Why Italian Beef Is So Trendy Right Now, According To Jeff Mauro - Exclusive

Something is wafting, far and wide, from the Windy City, and it's capturing the attention of hungry sandwich lovers everywhere. We're talking about the flavor-loaded, belly-filling, sensory-satisfying mainstay that is the famous Chicago Italian beef sandwich. If you've stepped into a Chicago-style deli lately, you've probably smelled the fragrant, savory aroma of slow-roasted meat, ready to be layered onto a fresh bun with crunchy and tart giardiniera. Or perhaps you've seen the trend on social media, encouraging you to give it a try at home.

No one is more ready for this moment than Jeff Mauro. The celebrity chef and co-host of "The Kitchen" says "it has been amazing as a lifelong Chicagoan born and raised, especially in the Italian beef culture and being a sandwich guy," to see a food that's so near and dear to him enter the hearts and stomachs of so many people. But why the sudden interest in a century-old Chicago classic?

You can pretty much thank Hulu's "The Bear" for that. The popular new show about a fine dining chef who returns home to run his family's sandwich shop offers a glimpse of the gritty and fast-paced world of running a small food business. But it also highlights the gloriously delicious culinary tradition that is Chicago-style subs — in particular, the hallowed Italian beef.

In a lot of ways, "It legitimized this underrated, wonderful sandwich," said Mauro, who has been on his own mission to showcase his love of all things sandwiches for a lot of his career. In an exclusive interview with Tasting Table, Mauro shared why's so happy that Chicago's classic Italian beef sandwich is finally getting its moment of long-overdue recognition.

Jeff Mauro has been spreading the Italian beef gospel long before The Bear

If you ask Jeff Mauro, he'd probably argue he's been waiting longer than anyone for his local hometown hero — the Chicago Italian beef sandwich — to make it into the spotlight. "It took 44 years of my life for it to finally have a national platform," he told Tasting Table. And while "The Bear" is unquestionably to blame for this new beef boom, Mauro claims he's been making it his mission to showcase this sandwich and more for most of his career.

For Mauro, Italian beef is basically in his blood. "It's in my DNA," he said. "My first job was when I was 14, slinging Italian beefs at the Taste of Chicago, getting under-the-table work permits, making six bucks an hour ... I loved every minute of it." From there, Mauro went on to refine his sandwich skills in culinary school and built a reputation for himself as the "Sandwich King" at Food Network. Along the way, he's been showcasing and elevating his favorite Chicago classics, including the Italian beef — well before "The Bear" ever entered the scene.

He's continued that effort with the creation of his own specialty butcher shop, Mauro Provisions. "I've been trying to spread the gospel for the last several years with my own brand," he said. The shop, which delivers nationally, offers up everything you need to create some authentic and delicious Chicago-style subs, including "prime Italian beef kits with the bread, the giardiniera, the sausage, the gravy, the meat, and all this stuff," Mauro explained.

You can see Jeff Mauro, the whole cast of "The Kitchen," and so much more at the 2022 Food Network New York City Wine and Food Festival presented by Capital One on October 13-16. Click here to learn more and purchase tickets.