By George P. Matysek Jr.
Father Leo Patalinghug was up to the challenge.
The well-known cooking priest beat Bobby Flay, a world-renowned celebrity chef, in a steak fajita cook-off that was televised nationally Sept. 9 on the Food Network’s “Throwdown! With Bobby Flay.”
Father Patalinghug, director of pastoral field education at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, is the host of “Grace Before Meals,” a cooking show broadcast on the Internet and a Boston-based Catholic television station.
Flay traveled to the Mount St. Mary’s campus in June and challenged Father Patalinghug to the “throwdown.” It was the first time the “Iron Chef,” a former altar server, has faced off against a priest.
The competitors prepared “fusion fajitas” for a select group of families, members of the Mount St. Mary’s community and other guests outside the home of Mount St. Mary’s University President Dr. Thomas H. Powell.
Baltimore chef Bennie Gordon and Nancy Luse, features editor and food columnist for the Frederick News-Post, served as the judges for the competition. While they liked both dishes, the judges gave the edge to Father Patalinghug. Luse criticized Flay’s fajita vegetables for lacking crispness.
As the television show premiered, Father Patalinghug hosted about 300 fans in Baltimore’s Little Italy who watched the show live. The priest signed aprons and copies of his cookbook, “Grace Before Meals: Recipes for Family Life.”
“Having Bobby Flay challenge me to a throwdown was a complete surprise and shock,” said Father Patalinghug, who used brown sugar as one of the secret ingredients in his recipe. “I’m a huge fan of his and the Food Network, so it was an honor just to be on the show and cook alongside of an Iron Chef.”
The Food Network will re-air the episode on Sep 20 at 11 p.m. and Sep 21 at 2 a.m.