Chef Gina Marinelli already has an illustrious career: She worked at Michael Mina’s Nobhill Tavern and American Fish at the MGM Grand and Aria respectively. She worked with James Beard Foundation award winner Shawn McClain at Sage at Aria and Scott Conant at D.O.C.G Enoteca at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. She opened her own restaurant, La Strega, the Eater 38 Italian restaurant that was Eater Vegas’ Restaurant of the Year in 2019 in Summerlin.
But now she turns her talents to television, appearing on a new show dubbed The Globe, which starts streaming on Discovery+ on Saturday, July 17, and is hosted by Food Network star (and Vegas restaurant owner) Robert Irvine.
Marinelli is one of four chefs on the five-episode culinary competition that takes contestants to three different food destinations at each stage of the show. Marinelli’s episode starts in Beijing, with the set transported to the Chinese city via immersive LED screen backdrops.
The chefs then use a pantry of ingredients from the featured destination. Each competition eliminates one contestant — until one remains and wins a trip to one of the destinations featured. So for Marinelli’s episode, the competitors make a hot pot from Beijing, Israeli shipudiya and salatim from Tel Aviv, Israel, and finally dishes using plantains and cassava from Accra, Ghana.
Marinelli says that other programs asked her to participate in the past, but this one struck a chord with her. ”Something about this one was so enticing. It seems challenging and fun and different, so I had to take a stab at it,” she says. “Since this was the first episode, you didn’t know what was coming.”
That’s all she knew when she headed to Los Angeles to film in March. She brought in international ingredients to La Strega to work on her culinary skills. But when she got to the studio, she tasted a lot of ingredients to determine what to use in her dish.
“In your mind you’re kind of like, ‘Okay, I’m going to have stuff I’m used to, especially cooking Italian food.’ None of that stuff,” she says of the ingredients she found when the pantry rolled out. “A lot of spoons out there [for tasting], but that was great because you created flavor profiles, and you just went off your gut, basically.”
The twist in this competition is that even though the chefs were expected to make a particular type of dish, the judges wanted them to cook in their style. Marinelli leaned into her Italian cuisine. “They didn’t want you to make a dish indigenous to that city; they wanted you to make your food.”
As she explains: “Obviously I can’t make a dish, let’s say, indigenous to Beijing because that’s not the food I do, but I’m going to do Gina Marinelli’s food in a Beijing setting.” And she did that in 30 minutes, from coming up with a dish and figuring out ingredients to cooking and tasting. ‘’I lost like 20 pounds running around, but that was incredible. The chefs I was competing against were all amazing.”
Daniela Soto-Innes, who had Elio at Encore Las Vegas, appears as the resident judge, while former Las Vegas chef Shirley Chung — who worked at China Poblano before opening restaurants in Los Angeles and appeared on Bravo’s Top Chef Season 11 New Orleans, where she finished in the top three, and competed again in 2016 on Top Chef Season 14 Charleston — joins Eric Adjepong and Einat Admony as guest judges.
“When I came back, I came back a better chef from the show,” Marinelli says, crediting the other contestants, judges, and people behind the scenes. “You’re not going to get that experience anywhere else.”
The Globe starts streaming on Discovery+ on Saturday, July 17, with five episodes. If Marinelli wins her episode, she returns in the finale to compete in one more trip around the world cooking for the grand prize, $25,000.
• All Coverage of La Strega [ELV]