With his chef’s coat secured confidently on the outside and his physical therapy scrubs hidden well underneath, Dr. Andrew Morgan took to the Food Network competition stage with only winning in mind.
Morgan, a San Antonio-based physical therapist and adjunct professor for UIW’s School of Physical Therapy (SoPT), took home the big win and $15,000 on “Cooks vs. Cons,” a culinary competition where judges must decide who is a professional chef and who is a home cook masquerading as a pro.
He applied for the show in summer 2016. Just when he had about forgotten he had applied, he received a call about six weeks later for an interview. After a series of interviews and auditions over the phone and via Skype, he was one of 900 entrants selected to participate. The show was filmed in October 2016 and aired in January of this year.
“It is all about deceiving the judges,” Morgan explained. “There are two professional cooks and two amateurs – you do not know who is who.”
The identities of all participants are kept a secret to the judges until the winner is revealed at the end of the show. “You are completely judged on your food, and your chef skills – from your knife skills to how you hold the pots and pans, and ultimately when the panel of judges taste your food,” he shared.
Judges for Morgan’s show included celebrity chef Scott Conant, and culinary author Daphne Oz.
“There were two rounds of challenges,” Morgan explained. “In the first round, we were asked to make quesadillas with the secret ingredient of cranberries. I made duck breast quesadillas with a rehydrated cranberry filling and a cranberry dipping sauce.”
Although teaching physical therapy in the classroom and award-winning cooking may appear to be on opposite ends of the spectrum, with the ingredients, measurements and instructions, Morgan explained there is a science to cooking.
“Just like with the rehydrated cranberries I used for filling the quesadillas,” he said. “The dried cranberries will absorb the liquid you put into them – that is the science of it.”
Dr. Caroline Goulet, dean and professor of the SoPT, said Morgan has been teaching with the SoPT for four years now and she had no idea he was such an accomplished cook.
“These outside ventures are what make a person whole,” she shared. “We hire faculty for their professional credentials, but what makes them successful is who they are as individuals.”
Goulet said she believes Morgan’s ability to dedicate time to something he is passionate about, and to be successful at it, is a great example of balance between his professional and personal life.
“This is a great role model to our students who need to develop this life skill very early on in the Doctor of Physical Therapy Program,” she said.
On the show, Morgan went on to win over the judges with his trademark glazed fried chicken lollipop with a cilantro crema.
Appearing on and winning a food competition show had always been one of Morgan’s goals. His parents were an incredible support system to him, and his mom has always been a wonderful cook.
“My mom has been an inspiration to me,” he shared. “I really enjoyed helping her and learning from her in the kitchen when I was younger.
During the process of the show, Morgan’s dad endured major health issues as filming was about to begin. Morgan said his dad is doing better now, but enduring the health scare while participating on the show and taking it the step further to winning was an emotional journey.
“No one knew what I was going through the entire filming of the show,” he shared. “It was not until the end that the winner was revealed when I cried – it was then that I finally explained to everyone what was going on with my dad.”
After his win on “Cooks vs. Cons,” Morgan plans to continue his tenure at UIW and is in the process of a new endeavor.
“I have enjoyed teaching at Incarnate Word and will continue teaching twice a week, but I am looking forward to making another dream of mine a reality.”
About five years ago, Morgan and his best friend began tossing around the idea of opening up a food truck. Morgan has always had a passion for Asian-Latin flavors and has carefully crafted a menu of tacos to share his cooking skills with the San Antonio community.
Morgan debuted his food truck, Taco ConFusion with a soft grand opening over the Memorial Day Weekend.
“It is a play on words,” he explained. “Tacos ‘with’ Fusion or a Taco Confusion of flavors.”
As a physical therapist, adjunct professor for Incarnate Word, and now a food truck owner, Morgan humbly said it feels good to continue having the opportunity to serve the San Antonio community in such various capacities.
“I am very proud of him – what an accomplishment – and [I am] proud to call him one of our very own, a dedicated part-time faculty in the UIW Doctor of Physical Therapy program,” Goulet shared.
Story by Crystale Galindo
Photos by Robin Jerstad