Jeff Mauro Talks Game Day Cooking For The Entire Family, Dogs Included - Exclusive Interview

If you've watched Food Network for even a brief amount of time, you likely know Jeff Mauro. The winner of Food Network's seventh season of "Food Network Star," Mauro has since become a staple on the channel, hosting his own show "Sandwich King," co-hosting "The Kitchen," and appearing on "Worst Cooks in America." But there's something about Mauro that may not be apparent even if you've heard about his love for all things sandwiches: Did you know that this Food Network celebrity is also a passionate dog dad?

Inspired by his two pups, JoJo and Pinot G, Mauro teamed up with Cesar for this football season to create a handful of dog-friendly recipes so your favorite canine companion can get in on the game-day fun — safely (instead of snatching a piece of pizza off the coffee table while no one's watching). Mashed spoke with Mauro for an exclusive interview to talk about cooking for pets on game day, but also about Mauro's personal favorite game-day eats and his top tip for putting out a game-day spread that's sure to impress both your tastebuds and your guests.

'Home-gating' with your favorite pup

What do we need to know about cooking for pets?

If you have a dog at home, or multiple dogs like I do, your life tends to be governed by them. Usually, the way they communicate is with their cute little eyes. That stare occurs a lot when I'm enjoying all my favorite game-day foods while I'm watching my favorite Chicago team hopefully win on a Sunday afternoon. I can't pay attention because they're staring at me.

You might as well give in and spoil them and let them indulge in a little bit of "home-gating," if you will ... by creating something out of the food that they already know and love. That's why I partnered with Cesar and created awesome match-ups like this season's seven-layer [dip].

It's filet mignon hard dog food. Then you've got the soft dog food layer, then another layer of hard, then another layer of soft, and then it's topped with Cesar dog treats on top.

If you don't win the game, you're going to win that day because of your dogs. They're going to love you, and then next week, you can repeat it. If you go to, there are plenty of other matchup recipes that are inspired by some of your game-day favorites, like barbecue wings, nachos, chili. You name it, it's there for you, all using your existing dog food. It's awesome.

If you're going to make this at home, do you need to worry about portions or giving them too much of the good stuff?

You want to follow your veterinary-recommended portions and what it says on the bag, giving them the appropriate amount of food.

But it's [all about] how you plate it, how you combine flavors to give them something new out of what they already know. My one dog, Pinot G, will eat as much or as little [as you give him]. Whatever you give him, he's going to eat it. He's going to be so happy to chew food.

My other dog, JoJo, will sniff it and be like, "I've had this three days in a row, young man. It's time to switch things up. I am bored with the selection. I need to see the other menu. I need the secret menu." For dogs like that ... this is an easy way to keep things fresh for them.

Why did you feel Cesar was a brand that you personally would work well with?

It's quality dog food, and they like to have fun. They focus on having fun and feeding your pets, like [with] this season's Cesar seven-layer [dip] and the bestie bowls I did with them last season, when we were partnered together. It's a great household name that my dogs happen to love and eat every day. What's better? I'm a dog lover and I love to spoil my dog, so I give them the good stuff.

Jeff Mauro's all-time favorite game-day food

What does game day look like on your end? What are you usually doing, and what are you usually cooking?

A lot of meat, a lot of cheese, a lot of bread, a lot of salt, a lot of beer — all the things you love.

You've got to have a sandwich, one. Two, you got to have a pizza. Three, you got to have a wing-y. All three of those items scratch all of the itches you can possibly have on game day.

I'm in an Italian beef phase right now. I can't get enough of them. It's so easy to make, and you're not babysitting something for six hours before the game even starts. You can devote your attention to the pre-game, even watch the commercials if you're into that, but mainly whip up something quick in between the quarters that doesn't take up too much of your time.

What's your all-time favorite game-day food? If you can only have one thing, what do you make?

Wow ... It's going to be pepperoni pizza — Chicago tavern-style pepperoni pizza, thin crust, cut into squares. It's easy to eat a lot of, because they're [cut] in the little small squares, so you don't feel like you're eating giant pieces of pizza that you have to motor through and keep on a plate. You pop one in, you go to the corner, pop one in, go to the middle piece, pop one in ... It's the best. The next thing you know, you can't even take off your jewelry.

Do you have any tips for our readers for game-day cooking overall?

Keep it simple and cook what you know and love. I always start with what I crave, and you can't go wrong then — you're going to execute it well because you crave it yourself. If you crave it, you usually know how to make it, so you're not reaching into an internet hole, searching for a new and complicated thing that you've never even attempted before, which can sometimes lead to a misfire.

I always start with what I am craving the most, and that is a good launching point for what you should serve yourself and your loved ones on game day.

Get your Italian beef fix, a la 'The Bear'

Tell us a little bit about the other projects that you have going on. What else can fans expect from you right now?

I have new episodes of "The Kitchen" every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on Food Network, so look forward to more fun and inspiring recipes from the gang. My podcast "Come On Over," which can be heard wherever you listen to podcasts, is [on] our 100th episode now. I host it with my little sister, Emily, who's also the producer and editor. It's hilarious. It's like my life in reality show form, but on a podcast. It's a very deep glimpse into my world. If you want to even dive into that pool, it's right there. I love doing it. We do a new one every week.

You can order any of my sandwich kits, my butcher boxes, my peppers, my giardiniera, my rubs, at, like [the] Italian beef kit. Italian beef is having this huge moment right now thanks to shows like "The Bear," and I'm the only one that does USDA prime Italian beef shipped with everything you could possibly need, including the locally made sausage, a locally made bread, our craft giardiniera, prime Italian beef, gravy, recipe cards, and even wraps to wrap your sandwich in, so you can let it sit like a true Chicago beef stand experience.

For inspirational ideas on how to share the game-day food fun with your pup, visit

This interview was edited for clarity.