MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- Capt. Eric P. Dominijanni thought his dream came true when the Food Network chose to profile him for a network special.
Dominijanni, with 2nd Assault Amphibian Battalion, out of Camp Lejeune, N.C., competed in the “Command of the Grill” competition in New York on May 25 against nine other champions from Marine bases.
Dominijanni, known for cooking paella for his troops while deployed to Iraq, was at Camp Wilson when staff from the Food Network arrived on scene to witness his chef skills in the desert. The Queens, N.Y., native was followed by camera crews on June 2, as he spoke passionately about cooking.
“I love watching cooking shows,” Dominijanni told the camera crew. “I’ve been watching those shows my whole life. But cooking itself is an art to me, and I find it to be something where I can put all of my emotion and all of my feelings into my creation.”
The following morning, Dominijanni, who began cooking at the age of 7, prepared his marinades for chicken, pork tenderloin, ribs and steak while cameras rolled. The crew filmed as an unsuspecting Dominijanni prepared a feast fit for kings, or his Marines.
Later during the festivities while Dominijanni flipped his steaks on the grill, a humvee pulled up to the grill site. Much to his surprise, world renowned chef, Bobby Flay, stepped out of the vehicle.
“I heard about your famous steaks and I decided to come check them out for myself,” said Flay. “I’m here to challenge you to a throw down in an unexpected cook-off of your specialty, right here, right now.”
Dominijanni, still shocked, accepted the offer from the Iron Chef.
The competition, “Throwdown with Bobby Flay,” was part of a new series starring one of Food Network’s most popular personalities. Chef Flay is on a secret mission to challenge the best of the best in different areas of food. In each episode, Flay surprises one of the country’s top amateur cooks and challenges him or her to a culinary throw down, cooking their specialty, on their turf.
“When I saw him get out of that humvee I was in shock. I couldn’t ask for anything better,” said an excited Dominijanni. “He has no clue how appreciative I am of him being here. If I could, I’d do back flips. This is amazing…in Twentynine Palms.
Flay surprised the crowd when he unloaded his own grills, kitchen equipment and staff to assist him.
“Hey Bobby, you think you can cook in this heat,” yelled out a Marine from the crowd that gathered.
“I don’t know,” said Flay smiling. “And I’ve never competed against someone who had the entire Marine Corps behind him.”
The sizzling desert heat and unknown territory didn’t deter Flay from grilling porterhouse steaks and Portobello mushrooms for the competition and the Marines.
With his Marines supporting him, Dominijanni presented Flay with a premier “Disco's Hot and Tangy” steak, branded with the letter “D.”
Chef Jaimie Purviance judged the competition and ultimately Dominijanni won the best taste. His Marines were more than happy to taste test Flay’s creations, but in the end, the Marines banded together and sided with Dominijanni.
“Behind me are 30 Marines who possibly are stronger than everyone here,” joked Dominijanni. “I had a good feeling I was going to win. Pros and cons reflect.”
“As long as you keep feeding your guys this food, I know our country is safe,” said Flay.