Exclusive Interview with the Winner of Worst Bakers in America
Six weeks ago, 12 wannabe bakers signed up to be whipped into shape on Worst Bakers in America. After difficult pie-making, cake-baking, doughnut-frying and wedding-topper-decorating challenges, among others, two bakers proved to their mentors that they could fight to the finish. On the Blue Team, Samantha rose to the top with her attention to detail; on the Red Team, Carla bolted forward with her fantastic flavors. All that separated the two from winning $25,000 was one last baking challenge for a panel of sweets experts. FN Dish has the interview with the winning baker.
Former Worst Cooks competitor-turned-Worst Bakers contender Carla Johnson walked away with the win and $25,000 to make her dreams come true. No one could have guessed Carla would make it this far, not even her own mentor, Lorraine. But Carla came back after every challenge, more determined to prove everyone wrong. Every time she did, her flavors spoke for themselves. Despite not being the best decorator, Carla managed to put out three sweet treats — doughnuts, a pie and a cake — in the final challenge that impressed in look as well as flavor.
Thinking back to day one when you signed up for Worst Bakers in America, did you ever think that you’d get this far in the competition?
Carla Johnson: Oh, my God. I’m so pleased with myself that I could even do this — that I could pull it off. I didn’t think I was going to get this far.
What made you decide to come back to Boot Camp since you’ve already done Worst Cooks in America?
CJ: Because I had an experience when I came here the last time, and I had the same experience this time. I lost my mother the first time. ... I couldn’t see my way what to do next. … So, it was one day I had interviewed for Worst Cooks and they said yes, and so I went. I had a great time — a really good experience, love, support from the cast that was on there from Bobby Flay to Anne Burrell. … It was just an overwhelming, “I am somebody” experience. And then I needed that experience again. So, I saw Worst Bakers, and I said, “Oh, my god, I know I need the experience again,” because I had lost my foster children. They went home to their mom, so I was feeling … alone again. Even though I have kids, you know, they live in their own house, but I was going to be alone again, and I was kind of scared to take that step to be alone again. … You guys saved my life again so I could get a new experience. So, I got here. And I know that I love sweets, you can tell by my size, but … I cannot pull them off. I do everything fake and bake. So, I knew I couldn’t pull a real cake or a real stuff off, but I was eager to learn, and plus, I wanted to be here for the experience, and so the experience taught me this time that I can hang on; I can be by myself. Even though I’m on husband number five, I’m important. … I can be used to enlighten other people. … So, that’s what made me come back.
Chris Amaral, 2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.
CJ: Duff is gorgeous. He doesn’t know that I know that he’s gorgeous. He’s handsome too. He got a little poufy face — he’s so cute. But Lorraine, as soon as I showed her my dish, she was like, “You’re a liar.” And I was like, "Oh, my god, she’s just busting my bubble all the way around." I can’t even be bubbly, you know, I can’t do anything that I’ve done; I have to be honest with whatever I cook, and I need that. … I needed that discipline to help me. And so once she called me on my first lie and my second lie, I was like, I need her. … So I said, she has self-esteem, because she’s really pretty and thin and she takes care of her body, and I need that. I need to get rid of this weight before it kills me, actually. You know, because I’m overweight, I got high blood pressure, I got diabetes and maybe she can, you know, she’s just got self-esteem and I just wanted to say, "OK, I want her."
CJ: The biggest lesson I learned from her is to listen. Whether it’s in a kitchen or if I think I know something, still listen.
CJ: You know I missed my Bobby Flay. I was hoping he was going to pop in and go: “Carla, here I am, baby boo. I ain’t married.” So, yeah, of course I do, and Anne Burrell, but him of course. I would have loved to see him.
What was it like working with the other bakers? Was there a little competition going on? What was it like being with a different set of people?
CJ: It was a great competition, because now I’m on the Red Team. So, now it was a great competition. I graduated to the Red Team. I think, Anne is strict too. She has some point of discipline too. It was competition [and] redemption all in one, and I had to have it. I had to do my best.
Chris Amaral, 2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.
Thinking back to your practice day, how did everything go for you? Did any of the recipes worry you?
CJ: I was horrified with the fondant. Fondant. I’ve been calling it fondue — they finally corrected me. So, with the fondant, I was absolutely mortified with it. … I had a hard time sleeping that night, and I just couldn’t grasp putting it over the cake, because the cake was so big — humongous. ... I was really scared about that cake.
How were you feeling the morning of the finale? What was going through your mind?
CJ: Oh, my God. I was: "OK, if I go home and I don’t win this, I’m OK. I came here. God, it’s a wonderful blessing." God, he just does all kinds of things. I needed a vacation; he gave me a vacation. I didn’t have to pay for nothing. I was just like: "OK, God, if you give it to this young lady here, Samantha, OK, God, that’s your will. And if I don’t get it, guess what? I’ll be back to Worst Cooks. I’ll just transfer to Worst Cooks and try it again until I learn something."
CJ: So, in the first part of the morning I was really, really nervous. I knew I had to get that fondant on that cake, and when I told Chef Lorraine I couldn’t do it, I didn’t have a giving up like I was giving up; I had a, "Come on, let’s try to do something else with this cake." I need to do what I need to do best so I can wow these judges. And then once she said we can get rid of that fondant, I was cool. I said, woo hoo! I was a happy camper. So, we did the cake and it just was beautiful, and so I felt really great after that. I felt assured. I felt responsible, like to my cakes and my pie, to do them justice, and then to the chef — I was proving that she was a great teacher. And, yes, she was.
What was going through your mind when they announced you won?
CJ: Oh, my God! Before they announced it, the young lady was talking about my cake and I just started crying, because she liked it. Most of the time, I take the cake and people eat two or three pieces of cake out of it and they throw it out. She loved it. When they called my name and they said, “You won,” all I could think was to say: "Thank you, God. Thank you, Chef Lorraine." Oh, my God, I really did this. I just did it. I just started screaming and hollering and jumping all over everybody. Hugging and kissing — no, no, no kissing, just hugging, because Bobby wasn’t there — but I got lots of hugging, lots of hugging.
What does it mean for you to win, and what do you plan to do with the winnings?
CJ: What it means for me to win was, OK, so I can help now. I can really help somebody now. I had my two nephews and my niece, and I had them for almost a year and a half. They just left me in June — June the 13th was their last day of being with me, and their lives evolved with me — in their lives with social workers of course and therapists, but I played a critical part in that. So, what I definitely want to do with the winnings is get my own sober living, my own house for people to come to and mend. This way I can put a down payment on a house and own my own house so nobody won’t have a say of who lives in the house. So, it would be a place for people that didn’t have a home to come take a shower and for kids that don’t have any place to go can come to my home, and even after they’re 18 they can come to my home and say, "Hey, I got a place until I get on my feet." That’s what I want to do with the money.