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Known by some locals as "the best on the bayou" when it comes to cooking Cajun cuisine, Emile Stieffel III recently lived up to that name during a taping of The Food Network's nationally televised competitive cooking show, "Throwdown with Bobby Flay."
Stieffel, who grew up in Algiers and now lives in Harvey, owns a local catering business and has been receiving cooking awards since the early 1990s. He was approached in early June by the show's producers who showered him with questions about special ingredients and techniques he uses to cook dishes like his famous jambalaya.
Stieffel said he first thought they were interested only in his expertise as a chef. But after weeks of talking with producers, Stieffel was asked to cook his signature dish as a guest chef on one of the network's shows. What Stieffel didn't know was that he'd actually be competing against famous chef Bobby Flay.
Flay "ran in during the taping and said 'Do you know why I'm here,' and I said 'Yeah, you're here to eat my jambalaya,' " Stieffel said. "Then he said 'No, I'm here to challenge you to a cook-off.' "
Stieffel, stunned by what was transpiring, welcomed Flay's challenge with open arms by responding "bring it on."
"I didn't know what was going on," Stieffel said. "I was just sitting there going 'Oh my gosh.' "
The show, filmed at various local spots, including Blaine Kern's Mardi Gras World, the Aurora Tennis and Swim Club and Johnny Becnel's Produce, has been airing on The Food Network this month. Remaining show times are Tuesday at 10:30 p.m. and Wednesday at 1:30 a.m., for viewers who would like to see the results of the cook-off. Stieffel's 16-year-old son, Emile IV, who has won several cooking awards himself, also appeared on the show.
Although the show is Stieffel's first nationally televised appearance, he is no stranger to local television. He's been a regular guest chef on mornings shows for WWL-TV and WDSU-TV.
Stieffel, who has a degree in mechanical engineering from the University of New Orleans, worked in that field for about five years, just dabbling in cooking for local festivals and contests on weekends.
Stieffel has no professional training as a chef, but says he learned everything he knows about culinary arts as a child from his mother, Jeannine Stieffel, 76.
"My mother taught us how to cook," he said. "She claimed she never had a sense of smell, so when we were little she'd cook and then ask what we thought the dish needed."
Stieffel said participating in the show with Flay was something he'll never forget.
"We joked back and forth a lot, it was like a lively, fun jousting match," he said. "I felt really comfortable that I could tease him. He's a very nice guy. We really hit it off."
Stieffel said he'd like to challenge Flay to another throwdown.
"Bobby should come back and re-challenge in another kind of cook-off with an etouffee or a gumbo," he said. "This time we'll both know that it's going to happen beforehand and I'll be even more ready."
Kim Gritter can be reached at 826-3792 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Local chef and caterer Emile Stieffel, right, is appearing this month with Bobby Flay, left, on the The Food Network's nationally televised competitive cooking show, 'Throwdown with Bobby Flay.'
(Ha, Ha, Ha, now defunct! I never liked the Times Pick-Ya-Nose )
Chef Emile L. Stieffel, Aurora Catering, Inc. email
4016 Red Cypress Dr., Harvey, LA 70058 Phone (504) -329-1344
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Revised: December 08, 2016
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