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Hudson chef makes it to final ‘American Grilled’ challenge

Damon Holter of Hudson, owner of Croix Valley Foods, appears on the “American Grilled” TV show filmed at Wrigley Field in Chicago. (Submitted photo)

Damon Holter made it to the third and final challenge of the “American Grilled” episode from Wrigley Field that aired Wednesday night, Aug. 20, on the Travel Channel.

But the judges awarded the $10,000 prize to Joanna “Juicy” Dunn of Chicago, even though she dropped a jar of spicy Italian relish and failed to include it on her plate featuring a monstrous T-bone steak.

“This is really my element,” Holter, a Hudson resident, said when he saw the big T-bone to be grilled in the final challenge.

As a young man, he worked at a steakhouse on Hwy. 70 near Hertel that his parents owned. The demand for their house steak sauces is what led him to start his own company that produces barbecues sauces, marinades and dry rubs for grilling, Holter told the judges.

His company is Croix Valley Foods of River Falls. Holter said its products are available in local stores, including County Market, RJ’s Meats and Family Fresh Market.

The judges liked Holter’s dry-rub T-bone (one said it was grilled perfectly), but host David Guas told him without explanation that he wouldn’t be the Chicago grill master or receive the cash prize.

“I’m extremely proud of what I did here today,” Holter said in parting.

He appeared to be on the brink of elimination after the first challenge, in which he used a blender to make patties out of all-beef frankfurters. He coated the patties with crushed Cracker Jacks that were part of the required ingredients.

One of the three judges said the texture was strange, but gave him credit for creativity.

In the second challenge, Holter made a grilled Stromboli filled with dried kielbasa and hard cheese. The pizza dough burned, but not as badly as another competitor’s.

Holter doesn’t have hard feelings about not winning the prize.

“The experience was an absolute blast. It was so much fun I would do it again in a heartbeat if I had the opportunity,” he told the Star-Observer.

Croix Valley Foods has a grilling team that competes in events around the country, but being filmed for the “American Grilled” episode offered more “glitz and glamour,” Holter said.

“Everything grill-related is pretty much what I do … so doing the television show was a natural thing for me,” he added.

Holter and his wife, Lu, have six children, ages 11-16, in their blended family.

Randy Hanson

Randy Hanson has reported for the Star-Observer since 1997. He came to Hudson after 11 years with the Inter-County Leader at Frederic, and eight years of teaching social studies. He’s a graduate of UW-Eau Claire.

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