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Get Cooking with the Winner of Cutthroat Kitchen.

by | June 9th, 2014

Hey, BackCountry chefs, now’s your chance to pick up some awesome cooking tips, taste delightful Filipino cuisine, and maybe get the scoop on the zany, knife-in-the-back world of reality cooking shows, too.

Leah Eveleigh
On Thursday, July 17, from 6:30pm-8:30pm, Chef Leah Eveleigh, winner of the Food Network show, Cutthroat Kitchen, will teach Pacific Islands Cooking, a hands-on cooking class, at the Sundial House. Limited to 20 residents, the class will work in groups to create a ridiculously delicious meal that includes lumpia, Filipino eggrolls with beef, vegetables and dipping sauce, salmon with coconut and mango sauce, and vegetable fried rice. And not one, but two desserts: bananas lumpia, her signature dish of bananas wrapped in egg-roll wrappers, deep fried and drizzled with caramel and chocolate sauce, and sticky rice cakes with coconut caramel sauce. Besides guiding the preparation, Chef Leah will share techniques, talk about ingredients and where to get them, and give out the recipes to take home. And best of all, there’s that sit-down-and-eat part of the evening.

Taught in the Sundial House’s decked-out kitchen, the class will thankfully lack the sabotage and wacky challenges endemic to Food Network’s Cutthroat Kitchen. A couple that Everleigh faced herself were mixing margaritas by pedaling a bike blender, creating soup without tasting it, and using a bucket of bait to whip up a fish fry. In true reality show fashion, contestants bid for sabotages to inflict on each other and a judge votes off chefs until there’s just one left standing. “There’s a lot of pressure,” Chef Leah says. “Whatever [Chef] Alton [Brown] says you’re going to make, you make. But probably the hardest part is to be cutthroat. When you watch the show, it seems that I’m being mean, but a lot of the competition is just strategy and mind games.”

On the show, Chef Leah’s Filipino roots served her well, besting the other contestants with her twists on traditional dishes—like carne asada quesadilla with pineapple, chicken noodle soup with ginger and lemongrass, and crispy fried anchovies (aka bait fish). Actually, her resourcefulness with that dish won her the final round.

Despite her high-profile achievements, Chef Leah is a self- and Mom-taught cook. She made her cooking debut at the Colorado Dragon Boat Festival, where over the years she has won first and second place in culinary competitions and was named in Westword’s Best of Denver 2008 for her banana lumpia. She’s operated a catering business, which specializes in luaus, weddings, and other special events. Soon she’ll travel to the Philippines for the first time in 30 years to help her family rebuild after Typhoon Haiya. While she’s there, she plans to immerse herself in the food and culture, and bring back more recipes for a cookbook to be published next year. She’s also attending classes at the Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts in Boulder.

When people ask Chef Leah why she’s now going to school, given her national presence and success, she says, “I want to better myself. I’ve won awards and competed without formal training because I’m so passionate about food and cooking. But I want to have more tricks up my sleeve.” They should come in handy for her next ventures. She’ll soon be writing a blog and conducting an online home-cooking class for Escoffier, and after she graduates, plans to compete again and perhaps host her own cooking show. “This is just the beginning for me,” she says.

And for those lucky 20 who attend her BackCountry cooking class, who knows what she may inspire in them?

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