One-on-One with the Winner of Worst Cooks in America, Season 8

Get the exclusive interview with the winner of Worst Cooks in America, Season 8.

Hosts Anne Burrell and Tyler Florence stand with with contestants Nick Slater and Lawrence Crawford during the announcement of the winner of the final menu challenge, as seen on Food Network’s Worst Cooks In America, Season 8.

Photo by: Commissioned Photographer ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Commissioned Photographer, 2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

This season of Worst Cooks in America began with 14 cooks, each hopelessly destitute of cooking knowledge — and all a danger to themselves and their families. But week by week, as some recruits saw their journeys ending in Boot Camp, others rose to the top, steadily growing their skills and culinary knowledge. By the finale only two recruits remained, one belonging to Chef Anne and one to Chef Tyler. Lawrence was the final cook on the Blue Team, and Nick was the final cook on the Red Team. Only one could win the entire competition and the $25,000 prize, but first they would have to cook a restaurant-quality dinner in a professional kitchen to be tasted and judged by a panel of industry experts. After tonight one recruit walked away the winner, no longer a worst cook.

Nick came into practice day confident that he wanted to make all-new dishes instead of cooking versions of the dishes he'd already attempted in Boot Camp. Chef Anne didn't hold back in giving him recipes that would push him out of his comfort zone, including squash blossoms and even rabbit. Nick, gung ho, held his own, but when it came to the actual final cook-off, his nerves started to play with his memory and concentration. Luckily Anne snapped him back into control, and Nick put out a strong three-course menu of squash blossoms over zucchini noodles, rabbit loin with polenta, and cherry crostatas. But there were two negatives: The fried squash blossoms were a bit oily and the rabbit was oversalted. Although the flaws rattled his assuredness in winning, the judges soon announced that he had shed his worst cooks title and earned the $25,000 prize.

How are you feeling after this tremendous time on the show?

Nick Slater: This is crazy, man. This time here was really amazing. You know, I got to learn from some of the best chefs in the world. They're teaching me all their skills, and their process, and how they do things, and breaking it down. Just amazing. It's an honor to be here and learn, and ... it's crazy that I won. [laughs] I cannot believe it, man.

Host, Anne Burrell works with finalist, Nick Slater on a menu of goat cheese stuffed fried zucchini blossoms with zucchini noodles; stuffed rabbit loin with chanterelles, fava beans and soft polenta; cherry crostata with vanilla ice cream, as seen on Food Network’s Worst Cooks In America, Season 8.

Photo by: Commissioned Photographer ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Commissioned Photographer, 2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Thinking back to yesterday when you were doing the practice cook with Chef Anne, how was everything going for you? Were you nervous at all thinking of what was ahead for you?

NS: Yesterday's demo cook was absolutely gut-wrenching. It was almost unbearable. ... There was so much stuff going on, and I didn't know how I was ever going to complete it. ... I automatically thought, "Wow, like, how am I going to re-create this in a different kitchen?" ... But I knew I had to put my head down and work and just take some good notes and [remember] the hands-on experience I was having from Chef Anne. I knew I had to just absorb that like a sponge, and I tried the best I could and thank God it paid off.

Were you happy with how your dishes turned out? Was there one in particular that you second-guessed?

NS: All my dishes turned out fairly good. ... I cooked them once with Chef Anne, but she was kind of baby-sitting me the whole time, so it wasn't really me cooking them, but the second time around, at that [restaurant] kitchen, I couldn't believe how I was putting stuff together. ... Of course with Chef Anne's help — and her motivating me on the side and giving me tips and stuff along the way — it was a lot easier, but the overall experience there was crazy cool. It's such a different experience when you have all stainless steel around you and the full-on kitchen.

Finalist, Nick Slater works on a menu of goat cheese stuffed fried zucchini blossoms with zucchini noodles; stuffed rabbit loin with chanterelles, fava beans and soft polenta; cherry crostata with vanilla ice cream, as seen on Food Network’s Worst Cooks In America, Season 8.

Photo by: Commissioned Photographer ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Commissioned Photographer, 2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Did you have any issues adapting to cooking in a restaurant?

NS: It was nice at the restaurant having those big burners and the industrial fridges and stuff like that. ... But it was still out of my element, out of my comfort zone, because I'm used to cooking here for so long, and I'm used to their equipment here. ... If I would have had a couple more days in there, it would have been a lot smoother, but overall it was a great experience.

How was your mindset this morning when you were getting ready?

NS: I was all discombobulated. This morning was just wild. ... I was in my head way too much. I was thinking of, like: "OK, what's the first process, what's this, what's that. ... I need to find a good spot for my notebook to be propped up, so I can be constantly looking through my notes." And it wasn't like that [in reality]. ... Before the competition I had to pee and I was like: "Alright, are we going to use the restroom? No, we can't go? Alright, you know, let's just go for it, I guess." And it was just so random. ... Went right to walkups and then, boom, right to the kitchen, and it was just so fast.

Host Anne Burrell in the kitchen of the Tribeca restaurant, American Cut, with contestant Nick Slater  after their final menu challenge, as seen on Food Network’s Worst Cooks In America, Season 8.

Host Anne Burrell in the kitchen of the Tribeca restaurant, American Cut, with contestant Nick Slater after their final menu challenge, as seen on Food Network’s Worst Cooks In America, Season 8.

Photo by: Commissioned Photographer ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Commissioned Photographer, 2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Throughout all this, how was it working with Chef Anne?

NS: Chef Anne is amazing. She is so cool. She is my type of teacher. The teacher I need is stern, straight to the point. ... I like that in a teacher, and I'm a hands-on guy. I'm not a book-smart guy, so I think hands-on, physically. ... So, I really like Chef Anne as a teacher because she understands that as well.

What's the best lesson you've learned from her?

NS: I'm a really anxious type of guy. I don't show it a lot, but I like to jump the gun on things, and the biggest thing I've learned here, especially from Chef Anne, is mise en place: things in place. At first I was like, "Oh, God ... we're going to waste too much time putting stuff together and then making the dish." But actually it's a big thing. You know, like, mise en place, you can incorporate in everyday life, before starting a job, before starting a project. You have to have prep work done. You have to have your things in place. You have to have designers. You have to have contractors. You have to have everybody lined up before you can even pull the trigger. So, it helped me out a lot, just with that one thing only, and there's plenty of other things I can list, but that's the main one.

Now that you're done with this competition, do you think you'll be cooking more when you go home?

NS: Absolutely. Yeah. I just redid my kitchen at home, and I've never used it. So, now I'm going to fire up the burners. ... I've got a checklist of stuff I need to buy. ... Chef Anne got me some knives, so I don't have to get those. ... There's just a hit list of stuff I need to get, and I'm going to break in my kitchen when I get home.

Are there a couple of recipes that you learned here that you'd want to try making again?

NS: Probably the pork and prosciutto with the peach chutney, the first dish we made. I'm going to definitely re-create that one. Another one I really liked, too, was the stuffed steak. ... The deep-fried fish was amazing. ... I'm definitely going to re-create that dish as soon as I get home.

How was the overall experience of being here?

NS: The whole process here ... was just amazing. You know, everybody's on top of their game. Everybody's super-friendly. ... And Chef Anne and Chef Tyler ... they're both really knowledgeable and helpful people. So, the overall experience here was just amazing.

What do you plan to do with the prize money?

NS: I'm a big animal guy. I rescue pets and stuff like that, so I'm probably going to use some of it to continue donating to animal shelters, and I'm a part of ... animal rights stuff. So, I'm just going to keep doing my thing and then use [some] for me and [some] for the animals too.

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