Love of children and cooking put Lansdowne vet in national spotlight
After three tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan, the now retired U.S. Army Operations Non-Commissioned Officer was looking for the next phase of his life. A life that involved spending more time with his seven children and doing what he loves: cooking.
“Once I retired I started planning something different coming out of combat infantry. I wanted to change direction and follow a passion, something a really wanted to do,” Coombs said.
The 42-year-old never thought it would put him in the national spotlight.
But on Tuesday, Aug. 26 the nation will be watching as Coombs battles it out on NBC's “Food Fighters.”
The show, which premiered July 22, is hosted by Adam Richman, who is best known for his work on “Man Vs. Food,” where he traveled the country, accepting food-eating challenges.
“Food Fighters” pits amateur cooks' signature dishes against five professional chefs. The expert chefs must cook the same dish.
If the home cook wins, they earn a cash prize. If they don't win, they still get to face-off against another culinary expert, climbing a money ladder with increasing cash prizes for every professional chef they knock out. The amateur cooks can win up to $100,000.
The eight-episode series features top chefs Cat Cora, Lorena Garcia, G. Garvin, Duff Goldman, Elizabeth Falkner and Jet Tila.
Coombs says his signature dish is mac-n-cheese, although he wouldn't reveal the secret ingredient – you'll have to watch Aug. 26 to find out.
“My kids love it. They will never eat the boxed stuff,” he said.
He was inspired to try out for the show by his ex-wife. Reluctantly, Coombs went to the Washington Convention Center and floored the judges with his chicken roulade and pan-seared asparagus with a red wine reduction.
Once accepted to the show, Coombs said his nerves were quelled by Richman, a staunch supporter of veterans who sits on the board of the Purple Heart Foundation.
“We hit it off like we had known each other for years,” Coombs said. “We even had a little handshake we did on stage.”
Coombs was injured during his second combat tour by a roadside bomb. He spent nine months in the hospital recovering from his injuries.
His stamina during combat, he said, helped him through the show.
“I felt confident, like whatever happens happens,” he said.
A Detroit native, Coombs said he learned all he knows about food from his mother, who is Jamaican.
“I'm always getting recipes from her and tweaking them a bit. I give them a version 5.0,” he joked.
His mother, now retired in Cocoa Beach, Fla., was able to join him in California for the taping of the episode.
After the show, Coombs said he's not sure what the future holds. He knows he doesn't want to open his own restaurant; combat tours took him away from his children for long enough and the tiresome restaurant hours are not for him.
“I'd rather be working in a restaurant. Maybe as an executive chef or a sous chef,” he said.
To view Coombs mac-n-cheese recipe, visit http://www.nbc.com/food-fighters .