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Why did you need or want to be on Worst Cooks in America?
When I initially found out that I had been nominated by my beloved wife, I did not believe that I needed to be on Worst Cooks in America. After giving a grand attempt at cooking for the audition process, my perception quickly changed. The chefs were eager to point out that processed foods are not of the greatest quality for my family, especially my toddler. They also helped me see that cooking with only myself in mind (my likes/dislikes) might actually be contributing to the tension in my marriage around domestic responsibilities and that my wife might actually have a valid point. I now realize that I still prepare foods and eat like a bachelorette – that I really need some guidance in how to be a better partner and mom when it comes to cooking. I have always liked food prepared on the caramelized (burnt) side – and have set off many a fire alarm to prove it. If I did not get on WCIA, there is a good chance that my marriage would have been doomed.
What was the most valuable tip or piece of advice that you received from Chef Robert?
I learned so many valuable tips and tools from Chef Robert. Three things are most prominent in my mind from my experience on WCIA. One of the most important pieces of advice he gave was how to keep my fingers out of the way when cutting, chopping and preparing foods to cook. I am still not the greatest at this… but have a lot more awareness. A second tidbit of information that was emphasized and reemphasized during the show was ‘Cleanliness is next to Godliness’ regarding keeping our stations clean. However, the most valuable tip I personally received from Chef Robert was to cook with confidence… no matter how it all turns out!
What did you take away from the experience?
I took away so much more from this experience than I ever bargained for. I went into the show thinking that I would learn some great cooking skills from the top chefs on the Food Network, that I would have at least a few days in NYC, and that I would possibly meet some cool people. What I came away with was a new perspective on cooking, my family and life overall. I walked away from WCIA a transformed person in many ways. Being in such intimate circumstances with virtual strangers forced me to bring forth compassion, understanding, tolerance and acceptance in ways I have never known before. I have been married for 5 years… and this was a more intimately challenging situation that lasted a lot less than 5 years. That being said, I developed friendships that will last for a very long time as a result of mutually sharing such a bizarre and awesome experience. I would not be able to adequately articulate what I experienced to anyone who was not there to share it with me. It was the experience of a lifetime and one I am so grateful to have had.
Will you continue to work on your culinary skills?
I will, and already have. WCIA taught me how to use appliances which I had never dreamt of using, so I continue to try new and different gadgets. I love going into a chef/cooking store and knowing what a lot of the tools are! Quinn (my toddler) has been learning that the kitchen is more than just for eating snacks and playing with the magnets on the fridge. She asks “Help you, Mommy?” when she sees me cooking or preparing food for dinner. I love it.
If you could have a do-over of the challenge that sent you home, what would you do differently?
I have a couple of do-over’s during the final challenge that I obsess about occasionally. I would definitely have tested my potato pancake on the griddle before putting it in the oven… and then taste-tested one again after it came out of the oven. I think it was Donatella who said it was a disaster (or something to that effect)… ouch. The other do-over would be waiting to fry the bananas for my dessert until it was the last minute – so that I would not have had to fry them a second time (by Chef Robert’s suggestion) to have them served hot. I think this caused the bananas to be overcooked (which is something I personally would have enjoyed), but obviously not ‘them culinary critics’! My final do-over would have been to publicly hug Joshie and congratulate him on his success from all of the effort he put in. I am disappointed in myself for pouting a bit on TV instead of showing stellar sportsmanship.
When you presented your final dish, how did you feel about it?
When I presented my final dish, I felt extremely proud that I was able to cook, plate and serve every part of the meal. I also had the brief and sudden thoughts: What if Joshie actually did better than me? What if the critics actually like his food better? I know it sounds stupid, but it was the first time in two days of preparing for this challenge that I was doubtful about Chef Robert’s choices in the meal… and my culinary skills. Overall, I felt a feeling of accomplishment and success… no matter what the outcome might be.
What advice would you give to future Worst Cooks competitors?
To the future Worst Cooks recruits, I would advise coming in with a thick skin from the get-go as the chefs can be ruthless in their feedback/critique. If you can hang in there, though, it’s totally worth it. We all come to the table with different stories, backgrounds, and reasons for ‘needing’ to be on the show. Come in with an open mind, a willingness to learn, and the belief that this can be the experience of a lifetime. And, no matter what, have fun and enjoy the ride while you are there because it goes by so fast!
What was the first dish or meal that you attempted to cook back at home after being eliminated? How did it go?
My first meal was a Chef-Robert-inspired-farm-fresh-all-seasoned-up French omelet for my wife, Teresa. I cooked it the night I got home to Chicago at 2:00 am! It was the most beautiful omelet I had ever made… well, besides the first one I made on the farm in Jersey. Teresa was pretty impressed with the technique and believed that I was a born-again domestic queen.
What was your most memorable or funniest moment while shooting the show?
OMG… are you kidding me?! I don’t have just ONE funniest/most memorable moment. Well the funniest started out to be the day we entered the Penthouse and Sugarland Priscilla was tanked by the shower in the Jacuzzi. Hilarious. Another funny moment was when Joshie asked me to help him get his food out of the pan onto the plate, which virtually exploded all over the kitchen! There were many-a-funny moment between Anna and Chef Robert… too many to count… but the overall most memorable moment for me was when Chef Robert said I would be representing him in front of ‘them culinary experts’ and Chef Anne said Joshie would be representing her… and then Joshie almost killed me with a head-lock and drag move out of the studio from sheer excitement and disbelief.
Did Worst Cooks inspire you to whip yourself into a Kitchen Hero? Check out our 25 Top Tips From Boot Camp and you’ll be well on your way.