America Supports You: Emeril Lagasse Cooks Up Some Combat Cuisine
By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 8, 2007 TV cooking-show icon Emeril Lagasse offered a culinary salute to the military Friday when he filmed two episodes of “Emeril Live” featuring servicemembers and their winning recipes.
Chef Emeril Lagasse poses with three winners of his military-only cook off April 6. The three, Army Chief Warrant Officer 3 Travis Smith (left), Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Joseph Chiarelli (center), and Army National Guard Spec. Andrew Ruga, were all featured on "Emeril's Army-Navy Cookoff," a future episode of "Emeril Live." Photo by Samantha L. Quigley
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
“Emeril’s Army-Navy Cookoff” and “Emeril’s Military Contest,” filmed at the Food Network studios in the Chelsea Market building, will air on June 29 and 30, respectively
Lagasse went looking for a few good recipes last fall and found them through a military-only cooking contest.
“I was so impressed with the creativity from all ranks, from every branch of the service,” Lagasse said of the hundreds of recipes he received during the contest. “Tonight, we’re going to be saluting the best of the best by making the winning recipes.”
The recipes represented all of the services, including the Coast Guard, and the military chefs got to share the stage as the chef cooked and joked. Lagasse said the dishes showed the same kind of creativity and effort that’s come to be expected on the gridiron during the legendary Army-Navy football game.
The winners came to New York from as far away as South Korea and Kuwait and as close by as Connecticut. No matter how far they traveled, they all were thrilled with the opportunity, describing the experience as “Wow!”
“Emeril’s an amazing guy,” said Marine Col. Stewart Navarre, whose Combat Steak earned him a seat on the stage. “And what an experience to be here in New York City and watch one of our preeminent cooks.”
Navarre, whose recipe took first place in his local portion of a military grilling contest sponsored by Weber Grill, was having such a great time, he didn’t even mind when, in true Lagasse fashion, “kicked it up a notch.”
“It’s all good,” Navarre said.
Arizona Army National Guard Spec. Andrew Ruga, who is currently stationed at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, but was able to attend the show, agreed. He found it unbelievable to see his dish prepared by the top chef.
“I can’t believe it was that good of a recipe,” said Ruga, who, as a surprise, got to talk to friends in Kuwait via satellite during the show. “I mean, I thought it was good, but here’s the living proof.”
Ruga, who serves with the 222nd Transportation Company, said he came up with the recipe the way he does many of his creations.
“What happens when we’re on the road is there’s nothing to do. So I always start bugging the guys, ‘Pick a protein. Pick a starch. Pick something,’” he said. “They pick it and I try to create recipes around it.”
Regardless of who was sitting in the winners’ seats, a few audience members claimed to be the real winners. They were the ones lucky enough to sample the fare, dishes such as Rainbow Fruit Stuffed Pork Tenderloin with Fried Cheddar Grits and a Blueberry Coulis.
The U.S. Army blues Ensemble Swamp Romp entertained the audience watching the taping of Emeril’s Military Cookoff during the breaks. It was the Army’s Brass Quintet that had the audience of soldiers, sailors and family members on their feet throughout the second show.
Army Col. Thomas Rotondi, Jr. commander and leader of the Army Band, of which the Swamp Romp and the Brass Quintet are a part, said it was great to be a part of the festivities. While he thought all of the dishes were tasty, he had picked a favorite.
“They’re all great,” Rotondi said. “The grit cakes. Oh yeah, those are fantastic.”
During a brief news conference between shows, Lagasse said he looked to the military for new recipes as a way to honor servicemembers’ sacrifices, and as a way to show his support. He said he knows a couple of young men, one in the Air Force, one in the Army, who have served several tours in the Middle East.
“I respect them, so for me, it’s what I can do to give back, he said.
For the benefit of audiences across America, Lagasse put spotlight on the Defense Department’s America Supports You program that features the ways Americans and the corporate sector are supporting the nation’s servicemembers.
“I know I speak on behalf of many Americans like me who want to sincerely express their gratitude and appreciation to America’s military men and women,” Lagasse said during the shows “You can read more about what they’re doing and saying by logging onto the Web site www.AmericaSupportsYou.mil. Write it down.”
The contest winners are:
Army Chief Warrant Officer 3rd Class Travis Smith, Headquarters 19th Expeditionary Sustained Command, South Korea, for his Fire Roasted Red Pepper Soup with Cilantro Cream and Grilled Cajun Catfish.
Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Joseph Chiarelli, a culinary specialist stationed aboard the USS Tarawa, represented the Navy with a Cedar Plank Salmon Parmesan with Asian Reduction Sauce of Julienne Vegetables.
Army National Guard Spec. Andrew Ruga, 222nd Transportation Company, Camp, Arifjan, Kuwait, caught the judges’ attention with a Pecan Crusted Chicken over Field Greens with Caramel Citrus Vinaigrette.
Marine Col. Stewart Navarre, chief of staff, Marine Corps Installations West, Camp Pendleton, Calif., won for his Combat Steak.
Air Force Tech. Sgt. Wesley Williams, dining facility manager at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., won for his Rainbow Fruit Stuffed Pork Tenderloin with Fried Cheddar Grits and a Blueberry Coulis.
Coast Guard Petty Officer Stacey Russell, stationed at Sector Long Island Sound, Conn., won rave reviews for her Pumpkin Pie.