Sunday, January 25, 2009
ESPN Zone Cook-Off
During the 2008 Championship Season, Willie Harris proved to be the most versatile player for Our Washington Nationals. On Friday Night January 23rd, Harris (now wearing Jersey Number 22) showed off some seriously fine culinary skills as well--cooking up a storm at The Winter Caravan Celebrity Cook-Off at The ESPN Zone in downtown Washington, DC. Two years ago, Nook Logan took the top honors when the Caravan stopped at The District Eatery along with Ryan Zimmerman and Mike O'Connor.
This time around while Harris and Garrett Mock flew solo, they competed against two other two man teams. New Washington reliever Terrell Young partnered with Steven Shell while Joel Hanrahan and John Lannan worked alongside each other.
Each "team" was given a different recipe and were assisted by one of The ESPN Zone's Chefs. While Radio Broadcaster Charlie Slowes provided some play-by-play and interviews, Our Players diligently cooked away before a decent turnout of about 75 patrons. Our Manager Manny Acta was on hand as well playing "Celebrity Judge"--as were ESPN Zone's Regional Executive Chef Larry Paterson, The Washington Post's Nationals Beat Writer Chico Harlan and "Miss Chatter" herself.
Contestants were given 25 minutes to prepare, cook and present their final dishes.
Harris, working with some real panache and flair, he quickly put together a terrific looking maple salmon plate garnished with bacon and spinach.
Mock a very spicy Asian Noodle Chicken with Cajun Sauce. And let me tell you it was SPICY HOT!!--the talk of the event--according to the judges.
Young and Shell whipped up a tasty looking Fajita Steak and Our Numbers 38 & 31 eventually served up an excellent Chilean Sea Bass to complete the evening's menu.
Being the excellent cook that she is, The African Queen observed Our Players prep and presentation. Upon seeing Willie Harris take great pride in his efforts, she immediately turned to me and said--"He's going to win. Willie Harris is hands above everyone else in cooking his dish". And remember, Sohna didn't even have the opportunity to taste the food.
Manny nearly disqualified the Young & Shell team when Terrell used his hands to serve his dish to the four judges. "Man!!, you put your hands all over it," exclaimed Manny. When Young and Shell were eventually given a last place finish--Young threw his cooking apron up in distress--disappointed over not winning the cook-off.
A final decision that came down to the two seafood dishes. Hanrahan and Lannan had finished off their sea bass dish. But that was not enough thanks to Our Number 22's one man effort. Not only had Willie quickly prepared his Maple Salmon, but he had done so in style, by himself, and with an excellent presentation to the four arbiters.
Sohna had nailed the outcome.
Willie Harris so happy over being named ESPN Cook-Off Champ, he immediately jumped in the air in delight. And later mentioned to Charlie in the post game cook-off interview that he actually became nervous as the event played out. "My stomach was really turning. The competitive juices were flowing," said Harris. "I really wanted to win!!"
After the cook-off, the players signed autographs for many of the fans in attendance.