Monday, November 8, 2010

Aetna Healthy Food Fight

Chef Cat Cora and Me at the Aetna Healthy Food Fight
I've been blessed with another wonderful contest experience, and this one is right up my alley!  Aetna is looking for the healthiest cook in America, and I was lucky enough to be selected as one of San Diego's finalists for the second round of their search.

I cooked Fall Spice Hash with chicken, acorn squash, yams and brown rice.  It was submitted and judged initially on nutritional content, and from there I was invited to make it for a panel of judges where it was scored on presentation and taste.

From the moment I showed up, I was treated with nothing but smiles, enthusiasm and courtesy.  Everything I needed was at my fingertips with more than one assistant waiting for my request.  We were briefed quickly by "Chef Frank," a walking lightning bolt of energy and an incredible chef who has cooked for the likes of Roger Waters, Matt LeBlanc and Paul McCartney.  The contest got underway right on time and I felt very little pressure from those around me.  The equipment was outstanding.  We cooked on induction stoves which made my dish cook perfectly in exactly the estimated time with no emergencies, issues or mistakes.

Chef Frank and Me
With my entire family there to cheer me on, my brother called the bet for the moment I would revert back to my clumsy and accident-prone self.  Ten minutes.  I cut myself.  Chef Frank quickly whisked me into the back kitchen area, cleaned me up and sent me back out to my pod.

As my dish was coming to a finish, I became very anxious about my presentation.  I had practiced five times for the look I was trying to achieve.  I was using a can that formerly contained baby cereal and was stacking the dish in layers for a colorful, molded look.  Five times I failed.  My tower of food crumbled each time.  I had purchased a new can, with a clean-cut edge in hopes that this one would give me what I wanted.  My family began to pray as I began to fill the can with layers of brown rice, chicken, peppers and squash.  I smashed the layers down as tight as I could, pulled the can up and let out a scream of excitement. It worked!  I quickly garnished the top with some green onions, cleaned up the edges and triumphantly strolled over to the judges.

The rest of the staff served the other judges their portions and I let them eat in peace, as we weren't receiving feedback or immediate scores.  My husband continued to spy on them and commented that two of them cleaned their plates, so I'm hoping they enjoyed my dish.

We'll find out Wednesday if I'm San Diego's healthiest cook, and then its off to Los Angeles to cook Thanksgiving Dinner for Bobby Flay.  Ten contestants will be given the same ingredients and one will emerge as America's Healthiest Cook.

Bodhi with Chef Cat Cora
For me, this journey has been extremely rewarding already, regardless of the outcome.  I cooked on Saturday, but went back to visit my new friends on Sunday for some photo opportunities and to meet Sunday's guest judge, Chef Cat Cora.  She was amazing, beautiful and super friendly.  She immediately wanted to hold my little boy, Bodhi, and the two were instant buddies.

I'd love to continue my journey with Aenta, but I've already reached a wonderful destination. This competition has motivated me to take every opportunity to speak to new parents like myself about the EXTREME importance of educating our children on proper nutrition, exercise and making the most of life in healthy and rewarding ways.  I can't wait to teach my son to run like the wind, dance like no one's watching and cook like everyone's hungry!  If you're a "foodie" and a "health junkie" like me, please join me !

Fall Spice Hash - Final dish going to the judges table


  1. SO stoked for you girl! Your dish looks amazing and Im glad it worked finally :) Keep it up woman! Davina

  2. Grandmereb Lovestobake here--just wanting you to know how happy I am for you and how excited you must have been to get to be in that cook-off contest. And meeting Cat Cora is so cool too! You are truly blessed and I can see that you are enjoying each and every moment! And your son is adorable! Good luck in the next competiton too!

  3. Hoopfinity, I'm so proud of you. You did an excellent job! It looks like you had a great time and you got to met Cat Cora - wow! Good luck and I'm so proud of all you have accomplished! Great work :)