Jeff Mauro's Transformation Is Turning Heads

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Best known as "The Sandwich King," Jeff Mauro has garnered quite the following over the 10 years since he won Season 7 of "Food Network Star" in 2011 and walked away with his own Food Network show (via Distractify). On his self-titled series, the Chicago chef is famous for recreating some of the most mouth-watering sandwiches across the country, from Philly cheesesteaks to crab cake sliders. "You can make any meal into a sandwich, and any sandwich into a meal," he told Food Network

But Mauro wasn't always the successful chef and TV personality that you know him as. The 42-year-old's path to Food Network stardom took a lot of twists and turns, from originally pursuing acting in college to opening a chain of fast-casual sandwich restaurants a few years ago. Here's what you may not have known about Jeff Mauro and how he got to where he is today.

Jeff Mauro loves acting almost as much as he loves cooking

Believe it or not, Jeff Mauro didn't always know he wanted to go into the food world. In fact, acting was his first love. Prior to competing on "Food Network Star," the Chicago-born chef graduated from Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois, where he studied radio and TV (via TV Over Mind). "I also loved performing, I was doing plays and comedies since second grade, Mauro confessed in an interview with Spoon University. "I went out to LA and when I had no success getting into the business, I went to culinary school."

According to his Food Network bio, Mauro opened up a deli right after college, which he ran by day. And by night? He satisfied his craving to be in the spotlight by performing as Tony in Chicago's Tony and Tina's Wedding. He then moved to Hollywood, where he tried for a few years to make his mark as an actor. When that didn't work, he enrolled at Le Cordon Bleu to become a chef. 

He underwent an impressive weight loss journey

Mauro might be known for his delicious food, but he's recently made headlines for something else: his 50-pound weight loss. In a Facebook post, Mauro showed off his slimmer body, saying, "Normally, I'm not this showy of my dadbod, but I am proud of my fitness journey and cannot thank my coaches ... enough for giving me a fitness home." How did he do it? The 43-year-old has been very transparent about the process, stressing that it wasn't a quick fix or crash diet, but rather hard work and dedication.

According to the same Facebook post, which was originally shared by Mauro's Crossfit gym, O'Hare Crossfit in Chicago, the chef can credit his new physique to "the combination of OCF workouts and a sensible, monitored diet." The caption adds that this "healthy, sustainable" method of losing weight is also what allowed Mauro to keep the weight off as well (which tends to be the hardest part). While Mauro didn't share his exact diet, the Sandwich King has started posting pictures of salads alongside his sandwiches on social media.

Jeff Mauro once owned a chain of sandwich restaurants

If you have ever dreamed of tasting a sandwich made by — or at least inspired by — the Sandwich King himself, you had a chance to for a few years. In 2016, Jeff Mauro opened Pork & Mindy's, a chain of fast-casual restaurants named after the popular sitcom "Mork & Mindy" (via QSR Magazine). The menu included protein-packed dishes like smoked meat sandwiches and even "Meat Flights." Along with four locations in Chicago, Pork & Mindy's also had a line of barbecue sauces sold in grocery stores and even paired up with the Chicago Bears to sell candied bacon at the team's stadium in 2017.

Mauro had plans to open about 30 locations by 2020, but unfortunately, that didn't happen. Pork & Mindy's declared Chapter 7 bankruptcy in November 2019, shuttering all current locations, according to Chicago Eater. The site reports that Mauro said the restaurant's expansion plans were too ambitious, saying they "got out of control too quickly."

Jeff Mauro published his first cookbook during the pandemic

Following his success on-screen as the Sandwich King, Jeff Mauro decided to bring his culinary genius to the masses by publishing his first cookbook in 2021, at the end of the COVID-19 pandemic. Titled "Come On Over," the book includes 111 mouth-watering recipes, from sausage, egg, and cheese brunch sandwiches to BLT sliders to cookie butter pie. That's right — there's more than just sandwiches to be had. Mauro said he was influenced by both his Italian-American family and his mother-in-law's Southern roots (via Yahoo! News).

"This book will help you [with] everything from just having your wife and son and daughter at the dinner table and creating great recipes to have and finally having your extended family, to your friends, to your neighbors over," Mauro told Southern Living. "It gives you the tools and the recipes and the confidence to do that along with some really funny stories."