One-on-One With the Latest Red Team Recruit to Go Home — Worst Cooks in America

by in Shows, March 3rd, 2013

Aadip Desai and Sue MangognaFor the 14 recruits competing on Worst Cooks in America, it’s the opportunity of a lifetime to learn kitchen basics and culinary how-tos from Anne Burrell and Bobby Flay — two of New York City’s top restaurant chefs and some of Food Network’s most celebrated stars. It’s up to the contestants to use the tools the chefs provide to learn how to master certain skills on their own and demonstrate progress in the kitchen. Despite their best efforts, however, one recruit from Chef Anne’s Red Team and another from Chef Bobby’s Blue Team will ultimately succumb to the challenges of Boot Camp week after week as they compete for $25,000 and bragging rights for their coach.

Check back with FN Dish every Sunday after the episode for the first interviews with the latest eliminated contestants to read their exclusive reflections on the competition, thoughts on difficult challenges, plans for the future and more.

Also see:
Find out who went home from Chef Bobby’s Blue Team
Top Photo Moments of Episode 3
Video Highlights
Sneak Peek at Next Week’s Show

For the first time in Boot Camp, the recruits were forced to put their developing culinary chops to work on the sweeter side of food: dessert. They met their mentors in the kitchen of Il Laboratorio del Gelato to learn the how-tos of making from-scratch Italian ice cream and hand-formed waffle cones, on which they’d soon put their own individual spins using signature flavor combinations and select ingredients. After undergoing a blind tasting, Sue’s and Michael’s gelatos were found to be the least successful of the day on account of odd taste and poor texture. Sue continued to struggle during the next day’s Main Dish Challenge, when she prepared a cheese-stuffed burger that Chef Anne found to be painfully dry. But given that he made a grilled cheese sandwich during the hamburger cook-off, Aadip’s dish was quickly named the other flop of the day, especially since it was contaminated and thus off-limits for tasting. In the end, Chef Anne asked Aadip Desai to turn in his apron, but he promised, “This is really just the beginning for me in terms of learning how to cook.”

What do you think was your greatest challenge in Boot Camp?

AD: Meat, meat, meat and more meat. Hands down, all the meat. When you haven’t eaten flesh in almost 20 years and suddenly you have to cook it, know how it’s supposed to look and know what it’s supposed to taste like, that’s a tremendous challenge. I was terrified to taste the meat, but I had to. It would be like saying to a nonmusician, learn a country song and play it back on a guitar in an hour, but you are tone-deaf, you haven’t heard country music in decades and you don’t even know how to tune a guitar. Um, OK. The last thing I wanted to do was poison someone, especially a person with so many shows on Food Network. You’d have to air dozens of reruns without a functioning Anne Burrell. During the burger demo, I accidentally swallowed some lamb bits and got very ill. I was chugging Pepto-Bismol backstage just to get through the rest of the day. But, I know I made my family proud because I stepped up and tried my best. I butchered and cooked meat as well or better than some of the other contestants who are seasoned carnivores/omnivores. Did I mention meat?

Aadip Desai

How was your experience working on a team? Did it teach you something about yourself?

AD: Did you know “team” and “meat” are anagrams? Weird, right? I love working on a team. I’ve played in tons of bands, worked on corporate teams and crewed on film shoots. Worst Cooks wasn’t a true team environment. Although there’s always competition within a team, usually teams focus on beating the other team, not competing against one another to stay alive. Also, not all team members are created equal. Some will answer your questions, others will ignore you and others are just too freaked out. I probably fell into the freaked-out category. Sue and Kitty were especially generous, but we all tried to help each other as much as possible. No judgment here. I genuinely love the Red Team. These people will be my lifelong friends. We’re already planning vacations together. I learned that even though others can be incredibly generous, you’re ultimately on your own…IN LIFE.

Talk to us about the “loops” you’d get stuck in – first the onion loop, then the pin bone loop, the chicken loop and finally the waffle loop. Was it fear that was holding you back, or were you unsure of what you were supposed to do?

AD: Fear and anxiety are huge issues for me in the kitchen. In this case, they short-circuited my ability to perform in such a frenetic environment. I can stay calm in a real-life emergency situation, but somehow Worst Cooks got me all “deer-in-the-headlights.” I’m a pretty kinesthetic learner. I can’t watch a physical activity and flawlessly replicate it under time constraints without practicing it once. Each feedback loop had its own particular complication. Let us call this section “the levying of excuses”:

Onions: Right out of the gates I had written bad notes. I missed the part where you chop through the hairy part of the onion vertically. Also, I was freaking terrified of cooking a pork chop and it made my brain TILT (that’s a pinball reference). I was Einstein’s definition of insane — doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Ultimately I should have thrown caution to the wind, peeled the sucker, chopped it like I had learned nothing and served it. I wasted 15 minutes chopping onions. I’d also like to point out that other folks had trouble with onions, but they weren’t on Anne’s radar as much.

Pin Bones: I tried to feel around for the pin bones, but had a heck of a time. I got all of ‘em out except for maybe one, but I had to cook that fish ASAP. Luckily Anne didn’t bite into a bone. She probably has dental through Food Network, so she would’ve been OK. Plus, the chefs on Chopped forget to grab all the pin bones, so I didn’t feel that bad. They’re pros!

Chicken: Once again, since I haven’t eaten chicken in 20 years and was suddenly tasked with cutting its head and feet off with a cleaver (which I’ve never used and which was not demonstrated), you can imagine why I had trouble. The spine-ectomy was tough because I really had to force the poultry shears through without damaging valuable meat. I wanted to do a nice clean job. My dad was a surgeon and he loved what he did, but you usually don’t eat your patients. He’d probably yell at me more than Anne! I’d rather fix ‘em up, feed ‘em ice cream and let ‘em play Angry Birds on my iPad.

Waffle Cone: I put agave in the waffle cone batter for flavor, which made it too runny, preventing the batter from forming well and crisping up. I didn’t have time to start over with a whole new mixture, so I kept trying to get one or two out the door. Kitty and Sue both tried to make cones from my batter, but didn’t have any luck either.

Cheese: The bread was too thick. I tried an experiment of putting thick mozzarella on a warm surface to see if I could grill it like halloumi. What an idiot. I should’ve gone with my gut feeling — the portabella mushrooms — but I hesitated and went with grilled freaking cheese. Oh well; that was a big mistake and it got me sent home. I should’ve made a straight-up burger with something that used to be alive.

Chef Anne Burrell and Aadip Desai

What’s the most valuable culinary lesson you’ll take away from this experience?

AD: Don’t be scared to make mistakes. Just go nuts. Perfection is for professional chefs. Your family doesn’t care that you have uneven knife cuts or that your reduction sauce has a tad too much wine (they’d probably like that). They wanna eat when they’re hungry, not two hours from now when it cuts into Revenge or Scandal. Nothing in the kitchen from here on out will be as stressful as having Anne and Bobby yelling at me while a giant red clock ticks down … I’d also like to point out the second most valuable lesson: “mise en place,” French for “everything in place.” Get your workstation organized and all your ingredients prepped before cooking — it’s huge.

With only four contestants left on each team, is there one recruit on the Red Team that you think is particularly strong, who will give the other contestants the greatest run for their money?

AD: What do I care? I didn’t win the cash. Just kidding. This is like asking me, “who do you want to win?” versus “who do you think will win?” I’m not falling for it, Food Network! I will say that Rasheeda has Anne’s eye, so to speak, so she might bounce through, so to speak. Ciao!

Visit Food Network’s Worst Cooks in America headquarters for more insider coverage of the show.


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Comments (15)

  1. Kitty/Crystal says:

    PS: Crystal's nick name is Kitty! :) check out my fan page!


  2. @lauradesai says:

    I just wanted to note that the whole reason I nominated Aadip to be on Worst Cooks was to get some help in the kitchen. Aadip is a new dad to a beautiful daughter (which was never mentioned on the show), and we were surviving off of thrown-together meals at midnight and take-out because our newborn demanded constant holding and feeding. Since the show was filmed, Aadip has completely stepped up in our daily meal preparation. I'm vegan, and he's vegetarian, so it's not super necessary for him to know how to cook a pork chop or butcher a damn chicken. He learned the most important thing I could have asked for – he learned how to chop vegetables. I'm so proud of him for making it as far as he did having never cooked a piece of meat in his life, and am so happy to have a designated onion chopper in my kitchen!

    • Dawnskye says:

      Hi there fellow vegan. Regardless of everyone's thoughts (mine included) it's good to know that he is trying to help you out. If that was your mutual goal, then the show did it's job and good for you both! I am very lucky that my sweetie (also vegan) is very happy to help out in the kitchen, despite the fact he deals with food all freaking day. Besides, my sweetie's knife skills are far superior to mine anyhow so he chops the onions, mostly to keep me from chopping off my fingers and get dinner on the table faster. Best of luck to you both and your new little one.

    • fan says:

      that was really nice…really nice…people can be so judgemental…wow..they all came for a reason…some to have fun…some to learn, some to grow…..and believe me…some to see themselves…….

    • guest says:

      Aadip did his best (which was ALOT better than others, who were sent home before him). I enjoyed watching him, literally, *grilling cheese*…and I'm thrilled for you that he's doing veggies, properly!

      I join the others in saying I miss Aadip!

  3. Monica says:

    I'm a pretty good cook at home. I highly doubt I would've survived with the time crunch that the contestants were under. I'd like to thank Aadip for being brave enough to be on the show and providing the viewers with lots of entertainment. BTW I enjoyed reading his wife's comments regarding his progress in the kitchen.

  4. Dawnskye says:

    I know food reasonably well and am a vegan too. It's hard to remember what to do with animal protein when you have not dealt with it for a long time, even if you know how to cook. Not having that knowledge to start with, it must have been pretty horrible. When I entertain at home for my non-vegan friends, I feel that panic of "HOLY SHIT what do I do?" come over me until I take a deep breath, look up some recipes, make a few calls to friends and have my memory jarred enough that I can turn out good animal protein and dairy dishes.

    Still, as rough-around-the-edges as Chef Anne is (she can be pretty crass at times) she got that Aadip was having issues and threw plenty of clues at Aadip….sheesh he should have caught on. Even if the portabella mushroom was not cooked perfectly, it would have shown he was trying to follow direction and was teachable. Not trying to put the man down but part of learning to cook is learning how to listen, even when stressed out.

  5. Susan says:

    I really can't believe these people are so stupid. Nobody can be that lame and that clueless.

  6. Carla-Is-Annoying says:

    When are they going to get rid of that ANNOYING Carla. Somebody should take her and put her on an island All by herself so NOBODY is exposed to her sickening annoyingness. I am sure Bobby Flay would be glad to have her out of his face. OH jeez!!!!…He is a married man you home-wannabe-wrecker!!! Have you no respect for yourself and the impression you are giving the thousands if not millions of viewers watching this show???
    Stop your damn SENSELESS Flirting with Bobby and learn to Cook. You can aspire to at LEAST learn to boil water before leaving the show. And seriously, do you really think you have a prayer in the world to give you a chance with Bobby?? All you are doing is making the man uncomfortable.

    • C Vera S says:

      She probably could care less what any of us think about her, and the network could care less as long as the ratings stay up. Bobby Flay probably has the means to stop the sexual harassment any time he wants to. Sexual harassment is illegal, the last I heard. Gator Boys is also on at 9PM on Animal Planet if you want an alternative. No one is forcing any of us to watch this show. I have enough stress in my real life so I avoid reality shows that cause more. Personally, I put up watching this woman's silly behavior, because I like some of the other characters so much.

  7. Pam says:

    ALEX IS A PLANT! He was on that lame Glass Houses show and I have seen him as an extra on shows. Glad he is gone!

  8. guest says:

    I find Worst Cooks one of the funniest shows on television and Aadip added to that. I don't know how anyone can live to adult hood and not have better kitchen skills, if only by osmosis, but he had a good attitude throughout. This is the only "reality" (really?) show that I watch as, for the most part, it does not have the ugliness that some of the others do. Good riddance to that Alex person. What an arrogant ass!

  9. Dawnskye says:

    I think it is up to the network to have the contestants 'fess up if they have food allergies (the Michael Ice Cream incident most prevailant here) or aversions that will interfere with their participation in the show. I am not bothered by cooking animal protiens or products, I can cook meat just as well as anything else as I know how it should taste. FYI, I chose a primarily Vegan diet due to health issues, not because I find meat offensive. I HATE Sea Urchin but I understand how it should taste and can cook that as well (would rather not!).

    Just because someone has a dietary restriction or preference, it does not mean that person cannot learn to understand ANY food out there.

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