Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

You're reading about a winner

Cooking, smoothies -- I'm on a roll, folks

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I feel like 300 pounds of lean corned beef, in the sense that I'm definitely on a roll.

What I mean is that, despite a unique ability to sustain near-crippling injuries during non-lethal charity events, I have somehow emerged from the last two contests with all my limbs intact and the sweet taste of victory in my mouth.

My winning streak began earlier this month in the annual Celebrity Cook-off for charity at the Caboto Centre, in which I outduelled three other "outstanding local celebrities" in the culinary equivalent of a European soccer riot.

Each "celebrity" was paired with a professional chef and the teams had 90 minutes to whip up an appetizer and a main course from a "mystery ingredient," which turned out to be pork tenderloins the size of piano legs.

My partner, chef Mike Brown from DeLuca's, handled the minor details, such as the actual cooking, whereas I was responsible for the bulk of our team's stirring, which resulted in my right arm being twice the size of my left arm at the end of the night, which was a good thing because it made it easier for me to hold up the champion's trophy.

Despite that stirring victory, I wasn't feeling overly confident when I arrived at St. Vital Centre's food court last week to compete in the first-ever Celebrity Smoothie-Making Contest to help raise cash and awareness for SMD Foundation/Easter Seals Manitoba.

This event, sponsored by Booster Juice, pitted me against some huge competition, in the sense most of the other competitors -- gargantuan Blue Bomber linemen Steve Morley and Paul Swiston, QB Buck Pierce, ex-Bomber Kelly Butler and comedian Big Daddy Tazz -- are roughly the size of recreational vehicles.

It was a dramatic show for the audience, who sat there trying to eat lunch in peace while we contestants sat at a table and quietly waited our turn to go to the Booster Juice outlet and make smoothies via the approved technique of bravely telling someone behind the counter which ingredients we wanted them to put in the blender.

Not only did we have to give our smoothies delicious-sounding names -- mine was "Doug's Dog Drool" -- but we had to physically carry samples through the crowd and over to the panel of judges, so do not tell me that we media persons and pro athletes are not willing to put our safety on the line for a good cause.

The expert judges -- including Bomber legend Wade Miller -- tasted each fruity beverage and made the appropriate "yummy" noises, except in the case of the smoothie made by my pal Tazz, which caused the judges to wince as if being attacked by intestinal parasites, because Tazz had included a non-tasty mystery ingredient no one had ever heard of before.

In the end -- get ready to be incredibly jealous -- I was declared the champion, which, as I discovered later, was a big surprise, especially for the judges.

I had assumed Wade Miller voted for me because I had wisely reminded him that I would be judging him and Tazz on May 11 when they compete in Dancing With Celebrities, a ballroom competition in support of SMD/Easter Seals, at the Fairmont Winnipeg. (You can order tickets by calling 204-975-3084 or visiting www.smd.mb.ca.)

But when I pressed Wade on what the judges liked about my smoothie, he gave me a confused look and snorted: "We have no idea how you won. We all voted for (Bomber) Paul Swiston!"

That said, in an effort to be a good winner, I quickly sidled over to Buck Pierce and politely asked the star QB, who was busy signing autographs for an army of fans at the mall, whether he was stung by my upset victory.

"This is the low point in my life," chortled Buck, who had named his smoothie "Please Stop Snowing Outside" in an overt bid to win the crowd over. "I'm totally crushed. I drink Booster Juice four times a week. I usually get the vegetable ones."

So my victory is somewhat tainted, but that's not the point. The point is I am hoping to extend this surprise winning streak tonight when I take my turn in the barrel at the Winnipeg Wine Festival's annual Celebrity Grape Stomp in support of Special Olympics.

(We'll be squishing at McPhillips Station Casino and tickets are $40 at www.winnipegwinefestival.com or MLCC outlets.)

My main goal is to avoid a serious injury, such as (this is true) when I broke my big toe the first time I stomped for Special Olympics. "It just shows how passionate you are about stomping," Steven Dreger, the charity's communications manager, assured me. "It's pretty intense stuff."

And Steve's right. If you want to win, you need to be intense. You need to stand out. That's why I'm the new Smoothie King. Because I refuse to just blend in.

doug.speirs@freepress.mb.ca

 

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 24, 2013 A2

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