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Aliya Leekong is one of the judges featured in Food Network's reality culinary competition series "Kitchen Casino."

Aliya Leekong is a classically trained chef, who has spent time in the kitchens of Jean Georges, Devi, and Per Se. She is now a Chef and Culinary Creative Director at Junoon in New York City. She calls herself a professional home chef though, because her love of cooking begins in the home — creating surprising and delicious dishes for her family and friends.

Leekong had a multi-cultural upbringing — the food was a confluence of Indian, Pakistani, and East-African flavors, some of which to this day doesn't exist on the restaurant scene and can only be found by going to the homes in her small ethnic community. She enjoys experiencing other cultures through food and has learned a lot from working in various ethnic restaurants as well as traveling. Her passion for international home cooking has led her to the homes of family and friends where they taught her many of the unwritten traditions — of special note are the invaluable lessons in West Indian cuisine taught to her by her husband's Aunt Cherry in Port of Spain, Trinidad. One is as likely to find her cooking at a renowned New York eatery as at a family's home in Cape Town or a small Ethiopian restaurant in Brooklyn.

Leekong's cooking style is unhesitatingly "American," the definition of which has everything to do with the way she grew up. Her food signifies that "American" cuisine is subject to interpretation, to personal reinvention, growing and evolving with the country's increasing diversity. She is the first generation of her family born in the U.S., but she is undeniably tied to the exotic flavors that shaped her as a child and influenced her as an adult. Her food honors her American sensibilities and simultaneously pays homage to the flavors and traditions of a variety of ethnicities.

Leekong shows cooks how to incorporate the flavors of her childhood, experiences and travels into everyday cooking in her cookbook, "Exotic Table — Flavors, Inspiration, and Recipes from Around the World — to Your Kitchen" (Adams Media).

Bill Rancic in "Kitchen Casino" Bill Rancic to Host 'Kitchen Casino' — Premiering Monday, April 7, the new Food Network series features a panel of rotating judges including Michael Chernow, Madison Cowan, Danyelle Freedman, Gavin Kaysen, Aliya Leekong and Kristin Sollenne. Read more...

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