Tonight, the finale of the show Worst Cooks in America will air on Food Network. In the show, contestants who've been voted by their friends and family as the worst cooks compete to win $25,000 by representing Chef Anne Burrell and Chef Beau MacMillan before a panel of food critics. Their meal must fool the critics into thinking that the chefs and not the worst cooks made the meal.
I had a chance to chat with Chef Anne about her experience on the show, being a chef, and, of course, food.
How did you decide to become a chef and were you ever as bad as the contestants on Worst Cooks in America?
Happily, no, I was never that bad. Well, I'd like to think that I wasn't that bad, although I definitely had some serious mistakes in my career. But I always decided to consult a cookbook, which rarely any of these people do. I got into the restaurant business when I was in college. I started waiting tables because I wanted to buy a car, then I realized how much I loved the business and how much I cooked on my own and then I married it into a career. And decided to go to culinary school after I graduated from college and I've never looked back.
On the show, you throw the contestants into a boot camp method of cooking and they have to cook some really hard things right off the bat and some of them don't even know how to boil water. Do you think that's an effective way of teaching people how to cook?
Well, clearly, getting a formal education is a much longer process than being thrown into "Here, cook shrimp and clams on your first time ever cooking." It makes for good TV. The recipe that I teach my team I have written. They are deceptively simple dishes. The end result is a big payoff, but the process to get there is pretty simple.
If you want to become a professional cook, I recommend getting yourself to culinary school or getting out there and working a lot, but if you want to be a home cook, just have fun with it. Practice. Pick up a couple of good cookbooks, a couple of basic books. Understand that you're going to make mistakes. Get in there and try it.
What's the biggest challenge in working with these true novice cooks?
I think they get in their own way. They get in their own heads and psyche themselves out and they get nervous and they don't stop and synthesize all the information you're telling them. Because we do give them everything. And then they get . . . you know it's a stressful situation. In boot camp with other people, it's a competition, there's cameras everywhere. You can see how you can stress yourself out rather than think, "Okay take a deep breath. Let's relax and see what we're doing here." But they do actually do a good job of overcoming a lot of these challenges. On the pasta challenge the other night, I was really proud of how well these people did.