One-on-One with the Runner-Up of Worst Cooks in America
On Worst Cooks in America, 14 hapless cooks entered Boot Camp to be mentored by chefs Anne Burrell and Tyler Florence. Split into the Red and Blue teams, they faced new cooking challenges every week, honing their skills until just two finalists (one from each team) remained to face off in one final cook-off. In last night's episode, one came in the winner, walking away with $25,000, whereas the other left with just the knowledge and skills she learned during the competition. By no means is that runner-up a loser, having made it all the way to the finale. Her accomplishments give her much to be proud of.
FN Dish has the exclusive interview with the Season 6 runner-up.
It was a tight race in determining who would be the Worst Cooks in America winner. Red Team's Kristen and Blue Team's Genique were truly the strongest cooks on their respective teams. The determining factor came down to the three-course meals presented to a panel of culinary experts, who judged purely on the criteria of taste, presentation and execution. In the end Kristen just edged out Genique to win the $25,000 grand prize. Despite finishing in second place, Genique competed with laser focus, battling through a bad burn, and confidently put out three dishes that, although they did not earn her the win, showed that she had gained excellent culinary knowledge and skill, shedding her "worst cook" moniker.
FN Dish: How did it feel to be the last person left on the Blue Team, to have made it this far in the competition?
Genique: I was very humbled and honored to be the last one on the Blue Team and to represent Tyler in the finale. I was also proud to have made it to the last part of the competition without ever being in the bottom two.
During the practice cook, you seemed really focused, happy, joking with Tyler, and you were far ahead of Kristen. Can you explain your mood, your mindset going into your final day of competition?
I was very happy to get some one-on-one time with Tyler and really be able to focus on all the elements of the three-course meal. Tyler and I are both from the South, so our personalities just click. I enjoyed joking and laughing with him while learning what I needed to do in terms of the final challenge of the competition. He is extremely down-to-earth and a great person overall. I wasn't really paying attention to Kristen and what she was doing, because I was focused on what I needed to do. I am a very attentive and committed person by nature, so getting to the end and having the chance to win the competition, I had laser focus all the way.
It looks like you're a born natural at shucking oysters. Tyler even joked you'd win a race against him. Was it just luck that you knew how to do it so well?
That was the first time that I have ever shucked oysters, but I seem to have a knack for it. My success with being able to do it was totally because Tyler demonstrated it to all of us before the dinner party challenge. I would love to race Tyler in an oyster-shucking contest one day.
After tasting the oyster, and liking it, do you think you'll be more open to eating seafood?
Probably not. I think the only reason why I liked it was because it was fried and it's hard not to like anything fried. I am still not a seafood lover and don't see that changing anytime soon.
On the day of the final cook you burned yourself blending the soup. Did that throw you off at all? How did you mentally try to regain your composure?
The second-degree burn definitely impacted me. I was so thankful that it wasn't as bad as it could have been. It could have easily gotten all over my face or eyes, so I was thanking God that it didn't. I have never been burned like that before, but after letting the medic check me and doing all that we could do at that time, I was ready to continue. I am a true fighter and I do not give up easily. I said a little prayer and kept going.
During the cooking, Tyler kept reminding you to work faster, think faster, and he also narrated a lot of the cooking process. Did that make you more nervous, or did it help you?
Tyler was like my virtual cookbook. Previous to the challenge he wanted a few things changed, in terms of the order he wanted me to do them in as well as some measurement changes. We both thought it would be less confusing if he narrated to me versus me looking at my notes and him telling me something different. We thought that would avoid a lot of confusion. I reviewed my notes on each dish several times before the competition and rewrote them at least 12 times so I was well aware of what I needed to do and in what order. Tyler wanted to make sure I was aware of the very important time factor related to the challenge. He knew that even though I was working through the pain of my burn, timing was very important.
How were you feeling after you finished cooking the three courses?
I was so relieved to be finished. I was so glad that I was able to finish the entire competition, and I felt really good about my dishes. I was proud and relieved at the same time.
What was going through your mind hearing the chef-experts critique and pick apart your dishes?
I was glad to hear what they had to say. I use every experience as a chance to learn and grow. They were very intense, and I was very anxious to hear who they deemed the winner, based on their comments.
Is there one thing you leave the competition with, something you learned from Tyler that you think will help you cook better in the future?
I learned so much from Tyler. He is an amazing person in general and a very talented chef. I have learned to incorporate more vegetables with my food choices even if I do not like them.
What will be something you'll cook when you get back home? Will you dedicate yourself to cooking healthier, like you promised when you began this competition?
I will attempt some of the dishes that we made on the show and will definitely be cooking healthier meals. I have gotten some healthy cooking books from my sister and I am going to be utilizing them as a starting point for cooking healthier. Tyler has also stated that he wants to share some of his healthy recipes with me, so I am excited to see what he has to share with me.