One-on-One with the Runner-Up of Worst Cooks in America

Chef's Bobby Flay and Anne Burrell stand with finalists Amber Brauner and Jamie Thomas on set for the final episode as seen on Food Network's Worst Cooks in America, Season 5.

Photo by: Rich Freeda

Rich Freeda

On Worst Cooks in America, 14 recruits came into Boot camp on day one of the competition. But after seven weeks, only one recruit could walk away with the win and the $25,000 in prize money. That meant that the other remaining recruit would walk away with nothing but the knowledge and skill he or she picked up during the challenges. But by no means is that runner-up a loser, transforming from one of the worst cooks to one of the best and ultimately making it to the finale — these are accomplishments to be proud of. The runner-up of Season 5 leaves the competition with a head held high.

FN Dish has the exclusive interview with the Season 5 runner-up.

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Before the final challenge, Anne and Bobby had Amber and Jamie compete in one last Skill Drill, a mise-en-place race that would test many of the skills they had picked up over the seven weeks in Boot Camp. The race was neck and neck, but Jamie edged out Amber. When it came to the menu planning and test run of recipes for the final cooking, Jamie was focused, fast and sure in his ways. He used skill to cook a comforting menu that Anne helped him execute, but when it came to the actual day, things rattled him. Nervousness took over his concentration and he even cut himself twice. He still managed to put out successful dishes, but overseasoning became an issue. Even though he won many challenges throughout Boot Camp, the final contest was one he wouldn't win. In the end Amber outcooked Jamie, and she took home the win and the money.

During the final challenge, you seemed a bit out of sorts. What was going through your mind then?

I think I was a little overwhelmed having to cook this three-course meal for expert palates. It did trip me up for a second. I did also cut myself twice. So the fact that I had to hold these bandages together and still get the food out was a little overwhelming. But I got over it quickly.

What was it like using the liquid nitrogen to make the Prosecco sorbet? Were you surprised when Anne brought it out? Do you think it was a testament to how much she believed in you?

I was totally surprised; I never even knew what it was and that it could be used with food. I was very proud that she trusted my abilities to even let me go down that avenue.

You and Anne both agreed that the final cooking challenge would be about underpromising and overdelivering. Do you think it was a very wise move and did you accomplish it?

I think it was a very wise move and, yes, I do think I accomplished it. We had very big, bold flavors. Unfortunately we were told that some of the flavors were too bold. I'm proud of what I did; I hope I did her well. I tasted the food — it wasn't too salty for me. So I'm very happy with what I made in the kitchen.

Chef Anne Burrell watches as finalist Jamie Thomas cooks for the final episode as seen on Food Network's Worst Cooks in America, Season 5.

Photo by: Rich Freeda

Rich Freeda

What made you most nervous during the final cooking challenge?

The only thing that made me nervous was the time. But to have Chef Anne there by my side, I was OK from beginning to end. Even looking at the plates I kept saying to myself, "Oh, my God, I made this." We go out a lot to very nice restaurants. So I thought I made a dish that I would probably be presented if I went to a very nice restaurant

When it was announced that Amber was the winner, how did you feel in that moment?

I felt great. I felt relieved. There had to be one winner, but we both won, because out of 14 people, we ended up the last two standing. I never felt from week one that I would survive this far. So the fact that I came from a horrible chef making crappy chili to making three fantastic dishes for culinary experts, that's enough for me to be a winner. I can go home to my husband, Paco, and be a winner still

Looking back on the competition, what was the most-difficult challenge for you?

Hands down the most-difficult challenge for me was the doughnut one because I'm not a big sweets eater. I've never liked it. Mentally I just could not get in that lane. Of course it showed because my doughnut was the last to come in. I just couldn't do it.

Do you have any parting words for your coach, Anne?

Even though I let you down, Chef Anne and Red Team, I'm truly thankful to even have been in your presence and learn from you. I will never forget everything that you taught me. And hopefully as the seasons go on you will never forget me. It was a pleasure and an honor for you to pick me. And if I had to do it over, I'd start with week one all over again.

What's next for you once you get back at home? Will you be cooking more?

I'm definitely going to cook more. Chef Anne has lit this match in me. I honestly do love the kitchen. Who knows? I may open up my own restaurants or have my own coking show. The world is my oyster, and I'm ready to start.

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