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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.
After just one month of Boot Camp, the recruits faced their ultimate test of progress in this week’s Skill Drill: the challenge to feed complete strangers. The contestants met at a local supermarket where, for the first time, they worked in teams to track down a grocery list full of necessary ingredients and to prepare a platter of Asian-style dumplings to feed a crowd of shoppers. Although she nearly forgot to cook two of her required 20 gyoza, Chef Bobby’s Carla managed to finish the challenge with just seconds to spare, and she and her teammates ultimately dished out snacks that were deemed to be superior to Chef Anne’s team’s. Come the next day’s Main Dish Challenge, however, the company they were to feed would be a bit less forgiving of their culinary shortcomings. At a waterside bar in Brooklyn, the recruits were given just 90 minutes to put their own spins on a traditional bar snack — the chicken wing — and create crowd-pleasing appetizers for a hoard of hungry motorcycle riders. In this test, both Carla and Chet struggled to turn out acceptable party fare, as her chicken wings lacked their promised lemon flavor and his grilled potatoes — the few of those that he plated — were sloppily arranged. In the end, however, it was Carla Johnson who was asked to turn in her Blue Team apron, which meant that she’d be leaving her culinary crush, Chef Bobby.
On the first day of Boot Camp, you told us, “I’m in love with Bobby Flay,” and you created a few dishes with him in mind during several challenges. How did you manage to stay focused and efficient in the kitchen when surrounded by your “honey”?
CJ: I focused on my family at home, and I tried to focus, but that Bobby Flay is soooo … well, y’all know. But I focused and tried to do my best so that my family can have great meals.
Did you ever find your nail that fell off during the first baseline Skill Drill? If not, where do you think it was?
CJ: No, I did not find my nail. It could have been in the food, but I thought if I did not say anything, they would have not found out. I think it was in the food … but where, I don’t know.
What’s your best memory from the competition?
CJ: Having Bobby Flay tell me I could start my own restaurant. But I guess I would have to hire a chef.
Tell us about your culinary endeavors since you’ve been home. What’s been the most-successful dish you’ve made, and how did your family react to it?
CJ: I have made the fish and steak with the sides that went with them. I also tried to make the chicken chasseur. They all enjoyed it very well.
Now that you’ve completed five weeks of Boot Camp, do you still consider yourself the “Fake ‘n’ Bake Queen?” Have you given up “fake ‘n’ bake” in favor of from-scratch cooking?
CJ: YEESSSSS! I am still the queen of fake and bake for life. But I do like cooking, and I will try and cook from scratch first … if I’m sure that it won’t make anyone sick.
What do you consider to be the most-valuable piece of culinary know-how you picked up during the competition?
CJ: How to be patient and cook, read the directions. I am thinking about taking a culinary class when I can afford it. I really liked cooking natural, or, as you say it, from scratch.
The Blue Team is down to just Chet and Alina. If you were to choose one of them to represent your team in the finale, who would it be?
CJ: Chet, Chet, Chet. But I like both of them. But I’m all the way Chet. Cheterize it.