The Round of 17: Vote for the next Check, Please! Host

    The search for the next Check, Please! host heats up!

    Audition videos have poured in, and we have chosen our Top 17. Now we need YOU to help us take a step closer to selecting our new host! Below you’ll find our favorites. You’ll find their names, occupations, video auditions, and answers to our question: “Why are you the best host for Check, Please!?”

    Consider all of this carefully and then vote for your favorite! Voting begins at 12:00 am (midnight) Central Time on March 20, 2013 and ends at 11:59 pm Central Time on April 17, 2013 so hurry and make your pick!

    Note: We will accept one (1) vote per IP address during the Voting Period. Additional votes from the same IP address will be disqualified. The online voting tally in combination with input from WTTW producers and staff and the producers of Check, Please! will be considered in reaching the final host selection decision. All votes are subject to the complete Voting Rules. By voting here, you accept and agree to abide by the Voting Rules.

    Cassidy Stirtz


    Why are you the best host for Check, Please!?

    This would be an amazing marriage of my two greatest loves – acting and food/wine. I fit all of the qualifications. As an actor, I’m extroverted and engaging, and I’ve worked in several different theatres since graduation. In order to prepare for film and TV work, I took an advanced on-camera class. I exercise regularly and dine out a couple of times a month. I’ve tried several different cuisines, from Deutsch to Thai (Hawaiian is next on the list). I’m educated, too – I got my bachelor of fine arts degree from Millikin University and graduated summa cum laude with honors. Most importantly, I know Chicago. I’ve lived here my whole life, and I wouldn’t live anywhere else.

    Vote for Cassidy!

    Tony Diaz

    Sous Chef at Maude’s Liquor Bar

    Why are you the best host for Check, Please!?

    If there is any such person as a born food enthusiast, it would be me. I don’t eat to live, I live to eat! It is in my DNA to pursue knowledge about food and to use that knowledge to i mprove my craft, my team, and ultimately the dining experience. Throughout the years, I have jumped at opportunities to gain a greater perspective and appreciation for the food industry from growing and cultivating to manufacturing, distributing, creating, and serving. I know that being the host of Check, Please! would be another great opportunity to learn and grow, while being the perfect way to share the sum of my unique experiences and knowledge. I am in the position of being able to provide an informative and entertaining dining/viewing adventure for my guests. As always, I would go out of my way to make my guests feel comfortable and involved and I put high value on being a great listener. As your host, I would lead the viewers on a journey they would want to repeat. I respect your brand and want to add my personal style and continue to build on it. I know how vitally important it is to you and the restaurant when a guest smiles and says, “Check, Please!

    Vote for Tony!

    Senam Amegashie

    Freelance Writer

    Why are you the best host for Check, Please!?

    Well for one G-d, Jesus, Allah, Buddah, and OPRAH told me I would be totally awesome as host... I kid, I kid, or do I? I don’t know... But do you really want to go against the word of Jesus? Or Allah? Or G-d forbid, OPRAH. Oprah is not one to be played with... Don’t risk it! Just hire me, already. Anyhoo, I’m fun, chock full of personality, a genuine lover of all people, and I have infectious desire to make everyone’s day a little bit brighter. My happy-go-lucky, let’s-just-have-a-great-time attitude puts all kinds of crowds at ease and allows me to indulge in my true purpose of connecting and comforting people from completely different backgrounds by our always there, but oft times hidden, common thread. I’m the right choice to help nourish that Check, Please! tradition. I’m friendly, I’m kind, can find the humor in anything, and shockingly comfortable in front of a camera. I’m certain that my every woman, down to earth, “I can learn something from everyone” spirit will endear [me to] viewers and make me a fantastic host for Check, Please! WTTW. Also, I live like TEN minutes away from WTTW studios and will vow to NEVER, NOT EVER be late.

    Vote for Senam!

    (Video from the 2/11/2013 Meet & Greet)

    Sarah Levy

    Owner of S. Levy Foods/ Magazine Editor

    Why are you the best host for Check, Please!?

    My entrepreneurial pastry history, continuous passion for great food and wine, friendly nature, and family heritage in Chicago restaurants all give me credibility and make me the absolute best candidate. I eat out on average eight times per week, and have lived in Chicago my whole life, so I am in the loop on Chicago’s restaurants and I love experiencing new places. I grew up in the restaurant business (my dad co-founded Levy Restaurants) and I will always be in the food industry. I am approachable and comfortable on camera, and having been in the bakery business for nine years, I can keep a conversation going with just about anyone! As the dining editor for Today’s Chicago Woman magazine and food blogger, I am constantly pushing myself to seek out new Chicago restaurants. I have appeared on several local and national television programs, so I know from experience that I love working on camera. I have always loved food and, in particular, eating out. And I have always been interested in the people eating the food, so as a Sociology major at Northwestern, I constantly tied food to my studies and wrote my senior thesis on “kitchen culture.” I am upbeat and engaging and sure to please viewers, as well as highlight new and exciting culinary experiences around the city. On top of all that, I am fun, reliable, and easy to work with!

    Vote for Sarah!

    Donny de Castro

    Owner of Tavern at the Park Restaurant

    Why are you the best host for Check, Please!?

    Chicago is, in my mind, the most important food city in the country right now. We are the heart of America’s culinary pulse and I am a dedicated member of that club. I don’t just like or frequent Chicago restaurants. I am a Chicago restaurant. I work tirelessly in the industry at my restaurant, Tavern at the Park. I don’t just talk the talk, I walk the walk. I am in the trenches every day, trying the newest dishes, using the newest ingredients, crafting the newest cocktails and wine menus, and talking with the Chicago diners as to want they like and don’t like. And at the end of it all, I am damn proud of this city and what WE have accomplished in the culinary landscape and ultimately, I want to brag about us. I want everyone to know how good we are, how hard we work. I have the information, the personality, and the hair to get that message out!!

    Vote for Donny!

    Frank Brunacci

    Former Executive Chef at Trump International Hotel and Tower Chicago
    Currently Chef at The Chefs Diamond Co.

    Why are you the best host for Check, Please!?

    I would be the best next host for Check, Please! because the restaurant industry consumes me; I have been a part of it for many, many years. I love the stories that are told about dining experiences, and the fact that being a chef for so long allows me to penetrate a conversation within the industry that only someone who has been there before has access to. Making people feel comfortable, asking the right questions, getting provocative responses, engaging in meaningful and truthful accounts of our dining experiences... then sharing them with the community and hopefully attracting more people to follow in the conversation.

    Vote for Frank!

    Rochelle Trotter

    Owner of R’Culiniare

    Why are you the best host for Check, Please!?

    I AM your next host for Check, Please! because I have it all: formal training in culinary, real hands on work experience in restaurants, beverage knowledge (not just alcohol but non-alcoholic), and restaurant design experience. I’m incredibly inclusive and based on my life experiences I can embrace the full spectrum of guest style from a socio-economic perspective. As I like to say, I can go ghetto to Gucci when it comes to food: the dives to the divine coveted spots. I’m passionate about all things culinary and bring an authentic high energy to anything in which I am involved. I enjoy the heat of Korean and Mexican food from my local joint spots as much as I enjoy the subtle seductive flavors of fine dining establishments in the city. To experience great food to me is nothing less than making love to the ingredients! My BEST attribute when asked of friends is that I am a true LISTENER! As host of Check, Please! I understand that my opinion would be THE LEAST IMPORTANT/VOICED and I LOVE THAT OPPORTUNITY! It’s all about the guests of the show – what THEY think and what THEY experienced. However my background allows me to facilitate a fun, inclusive conversation because there are very few food styles which I’ve not at least TRIED ONCE. So I can relate even if I have NOT been to their actual restaurant of choice.

    Vote for Rochelle!

    Flavia Magdalin

    Restaurant Manager, RL Restaurant

    Why are you the best host for Check, Please!?

    I would be a great host because I have personality, I know food, service, and I have traveled the world. With a French and Italian heritage, my passion for food started at an early age. I am 29, and I LOVE life and anything food related.

    Vote for Flavia!

    (Video from the 3/11/2013 Meet & Greet.)

    Tommy Walton

    Fashion Design Teacher at SAIC

    Why are you the best host for Check, Please!?

    In 15 years as a Fashion Design teacher at SAIC, I’ve been able to fine tune my technique in engaging, and transfixing, my hyper-sophisticated students with a charismatic, quick-witted, razor-tongued point of view. I maintain an open forum for communicating ideas in a hip, fun, fast-paced conversational environment, and am comfortable as the facilitator and moderator for discussion, and sharing information. This unique combination of an extensive knowledge of the food and beverage industry, a life-long passionate love affair with Chicago’s dining scene, and my likeable “media-genic” personality, makes me an ideal multi-faceted candidate for the challenging role of host and “face” of Check, Please!

    Vote for Tommy!

    Ina Pinkney

    Chef/Owner of Ina’s

    Why are you the best host for Check, Please!?

    The Check, Please! brand has power and influence and can never be taken lightly or for granted. Maintaining the integrity of the brand, while at the same time expanding it, and the franchise, is essential to its longevity. When I began in the business, the food evolution and revolution was just being birthed. I bore witness to the changing palates of the public and the new talents and techniques coming from kitchens. As a chef I know Back of the House, as a restaurateur I know Front of the House, and as a media savvy person, I understand the job of Host. And I would be a good one.

    Vote for Ina!

    Emilie Rose Bishop

    Chief Mixologist at iNG

    Why are you the best host for Check, Please!?

    I have worked in restaurants throughout the country since I was 13. I started as a dishwasher and immediately fell in love with anything and everything revolving around food, cooking, and restaurants. The restaurants I worked in and the people I worked with quickly became a second home and a second family. I was hooked. I gradually moved up the ladder and began cooking. I loved it even more! I found that joy that comes with creating something to give, to feed people food I had cooked felt like I had a purpose in life – to create joy, to make people feel the home away from home feeling I first had when I began. From then on I helped open restaurants in various locations and continued to work every station possible. While working as a Barista during the mornings in Milwaukee WI, I also began tending bar and discovering that other aspect of a business. I basically love food, people, and the art of creating something for others. I also love to eat and have no allergies!!! Bonus! I currently am the Chief Mixologist at iNG restaurant in the Fulton Market. Working closely with Chef Homaro Cantu has been an amazing eye opening experience. I get to play around with liquid nitro on a daily basis!

    Vote for Emilie!

    (Video from the 2/11/2013 Meet & Greet)

    Anthony Todd

    Food and Drink Editor for / Chicago editor for

    Why are you the best host for Check, Please!?

    Check, Please! is an exercise in culinary democracy. It’s like Yelp, except way, way better – an opportunity for ordinary diners to voice their opinions on their favorite restaurants. That’s why we watch it! We all want to argue with them and imagine what we would say in their places. Because of that, the host of Check, Please! shouldn’t be a “personality” or a “star.” He or she should be a knowledgeable, articulate person who is there to make everyone else shine. I know a ton about food and drink and can speak well on my feet, but I’m also invested in learning what diners and guests have to say and in making sure their voices get heard. I’m also committed to making sure all Chicago restaurants, not just the fancy ones with great PR, get their place in the sun, and Check, Please! is great for finding unique spots that deserve extra attention.

    Vote for Anthony!

    Cristiane Pereira

    Chef/Owner of Taste of Brasil Café

    Why are you the best host for Check, Please!?

    Being a business owner, I built my business with a lot of hard work physically and mentally. But what always really stood out and kept on bringing people in is my personality and affinity to connect with people around me. I love spending time with my customers talking about anything they want. This is my biggest joy and self accomplishment in my day to day! Not to mention my true and real passion for the culinary world. Since I believe a good part of the job of the hostess is to keep the audience involved and help with the flow of the conversation among the guests, I think I would be a good fit, because that is what I have been doing with my customers.

    Vote for Christiane!

    Catherine De Orio

    President at Culinary Curator

    Why are you the best host for Check, Please!?

    As a formally trained chef, I use my understanding of food in my work as a lifestyle writer and dining columnist who regularly appears on local and national broadcast segments to dish on where (or demo how to) dine. My free time is spent sipping, slurping, and swirling my way through the Southern Wine & Spirits Cocktail, Spirits, and Wine Academy, traveling to learn more about the wine and cuisines of other cultures, and cooking for family and friends in my home. A Chicago native, I love my city and passionately believe we are one of the most diverse and vibrant dining scenes in the world. But that’s only a small part of why I am the right candidate for this position. My ability to engage others is my greatest asset and a necessary ingredient in the recipe for a great host. Quite simply, I am a people person. Whether it’s because I grew up in an enormous Italian family where being anti-social (or missing meals) was not an option or because I didn’t grow up in the age of cell phones, email, and internet – engaging directly with others was a life necessity. I adore meeting and chatting with people – all the better if it involves dining. My love of socializing over food extended to my time living, studying, and working abroad (Italy, France, and England) – by starting supper clubs and throwing dinner parties in each city in which I settled, I broadened both my mind and palate. My years as a litigation attorney taught me to ask the questions that will elicit informational answers – not always an easy feat when working with people of such diverse socio-economic backgrounds. But that is where I excelled and what I enjoyed. And although I went to culinary school, I chose to work in food-related media in lieu of a kitchen so I can continue to meet, teach, and learn from others. My unique combination of education and experience is what sets me apart. This position is the logical extension of my achievements thus far and if given the opportunity, I will bring the same dedication, zest, and enthusiasm to my role as the host of Check Please!

    Vote for Catherine!

    Cleetus Friedman

    Former Chef/Owner of City Provisions

    Why are you the best host for Check, Please!?

    With a combination of on stage/camera experience and an intense knowledge of the food scene, I have the personality and charisma to anchor a Chicago food based show like Check, Please! I have a great sense of humor and can easily strike up a conversation with any stranger I meet. Having been the face and personality of City Provisions, I have the experience to engage guests on multiple levels. With over 5,000 followers on social media and the prowess to understand how this forum can influence people, I am bringing a built in audience along with me. I can use all of my experience to help elevate the playing field of what is already an amazing show.

    Vote for Cleetus!

    Alia Dalal

    Personal Chef/Food Tour Guide

    Why are you the best host for Check, Please!?

    Working as a food tour guide, I’ve gained insight into what being an entertaining and educational food host really means. Most of my guests are Chicagoland natives (and many are fans of Check, Please!) and while my knowledge of the Chicago food scene may be why they initially get excited about my tour, ensuring an exciting experience for them is more about making them feel comfortable and engaged, leading interesting conversations among an often diverse group, and being able to smile confidently and think on my feet if anything goes wrong! One of my greatest strengths as a host is my ability to be fun and entertaining, yet approachable. I have the ability to draw out conversations from people from all walks of life. That’s truly what makes an episode of Check, Please! exciting: when the memory of a meal or the host strikes a chord with the guests and you see a lively conversation play out with some true characters. Even with the proliferation of online review sites and food media, Check, Please!’s access to the back-of-the-house, beautiful visuals, and these spur-of-the-moment conversations among people who could be your neighbors is what keeps the show popular and authoritative. Check, Please! is capable of telling in-depth, unique stories about positive food businesses from many perspectives, and my diverse knowledge of so many aspects of the food business and warm personality could strengthen that. While I do work for myself and certainly have my own culinary perspective (as any chef or professional does), my true allegiance is to this city and its great, diverse food stories. I have a youthful, fresh perspective and am confident I could help invigorate Check, Please! in the coming seasons while adhering to the integrity, approachability, and depth of the show that viewers have come to love and expect. I have the energy, poise, and dedication to be a devoted brand ambassador for the show and would be beyond thrilled to have that opportunity. Thank you so much for considering me!

    Vote for Alia!

    Bill St. John

    Wine Writer for the Chicago Tribune / Professor at University of Chicago’s Graham School

    Why are you the best host for Check, Please!?

    I bring to the table 40 years of work with food and wine. Above all, I’m a teacher; I try to get people to think about what they say. I believe that explaining why a dish or restaurant is good or bad is a lot more interesting to a viewer than simply saying that it’s so. That is what I’d try to encourage on the show.

    Vote for Bill!