Seventy years into its run in St. Paul’s Highland Park neighborhood, Cecil’s Delicatessen is making its television debut.
Three members of the clan that have staffed the deli over the years appear in a new competition, “Family Restaurant Rivals” on the Food Network, which begins tonight, Aug. 19, at 9 p.m.,
The show pits three families who work in restaurants against one another for a $10,000 prize, with Valerie Bertinelli as the host. The families each compete in challenges “requiring them to overcome real-life restaurant curve balls to please the most intimidating judges in the food world,” according to the Food Network.
Cecil’s co-owner Sheila Leventhal grew up working in what was originally her parents’ restaurant, making coleslaw and potato salad in her preteens. So did her children and her grandchildren.
So it made sense to take an intergenerational delegation to the competition, filmed in California. Leventhal teamed up with her daughter Rebecca Kvasnik and granddaughter Evana Kvasnik. Perhaps thanks to the countless hours they’ve spent cooking together, Leventhal said they had no problem handling the pressure of a high-stakes food competition.
The network “might have thought it would be difficult, but I think it was easy for all of us,” said Leventhal, who was working the phone and waiting tables Monday at Cecil’s.
“I think because we’re used to cooking together and used to having to do things very quickly, it was not a problem for us,” she said.
“I don’t know if our family would get along so well if we weren’t in business,” she said. “When you’re in business with family, you can trust each other.”
“Family Restaurant Rivals” is the first time Cecil’s is getting Food Network recognition, Leventhal said. The experience was so fun, “we wish we could do it again,” she said. “In fact, my daughter is filling out applications right now.”