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Whipping the Competition

Organic chef proves her cooking skills can’t be sabotaged

By Alex Stoller

Chef

When Huda Mu’min ’05 was 6 years old, she decided to make herself a snack rather than watch “Sesame Street.” She didn’t go for the easy goldfish crackers—she turned on the oven to bake herself fish.

“Needless to say, I got in trouble for it, but it started me on my path to loving food and learning how to make food,” she says.

Twenty-four years later, she’s turned that passion into a big win on Food Network’s “Cutthroat Kitchen”—just the latest success for the personal chef, catering company owner, author, spokeswoman and philanthropist.

Mu’min took home $23,900, the most money in the history of the sabotage-filled show, which started last year.

Her three competitors didn’t see her as a threat. “Being the only girl on the show, sometimes the boys go at it with each other,” she said. “Which I’m okay with. They were spending serious money on sabotaging each other each round. At some point I stopped bidding and I prayed not to get these sabotages.”

Her strategy worked. Mu’min excelled in the first round, when she was tasked with making chili and cornbread in Western-inspired gear (she mixed her chili in a cowboy hat and used spurs as a knife), and in the dim sum round. In the final s’mores challenge, Mu’min still had a full wallet, while her last competitor had only $500 to spare from his original $25,000.

She says she couldn’t have won it if she didn’t stay true to the requested dishes, believing in herself and having fun. “At the end of the day I’m competitive and I love cooking,” says the chef, who previously appeared on season one of ABC’s “The Taste.” “Food competition is an animal all its own. It’s fun and I absolutely will be doing more television and more cooking.”

Based in D.C., she has plenty on her plate when she’s not on a set. Her catering company, “Pretty and Delicious,” focuses on organic, local foods.

“I absolutely have to credit my mother for instilling good food in us at a young age,” says Mu’min. “Back when there were no Whole Foods in the world she decided to give us organic foods, and organic wasn’t cool back then.”

As a Safeway partner, she does regular cooking demonstrations at local stores to show people easy ways to make healthy dishes at home. On her blog, “A Happy Food Place,” Mu’min posts food videos and recipes to help teach readers that food is a choice that can taste good and make people feel good. Her strong sense of style and knack for entertainment have made her into a lifestyle expert and contributor to various publications, including Monarch Magazine and The Root. She’s also the celebrity chef spokesperson for the CW Network’s Healthy DC initiative and serves as an ambassador for the American Heart Association.

“One of the things that I love doing is helping people understand that eating healthy isn’t just giving up everything you love, it’s just balancing and making better decisions,” she says.

Check out how Mu’min rose to the top when her episode "S'mortal Combat" reruns Dec. 17 at 9 p.m.

Maryland Today is produced by the Office of Strategic Communications for the University of Maryland community weekdays during the academic year, except for university holidays.