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DECATUR -- TyKyna Cole held the results in one hand and a tiny gold trophy in the other, then began announcing the winner of Thursday’s Dueling RDs contest at Crossing Healthcare.

“And the winner is …,” Cole said, then began handing the trophy to Allison Raiha, but at the last second, she pulled it away and handed it to Elizabeth Shuff.

Raiha -- still wearing a clown wig she’d used to try to frighten her competition, fellow Crossing registered dietitian Shuff -- fell to her knees and pretended to worship Shuff but obviously was feeling the sting of bitter defeat.

Raiha and Shuff were cooking healthy meals as they highlighted Crossing’s Nurtritional Services Department as part of National Health Center Week. A week of activities, every day highlighting a different Crossing service, will finish today with Behavioral Services. There will be therapy horses from 1 to 2 p.m. and therapy dogs from Paw Print Ministries from 2 to 3 p.m.

In the first of two contests between Crossing's RDs on Thursday, Shuff prepared her cooking station well before Raiha was even in the Crossing lobby, where the contest took place. Raiha was going for a big entrance.

“We’re waiting on our celebrity dietitian, who is fashionably late … no wait, there she is, the fabulous Allison,” announced Cole, who was playing show host.

Raiha walked in, pointed at Shuff and said, “You’re going down.” Then, instead of prepping her cooking station, drew an arrow on an easel notepad pointing toward Shuff and wrote, “She’s going down,” then drew another arrow her way and wrote, “Top RD.”

The four ingredients the dietitians needed to use were announced -- sweet potatoes, tomatoes, onion and black bean. Cole pointed out that all the ingredients except the black beans could be found in Crossing’s garden, which holds a Farmer’s Market from 9 a.m. to noon on Tuesdays that takes all forms of payment, including Link and WIC.

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Raiha announced she was making sweet potato black bean burgers, while Shuff made sweet potato burrito bowls.

Raiha donned a clown wig and nose to try to frighten Shuff -- she's scared of clowns -- but Shuff wasn't flustered, continuing to add ingredients. Raiha smelled the food cooking in Shuff's skillet and walked away, muttering, "I'm in trouble."

After the judges conferred, points were added up and Shuff's dish won by a point. Judge Pam Black, who is a Baby TALK social worker, cast the deciding vote. She said Shuff's burrito bowls had a fresh taste and the flavors of all the ingredients were evident, while her burger was missing lettuce.

Shuff had been brash during the cooking phase but admitted she was surprised at the result.

"I thought for sure Allison would win; she has years of being a dietitian on me," Shuff said. "She had the experience, so I knew I had to bring my best."

Shuff's "best" was a dish she'd never made before.

"I was nervous, because she was making burgers, which people like a lot," Shuff said. "But Mexican is usually a winner. That was my secret."

As the two served their dishes to Crossing patients and employees gathered in the lobby, Raiha swore revenge in the second contest later that day, and won it. A winner-take-all third round will be held at 3 p.m. today.

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