For 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.
The first part of this week’s episode switched the focus of Boot Camp from primarily savory foods to a deliciously sweet dessert: gelato, or Italian ice cream. After learning the basics of gelato making from their mentors, the recruits had 90 minutes to craft from-scratch batches of the chilly treat using creative ingredient combinations, plus a signature formed waffle cone. But perhaps the most unexpected element of the challenge was the fact that the tasting would be blind – Chefs Anne and Bobby would leave the kitchen during the Skill Drill and only return later to taste each anonymous dish. Chef Bobby’s Carrie Lee and Alex proved to prepare the least successful gelato on the Blue Team, but, unfortunately, the problems didn’t end there for these recruits. Come the Main Dish Challenge, the same two contestants served the most disappointing burgers, as her chicken burger was burned and his “burg-dog” was deemed to be “too much,” thanks to its incongruous mix of Southern- and Asian-inspired ingredients. In the end, Chef Bobby asked Alex Stein to turn in his apron after questioning whether he was teachable and receptive to constructive critiques.
What did you learn about yourself by competing in Boot Camp?
AS: The biggest thing I learned about myself by competing in Boot Camp is that I am reckless force in the kitchen that cooks at 100 miles an hour; I need to slow down and appreciate the finer things about food and not take cooking for granted. It is a very special skill, and I am so fortunate to have learned how to cook from Chef Bobby Flay and Chef Anne Burrell. I am one lucky son of a gun to have had this experience. I wouldn’t have traded it for anything in the world. When Chef Flay told me he liked my seasoning on my chicken chasseur, that was enough for me. I accomplished something very incredible, and I will never forget that the rest of my life.
It seemed like you came to Boot Camp with pretty firm beliefs on what food should taste like and how it should be made. Did this experience change your approach to eating and cooking?
AS: I need to pay more attention to detail in the kitchen. Boot Camp showed me this very clearly. I live and die by eating fast food, so I tend to eat for quantity and not quality. This experience has taught me how to appreciate the minor details in a dish that make it taste so incredible. My beliefs about food are the way they are because when I was a young kid and I would microwave broccoli and cheese soup, I would always eat it while it was super hot because I couldn’t wait for it to get cold — because I was a chubby hungry kid. This caused me to basically burn off all my taste buds, which in turn made me the garbage disposal I am today. I wish I could eat all day every day. I’m just like my golden retriever Zoe.
Before you were sent home, Chef Bobby told you, “My main concern is whether you’re teachable.” Do you feel that you gave everything you had to this competition? Is there anything you would do differently?
AS: Looking back and evaluating myself during the competition, I think I was just too wild for the kitchen. I was like a tornado in there catching everything on fire. I should have slowed down and just taken my time and not focused on the clock. Cooking, for me, with a timer ticking down honestly caused me to compete instead of having fun doing something I love. I think of myself as a sponge, and I know I am very teachable, but obviously my actions in the kitchen didn’t correlate with Chef Flay’s idea of what he wanted in a recruit. I can honestly say that I am proud of the dishes I made and that not all of them were total disaster. So, for me, I can honestly say I gave absolutely everything I had to give to this competition.
What’s the most valuable skill you’ll take away from Boot Camp? Have you already tried implementing it when cooking at home?
AS: The first week I was home, I actually got iodine poisoning from eating so much steak and shrimp. I learned from the Grill Master himself, Bobby Flay, how to make a delicious steak. I can’t stop cooking because I’m addicted to all the new flavor combinations I know. Another valuable skill I learned from Chef Flay was how to make a cheeseburger, my favorite thing in the world. I don’t know many people that can say they’ve had a cheeseburger personally cooked and designed by Super Chef Bobby Flay right in front of their eyes. I can’t tell you in words how awesome it was to eat Chef Flay’s food.
The competition has narrowed to just the final four recruits on each team. Who on the Blue Team do you think is the contestant to watch at this point?
AS: I think there are two recruits to watch at this point. First you have to watch out for Carla because Bobby Flay and she have a special connection that is absolutely incredible to watch in person. I honestly believe they were meant for each other. Watching them in the kitchen is like being at a symphony — it’s absolutely amazing. Second you have to watch out for Chet because he is very organized and professional. I can really see him running away with the competition because of his incredible ability to pay attention to detail. Chet also comes from a long line of great cooks, so this is in his blood. I can’t wait to watch and see how the competition unfolds. Good luck to all the recruits left in the competition. I wish them all the best of luck.
Visit Food Network’s Worst Cooks in America headquarters for more insider coverage of the show.
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- Chatting with Iron Chef Gauntlet Judges Geoffrey Zakarian and Donatella Arpaia