WASHINGTON -- World-renowned celebrity chef Robert Irvine went toe-to-toe with Under Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy in a cooking challenge in the Pentagon's Army Executive Dining Facility here Friday.

McCarthy and Irvine competed to make the best tasting, most nutritious and presentable frittata, which is similar to an omelet. Moreover, the competition was timed for 12 minutes.

While superficially serving as a fun, Friday-morning distraction, the competition actually served as a way to draw attention to the importance of nutrition to Soldier readiness.

Food is an important part of a Soldier's life, McCarthy said, who is himself a former Soldier. It's a readiness issue because the right dietary choices contribute to a Soldier's stamina and overall fitness -- both important to stay ready for combat.

Working alongside Irvine for just a short time in the kitchen, McCarthy said he learned a lot about portion strategy, such as eating more meals per day, and in smaller amounts, rather than sticking with the traditional three meals a day.

McCarthy also said that Irvine discussed the importance of staying aware of what kinds of ingredients go into food being prepared and to ensure each ingredient contributes flavor, texture and overall health benefits. That kind of nutritional vigilance is an activity the whole family can participate in, McCarthy said, from shopping for the best food to preparing and cooking it together.

A HEALTHY, FAST BREAKFAST

Irvine showed how a frittata can really make a healthy and delicious breakfast in no time at all, using leftovers like hamburger, bacon or sausage, along with goat cheese and plenty of chopped vegetables such as tomatoes, onions, potatoes, asparagus, spinach and leeks.

For even more flavor, additional ingredients included salt, pepper, a balsamic reduction, lemon juice, raisins and pomegranate seeds.

Of course a lot of eggs went into the mix as well, along with a dash of white wine. The entire dish was baked with virgin olive oil.

The under secretary used similar ingredients in his own version of the classic Italian dish, but both frittatas were unique in variety and amounts of ingredients used.

The final judging results from a panel of culinary experts awarded McCarthy 168 points to Irvine's 153.

"It doesn't matter, win, lose or draw, everyone is a winner when it comes to healthy eating," Irvine said afterwards, complimenting McCarthy and the enlisted chefs.

Irvine said he is proud of the work Soldiers do in defending America and protecting the freedoms he and everyone enjoy.

When Irvine was 15, he joined the British Royal Navy, rising to the rank of petty officer. During the 10 years he was in, he was a chef and that was where he learned his trade. Eleven years ago, Irvine became a proud U.S. citizen.

McCarthy served in the U.S. Army from 1997 to 2002 and was involved in combat operations in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom with the 75th Ranger Regiment, U.S. Special Operations Command.

Assisting McCarthy were Sgt. Carey Lee and Spc. Curtis Campbell. Irvine's assistants were Staff Sgt. Jose Garcia and Staff Sgt. Daekum Ji. The Soldiers are all chefs at the Executive Dining Facility.