Meet the #SMCDC Iron Chef contestants!

The Social Media Club-DC Holiday Iron Chef Competition & Party is this Wednesday. But if you’re anything like us and you stick your hand in the cookie jar as you wait for dinner to be served, then you probably can’t wait for it to be Wednesday already. Don’t worry, we’ve got your back.

While you can’t sample the food (yet) we thought we’d let you sample a little from our five fabulous contestants, though not literally. And while you can read about them on this post, make sure you come to our event on Wednesday to cheer on your favorite chef or, simply, to enjoy the company of the DC social media community and share the holiday spirit.

When: Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Time: 6:30 – 8:30 pm

Meet our Iron Chefs:

Justin Herman, @justinherman
Chris Cassidy, @citizencassidy
Melissa Vallejo, @h0neyb
Alex Howard, @digiphile
Shashi Bellamkonda, @shashib
William Neuheisel, @wneuheisel

Where are you from originally?

@digiphile: I was born in upstate New York, near the Finger Lakes.

@citizencassidy: I grew up in the shadows of military bases and Mt. Rainier in Tacoma, WA. Columbia Heights is home these days.

@honeyb: Beeville Texas, Bee County

@justinherman: From New Hampshire, living on the Hill now.

@wneuheisel: Originally from North Dakota, now living in Columbia Heights.

@shashib: I am originally from India and live in Potomac Maryland and work for Network Solutions as Director Social Media ( Unique title is Social Media Swami ).

How did you get involved with Social Media Club?

@digiphile: I joined when I moved to DC and met many members of the local clan at the National Press Club.

@citizencassidy: @NishaChittal is pulling me in with the force of a banshee.

@honeyb: Through the Salt Lake City SMC.

@justinherman: @DCConcierge (Shana Glickfield) found me at an event and showed me the ropes of the DC tech scene – and SMCDC is where the elite meet to eat, so to speak.

@wneuheisel: I’m new to it; I heard about it through friends. My organization is beginning to adopt social media, so I’ve been trying to meet other people who are also working with it.

@shashib: I have been associated with SMC since 2007 and having known @LYF108 (Larissa Fair) who has helped SMC grow in the DC area.

What inspired you to compete?

@digiphile: I love to cook and enjoy blogging. Plus, I’m a big fan of Iron Chef & Top Chef. Complementary tastes, as they say.

@citizencassidy: I cooked for 6 of the 8 years that I worked in restaurants back in the day. I do have this confession, though: I don’t really watch TV and have never seen an episode of Iron Chef! I can haz fast learning.

@honeyb: I love to cook! Plus who wouldn’t want to go up against 5 guys :)

@justinherman: I grew up with an appreciation for culinary spectacle, and spent years cooking in restaurants as well as hosting dinner parties from the Emerald Coast to the polar Arctic. Good food is a standard of living, and I must help bring this to our friends and colleagues.

@wneuheisel: I work for DC Central Kitchen, which offers culinary job training for homeless and unemployed men and women. As communications manager, I often watch the students and staff mix it up in the Kitchen, but I don’t really get to participate, so I thought it would be fun to show my co-workers that the office web geek might be able to cook too.

@shashib: I am always game for community contests.

What kind of cooking do you usually do – or what things do you like to cook?

@digiphile: French, Italian, new American, BBQ, fusion.

@citizencassidy: My most common culinary engagements are Italian, California cuisine, grilling anything grill-able, and cereal.

@honeyb: Anything sweet & usually involving Honey.

@justinherman: I only cook for holidays now – grand marnier glazed turduckens, etc, but traditionally enjoy sauté dishes and tapas. And of course – grilling.

@wneuheisel: I tend to like spicy dishes with bold flavors and aromas, so I cook a lot of South Asian or Cajun food. Also, I like the simplicity and focus on ingredients in Mediterranean cooking.

@shashib: I have trained professionally in French, Cypriot and Indian food. Indian food is my passion.

What are your inspirations in cooking?

@digiphile: My family. Thomas Keller. Julia Child. Tony Bourdain. Chris Schlesinger. The Boy Scouts.

@citizencassidy: My biggest cooking inspirations are my old boss Elisa Marzano, my pops and the smell of roasting garlic.

@honeyb: I graduated from Culinary Art School specializing in Bakery.

@justinherman: My grandfather, jazz music, Heathcliffe Huxtable and the occassional date with a red haired girl.

@wneuheisel: I grew up in a community that had fairly bland taste in food, so when I spent time traveling in India and Greece I was really fascinated by the diversity of flavors and ingredients, and at the rich culture that was tied to food. Also, one of my best friends from college grew up in New Orleans, so I have great memories of cooking big Cajun meals with him.

@shashib: My best time in the kitchen was learning to use the Tandoor which can get to 500 Degrees C and making the bread stick to the sides of this clay oven is an adventure. My most memorable event was cooking for 30k folks and also cooking for Heads of State in New Delhi and Bangalore.

So now friends and fans of the Social Media Club-DC, with an open heart and an empty stomach, I say unto you in the words of my uncle: Allez cuisine!

The Holiday Iron Chef Competition & Party is possible thanks to our sponsors and supporters:


6 responses to this post.

  1. yohooo ! I am so glad to be in the company of IRON CHEFS. Hope you invited the cast too ..



  2. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by andinarvaez: A little sampling of our #SMCDC Iron Chefs! (@justinherman @digiphile @h0neyb @citizencassidy @wneuheisel @shashib)


  3. Melissa was trapped on a flight with me coming home from a connection via Philly. So I know she didn’t get to check her email to answer the questions. But maybe we can get her to answer them now in a comment. Also, I assure you, I did not reveal the secret ingredient to her while stuck at the airport. But we did discuss the challenge and she is up to take on the guys … so watch out, you might get stung.


  4. Hey saw the lineup of the chefs & never got the questions emailed to me. Not sure if it’s too late to put on the article 
    Where are you from originally? Beeville Texas, Bee County

    How did you get involved with Social Media Club? Through the Salt Lake City SMC
    What inspired you to compete? I love to cook! Plus who wouldn’t want to go up against 5 guys 🙂
    What kind of cooking do you usually do – or what things do you like to cook? Anything sweet & usually involving Honey. I graduated from Culinary Art School specializing in Bakery  


  5. Melissa, thank you for adding in the comment. I’m adding you to the post now 🙂

    Good luck tomorrow! See you at the event.

    – Andi


  6. Thanks a bunch! 🙂 see you tomorrow!


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