OPM promotes 'Feds Get Fit' with recipe cookoff

Monday - 4/26/2010, 6:41am EDT

WFED's Max Cacas

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Social Security's Melissa Knoll, with her winning "Roasted Tomato Curry Coconut Soup with Shrimp and Peas". Photo by Max Cacas/Federal News Radio.
By Max Cacas
Reporter
Federal News Radio

Healthy eating can be an important part of having a healthy lifestyle. That's true for busy Federal workers, as it is for anyone who works hard for a living.

In an effort to promote healthy eating and cooking, the Office of Personnel Management, as part of its government-wide fitness campaign, decided to sponsor the first-ever "Feds Get Fit" Healthy Recipe Challenge Cook-off.

We asked OPM Deputy Director Christine Griffin to explain how the competition works.

"The cook-off was an idea generated by the staff here at OPM, as a way to advance the notion that we all want to be a little healthier. It was a very creative idea to include all people throughout the government in the idea that we could all do a better job of being healthier."

Griffin says more than 500 feds from across the federal government submitted recipes for the competition. Out of those 500, the top five finalists were invited to come to OPM headquarters, and were given approximately 2 hours to create their culinary masterpieces in the OPM cafeteria kitchen.

In a bow to that famous amateur singing contest on television, the cook-off featured three celebrity judges: nutritionist and chef Robyn Webb; Carla Hall, the finalist from the TV show "Top Chef"; and finally, former New England Patriot Daryl Haley.

Federal News Radio asked Webb, who is also a cookbook author, what she thought about the Feds Get Fit cookoff.

I think this was just a brilliant idea, because everyone is trying to eat healthier, but how do you create recipes that just taste good? We went through 500 recipes in a conference room, and we came up with five recipies. The major thing was that foods can be delicious.

Webb also credits all five finalist cooks with not relying on low-fat or non-fat products in their recipes. She says the five women didn't make their recipes "so simple they were boring," but adds that they were "simple enough that anyone can execute them."

The judges sampled all five recipes, and at the end of the judging, OPM's Griffin announced the top winner: Melissa Knoll, an employee with the Social Security Administration here in Washington, who won first prize with her "Roasted Tomato Curry Coconut Soup with Shrimp and Peas".

"It was based on a recipe I used to cook when I was a vegetarian," she said in a post-judging interview at the OPM cafeteria, "just to get a lot of flavor in without using any meat. But for this competition, I added a little shrimp to give it a little more body."

Runners-up included:

  • Alexandra Ritchie from the Department of Interior;
  • Marcie Ann Stone from the Department of Homeland Security;
  • Tobey J. Zimber from the Department of Housing and Urban Development;
  • Sapna Savannah Lulla from the Federal Aviation Administration

Knoll and the finalists will have their recipes and photos published in the online "Feds Get Fit Cookbook" later this Spring.

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