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Photo: N/A, License: N/A, Created: 2012:01:05 23:43:03

Nicole VanLuvender holds her trophy. PHOTO SHANNON C. KEITH

Photo: N/A, License: N/A

She hadn’t planned on participating, just watching from a spectator seat in he audience.

But then, when Nicole VanLuvender learned about a cooking challenge on ABC’s “The Chew,” she couldn’t resist.

It’s hard enough cooking food for your family and facing their criticism. Imagine cooking food for the likes of Food Network star Marc Murphy, who currently appears on the show “Chopped.”

For VanLuvender, the challenge was one she couldn’t pass up.

“I submitted a recipe and I got an email back saying they would like an alternate submitted so I did,” she explained.

After a few days, one of the show’s producers contacted the Riverside East elementary principal by phone.

“From there I got a call from a second producer and had to submit pictures and additional information,” VanLuvender said. “Then they changed the theme of the show. The original recipes I submitted where no longer what they were looking for. I had submitted my spaghetti with tuna sauce and that was the one that had gotten me noticed. But then they changed the theme.”

So, when challenged by producers to pick a different recipe she looked to a family favorite, served every New Year’s — “Pork Chops with Apple Mash and Roasted Brussels Sprouts.”

“I actually made it twice before I went out to the show,” she said, adding that cooking at home versus on the set of a national television program is quite different because when you’re home you “don’t really measure all that much.”

VanLuvender called the entire experience exciting.

“They were so nice and treated me like I was part of the team from the beginning,” she said. “I was in hair and makeup with all of them. I got to go into the prep kitchen and see what they were doing. We did a run through. Even in between, everyone interacted with me as though I was part of the show.”

“I cooked with an Iron Chef against an Iron Chef,” she said. “The opportunity was worth it!”

For her effort, she earned a trophy, an apron, a signed cookbook and bragging rights.

Check out her recipe at