One-on-One with the Latest Recruit Eliminated from the Red Team — Worst Cooks in America
This season on Worst Cooks in America, 14 new helpless home cooks have joined the ranks to be mentored by chefs Tyler Florence and Anne Burrell. Split into the Blue and Red teams, they'll face new cooking challenges every week, honing their skills until just two finalists (one from each team) remain to face off in one final cook-off, the winner of which will walk away with $25,000 in cash, along with bragging rights for his or her mentor. Unfortunately, however, every week the two lowest-scoring recruits will be kicked out of Boot Camp, losing the chance to win the prize money, but leaving with new skills they've learned from their mentors.
FN Dish has the exclusive interviews with the eliminated recruits from the Red Team and the Blue Team.
When it came to testing the recruits' creativity in this week's two challenges, the mentors got to see who could rise to the occasion but also who just barely managed to get by. Unfortunately for Michael "Six," both his crepe and his Greek taco were found to be less-than-satisfactory. Despite using some strong techniques he had picked up in Boot Camp along the way, Michael didn't put all his effort into making the dishes more than just average, which Anne recognized. He fell into the bottom two and was ultimately eliminated.
FN Dish: You did an excellent job plating your crepe, but Anne said it just wasn't that good and you tried to do too much and it backfired. Do you agree with Anne that it had been your overall issue in past challenges, too?
Michael: I think that my approach was actually very conservative. A lot of the team members thought my plating was great, so we were all surprised my plate was rated near the bottom. Chef Anne mentioned my plate had no cooked elements, though my chocolate was melted and was a cooked element … (the chefs thought it was Nutella). So I think I was judged a bit unfairly there. … Though, my apples being uncooked, there is no excuse for that, I just totally flopped on that one. Chef Anne did tell me to scale things back, as I tend to go over the top. This plate to me was very scaled-back. If I could do it again, I would keep my usual approach; it may have saved me.
During the Main Dish challenge you spent a lot of time searching for cucumber for your Greek taco, and when you couldn't find it you settled on cilantro. Do you think that was the right choice, especially since that's not a Greek flavor?
It definitely threw me off that I couldn't find a cucumber. That was my golden ticket in my brain, as it’s one of the few things I knew was in Greek cooking. I settled on cilantro because it was in the Greek taco I sampled. I figured if they thought it was worth adding, it wouldn't hurt if I added it. Clearly I was wrong. Maybe I should have added some four-leaf clovers for good luck.
Ultimately Anne and Tyler thought Kortni's Greek taco was better. In hindsight, do you think you could have done something differently to make yours better?
100 percent I could have done it better. I was playing it safe. Chef Anne was always telling me not to get too crazy, keep it simple. In this dish I was playing not to lose, when I should have been playing to win. It is amazing how a simple shift in your brain and strategy could change everything. Unfortunately, I didn’t take that approach, and I lost.
At elimination Anne said that she had hoped your magician's training would have translated to the kitchen. What do you think held you back?
I believe it did help me in a lot of ways. I was pretty fast when it came to chopping, and I was usually in pretty good control of my station. What I think held me back was this internal fear of going too far over the top with my dishes. Internally I had my own roadblocks put up, as to avoid another spaghetti and meatball cake. ... In magic it is imperative that you learn and relearn the basics and get time under your belt before getting on a stage or otherwise you will bomb. In this case my lack of knowledge, tutelage and time in the kitchen is what led me to bomb.
Did you discover any correlation between cooking and performing magic?
I think there were many correlations. In the kitchen we relied on a dozen or so of the same basic principles: knife cuts, watching your food and noticing what areas of the pan are hotter than others, not over seasoning or under seasoning, tasting and adjusting, etc. In magic, a lot of effects work on the same basic principles. Magicians have a core group of sleight-of-hand moves, and a core group of theory that we follow. Again, about a dozen or so. Once you have a solid understanding of these basic principles and practice them, you can turn around and get creative. I think the same is true for cooking. You have to know the basic rules and practice them, and then start getting creative with your food. I was getting way too creative before I knew the basics. Chicken noodle soup burger, anyone?
What do you feel you took away from the competition?
I learned so much! Chef Anne was such an incredible teacher and very detail-oriented, which I loved. I am now a lot more comfortable in the kitchen (maybe because I am not being timed) and I cook on a regular basis. I can prepare and make meals for anyone with a lot of confidence, and may even explore culinary school to build on the foundation the chefs helped me lay out. Other than that, I think I learned I need to trust myself more, don't try to play it safe and don't try to play it over the top. Just be who I am, and things will fall into place as long as I follow the basics I learned from the chefs.
Is there someone on your team you think has what it takes to make it the end?
Hmm, that is a tough one, because everyone is pretty much equal in the kitchen. Though, how awesome would it be if David won? If I had to pinpoint some people, Norm has been pretty solid, and I think he will make a huge turnaround after being at the bottom with me, though Leo may step up also. Kristen has been solid and has already won a couple of challenges, so I think she will make it very far. I wish everyone lots of luck!