Brook Harlan

Where are you living and working now?

I am still living in Columbia, Mo., and teaching culinary arts at the Columbia Area Career Center. In 2006 I also became the food editor for Inside Columbia magazine.

What have you been up to since FNS?

In 2007 we finished our new state-of-the-art culinary arts and baking and pastry kitchens located at the Columbia Area Career Center. We are the only high school culinary-arts program in the state to have three chef instructors, and we just received our American Culinary Federation Accreditation for Culinary Arts and Baking and Pastry in the spring of 2009. (We are one of eight high school programs in the nation to have both programs accredited.)

In addition to writing a monthly column, Cooking with Brook (our digital edition is available each month at www.insidecolumbia.net), I help host Inside Columbia Culinary Adventures. Our adventures are food-based trips to different cities. In the past we have gone to New Orleans, New York, Napa and Sonoma.

In the fall of 2008 I wrote a cookbook (through the magazine) called Cooking with Brook Appetizers & Hors d'oeuvres, which is full of some of my favorite small plates and finger foods.

What was your favorite thing about being on FNS? And your least favorite?

The best part was getting to come to New York for the filming, and hanging out with such a cool group of people. Being the first season we were the guinea pigs. I am sure that the following seasons had a much different experience.

Do you keep in touch with other finalists?

A few years ago I saw Michael when I was in L.A. It is crazy to think that it has been more than five years since we filmed our season. It would be great to see everyone again; we all got along so well and had so much fun together.

What was the funniest/coolest/weirdest (or worst!) incident to happen behind the scenes?

All of us would be in the Green Room or other conference rooms for hours alone while they were setting up challenges. We would have to find things to keep us entertained.

How did being on FNS affect your culinary career?

I definitely got some local exposure; I think that it helped get some exposure for our culinary program as well.

What advice would you offer the next round of finalists?

Be yourself and be passionate. You can't fake it; no one wants to watch that. Make sure that you are comfortable in uncomfortable situations. I think everything I went through after being on the show (TV and radio interviews, presentations, cooking demonstrations) prepared me for the show more than anything else could have. Too bad it was after the show.

When you look back, what would you have done differently?

I don't think that there was anything different I could have done. If I would have had some sort of TV or broadcasting background that would have been a tremendous help. The cooking part I had a handle on.

Do people recognize you from being on the show?

Sometimes.

What was the greatest lesson you learned from your time on FNS?

A cooking show is much more than just cooking. There are so many things you have to be aware of while doing a show: camera angles, teleprompter and keeping your audience engaged.

What's your current favorite recipe or signature dish?

I think that one of my most popular dishes is Sweet and Fiery Shrimp. It is always a huge hit and is actually much easier to make than you would think.