Harold Cohen handled his share of buns during his 20-plus years as a reconstructive surgeon in Hollywood. But the ones he heated for judges while taping a segment of the Food Network's Ultimate Recipe Showdown 2 will be forever seared in his memory. "They burned to a crisp in about 10 seconds," says Cohen, who's 74.
Good thing he had some extra hamburger buns handy.
In cooking, as in plastic surgery, it's better to get things right the first time. And when something goes wrong, it's good to have a back-up plan. "You always order a second set," says Cohen. That goes for silicone C-cups, artificial hips and -- in a cooking contest -- hamburger buns.
Cohen whipped up two unique burgers while filming his TV debut in September. He christened one the Iberian Burger, in honor of these key ingredients: Portuguese linguiça sausage (cured pork, onions, garlic, and paprika); queso Ibérico (a hard cheese made of cow, goat, and sheep milk); and -- the kicker -- a white gazpacho "mayo" of pureed almonds, garlic, and white grapes.
"You have to have a hook -- something unique that arouses curiosity and tastes good," explains Cohen, who in his retirement years has become a recipe inventor of sorts.
Cohen came across white gazpacho soup during his many travels through Spain. The soup, also known as sopa de ajo, is the pre-Columbian version of the modern, more commonly eaten chilled tomato gazpacho. Cohen thought: Why not slap some of this yummy white gazpacho stuff onto a burger? Bingo. He had a contender.
Cohen was feeling confident going into the competition. After all, plastic surgeons have a knack for performing well under pressure. But he did have one handicap: He's legally blind. Each of the four contestants were assigned Food Network assistants to help with shopping, utensils, and -- in Harold Cohen's case -- reading the temperatures on the various stoves.
His confidence remained even as he sampled the other competitors' offerings. "Quite honestly, the others didn't appeal to me as much as my own [hamburgers]," Cohen says.
So, did Harold Cohen take the $25,000 grand prize? Will his signature burger be featured on the menus of T.G.I. Friday's around the country?
You'll have to tune into the Food Network on January 11 at 9 p.m. ET to find out.
To view clips of all the Food Network competitors, click here.