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NMSU chile specialist judges a 'Throwdown with Bobby Flay' on Food Network show

SAN ANTONIO, NM - Bobby Olguin, owner of the Buckhorn Tavern in San Antonio, N.M., was not the only person surprised when Food Network star Bobby Flay showed up at his restaurant on May 14 - New Mexico State University chile specialist Stephanie Walker was, too.

Chef Bobby Flay's show "Throwdown with Bobby Flay" pits the star against different regional chefs. In each episode, the cook thinks Food Network is shooting their profile for a show. What they don't know is that Flay is going to drop in for a surprise visit and challenge them to an unexpected cook-off.

Producers of the cable show asked Walker to attend a green chile festival at Bosque del Apache to be interviewed as an expert regarding the vegetable being celebrated. When she arrived she found herself in the role of judge for the burger cook-off between Flay and Olguin for the best green chile cheeseburger.

"Al Lucero, owner of Maria's Restaurant in Santa Fe and a recipient of the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences' Hotel, Tourist and Restaurant Management Award this year, and I were hidden away and told we'd be judges for the contest," she said of the unexpected challenge. "It was a real surprise to be in this role on the national television program."

The Owl Café, located a short distance from the Buckhorn Tavern, was the first to put San Antonio on the culinary map with what was to become a world-famous green chile cheeseburger. The Buckhorn earned its own accolades in recent years, having become rated as the No. 7 burger in America by Gentlemen's Quarterly in 2005 and the No. 3 "Baddest Burger in the Land" on the Marlboro.com Nightlife Flavor Roundup earlier this year.

While Walker can't tell us who won, New Mexicans can watch the contest at 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 22, at 10 p.m. on Thursday, July 23, and at 9 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 2, to see which burger Walker and Lucero crowned as the best.