Food Network's 'Sandwich King' Jeff Mauro takes on a '$24 In 24' challenge

jeff-mauro-24-in-24-food-325.jpg
Years ago, Rachael Ray famously showed audiences how they could eat delicious food every meal for just $40 a day. Not to be outdone, Jeff Mauro has upped (or downed) the ante, betting he can do the same with just $24.

"$24 in 24," premiering Monday, Sept. 24, is the "Sandwich King" star's latest Food Network venture, taking him across the U.S. to dine for a whole day on local goodies for just $24, including tax and tip for three meals and a snack. And Mauro has a certain standard in mind, too. We're not talking four trips to White Castle.

"It can't just be a turkey sandwich," he tells Zap2it. "You can get that anywhere. Or two hot dogs. Instead of going to a pizzeria for a slice of pepperoni pizza, we go for a plate of three meatballs and a huge freshly made arancini smothered in homemade sauce that you can get for $6. It's just got to be good food."

Not only that, the people making him the food have to be interesting. Mauro profiles the proprietors of every joint he visits, hops in the kitchen for a demo of some of their dishes and occasionally even helps serve customers.

Stops include New York, Cleveland, Boston, Minneapolis, Philadelphia and Chicago.

Beyond highlighting some tasty treasures, Mauro says the appeal to viewers will lie in seeing if he can pull off his ambitious quest for thrifty foodstuffs.

"It's almost like a game show," he says. "'Can he do it? Will he do it? How much is he going to have left?' I've spent in some cities $23.98. That's the fun, is getting there."

What did you have for dinner last night?

"We made a meatloaf on Tuesday, and we had the leftover meatloaf last night, believe it or not, as a sandwich. I cut it and then I sear both sides in the pan, instead of microwaving it or just throwing it in the oven. Then I had some ciabatta rolls, some cheddar, I crisped up some onions. I had half an onion in the fridge ... and some pickled jalapenos. And a wet salad, and some roasted potatoes. It was a good dinner. I have a picture of it on my Twitter, if you don't believe me."

What is your next project?

"Hopefully another round of 'Sandwich King.' If that's the case, it takes a month or two of planning to get that show going with recipes and themes and sandwiches. I'm actually knee deep in the beginning stages of a book."

Where did you go on your last vacation and why?

"I went to Mexico, Puerto Morelos. It's outside Cancun. I went there because I love Mexico, I love the food and I love the drinks. We went to an all-inclusive family resort, which I've never really done. I've spent so much time cooking and thinking of food and planning my life around food, that I didn't want to worry about planning out there. I wanted food brought to me."
Photo/Video credit: Food Network