Matt Russell gives enthusiastic approval to the work of Ramón Delgado, executive chef at Desert Diamond Casinos and Entertainment. James Gregg / Arizona Daily Star

Matt Russell introduces his guests on "On the Menu Live" with a forceful surge of exuberance.

Ramón Delgado, executive chef at Desert Diamond Casinos and Entertainment, was introduced halfway into a recent show.

But first Russell talked about his upcoming trip to Buffalo, N.Y., talked sparkling wine with CataVinos owner Yvonne Foucher and briefly chatted with Miraval executive chef Chad Luethje. He also sprinkled in news from the Old Pueblo's food and wine scene.

But he's no restaurant critic.

"This isn't a review show," Russell said of his program, which airs on Jolt from 5 to 6 p.m. on Thursdays. "The show is high-energy and fun. It reminds people that certain places in the community exist and introduces them to new places."

The second half is reserved for a local restaurant and chef, and he often broadcasts from the restaurant.

Restaurants pay $500 to $700 to get "On the Menu Live" broadcast from their eateries, Russell said. The fee includes plugs for the restaurant on the air, on Twitter and on Facebook.

All Russell needs to broadcast live is a phone line, two headsets and a small piece of audio equipment.

His producer, Chuck Aubrey, gives his headset to Delgado when it's time for the interview, which takes place at Agave Restaurant at the Desert Diamond's Sahuarita casino.

Forks and knives clattered on plates in the background as Russell talked with the chef.

Diners on their way to be seated in Agave's crowded dining room stopped, if only briefly, to see what was going on.

At certain points, Russell's show is better suited for television. His jaw dropped, for example, when items from Agave's prix fixe menu arrived for tasting.

During a commercial break, Russell munched on prime rib, which his producer fed to him with a fork.

"You have to indulge me. That commercial ended quickly and I have a mouthful of prime rib," Russell tells his listeners. "It's live radio and you have to go with it."

Restaurants hosting the show regularly give him free meals.

Russell, who has hosted "On the Menu Live" for just over a year, got his first radio gig at the age of 5 when he starred in commercials in Washington, D.C., with Willard Scott of "Today" show fame.

His mother moved his family to Tucson when he was 11 to treat Russell's asthma.

Russell went back to D.C. in 1991 to work as a health-care lobbyist after graduating from the University of Arizona, but he returned to Tucson in 1997.

He took a job at a Tucson public relations firm, and later joined Dr. Andrew Weil's team, where he ran the world-renowned doctor's national public affairs agenda. Russell left after three years to start his own public relations firm.

Jolt asked Russell to take over the show after the departure of Alan Zeman, chef at the now-closed Fuego restaurant. Russell had often filled in for Zeman.

"I love to eat. And I love to talk. The show is a perfect outlet for my silliness," Russell said.

Russell, 43, is a married father of two who owns Russell Public Communications, where among other things he counsels clients on communication skills.

He also regularly lends his voice to charity auctions.

Back at Agave, Russell wrapped up his show at precisely 6 p.m.

"That was a Top Five show," he says.

Contact reporter Andrea Rivera at arivera@azstarnet.com or 807-8430.