeated after three visits to Flavourtown Market.

“Some of the competitors had won up to five times in this show, so I knew I was against fierce competition,” Circelli-Russell said.

She said she went to have fun, whether she won or lost. She added that she was relaxed right before they started playing.

“Chef Abby, the other female chef, also works at an education facility, so she feeds thousands of people a day at a university in California,” Circelli-Russell said. “I was most nervous about her. She is just such a talented chef.”

She said the other participant, Chef Jeff, owns two California restaurants and is a very “distinguished chef.”

“I knew all of them were going to be very talented. I had to pull it up and play my best game to win,” Circelli-Russell said.

Circelli-Russell said that the most fun part was hanging out with the chefs, meeting them, and getting to know what they do for their lives and families.

“We do not have a lot of downtime, but when we do and sit together and eat with someone, friendships become stronger,” Circelli-Russell said. “Having all these friends around North America has been probably my favourite part of the process.”

She also said that Fieri is a fantastic guy in real life and that his main goal is to make everyone look good.

“Even if you were extremely nervous and flopped at the challenges that he threw at you, he is still going to make you look good on TV,” Circelli-Russell said.

Circelli-Russell said that Fieri just wants everybody to return to their hometown as heroes. She added that he is always there to support people in the industry.

“My students at Fanshawe College have been asking me every day since we filmed the show,” Circelli-Russell said. “We filmed this episode in August, they have been asking almost weekly.”

She said she and her parents had a party at the Chef’s Table on Fanshawe downtown campus when the show aired in the U.S. a week ahead of its Canadian airing date.

“I have gotten so many messages on social media from students that it is heartwarming to know they were as excited as I am about this adventure,” Circelli-Russell said.

She said the celebration was even more significant for Canada’s show airing, which was on March 28.

“We have got a bunch of screens set up at my parents’ place and a huge tent out back with fires,” Circelli-Russell said. “It was an incredible evening with friends, family, and the community.”