These days, when eating at local restaurants Jesse Blanco has a problem with anonymity.

In fact, it's pretty much guaranteed that throughout the course of any meal, on any day, at any time, he will shake a few hands in between bites of his soup.

The veteran TV sports and newsman of 20 years is used to being recognized, but now it seems there's a different fervor to the questioning. Everyone, including his dentist, who happened to stop by Blanco's table during a casual Monday lunch, wants to know, "Are you grading this place right now?"

Blanco doesn't mind at all.

He will gladly swallow what he's chewing and lay down his fork with a smile to say, "Not today. Just having lunch."

After all, he said those kinds of questions only mean he is doing something right with his two-time Emmy-nominated food and travel show "Eat It and Like It," which premieres Sept. 29. And the third season, he said, will be venturing deep into uncharted territory.

Uncharted territory means a lot of things for the show, which follows Blanco as he explores different culinary endeavors in the area.

"The biggest things are that it's now going to be year-round. Before, it was 10 weeks, and that we're going to travel more."

Blanco said in the upcoming season he will be visiting culinary powerhouse destinations like Charleston, Atlanta, Augusta, Hilton Head, St. Simons Island, a few of his favorite beach towns in Florida and many more Southern spots.

"It will always be about the South, and with the center being Savannah. So usually in a 30-minute show, we'll do three segments exploring one theme, and at least one of those segments will always be in Savannah."

But why is he so passionate about growing a food show exploring Southern cuisine in particular? And why was he passionate enough about it to give up a coveted nightly news anchor spot to do it?

Well, aside from loving to eat things like boiled peanut hummus (a gem he found at a restaurant in Athens), he said he thinks Southern food has a bad rap, and he would like to change that.

"Ultimately, there are a million food shows out there. But I don't think there are too many exclusively about the South. And if there are, they are about barbecue and the deep-fried South," Blanco said.

"People in cities like New York think that's all we do. ... Even in Savannah, we still have the reputation as a comfort food town, and I'm fine with that, to an extent, because I'll throw down with the best of them, but I also like options. There is so much more than fried chicken and butterbeans.

"I'd like to be the voice of the culinary South."

The other obvious change is that the show will no longer be aired on the WJCL/WTGS channels, where Blanco previously anchored the nightly news and where he debuted "Eat It and Like It." Instead, it will be on WSAV.

"My previous employer was in a tough spot because I was pretty much the face of WJCL/FOX news.

"And how do you have your nightly news guy, who is supposed to tell you about property taxes going up, the deepening of the harbor and all the serious issues that affect people's lives in a real way, stuffing his face with a burger three channels down and not water down the message?" he said.

"I knew that, and I knew that if I really wanted to grow 'Eat It and Like It,' eventually I had to give up that spot. How long it was going to take me to give up that spot depended on how quickly 'Eat it and Like It' grew.

"A year ago, I knew the fork in the road was coming. What that would look like, I had no idea."

Although Blanco admits he didn't know what his next move would be when that fork ultimately came, he knew he had found it when he had a "where have you been all my life" moment within 10 minutes of meeting with WSAV General Manager Deb Thompson.

"I had worked with her back in the day, and she was already a fan of the show," he said. "We both knew it was a win-win situation, and ultimately, they understood my vision of how I'd like to grow the show. That made it a no-brainer."

Blanco is also doing sports for WSAV and said the whole package makes a perfect fit. He couldn't be happier with his role in the community and the support he has received along the way.

"It's like I'm having this party every day and the whole community is at it," he said.

The only downside to the whole thing: He might have to start traveling a little farther for a quiet meal.