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Dirke Baker has always felt the most comfortable when she is in the kitchen conjuring up a tasty treat for her family and friends. An Adjunct Professor at Wilmington University, Baker splits her time between teaching, her job as Catering Manager of Sugarfoot Fine Food in Wilmington, and freelancing as a "food stylist." Somehow even after all that she still seems to find time to make a wholesome meal for dinner. The young foodie had a chance to show off her culinary skills this winter when she was selected to work on "Team Bobby" in an episode of the hit Food Network show "Throwdown with Bobby Flay." The show, which will air on Saturday, January 22 at 7:00 p.m. on the Food Network, features superstar chef Bobby Flay challenging up and coming chefs to a cook-off of their signature dish. Baker was brought onto the show to be the food buyer and the food stylist on "Team Bobby", which involved four hours of cooking fried chicken. "I've never cooked that much chicken in my life," laughed Baker.
Three days before the show aired Dirke Baker was off to the grocery store to buy all the supplies for "Team Bobby Flay." "It's not as glamorous as it seems," said Baker, who explained how she had to space the buying over several days. "You have to buy enough to feed all the people who may be watching the cook-off, so it was a lot of food." Next she set off to a secret location in Silverspring, Maryland, the home of Throwdown opponent Gillian Clark, head chef of 'The General Store and Post Office Tavern.' After learning about how patrons couldn't seem to get enough of Clark's fried chicken, Chef Bobby Flay challenged Chef Clark to a duel.
Baker then spent several hours cooking fried chicken on the set while camera crews and production assistants rushed across the room. She was one of only four "food stylists" on Bobby's team. "It was a very intense experience," related Baker, who was a graduate of the University of Delaware's Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Management degree. "The show was true in that Bobby's competitor, Gillian Clark, had no idea there was a challenge," she added. "The taste testers also had no idea whose dish they were trying: Bobby's or Gillian's." After several hours the fried chicken was ready to go and the competition had begun. So who cooks the best fried chicken? You'll have to tune in to find out.
As adjunct professor at Wilmington University, Baker teaches HUM 411:"Food: Art and Custom: International," a class that she helped establish last fall. In the spring the class will be offered at the University's Middletown site. Students will explore the cultural impact of dining in countries currently playing major roles in the global economy. They will gain a better understanding of people through the study of history and cuisine. Additionally they will get a chance to try traditional dishes from countries around the world while visiting various local restaurants. "We go on trips to Japanese restaurants, Greek restaurants and Indian restaurants," explains Baker. "The class fills up quickly and I have had some great feedback from students." The class is open to all majors and requires a lab fee which will cover field trips to local restaurants and classroom demonstrations.
Baker says she first discovered her love for foreign cuisines when she was a competitive national and international figure skater representing Delaware. "Through travelling I learned a lot about different cultures and foods. I think it is so important for students to learn about international cuisines, the etiquettes of dining in foreign lands, and the importance of respecting other cultures."
Don't forget to tune in to Throwdown with Bobby Flay on Saturday, January 22 at 7:00 p.m.
Published: Friday, January 21, 2011 - New Castle, DE