'Chew' bites into its 500th episode.

AuthorMoore, Frazier

Byline: Frazier Moore

NEW YORK -- When ABC's "The Chew'' premiered in September 2011, it begged the question: Was it biting off more than a show like this could chew?

Here was a rollicking weekday feast devoted to "everything food'' -- not just cooking but home entertaining, dining out, healthy diets and a satisfying culinary lifestyle overall. And it came with a menu of five -- count 'em, FIVE! -- co-hosts. Too many cooks in that kitchen?

Well, maybe not. On Tuesday in its regular 1 p.m. EST time slot, "The Chew'' marks its 500th edition with a special hour as its co-hosts savor their chat-and-chew success.

" 'The Chew' was never about food, it was about these five people,'' said executive producer Gordon Elliott before a recent taping at the show's Manhattan studio.

Roughly 59 minutes later (to keep the energy flowing, each show is taped in front of a studio audience start-to-finish, with no retakes or down time slowing the pace), the hosts -- Mario Batali, Michael Symon, Carla Hall, Clinton Kelly and Daphne Oz -- relocate to a nearby conference room, with a reporter in tow:

"What makes the show work,'' says Symon (a star of Food Network's "Iron Chef America'' and owner of six restaurants), "is that it literally feels like all of us are hanging out, cooking some food and telling stories. We're busting each other's chops, but we all know we've got each other's back.''

"And by now, it happens naturally,'' adds Batali (the co-owner of 17 restaurants nationally as well as a popular television personality and best-selling author). "We all know when it's each person's turn to talk, and we know we'll all get our turn.''

"We always tell each other before the show starts, 'Party in the kitchen,' '' says Kelly (who was also a host of TLC's recently concluded "What Not to Wear''). "That's what we want: for people to come into our kitchen and have a good time.''

"We have five distinctly different characters, versus a single-host...

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