Q&A with Competitor Ellen Cleghorne — Worst Cooks in America: Celebrity Edition
Season 7 of Worst Cooks in America is a little bit more star-studded, as seven recruits from Tinseltown are joining the ranks of the culinarily challenged. Like in previous seasons, the recruits will be split into teams, but this time their coaches will be Anne Burrell and Rachael Ray. For one of these stars, getting through all six weeks of trying challenges will mean $50,000 for his or her charity and bragging rights for the star's mentor.
Fans of late-night TV will remember comedian Ellen Cleghorne for spicing up the cast of Saturday Night Live from 1991 to 1995. She's starred in her own series, Cleghorne!, and has performed on many late-night shows. She's worked with Adam Sandler, David Spade, Chris Rock and David Alan Grier, among others. Her credits go beyond performing, as she also served as a comedy writer for The Roseanne Show. Recently Ellen earned her Ph.D. in performance studies from New York University, and she is currently working on a book.
Get to know a bit more about Ellen and why she signed up for Boot Camp, and tune in for the premiere of Worst Cooks in America: Celebrity Edition on Wednesday, Sept. 23 at 9|8c to see how well she does.
How would you describe your cooking style presently?
Ellen Cleghorne: Hurry up and get it done. Get it done, do it because you have to do it. Yeah. Slam, bam, thank you, ma'am. [laughs]
Have there been any really good or really bad cooks in your life? Do you think that had an effect on you?
EC: Oh, my grandma [was an] amazing cook — not my mother’s mother, [but] my father’s mother. ... She cooked everything; she cooked every day ... [except for] Saturdays my mother cooked and burned everything.
Is there something that has kept you from learning to cook all this time?
EC: Just panic, fear. [I'm] just afraid that I won’t be able to do it right.
EC: To become a better cook and gain more confidence in the meantime. To win money for my charity, Autism Speaks, and bragging rights for my friends and my daughter.
Besides the show's mentors, is there a chef or food personality whom you admire?
EC: Alton Brown. I love Cutthroat Kitchen, Iron Chef and his science-y show. I love Anthony Bourdain, Tom Colicchio, Bobby Flay and Marcus Samuelsson.
Does anything scare or intimidate you about being in the kitchen?
EC: Yes. Making mistakes, not following through [and] the machines, they really scare me. Oh, my gosh, the food processor, the blenders, the ice cream maker ... I don’t know [why] I’m so afraid of those things.
When you do go into the kitchen, what are some of the things you try to cook for yourself or others?
EC: Mostly I cook oatmeal. I love oatmeal. We all love oatmeal. And I've raised my daughter on oatmeal so that she could think that's an amazing meal. I've brainwashed her. [laughs]
What's the worst kitchen disaster you've had or the worst dish you've made?
EC: I was at my daughter's house, and I was cooking for her and her friends, and I was cooking in the family tradition of "just add soup." And so I put the chicken, and then I poured the chicken vegetable — some kind of tomato vegetable with rice and noodle soup — something on top, and cooked it, or whatever. It was horrible. I didn't know it was horrible at the time, but they knew it was horrible. ... It actually sent them scurrying out of the house. ... I was like, "They didn't tell me they're going out." I just look around and there's nobody at home.
If you had a choice, who would do the cooking for you?
EC: Marcus Samuelsson, but I'd have him leave after he was done. I'm too shy to eat dinner with him.
Is there something we would never catch you eating?
EC: I don't like asparagus, and I don't like avocados, but I know how this show works.
What's your most-memorable meal you've ever eaten?
EC: The best meals that I've had, and the most memorable, are the meals that my grandma used to cook. The bread that she used to bake. You know, smelling the bread rising, the yeast bread rising, and cooking cinnamon rolls every Sunday. Those were like, the best meals. Stew with carrots, Thanksgiving stuffing, you know, things like that.
What's a favorite dish you remember from your childhood?
EC: My grandma's chicken and dumplings. If I knew dumplings were coming, it would be like a dance was going on inside of my stomach and my body.
EC: It's really funny, the [story about the] first thing that I learned to make. My grandmother, like snuck me back into the kitchen late at night and said, "I’m going to teach you how to make tartar sauce." And so she took sweet pickles that we had got from Delancey Street, and chopped it up, and some kind of pickled onions, and chopped it up, and then she put in an egg, and then some mayonnaise, and salt, pepper, and a little sugar, or whatever, and just vinegar and stirred it up in there. ... We had fish every Friday ... and so I would get to, now that I knew how ... make the tartar sauce. And so that was, like, our thing.
What’s your signature dish, or what do you make most often for yourself or others?
EC: I use whole-wheat noodles, frozen mixed vegetables, black beans, sauteed onions, garlic and yellow peppers. Mix it together with ketchup as the congealing sauce and cheese — of course. And salt and pepper.
EC: Everybody does. I love cake. God, I love cake. ... I really love ice cream cake. I wish there was ice cream cake that didn’t have any calories. I love cake.
What's the weirdest thing we'd find in your fridge?
EC: Homemade pickles, because we grew some cucumbers in the garden, and they've been in the jar for a couple years now, and I don’t want to throw them away. They’re just, like, a memory [laughs] of the year we grew cucumbers and made pickles.
EC: I would celebrate by going to a restaurant that I really like. I would not celebrate by cooking.