Celebrity chef judges culinary skills of local chefs in competition

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Hospital food that you'll be craving and your body will thank you for. That was the goal of a hospital food cooking completion on Friday at Trident Technical College.

Under the watchful eye of a well known TV chef, chefs battled to become a champion.

Ten teams representing hospitals from all over South Carolina competed to be crowned "Cooking Well Champion."

Celebrity chef Robert Irvine, from the Food Network, hosted and judged the chefs based on his world renowned culinary skills. But he says he didn't give them any advice to avoid an unfair advantage.

"The chefs are here to compete, so what I have done is kept right away from them," said Irvine.

MUSC chefs put their best dishes on table hoping to trump the competition.

"An edamame nut salad, seared turkey breast with whipped sweet potatoes, and sugar snap peas," said one of the MUSC team chefs.

Irvine said he understands the pressure the chefs are under.

"Healthy nutritious food is not as easy as it sounds," said Irvine, host of the television show Restaurant Impossible. "So I am really interested to see how creative they can be."

Trident Tech's Culinary Institute was one of the cook-off's sponsors. As an added bonus, one of the school's instructors cooked up some Gullah cuisine healthy enough to be served in any hospital.

"As you can see here we have all fresh vegetables, fresh seafood, onions and peppers, fresh corn cut off the cob," said Kevin Mitchell an instruction at the cooking school.

Chefs were judged on taste, recipe, cleanliness, safety and another key element.

"Knife skills, knife skills if you are using raw food people don't want to eat big chunks of onion and big chunks of celery," said Irvine.

And finally the moment I waited for all day. I got to sample some of the food. I asked MUSC chef which dish he wanted me try. He suggested one of my favorites.

"Why don't you try the dessert," said Chef Bret. "You look like you were eying the dessert."

He was right. Making hospital food healthy and delicious was the most important goal of the competition.

"We know that it's got to taste good for people to eat it and there is that sort of misconception that healthy food doesn't taste good particularly in a hospital setting," said Susan Johnson, Director of Health Promotion for MUSC.

The winner of the competition was Oconee Medical Center from Seneca, South Carolina. The winning dish was a shrimp dish, spicy black bean sliders and a lemon and blueberry desert.

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