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Mario's Grilling Throwdown

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I know this proved to be an expensive Memorial Day for a lot of things—driving non-hybrid cars, flying with checked bags, stocking up on soda and potato chips (the AP recently reported that a 2-liter bottle of soda and 10-ounce bag of chips has gone up 10 percent this year), not to mention hot dogs (up 7 percent, says AP). But I still hope that everyone spent quality time grilling, and grilling creatively, because it's about to come in handy. Grilling guru Mario Batali has issued a challenge on behalf of his favorite charity (the amazing Food Bank for New York City) that also involves his favorite sport (NASCAR racing). Here are the details: Submit a genius grilling recipe and video demo by July 30 to mariobatali.com/grillingcontest. Later, fans will be able to vote on the semifinalists, and the eventual winner will get to grill his/her recipe with Batali at the Dickies 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Texas Motor Speedway on November 2, in front of billions of people. Best of all, Uncle Ben’s rice is donating $1 to the Food Bank for every entry, so even the grossest grilling recipes will benefit a good cause.

But who wants to submit a bad grilling recipe?? Batali has a few tips for contestants who want to win:
1) If you're going to be inspired by his brand new Italian Grill cookbook, look for the recipes with a surprise kick, like mortadella-wrapped Robiola.
2) Don't try to do a complicated dish with a lot of moving parts. "I would appreciate a simple dish, so we can hang and dance more during the race," Batali says.
3) NASCAR drivers who submit recipes will not get preferential treatment. In fact, it would probably be tricky for Jimmie Johnson or Dale Jr., to cook right before the race. But that doesn't mean they shouldn't submit a grilling recipe anyway, to pile in more money for the Food Bank.

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Congratulations to Nicholas Elmi, winner of Top Chef: New Orleans, the 11th season of Bravo's Emmy-Award winning, hit reality series.

Already looking forward to next year (June 19-21, 2015)? Relive your favorite moments from the culinary world's most sensational weekend in the Rocky Mountains.