Interview with the Runner-Up of America's Best Cook

Team North and South

Cooks Christine Verrelli, right, and Stephanie Goldfarb, second from left, pause with Chefs Michael Symon, left, and Alex Guarnaschelli, second from right, as guest judge Chef Bobby Flay (off camera) deliberates the season's winner, as seen on Food Network's America's Best Cook, Season 1.

Photo by: Emile Wamsteker ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Emile Wamsteker, 2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

After six weeks of competition on America's Best Cook, it all came down to the finale and one last cooking challenge. Two home cooks faced off and had the opportunity to make whatever dish they wanted to show guest judge Bobby Flay their best work. In the end one home cook came out on top, the winner, and the other the runner-up. Even though the cook who came in second place did not win, she made her region proud, her mentor proud, her family proud and herself proud.

Christina from Team East made it far in the competition, and never once did she face elimination in the Pressure Cooker round. She proved it's possible to have grace under pressure, and her mentor, Alex, helped her achieve her goal of cooking amazing food. Even though she didn't win, Christina made the East proud.

Alex and Christina

Chef Alex Guarnaschelli, left, mentors cook Christine Verrelli, right, before the start of the seventh round of competition, as seen on Food Network's America's Best Cook, Season 1.

Photo by: Emile Wamsteker ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Emile Wamsteker, 2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

What did you think when you found out Alex was going to be your mentor?

I was so excited. I mean, to get to spend time and work with someone of that caliber is just beyond imaginable.

What was the number one thing you learned from your mentor?

I learned so many things from Alex — specific cooking techniques and just being so mindful of what you put on your plate, making sure everything on your plate is meaningful. But beyond that, there were things about organization in the kitchen, being tougher, going for what you want and just being more assertive. I probably don't even consciously realize everything that she's taught me. I'm sure it's gonna take some time to process this whole experience, but she's amazing and really caring, yet she pushes you to tackle things that you don't think you can do, and then you feel so proud at the end when you're able to accomplish something amazing.

Are there any final words you'd like to say to her?

I just want to say "Thank you so much." I got so much out of working with her. I hope she enjoyed working with me, and I just really appreciate her taking the time to help this home cook learn so much.

What did you find most difficult about the competition?

I think the most difficult part of the competition was right before you're going to compete, trying to quell your nerves and just really being able to dig deep and compose yourself enough that you're able to execute what you need to do. It's very nerve-wracking, and if you let your nerves get the best of you, it could be dangerous in that kitchen.

What did you think when you found out Bobby Flay would be judging the finale?

I was hoping that there would be a burger challenge. When you think about Bobby Flay you definitely think about burgers. I live near Philadelphia, so I've been to Bobby's Burger Palace many times with my children. So I was really excited to get to present a burger that I cooked to Bobby Flay. He said my burger was the best.

What was the biggest thing you learned about yourself in this competition?

I've learned that you sometimes have to be willing to go outside your comfort zone, and when you're afraid or nervous you just have to push through that and just trust that you're going to be able to handle difficult situations, and just keep pushing and learning and growing.

What's next for you when you go back home? Do you think that a professional career might be in your future?

I don't know. I have never really thought about doing that before. When you're a good home cook, people always say you should open a restaurant, but I think you need a whole business understanding to really be successful at that. I definitely feel invigorated. I've always been passionate about food, but this has certainly ignited a little bit more fire in me. There's a whole lot more that I want to learn. I just want to keep growing and learning and sharing with others. I have a food blog (, so it would be cool to pass on some of this knowledge that I've learned to my readers.

Do you think this competition is going to change the way you cook for your family, for your daughters?

I don't know if my daughters are ready for some of the things I've made. But that usually doesnít stop me at home. I feel like exposing them to unique ingredients. They usually try a little bit, and my older daughter has gotten more adventurous, and there's always some way you can kind of tweak a recipe so that the adults can have a version and children can have a version. They better get ready for when I come home and I want to try some new things.

Next Up

Announcing the Winner of America's Best Cook — Exclusive Interview

Find out who won the title of best cook and $50,000 on Food Network's America's Best Cook finale.