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Tom Colicchio Gets Burned By a Child at the Great American Family Dinner Challenge

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Colicchio, probably after one of the many zingers from Ming Tsai.
Colicchio, probably after one of the many zingers from Ming Tsai.

[Photos: Stefanie Gans/]

Last night the Partnership for a Healthier America hosted the Great American Family Dinner Challenge, pitting Tom Colicchio and Maria Hines (Tilth in Seattle, WA) against Ming Tsai and Holly Smith (Cafe Juanita in Kirkland, WA) to create a meal in 30 minutes for a family of four for less than $10. They brought in real-life families and real-life picky kids to judge the James Beard award-winning chefs' creations — one of whom immediately spit out three of the four dishes he tasted. In front of a full ballroom at the Omni Shoreham. In front of the famed chef who made it — Tom Colicchio.

Aside from the spit-up, Colicchio and Ming played up a homoerotic relationship and White House assistant chef Sam Kass — emcee for the night — cracked jokes about pizza's (precisely tomato paste) recent vegetable status. In the end, Colicchio and Hines won 94-85. Here are the highlights:

1) The back-and-forth between Colicchio and Ming started in the Q&A session: Colicchio disses Ming's dish appearance, "He's used to plating in those little, white boxes." Ming retorts, "Ever since I broke up with him" Colicchio has been mean.

2) When Kass couldn't lift the lid off the blender, Ming quipped, "Sam hasn't cooked in a while," reminding the audience of his not-in-the-kitchen White House duties.

3) Kass asked one of the child judges about his favorite foods, which were "Corn, pizza." Kass quickly jumped at the crowd-pleasing line, "...Which isn't a vegetable."

4) Trying to liven up the stage, Colicchio takes handcuffs out of a book bag and pantomimes cuffing Ming to the side of the stage. Ming: "This has been Tom Colicchio's fantasy for many years. You know what Top Chef really means..."

5) Kass asks the other kid judge what the chefs make at her school. "Cupcakes," she responds. Highly embarrassed, Kass tells the audience her school can't possibly be in the First Lady's Chefs Move to Schools initiative.

6) "This is what parents have to deal with" is how Kass massaged it when the first kid spit up Colicchio and Ming's creations for the third time — and used his scorecard to discard of the unwanted food.

Before the challenge in question, various chefs created a dinner at $4.50 per person, but unfortunately none of DC's chefs were tapped for that event. Earlier in the day, the group held keynotes and workshops, while today First Lady Michelle Obama addresses the crowd.

· Partnership For a Healthier America [Official Site]
· All Previous Sam Kass Coverage [-EDC-]