Mario Batali’s Asphalt Chef Challenge great success

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Saturday, November 6, 2010,

As the sun sets over the Texas Motor Speedway, electricity fills the air! 

Deafening motors growl as they emerge from the nearby course; the racers take practice runs for tomorrows Texas AAA 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup!  You can feel the unmistakable buzz in the air, and you can literally smell the excitement.  That’s right, folks – welcome to NASCAR! 

And we’re here at the much-anticipated Asphalt Chef Challenge.  The brainchild of Food Network chef superstar, Mario Batali, he sought to partner with NASCAR to create a supercharged charitable event to benefit their respective Children’s Charities!  Nice. 

You know what they say; if you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen.  In this case,  if you can’t take the heat, get off the track…This all-too intense, often hilarious and [at times] seriously playful cook-off between three culinary giants and their butt-kickin’ teams is a blast.   The three teams consisted of:

Team Batali – Johnson:  Celebrity chef superstar Mario Batali with NASCAR legend Jimmie Johnson

Team Fieri – Bush: Culinary rock-star Guy Fieri and NASCAR dude Kurt Bush 

Team Love – Hansen: Fort Worth’s own Iron Chef, Master Tim Love with Foreigner lead, Kelly Hansen


The three chefs with NASCAR legends Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Bush and Foreigner lead singer Kelly Hansen ready to ‘throw-down’ in support the Mario Batali Foundation and Speedway Children’s Charities

The chefs laugh (oh how they laugh…), they joke, prod, needle and tease one another….and the sous chefs, well… while each one literally ROCKS OUT for a living, they are all looking a little bit intimidated and they are kind of holding back – they seem, dare we say, nervous?  Surely these legendary superstars in their own right don’t suffer from stage fright?  They shift from side to side, back and forth, altogether unfamiliar in their new chef’s jackets – and unsure about their roles as supporting prep chefs – and they all seem pretty nervous!  Meanwhile, the chefs we’ve come to know and love on the Food Network seem to be right at home on the stage (as they should be seeing that they are standing on our mats) while the rock stars appear to be struggling with it (the task at hand, not our mats) – an ironic twist. 

2010 Asphalt Chef Judges

The flag is down race fans, and they’re off!

ABC-TV/ESPN NASCAR pit reporter, Dave Burns, kicks things off as the official emcee of the event and reveals the secret ingredient – Gulf Shrimp.  Yum

And  then….amidst the chaos, more chaos…..the teams are racing around gathering ingredients and formalizing a game plan.  And they’re doing it all over their WellnessMats! (Oh, yeah – we are here to provide support –literally, and figuratively – to the chefs and charities!  Thanks for inviting us, guys!)  

Wellnessmats ready for battle!

They were running from one corner to the other – in complete comfort – and that comes as no surprise to you.  Those already in-the-know understand that a WellnessMat means no tripping, and no sliding…and all we see from our celebrity’s is a whole lot of smiling amidst the playful banter.   The scrambling teams are chopping, slicing, dicing, stirring, slopping, spilling – yeah, there was a lot of spilling.  Err, we mean preparing – that’s it.  They were busily ‘preparing’ and getting dishes to the panel of surprise celebrity judges – in a really messy sort of way.  They edit that part out on Iron Chef, among other things…anyway, the judges reaping the rewards of the fruitful labor turned out to be none other than Texas Rangers pitcher, Tommy Hunter, NASCAR team owner, Michael Waltrip, and local Dallas/Fort Worth radio and TV personality, Newy Scruggs.

Wait….what is that?  Is that Guy Fieri smiling and jumping up & down on our mat like he’s a kid on a trampoline?  Oh, yeah….that’s exactly what he is doing.  And he’s pointing at his feet!  I think I just saw Jimmie Johnson do the same thing. All right!   The Wellness Team is happily high-fiving one other. To paraphrase the immortal words of Sally Fields accepting her Oscar for Norma Rae, “They like us, they really like us!” 

Needless to say, WellnessMats is thrilled, honored and totally psyched to be a part of this awesome benefit event.  We even had special mat wraps made up encouraging all everyone to “Step on it” for a great cause.   That’s really what we’re all about – we were there to provide help and support for cooks – in support of their causes!

Judges vote for "Team Love" (Tim Love and Kelly Hanson)

And then, all at once, the commotion sort of tapers to a close.  Crossing the finish line and earning the checkered flag with the judges overwhelming favorite, Team LoveHansen (Tim Love and Kelly Hanson) take the competition out of the race with their rendition of Shrimp & Grits.

With the throw down challenge and the trash talking behind them, everyone is high-fiving and reaching for much-deserved ice cold beer….they even came right over to thank us for our “amazing mats.” 

“Dude – these mats are so comfortable, where can I get one?”  Well, I know a place, as a matter of fact.  

Phase 1 of the pandemonium has subsided, but Phase 2 (we’ll call it The Party Phase) is just getting started, and we meander over to the ‘arena’ to do a quick damage assessment.  These guys were pretty hard on the merchandise…. 

Of course, just as we had expected, the mats held up like champs (without any punctures, heat damage, bacteria, or permanent staining…even after all the man-handling they took).  There does seem to be some mystery pink goop all over Team Batali – Johnson’sWellnessMats.   What in the world is that?  We could not help ourselves – and we took a picture – I mean, what is that….beet juice?  Dan dared me to eat it.  I did not take the bet…

What is the mystery pink goop on the wellnessmat?

Guy Fieri and Kurt Bush’s mats fared a bit better on the ‘Clean Scale,’ but we are cutting them some slack – this time.  They were struggling with getting their grills lit. The pilot lights mysteriously went out (was it sabotage? Hmmm…).  They just couldn’t get themselves caught back up and trailed the other ‘grills’ throughout the ‘race.’

It was a fantastic event and a great time; each of these individuals rose to the occasion for a great cause, and that makes it a victory for everyone in our eyes!  Working as one big team, we were able to help raise over $85,000 for the charities.  That’s right, $85,000!  Woo hoo!

Spirits were high as the night came to a close with an acoustical concert from two of Foreigner’s band members, with Kelly Hansen singing and Jeff Pilson accompanying on guitar. It totally rocked!!

Guy Fieri and Tim Love stopped by again to say goodbye and goodnight and thanks again.  They took the time to sign a few mats for us.

WellnessMats will be auctioning these autographed mats and giving the proceeds back to the Mario Batali Foundation and Speedway Children’s Charities. Be sure to tune in – we’ll let you know where and when those mats will be available – get ready to do your bidding!  It all goes for two great charities…

Guy Fieri signs a Wellnessmat that will be auctioned off for charity.

Finally, we want to send a special ‘shout-out’ to Susan Marzano and Krista Ruane of the Batali Team. Thank you, thank you, thank you for all your logistical help, setup/taken down and general moral  support during the pre-event pandemonium.   It was an absolute pleasure working with the both of you and we look forward to doing many more events with both of you.  What a pleasure!

Congratulations again to both Tim Love and Kelly Hanson on their victory and a special thank you to Mario Batali for inviting WellnessMats to participate.

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