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Chef Adam Hoffa (courtesy photo)

A local chef will appear on one of the nation’s most popular reality TV cooking shows later this month.

On Tuesday, April 16 at 8 p.m., Adam Hoffa, the executive chef at Pirouette Café & Wine Shop in Ballston, will go head-to-head with three other chefs in a high-stakes culinary showdown on Food Network’s “Chopped.”

Before joining Pirouette, the Falls Church resident worked at several renowned D.C. eateries, including Fiola and St. Anselm. Kat Petonito, a former colleague from St. Anselm and now the executive chef at Duck & Peach in Eastern Market, recommended Hoffa for the show.

After undergoing a series of interviews, the Chopped producers offered Hoffa a spot.

“I was overwhelmed and excited about the opportunity to compete on a show that I have watched since I was much younger with my mother,” Hoffa told ARLnow via email.

Chefs on the show are put to the test in a three-round culinary contest, in which they must transform mystery basket ingredients into appetizers, entrées and desserts. They aim to create innovative and flavorful dishes within a tight timeframe, impressing a panel of expert judges. With each round, one chef is “chopped” from the competition until the last standing chef wins a cash prize.

Apart from producing several short videos for a past employer, Hoffa said his experience in front of the camera is minimal.

The chef temporarily stepped back from his duties at Pirouette to shoot the show in New York late last year. Despite the logistical challenges of those three days, Pirouette co-owner Philippe Loustaunau says they managed to make it work.

“It was a tight three days and intense unique experience for Adam,” he told ARLnow. “From the restaurant side, all went smoothly. We had plenty of time to plan and our kitchen staff was excited and ready to continue service in his absence.”

Philippe Loustaunau and his wife and co-owner, Jackie, say they are grateful to the community for the unwavering support of Pirouette and Hoffa since the restaurant opened in 2022. The couple also shared their immense pride in Hoffa’s connection to Pirouette and his accomplishments.

“We’re so proud of and happy for Adam,” Philippe Loustaunau said. “He is a talented chef, and this attention is well-deserved. We are thrilled to cheer him on and even more thrilled to work with him at Pirouette.”

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Students from two Arlington high schools will put their knowledge to the test in a teen quiz show airing new episodes throughout March.

Bishop Dennis J. O’Connell  and Washington-Liberty High School students will compete against other high-achieving students from D.C. area schools on “It’s Academic.”

This Saturday, March 9, Bishop O’Connell students will go toe-to-toe with students from Osbourn and South Lakes high schools in Manassas and Reston. Then, on March 29, W-L students will go up against students from Thomas Alva Edison and Washington International high schools in Fairfax County and D.C.

The episodes can be viewed on Saturdays at 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. on WETA PBS and at the same times plus 11 p.m. on WETA Metro. The episodes will also be available on the same platforms at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. the following Monday.

The students have to travel outside Arlington to compete, however, as the show is being filmed in D.C. until the Shirlington-based PBS station finishes renovating its headquarters.

WETA sold one former production building to Arlington County and made plans to expand and renovate its main space at 3939 Campbell Ave. It will produce all shows, including “It’s Academic,” at the Shirlington location sometime in the near future, though an exact date has not yet been confirmed, according to WETA spokesperson Sarah Champness.

The new permanent home conclude a few rocky years for “It’s Academic,” which is now in its 62nd season and is the world’s longest-running TV quiz show according to “The Guinness Book of World Records.”

The show halted production during the pandemic and then switched to Zoom before returning to an in-person studio last spring. Three years ago, it lost its largest sponsor, Giant, and found a new sponsor, MITRE, a few months later. After 61 years with D.C.’s local NBC station, WETA-TV added the show in the fall of 2022.

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Luigi de Guzman (photo courtesy Jeopardy Productions, Inc.)

Arlington resident Luigi de Guzman is back on Jeopardy! following his five-game winning streak in 2022.

The local attorney will compete against a trail planner from Silver Spring and a psychiatrist from Canada — each a returning champion — in an episode airing next Thursday, Feb. 29.

It’s a quarterfinal match of the quiz show’s Tournament of Champions, which will crown an ultimate champion in mid-March.

“Kevin Belle, a trail planner from Silver Spring, Md., and Luigi de Guzman, an attorney from Arlington, Va., are set to compete in the most prestigious JEOPARDY! event in syndication: the Tournament of Champions,” the show said in a press release.

More from the release:

The roster of competitors features the players who won the most games since the last Tournament of Champions in 2022, plus six players who advanced out of the Season 37/38 and Season 39 Champions Wildcard competitions, as well as the winners of the JEOPARDY! High School Reunion Tournament and Season 1 of “Celebrity Jeopardy!” on ABC.

These 27 players will compete across nine quarterfinal games, three semifinals, and a “best of seven” finals series: the first champion to win three games claims the $250,000 grand prize and an invitation to compete in the upcoming “Jeopardy! Masters” primetime event on ABC.

The last reported Arlington resident on the show was Alice Ciciora, a political scientist and researcher. Nearly a dozen Arlingtonians have competed on the show since 2010.

Among the other locals to win at least one episode of the show are journalist Roey Hadar, social worker Blair Moorhead, and foreign service officer Liz Murphy, who also appeared on the show’s Tournament of Champions in 2010 after racking up $121,302 in winnings.

Jeopardy! airs locally at 7:30 p.m. on WJLA (ABC 7).

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Comcast employee works on lines in 2010 (file photo)

As we have been reporting, local public access station Arlington Independent Media is at a crossroads as it vies for funding from Arlington County and local cable providers.

Despite some internal strife, a bigger force is driving the existential questions around AIM: the ongoing loss of cable TV subscribers known as cord cutting.

Cable providers are losing some 10% of video customers every year, as consumers rely instead on some combination of broadcast TV and streaming. For some, cutting the cord is all about saving on those steep cable bills, while for others it’s simply a matter of not wanting to watch commercial-laden cable channels anymore.

Whatever the case, cord cutting will have notable impacts on everything from cable access channels to local TV news to professional sports teams — which derive significant revenue from cable channels — in the coming years.

Given that, we’re wondering how many readers have decided to cut the cord so far.

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Vampires will be descending on Crystal City next month.

It won’t be self-professed real vampires, known to haunt New Orleans and Atlanta, but rather the cast of the hit TV show “Vampire Diaries.”

Members of the cast will journey to Arlington for a three-day convention next month, offering fans a deep dive into its supernatural world. The “Vampire Fan Weekend” by Creation Entertainment is set to take place at the Crystal Gateway Marriott Hotel, at 1700 Richmond Hwy, from Friday, Sept. 15 to Sunday, Sept. 17.

“Vampire Diaries” is set in the fictional town of Mystic Falls, Virginia and follows Elena Gilbert, portrayed by Nina Dobrev, who falls in love with 162-year-old vampire Stefan Salvatore, played by Paul Wesley.

The plot thickens when Stefan’s mysterious older brother, Damon Salvatore, portrayed by Ian Somerhalder, returns to town. His mission? To resurrect Katherine Pierce, whom both brothers loved and who bears an uncanny resemblance to Elena.

After 171 episodes spanning eight seasons on The CW network, the show concluded on March 10, 2017, cultivating a passionate fan base along the way.

During the conference, fans can nab autographs and photo opportunities and attend a celebration concert and panel with the actors.

General admission tickets start at $60, while the Gold Weekend Package is priced at $1,350.

The Gold package guarantees reserved front-row seats in the main theater throughout the event, an exclusive panel on Sunday, priority for autographs, special credentials, and complimentary autographs from stars including Somerhalder and Wesley.

Otherwise, autographs range from $30 to $85, photos cost $45 to $149 and the celebration concert is $35.

Autographs and photo opportunities with Somerhalder have sold out, according to Creation Entertainment’s website.

In addition to Somerhalder and Wesley, cast members set to attend include: Daniel Gillies, Candice King, Michael Malarkey, Riley Voelkel, Nathaniel Buzolic, Chris Lee, Quincy Fouse, Ben Levin, Chase Coleman, Zane Phillips and Micah Parker.

Dobrev, who left the cast after the show’s sixth season, is not currently listed as expected to attend.

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Arlington is not exactly the Hollywood of the East, pivotal West Wing episodes aside, but the strikes rocking tinseltown have a new local front here.

The Writers Guild of America and performers union SAG-AFTRA are both on strike this summer, demanding better compensation — particularly from streaming services — as well as protections from the use of artificial intelligence in TV and film production. While most of the picket lines you see on the news are in New York or Los Angeles, strikers are out in Arlington today.

A dozen or more members of SAG-AFTRA were handing out leaflets in front of Amazon’s newly-opened HQ2 in Pentagon City this morning. Holding “Union Strong” and “SAG-AFTRA Strong” signs, the strikers were perhaps more subdued than their counterparts picketing Hollywood studio lots, but nonetheless determined to send a message to the tech giant and its Prime streaming service.

“Amazon Prime and the other major studios and streamers are refusing to negotiate a fair deal with union members, including the very people appearing in Amazon Prime Original series,” said an email sent to the Arlington Democrats Labor Caucus yesterday, obtained by ARLnow.

The strikers will be working three shifts today, starting at 8 a.m. and ending at 6 p.m., according to the email.

Writers are returning to the negotiating table with Hollywood studios, various outlets reported yesterday. The dual strikes, meanwhile, are having a significant economic impact on production hubs like LA, NYC and Atlanta.

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Charlotte Walsh wins second place in Scripps National Spelling Bee
Charlotte Walsh wins second place in 2023 Scripps National Spelling Bee (via Scripps National Spelling Bee/ Twitter)

When Charlotte Walsh qualified for the 2023 Scripps National Spelling Bee, she knew it was her last chance to pursue her childhood dream of becoming a finalist.

Little did she know she would come in second place, out of 231 competitors, and win a $25,000 cash prize. She finished behind Florida student Dev Shah, who won with the word “psammophile” and took home $50,000.

“I’m very excited to start high school with this [spelling bee win] being one of the greatest things I’ve done so far in my life,” Walsh told ARLnow on Friday, amid interviews with several TV stations.

Walsh, an eighth-grader from Lyon Park, correctly spelled 13 words — including “akuammine,” “rescissible” and “sorge” — but was unable to capture first place when asked to spell the Scottish word “daviely” (pronounced “dave-yuh-lee“).

Her astonished facial expressions were splashed across newspapers nationally while her rapid-fire approach wowed some spectators.

The middle-schooler is no stranger to the Scripps Bee. In 2019, she finished in 51st place and in 2022, she climbed to 32nd place. This year’s contest was her final shot at a finalist title, as eighth-graders are the oldest eligible group.

The Fairfax County Council PTA in Merrifield sponsored her after she won the Fairfax County Bee and qualified for the national competition.

Now, spelling bees may be a thing of the past for Walsh, per her Scripps profile. The incoming high school freshman will continue homeschooling, but will be trading a list of 4,000 words to know for books on astrophysics and neuroscience — all while training for a black belt in tae kwon do.

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2023 Scripps National Spelling Bee Finalists, photo via Scripps National Spelling Bee Twitter
2023 Scripps National Spelling Bee Finalists (via Scripps National Spelling Bee/Twitter)

(Updated at 11:10 p.m.) Arlington eighth-grader Charlotte Walsh will advance to the Scripps National Spelling Bee final after taking the semis by storm yesterday afternoon.

Fifty-six spellers from across the country — ages 9 to 14 — fought for a spot in the final. Only 11 remain.

Walsh advanced after correctly spelling “anilox,” a noun Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines as “a system of printing that utilizes ceramic-coated metal cylinders to transfer consistent amounts of ink from a supply to the printing plates.”

Walsh, who is homeschooled and lives in Lyon Park, was one of the last students to spell in front of the judges. In a brief interview with ARLnow, she acknowledged how nerve-wracking this wait was, as well as the feelings of relief she experienced after getting the word right.

“Making it to the finals has been my goal since I was little — no matter what happens, I’m proud of myself,” Walsh said this morning, just hours before her last Scripps competition.

Walsh’s photo was splashed across newspapers nationally after being captured gasping during her time on stage.

Another Arlington eighth-grade semifinalist, Nathaniel Hersey, will not be moving forward to the finals. He was thrown for a loop when given the silent-P-word “psalterial.”

“[Going into the competition] I was familiar with the majority of the 4,000-word list for rounds one and two,” Hersey, who lives in Bluemont, told ARLnow. “I heard that the words in the final rounds would be more obscure and less often studied.”

Judge Mary Brooks acknowledged his graceful efforts in the competition and wished him the best as he begins high school this fall. He currently takes classes through Virginia Virtual Academy.

A third Arlington participant, Kenmore Middle School student Ruby Kadera, was eliminated in the third round of the competition, their mother, Arlington School Board member Mary Kadera, confirmed to ARLnow. 

Walsh will represent Arlington County in the final competition tonight at 8 p.m. on the ION television network, available over the air and on several streaming platforms.

Photo via Scripps National Spelling Bee/Twitter

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NBC 4 story on Adam Theo (via NBC 4)

The local civic figure who was beaten after trying to intervene in a domestic assault says he doesn’t want jail time for his attacker.

Adam Theo suffered serious injuries after an incident Sunday evening in Clarendon. According to police, Theo saw a man and woman fighting, tried to intervene, and was then punched repeatedly in the face by the man.

More from an ACPD crime report:

MALICIOUS WOUNDING, 2023-05280186, 2800 block of Wilson Boulevard. At approximately 6:39 p.m. on May 28, police were dispatched to the report of an assault with injury. Upon arrival, it was determined the male victim was walking in the area when he observed the male suspect and female subject involved in a dispute, during which the male suspect allegedly assaulted the female subject. The victim attempted to intervene, during which the suspect struck him multiple times before the victim was able to move away from the suspect. The suspect then reapproached the victim, pushed him to the ground and assaulted him before being separated by the female subject and a witness. The male suspect and female subject then fled the scene and were not located by responding officers. The victim sustained serious, non-life threatening injuries and was transported to an area hospital for medical treatment.

Theo, a Transportation Commission member and former Arlington County Board candidate, is a supporter of reform-minded Commonwealth’s Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Taft and her campaign for re-election.

He told NBC 4, which reported on the attack yesterday, that he does not want jail time for his attacker, who remains at large.

“I hope that he gets help and treatment and that he is fixed from his problems,” Theo said. “Anything that can get him into anger management program, that can get him some probation, that he’s watched and he has to show that he’s a better person over time.”

A GoFundMe campaign established to help Theo pay the bills while he recovers and remains out of work has already surpassed $10,000.

“Theo would never ask for help on his own behalf, which is one reason we are,” wrote the organizer, fellow local housing advocate Luca Gattoni-Celli. “Theo is concerned his condition will affect his ability to work in the short to medium term. He was already dealing with a lot of challenges, and richly deserves our help. Please be generous, as he has always been generous to his community. Theo is an Air Force veteran and civic leader in Arlington.”

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Host Mayim Bialik and Arlington resident Alice Ciciora on the set of Jeopardy! (courtesy Jeopardy Productions, Inc.)

The long history of Arlingtonians competing on “America’s Favorite Quiz Show™” continues.

Alice Ciciora — a political scientist and researcher who lives in Arlington after moving here from Berkeley, California — is set as a contestant on Friday’s (May 26) episode, with host Mayim Bialik. She will compete against fellow challenger Diandra D’Alessio, a technical writer from Montreal, and the to-be-determined returning champion.

Jeopardy! is now in its 39th season and has featured a number of local residents over the years. The most recent was attorney Luigi de Guzman, who won the last episode of season 38 before losing in the first episode of season 39.

The quiz show airs locally at 7:30 p.m. on WJLA (ABC 7), after Wheel of Fortune.

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Arlington Independent Media hopes to open its first satellite studio by early fall.

The non-profit video and audio production studio has begun the build-out at 3700 S. Four Mile Run Drive in Green Valley, Arlington Independent Media (AIM) CEO Whytni Kernodle told ARLnow. They are looking to modernize three underused audio-production studios inside Arlington Arts’ Cultural Affairs Division office, with a focus on providing podcasting space.

Construction is expected to take about four months and cost over $200,000. The aim is to be finished and ready to open sometime in September, Kernodle said.

AIM was established about four decades ago and provides programming for two local cable access television stations and operates the radio station WERA 96.7 FM.

In November, the county approved a lease agreement allowing AIM to take over about 1,100 square feet of space at the Arlington Arts location in Green Valley. It follows the county’s vision for an “arts & industry district” along Four Mile Run.

This new studio in Green Valley represents AIM’s commitment to branching out not just in terms of location but also who is using the studios to tell their story.

“After 40 years, we’ve always existed in one space, always in North Arlington,” Kernodle said. “And our membership has primarily been people over the age of 60, mostly retired, mostly white, mostly male, mostly cis-gendered, mostly English speakers, mostly non-military, and mostly non-disabled. We are trying to change that because that’s not reflective of our community.”

And the hope is that this will not be AIM’s only satellite studio, with Kernodle noting that the organization would love to set up studios in Virginia Square, Rosslyn, and Columbia Pike as well.

The aim is to put production facilities in locations that are accessible to communities that maybe didn’t have the ability to make their voices heard in the past.

“Our goal is to prioritize those voices that have been traditionally underserved or miss-served not just nationally but here in Arlington and here at Arlington Independent Media,” Kernodle said.

She also hopes to use the partnership with the county to turn Arlington’s art scene into the envy of the region.

“[Arlington] is not known for arts and industry. The goal of AIM and my goal is to really make Arlington into the Brooklyn of the D.C. area,” Kernodle said. “We have all the diversity and the resources that Brooklyn values and the proximity to the city as Brooklyn does. And we’re just not honing that because it’s not been centralized.”

Along with production studios, AIM also has access to the county’s “Theater on the Run” to screen films.

This past weekend, AIM hosted a showing of the documentary “The R-Word” as an introduction to the new space for the community. The movie depicts the experiences of persons with intellectual disabilities and how representation matters in telling the story of that community.

Kernodle hopes to have more screenings at the theater of this nature, prioritizing “films of marginalized people.”

With the plan to open AIM Green Valley in a few months, Kernodle believes that this is just the beginning of expanding Arlington’s artistic reputation.

“Our goal is to act as an anchor organization for art transformation and social justice,” she said.

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