Emeril Lagasse Cooks Up Some Combat Cuisine
Rachel Anderson (left), daughter of Army Chief Warrant Officer Travis Smith (right), talk with Emeril Lagasse on the set of "Emeril Live" on April 6, 2007. Smith was one of six winners of Lagasse's military-only recipe contest.

TV cooking-show icon Emeril Lagasse offered a culinary salute to the military Friday when he filmed two episodes of “Emeril Live” featuring military members and their winning recipes.

“Emeril’s Army-Navy Cookoff” and “Emeril’s Military Contest,” filmed at the Food Network studios in New York City 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. “We’re going to be saluting the best of the best by making the winning recipes.”

The winners travelled to New York from as far away as South Korea and Kuwait.

Arizona Army National Guard Spc. Andrew Ruga, who is currently stationed at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, but was able to take part in the taping of the show, 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 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 is, when we’re on the road and 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.”

Lagasse said during the show, “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.”

The contest winners are:

Army Chief Warrant Officer 3 Travis Smith, Headquarters 19th Expeditionary Sustainment 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 Spc. Andrew Ruga, 222nd Transportation Company, Camp, Arifjan, Kuwait, 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.