Priest Wins Against Iron Chef

Former altar boy Bobby Flay issues his fajita throwdown challenge to Father Leo Patalinghug on the Food Network.
Former altar boy Bobby Flay issues his fajita throwdown challenge to Father Leo Patalinghug on the Food Network. (photo: CNS)

Father Leo Patalinghug’s “fusion fajitas” beat Bobby Flay’s “red curry-marinated skirt steak fajitas” Sept. 9 on the Food Network’s “Throwdown! With Bobby Flay.”

After preparing his signature dish for a crowd of parishioners at Mount St. Mary’s University in Maryland, the cooking priest commented, “My fusion fajitas are smokin.’ I guarantee this will make you say, ‘Thank you, God.’”

Divine providence was on Flay’s mind as he was driving to challenge the priest. “We’re going up against Father Leo,” he said. “As a former altar boy, I’m not so sure this is a good idea.”

During the challenge, Father Patalinghug shared some insights into his culinary skills. “Do you know who taught me how to cut?” he asked Flay. “Mother Teresa. When I was a seminarian, I’d go to the soup kitchens, and Mother Teresa said, ‘Okay, Brother, your job is to cut vegetables.’”

Both competitors recognized the skills of the other.

Flay said of the priest’s dish, “It’s a fajita with impact.”

Father Patalinghug said of Flay’s fajita, “This is absolutely delicious.”

The priest’s parishioners liked how his fajita was sweeter, but they also liked Flay’s spicy concoction.

The contest’s judges said of the priest’s fajita, “I’m liking the sauce” and “Somebody knew what they were doing when they were searing the meat.” Of Flay’s they commented, “There’s a smoky aftertaste” and “The peppers are more pronounced.”

Father Patalinghug pulled out his rosary during the judging. “Do you want one?” he asked Flay.

“What number are you on?” Flay replied.

“I lost count,” the priest admitted.

But then the suspense was over: The fusion fajitas won! The crowd erupted in ecstatic cheers when Father Patalinghug’s fajita prevailed; the priest-cook was beaming.

“There was lots of praying during the judging, but he didn’t need it,” Flay said after the results were in.

Father Patalinghug said of the win, “What an honor,” then added that the food’s purpose was achieved: “We brought families together.”

To get more background on Father Patalinghug’s cooking and food-based ministry for families, Grace Before Meals, see our previous post, which includes a link to a feature article on this winning priest and other “Catholics in the Kitchen.” To read Father Patalinghug’s reflection about the experience, go here: