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Granddaughter, winner of Gordon Ramsay cooking show, lends a hand to fundraiser

BROOKSVILLE — She's petite, feisty and won a record nine chef's challenges on Gordon Ramsay's reality TV show, Hell's Kitchen.

Christina Machamer, 27, won the fourth season of Fox's hit show in 2008, to the immense pride of her grandmother, Suzy Machamer of Brooksville.

Now, Suzy Machamer hopes to tap her granddaughter's talent and newfound fame for a good cause.

The Hernando Oaks Women's Golf Association, of which Suzy Machamer is a member, is auctioning a night of Christina's cooking — a five-course dinner for six — to raise money for breast cancer research through the Susan G. Komen Foundation.

The bidding starts today and continues through Oct. 20. E-mail your bid to Howgabid@gmail.com; include your full name, telephone number and address.

Christina's boyfriend, Cory Lemieux, 23, a protege of Asian chef Ming Tsai, will join her to cook for the highest bidder. The winner can plan the menu with Christina and Cory.

"We're willing to do anything," said Christina. "My boyfriend can cook Asian and I cook French and Italian. There's three major cuisines that are represented."

On Friday, Christina starts working for chef Thomas Keller in his new restaurant, Bouchon, in Beverly Hills, Calif., which is scheduled to open in November. She's been told that once she proves herself, she can have a spot at his world-renowned Napa Valley restaurant, the French Laundry.

But before she begins her new job, she is spending time at her grandmother's house. On Sunday, she was busy serving hibiscus mimosas and carefully separating dozens of yolks from whites to make three kinds of homemade pasta, including agnolotti, which means little pillows in Italian.

"We'll save the whites for an angel food cake," she told her grandmother.

Making agnolotti, which she stuffs with mascarpone, ricotta and truffles, is tricky business.

"The most important thing is to keep the air out. We do this by hand in the restaurant," she said, demonstrating the careful process, which leaves a small pile of little pasta pillows.

Suzy Machamer, who spent her childhood in France, also enjoys cooking. But she's been influenced by her famous granddaughter's skills.

"We always loved to cook, but sometimes you get a little stale," she said. "Christina has really revived our love for getting in there and trying new things."

Christina, originally from St. Louis, started out in college as a prelaw major. Deciding law was the wrong fit, she ended up at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., where she graduated at the top of her class in 2008.

She auditioned for Hell's Kitchen on a whim and spent a month in 2007 filming the fourth season, which ran in the summer of 2008. Suzy Machamer and her neighbors would gather at her home in Brooksville to anxiously watch each episode, always with good home cooking to go with it.

In addition to being a celebrity chef, Christina is tenacious and focused. When she heard about Keller's new restaurant opening, she sent a resume weekly until she heard back.

"It took four times before I got a response," she said. "Each time I would change my cover letter. I had to be persistent."

Christina is the second chef from the famous television show to come to Hernando County in recent months.

Robert Hesse, a chef who lives in the Hamptons in New York and who was a contestant on this summer's edition of Hell's Kitchen, visited the kitchen at the Eckerd Academy at Brooksville in May.

Fifteen years earlier, Hesse was a client at the program for at-risk adolescents, which is set among 800 acres in Hernando County.

Shary Lyssy Marshall can be reached at slmarshall.sptimes@gmail.com.

Christina's signature linguini with mushrooms

1 gallon low-sodium chicken stock

1 pound linguini

6 oz unsalted butter

2 portabella mushrooms (medium-size)

8 oz shiitake mushrooms

A bunch of flat leaf parsley, leaves picked, chopped

6 oz Pecorino Romano cheese, grated

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon fine ground black pepper

1. Place stock in a suitable saucepan, and reduce by 2/3.

2. Blanch pasta (about 7 minutes) until it is slightly firm in the center, cool, and set aside.

3. Peel, gill and stem portabellas. Slice once in half, then into strips approximately ¼ in.

4. Remove stem from shiitake, and slice ¼ in.

5. In a large saute pan, lightly brown 2 ounces of butter. Add mushrooms and saute till golden brown on surface.

6. Add stock and simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes.

7. Add the pasta and cook through.

8. Incorporate cheese, while stirring, until sauce thickens.

9. Finish with 4 ounces cold butter and parsley.

Yield: Four portions

Active time: 30 minutes

Granddaughter, winner of Gordon Ramsay cooking show, lends a hand to fundraiser 10/05/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 6, 2009 11:10am]
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