By Staff Sgt. Emily Amyotte 190th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs Family, food and friendly competition--that's what Master Sgt. Lucretia Cross, 190th Civil Engineer Squadron operations manager, holds near and dear to her heart and what brought her the opportunity to compete on Food Network's Family Food Showdown. Cross' family owns and operates a Topeka-based southern-style food truck, Snoutherns, with daughters Erin Francois, proprietor, and Shana Watson, the front-line cook. Cross has been cooking her whole life and made sure to raise her daughters in a home that radiates a passion and appreciation for food.
] 'Because of my love for my children, I always cooked for them and made them full-course meals,' Cross said. 'They were always surrounded by home-cooked meals. So I started them pretty early, you know, just little things. But they grew up in that environment and they really took a love for it.' That love of cooking paid off when a few days before Thanksgiving last November, Erin received a call from a Food Network producer inviting the family to audition for the network's series. Cross said she and her daughters are always up for a challenge and maintain a 'can do' attitude, and began the process of qualifying to be on the program. 'Each one of us went through intense interviews, questionnaires, individual videos of ourselves, video interviews together,' said Cross. 'We each had to submit multiple dishes of our own creation.' After receiving word they were accepted for the program -- 'We were notified with an itinerary instead of a selection notice,' said Cross with a laugh -- the trio flew to Los Angeles the second week of December for three days. 'One of the days was very long,' said Cross. 'We worked really hard on getting the show taped.' During the show, Cross and her daughters went head-to-head in three rounds of cooking against the Espaillat family, who specialize in traditional Dominican dishes. The televised program included a round that required the competitors to use pork as a main ingredient, a quick-fire appetizer round, and a final round where they had to cook a weeknight dinner in only 20-minutes. As each round continued, the teams got smaller as one family member had to sit out of the second round, then third round, only leaving one competitor at the end. Erin was the chef for the final round, impressing the judges with fried chicken and a baked sweet potato dish with candied topping. Their culinary creations resulted in the family being named this episode's Family Food Showdown champions. The women intend to take their prize money and expand the range of their food offerings. 'Because we each have a marketable item, we are using the funds to get out food items into grocery distribution,' said Cross. Cross and Erin both have military experience, which Lucretia credits in aiding her with overcoming the cooking challenge with a level head and determination. 'Because I've been in the military for a little over 20 years now, I've always kept the objective forever before me,' Cross said. 'So whenever there was a challenge, I didn't have a fear that I couldn't accomplish it. 'I was most confident that we can do this because being in the military, you never know what your challenges are. But there's a strength and confidence that rises up in you, and says 'Yes, I can do this' --and you do it.' To see this episode of Family Food Showdown, search your local TV listings for show times on the Food Network.