"I feel so lucky. It really is my dream job," said the 30-something Elmwood Park native.
No, really. De Orio has watched the popular restaurant review show on WTTW-Channel 11 since it started airing 12 years ago, when she was practicing law, and on the side, throwing off-the-charts dinner parties for friends.
"I want that job," she told herself back then.
"I want that job," she told the show's creator and executive producer David Manilow in their first meeting, at the start of what has been a monthslong, much-publicized search.
Manilow commenced a search, opening the audition process to chefs, waiters, writers, winemakers, anyone with a hankering to host a show about eating out. He got hundreds of video entries from potential candidates.
After 160 brief "meet-and-greets" and too many cups of coffee to count, he narrowed the field to 17, then to five (with the public's input), and finally, to De Orio.
De Orio, who lives in the West Loop, was told she got the job a few days ago — "It almost didn't register for a second," she said — but she had to keep it mum until now.
"I need to go to Vegas because, apparently, my poker face isn't so bad," she said.
"I just think in the long run, she'll be great for the show," Manilow said. "She's very lively and engaging. She's relatable and inclusive and charming and warm and, I hope, quick-witted."
She's also a self-described over-preparer.
For the final audition, Manilow brought De Orio and the other finalists — restaurateurs Ina Pinkney and Donnie De Castro, pastry chef Sarah Levy and blogger Senam Amegashie — into the WTTW studios to film mock segments.
The night before, in a moment of panic, De Orio, who had never before read from a teleprompter, downloaded a $15 teleprompter app on her iPad. She had been practicing with handwritten poster boards, until self-doubt got the better of her.
Obviously, it all worked out. Still, she said, "I always feel like I could've done better. I'm my worst critic."
Outside criticism is inevitable. De Orio already had gotten a taste of it during the audition process, from commenters on various websites and blogs, and is bracing for more.
"It would be unrealistic of me to think everyone's going to like me," she said. "So as far as I'm concerned, my job isn't for everyone to like me, my job is to do a very good job with the show, and to get people to talk about their restaurants."
De Orio was a litigation attorney well-versed in "super boring" stuff like international trade law before chucking it to study culinary arts at Kendall College, much to the consternation of her parents.
She started her consulting business, Culinary Curator, in 2005. Her clients range from caterers to major food corporations. She also writes a column for the Eater Chicago blog and for Vegas Magazine.
Filming for this next season of "Check, Please!" begins next month. The season premieres in October.