Catherine De Orio is happy to be leading diners on a journey of interesting Chicagoland restaurants.
De Orio is the newly appointed host of the Emmy-winning WTTW series "Check, Please!" and makes her debut on the show at 8 p.m. Oct. 18 on WTTW-Channel 11.
"I was super excited when I heard I was picked," De Orio said. "It was a diverse group and tough competition all the way." (In the finalist mix were also Chicago breakfast queen Ina Pinkney and Munster resident and truffle king Frank Brunacci, former chef at Trump's Sixteen restaurant in Chicago).
De Orio, who grew up in an Italian family in Elmwood Park, Ill., said she feels fortunate to have landed this role. "I watched "Check, Please!" since Amanda Puck was the host," she said. Puck was the first host of the dining series when it debuted 12 seasons ago.
"I actually didn't think I made it past the meet and greet," De Orio said, adding producers and show personnel met with about 150 people over two days.
According to De Orio, there'll be a lot more of the same quality eateries and fun commentary from show guests.
"There's a lineup of great restaurants all over town. It's a good mix of institutions and really new places," she said.
De Orio was one of 17 finalists to vie for the role. She said she's had tremendous support from her husband John Gorey, family members and friends in this venture. In fact to celebrate the debut of the show, she'll also be hosting a viewing party.
"I'll have a small gathering of friends and family, those people who supported me," she said.
De Orio, who left a career as a lawyer to pursue culinary studies in Chicago, is currently a food/travel and features writer for a number of publications. She's also been a national media spokeswoman for various companies including Godiva, Sara Lee/Hillshire brands, Revolution Tea and others.
On "Check, Please!", De Orio will lead a group of diners who visited restaurants throughout the Chicago area. Guests offer their opinions and mini reviews on the eateries providing an interesting profile on the restaurant, chef and overall dining atmosphere.
As host, De Orio said she doesn't make any "review" type comments but goes to every restaurant and checks it out, learns about the menu, the chefs and everything about the eatery.
"The diners go in (separately) and then I go and interview the chefs and owners," she said. De Orio will also dine there. "It's important to experience what the guests will experience. "I learn a lot about the chefs and the owners, do research on them and their background and talk to them about cooking. Like I do when I write food articles," she said.
"Check, Please!" executive producer David Manilow and producer Jacqui Wedewer, De Orio said, are great to work with.
"It's even better than expected. It's a real team effort," she said.