Plus the Chicago native shares his connection to the South.

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In the very week that the entire country was shutting down as COVID-19 spread across U.S. soil, Jeff Mauro was holed up in an Airbnb with his wife, photographer, and food stylist to capture photos for his upcoming cookbook, Come On Over. As the title might suggest, its original intention was all about gathering together, having friends and family over and share a meal.

The celebrity chef recalled to Southern Living, "we were watching the world essentially lock down day by day and it was palpable, it was scary." Adding "And by the time I handed in the book we were knee deep in the pandemic and I was like 'is this even? What's going to happen? Is the book going to get lost because no one is ever coming over again?" But as it has turned out, the book was released in April as we were all beginning to emerge from our collective pandemic hiding places and there couldn't be a more perfect road map of how to retrain those muscles of hosting again.

"I think people were out of practice or they felt out of practice, right? How do I time it? This book will help you [with] everything from just having your wife and son and daughter at the dinner table and creating great recipes to have and finally having your extended family, to your friends, to your neighbors over. It gives you the tools and the recipes and the confidence to that along with some really funny stories I like to think," Mauro said.

Jeff Mauro in Colorful Jacket
Credit: Monica Schipper / Stringer/Getty Images

The recipes in Come On Over cover such a wide range that will surely satisfy all of your guests. You'll of course see sandwiches from The Sandwich King of Food Network, and recipes inspired by his Italian American upbringings in Chicago, but what may surprise you is that you will see some Southern touches as well. Mauro explained, "My mother-in-law is one of 17 children from the deep, deep hollers of Perry County, Kentucky. And if that doesn't teach you about the choice of communal eating and cooking, not just out of love but out of necessity because when they grew up, they just had a coal burning stove and they didn't have Postmates delivery. So, I glean from all these different influences from my Italian American upbringing, to my aunts, my grandmas, but also the Southern food which I have grown so enamored and in love with. It's almost surpassed, dare I say, my beloved Italian cuisine."

But Mauro isn't just hoping we return to having friends and family over, he wants to make sure that our fur babies are included as well. He's recently partnered with CESAR® canine cuisine for a very special project.

CESAR brand "has launched Bestie Bowls, a new "pup-up" dining experience featuring delicious "yours" and "theirs" meal duos for pets and their humans," as a press release states.

"It's like the greatest partnership because everybody wins in my house, right? I get to create delicious food for the humans like the bowl that's going to be available July 13th in New York and LA via Postmates. This is one of my custom creations here, with grilled chicken, honey roasted sweet potatoes, arugula, crispy chickpeas, feta cheese, lemon thyme vinaigrette. You get that and then you get the Cesar's Wholesome Bowls delivered {for your dogs}," Mauro explained.

That's right, humans in the household will get a bowl of wholesome and delicious food created by the cookbook author and TV host, while the four-legged members of the house get to try a CESAR Wholesome Bowl.

But do not fear, the fun is not just for our friends on either coast. As the statement reads, "From now through July 30, pet lovers can enter for a chance to win the Bestie Bowls experience by snapping a photo of a shared moment of joy with their furry friend(s). They can either share the photo on Instagram with #BestieBowls, #Giveaway and @CesarCusine in the post (dog lovers must also follow @CesarCuisine), or upload it to and complete the online entry form."

"We don't deserve dogs. I don't know what we've done in the history of humans on this planet but I don't know someone upstairs gave us these dogs and we gotta do everything we can to spoil and treat them right," Mauro said.