BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A surprise judge at a cooking contest in Baltimore made for a once-in-a-lifetime experience for local culinary students.

World-famous celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay, who has been spotted getting punting lessons with the Ravens and with his TV crew in Old Ellicott City, also showed up at his namesake Gordon Ramsay Steak in Horseshoe Baltimore Friday to judge a cooking challenge involving four aspiring chefs from Stratford University.

The chefs faced off to create the best appetizer possible. On the line was $1,000 in kitchen equipment, a $5,000 tuition reimbursement and a job offer with Gordon Ramsay Steak.

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“When it comes down to it, it’s about not letting yourself get bugged by the clock, or by the people around you or the people asking you questions or anything like that,” competitor Zachariah Eidelman said.

“(You have to) suck it up and get it done,” competitor Ta’Shawna Martin said. “Do what takes the longest, do that first, get that cooking. Take your time make sure you got everything together.”

Judging the cookoff was Christina Wilson, the executive chef of the U.S. division of the Gordon Ramsay Group and Ravens kicker Sam Koch.

“The ones that are most successful have an idea in their head, they get organized, they get to their station and they just go for it,” Wilson said.

Just when things were really starting to heat up, the competitors got a surprise: Ramsay himself would be judging their dishes.

The chef took time to talk to each contestant, learning about them and their dish.

“If they’re students, can you imagine what they’re going to be like when they have two or three years inside a decent kitchen? I was blown away,” Ramsay said.

Martin said she was star-struck to meet one of her idols in person.

“I’ve been a fan for years,” she said. “It’s been on my bucket list since I was a child to meet him.”

In the end, there could be only one winner: Eidelman took home the top prize for his pan-seared scallop over green apples with bacon. The dish will be featured at the Baltimore restaurant.

“(I’m) surprised, pleasantly surprised. I was really hoping for it. Really excited,” he said.

Ramsay said having any one of the chefs in his kitchen was “a dream” for him.

“Taking one of them on is a dream,” he said. We’ve all had help in our life, and I don’t care how talented or how successful you are, (you) have to remember those grassroots.”

Sean Streicher

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