9 Questions with Manny Washington, New Food Network Star Finalist


Manny, 30, prides himself as being a food-loving firefighter, regularly cooking up meals for his colleagues. Originally from Miami, Manny was exposed at a young age to different cuisines, including Caribbean, Cuban and Haitian, which he incorporates into his recipes. Manny’s goal is to make food fun again, while sharing his unique culinary point of view with the world. Manny has the experience, personality and desire to become the next Food Network Star!

Describe your culinary POV in one sentence.
American cuisine with Southern and Caribbean influences.

What made you fall in love with food?
Growing up in my family. Cooking what how I got close with my grandmother, and my mom was cooking so it all fell into place, and it just grew from there. And then when I came to the fire department, cooking was one thing I excelled at, so I took it, and it felt good cooking for all the firefighters. It was something I fell in love with.

What technical kitchen skill are you best at?
Grilling. When I go to the station, I buying at least 10-14 pounds of meat, so I get pretty well versed in carving, grilling and putting large amount of food.

What's your signature dish?
Churrasco steak with chimichurri sauce, and cilantro-lime rice, black beans and caramelized sweet plantains.

What do you say to people who think they can't learn how to cook?
I’m a firefighter cook, but I’m also a teacher. I also teach chemistry to firefighters. Just like chemistry, cooking can be very intimidating. I think all about the delivery of what I teach. One of the greatest things I learned is that sometimes the greatest chemist or the greatest cook is not necessarily the best teacher of things. I may not be the best cook by any means, but I feel I’m a very good teacher. I think I could teach people to simplify things to make them fun and interesting so they learn about cooking.

Let's say it's a regular Tuesday night and you're at home. What's for dinner?
It depends what’s in the refrigerator. I’ll take some chicken do a chipotle chicken and put it over a bed of greens with a homemade vinaigrette dressing.

Who's your food/chef spirit animal?
Alton Brown is my biggest spirit animal, because I love the science of food. And Alton Brown loves to break down things so they’re fun and more interesting to people.

What's something very few people know about you?
Most people don’t know I tap dance. I still do it once in a while.

Food pics in restaurants: yay or nay. Why?
Yay. People put a lot of work into what they cook, and that’s my way of celebrating and showing people that chefs made great food. That’s my way of showing off their hard work.