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Judging an eggplant Parmesan throw-down between Jimmy Kimmel and Bobby Flay

February 10, 2011 | 11:22 am

When you’re a food writer, you're often called on to decide thorny and contentious issues: chili cookoffs, wine competitions, even a holiday cookie contest. To the outsider, these might seem trivial, even funny. But one thing I've learned in 30 years of doing them: to the participants, they're almost always deadly serious. No matter what's at stake, no one enters a contest to lose.

Such was the case Wednesday night when I -- along with Los Angeles magazine's Leslie Bargar Suter and Eater LA's Kat Odell -- was called upon to judge an eggplant parmesan cookoff between ABC's king of late-night, Jimmy Kimmel, and television chef Bobby Flay. See the results after the jump.

We judges were told repeatedly while we were waiting in the green room how seriously Kimmel was taking this challenge. "He has been practicing for weeks," one producer said. "This is a very big deal for him."

"Be serious," warned another. "Leave the comedy to the professionals."

And so, in our best judicial frame of mind, we weighed the choices. Quite honestly, both dishes were good, perhaps surprisingly so. One was more of an eggplant stew, very garlicky, with fresh tomatoes, but a somewhat loose consistency. The other was more of a classic New Jersey-style parmesan, definitely canned tomatoes but flavorful, and tightly stacked with lots of melted cheese.

As hard as we tried to ignore our prejudices, even the most solemn judges sometimes have to bow to them. In the end, there is no way I will ever vote against melted cheese.

And that turned out to be Flay's. Sorry, Jimmy.

--Russ Parsons