“You never know if you’re going to play hockey or not, so you have to have something,” the Capitals defenseman said. “I just feel like to be a chef would be good idea if I don’t play hockey so I took three years of college [in the Czech Republic] to be a chef and I have a diploma to be a chef.”

 Local celebrity chef Spike Mendolsohn, who was on hand that day to instruct the players and their guests, took note of Hamrlik’s culinary prowess.

“He was the only one who I can say impressed me,” Mendolsohn said. “The other two, I can see why they decided to play hockey.”

Preston and Meg Calvert and Steve and Susan Angeline were the fans who won the experience for the low, low price of $11,500. The group made rack of lamb, cauliflower cous cous sautéed with olive oil, pickled golden raisins, fresh blanched peas, toasted pine nuts and curry and a yogurt sauce with dill.

Steve Angeline agreed that Hamrlik, 37, was the cooking star of the day, but the player’s hospitality is what really made an impression on him.

 “Roman has just a marvelous sense of humor,” he said. “My wife said one thing that impressed her was that Roman also wanted to know about Susan and her family. There was a lot of give and take. It wasn’t just questions of Roman; Roman had questions for her too. It kind of made her feel like, hey, he’s interested in what’s going on, too.”

 As for that marvelous sense of humor, he wasn’t above some gentle ribbing for his cooking classmates.

 “I got abused by Roman Hamrlik when I was taking one of the pictures,” Preston Calvert laughed. “We crossed the barrier of excessive politeness and at one point I was fumbling with my buddy’s iPhone trying to take a picture and he says, ‘It’s just a phone. Come on, Grandpa.’”

( Photos courtesy of the Washington Capitals )