The Worst Cook In America?

The reason my students transform very quickly from the “worst cook in America” to confident, creative home cooks is very simple. I empower them with the underlying cooking methods and techniques that make recipes obsolete. They discover how to create amazing meals at home using their creativity, simply and easily.

During rare TV surfing last night, I came across a new Food Network Mini-Series: “Worst Cooks in America”, and I was mesmerized. You see, I work with self proclaimed “worst cooks in America” every day. Seriously, almost every day I’ve taught classes, a student has walked through the door and informed me that he/she is “the worst cook in America.” And I have to laugh because I know this same person will walk out of class 2 hours later, ready to cook dinner for their family immediately!

This is exactly what I think this shows’ “Worst Cooks in America” desperately need to learn. Basic cooking methods, the secret ingredient if you will, that has been missing from Food TV since the days of Julia Child. Things like knife skills, sauté, braising, roasting, grilling, poaching.

So, I couldn’t be happier or more excited to watch the next 5 episodes of this truly unique show concept. I expect to see Chef Beau and Chef Ann lay out cooking basics for these students and to teach them the science of cooking that will enable them to cook all things and even amaze themselves by the time they are all finished.

But I do have some trepidation.

Last night showcased Chef Beau and Chef Ann demonstrating one of their own recipes for their teams and then tasking each student with replicating the exact dish. Hmmm…this might be an area that the show and I part ways because I am more interested in these “worst cooks in America” learning how to cook by method, not just follow recipes, but it’s early yet.

Also, I can’t help but wonder why these “worst cooks in America” haven’t learned how to cook yet. Presumably they are big enough Food Network fans to have heard about the casting call, right? They’re intimidated at the sight of a celebrity chef (a Food Network creation). So, why hasn’t Bobby Flay or Paula Dean or The Hughleys already taught these people to cook?

In any case, I’ll be watching to see what happens next and how these “worst cooks in America” will be transformed by Chef Beau and Chef Ann into expert cooks, who can replicate a chef’s whim without crying so much.

Whether or not this should be the goal of a great cooking show is beside the point.

And, yes, I will be posting a blog on Monday after each week’s episode to weigh in on how everybody is doing.

More on the frustrations of recipes in "Julie and Julia Beef Bourguignon, How'd she do it?"

Go to that post HERE


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About Chef Todd

Chef Todd Mohr is a Certified Culinary Educator who has empowered home cooks all over the world with the reliable, dependable, repeatable METHODS behind cooking that build confidence, generate creativity and enable anyone to cook with the ingredients THEY desire.


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  • Kathy Rhodes
    8:34 AM - 7 January, 2010

    Chef Todd.
    I watched the show in beleive because I, like you, deal with this everyday. I teach hospitality in a university adn teach commercial quantity foods with a restaurant built in. The majority of these ssudents have never been in a kitchen before. There "Moms" did it all. While this is alright, you are not teaching your child to be independant and creative. Once they learn the methods, I can turn them loose on about anything. They are so thankful and excited because they cam go home and show "Mom" what they have learned.
    As I watchede that show last night, I kept commenting to myself, "you have got to be kidding". However, I can not blame the contestants, but the chefs, for not taking the time ti show them methods instead of how to follow a recipe.
    I will continue to watch. It reminds me of the show years ago, "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman ". I'm dating myself when I say that. But, that was a show that was so rediculous that you coulndn't turn it off because you wanted to see what they were going to do next to top the previous show.

    • cheftodd
      1:49 PM - 8 January, 2010

      I remember "Mary Hartman", it was a train-wreck.
      I hope we're being set-up, manipulated by the TV production crew.
      Certainly, they won't be able to recreate a chef meal without some knife skills.

      We'll see the quality of the fare the food network is serving us in the coming weeks.

  • Deidre Hughey
    9:34 AM - 6 January, 2010

    My husband and I watched the show as well. Funny, I thought of you when they had the people replicate the chef's dishes. I thought, "They're not actually 'teaching' them how to cook. They're teaching them how to follow a recipe." The last time I checked, you can teach anyone to copy someone. It takes a true talent to teach someone how to create for themselves. Chef Todd, you have true talent! Keep it up!

  • Karl M
    1:06 AM - 6 January, 2010

    I've learned something from you. While you can't learn to cook from recipes, you can get some basic guidance from them once you know the methods. So tell me the ingrediets and the base method used. That's all that's required to recreate the dish.Not every damn thing is sauteed.

    I'm sure you could do a beef saute with vegitables. I'm sure it would be tasty. It's not the same as braised beef with vegitables which is what Juilia Child's recipe is!!!!. And all mocking aside, nobody makes a beef stew for two. They make it using the full amount of the cheap cut of beef that's on sale that week for their family with hopes of a few leftover meals.

    Shame on you for the mocking of Julia Child.
    Julia Child's

    • cheftodd
      9:36 AM - 6 January, 2010

      I wasn't mocking Julia, I was mocking Julie. She was making Beef Bourguignon for two also.
      But, yes, I was exaggerating to try to make the point that if you follow recipes exactly, you'll be disappointed.

      You know it, I know it, Julia Child knows it, but Julie Powell doesn't know you don't make Beef Bourguignon for two.
      We have the benefit of basic cooking knowledge that is needed to recreate any recipe. Especially one as involved as Beef Bourguignon.

      Thanks for keeping me honest.

  • Joe
    9:52 PM - 5 January, 2010

    I don't watch tv so I can't comment on the show.
    But I will tell you that your youtube vids that you had up last summer taught me how to cook by method not some silly recipe.
    I'm 50+ and never knew how to make a sauce or roast a whole chicken or turkey. Didn't know that a whole chicken could be cut up into the pieces that I bought at a much higher price. Didn't know that the pan plus oil or butter ought to be sizzling hot before putting in the protein. Didn't know that the water ought to boiling before tossing the veggies into the pot.

    Your method type of cooking has got to be the best way to learn how to cook. Makes sense and does not have 'strict, rote' ways of recipe cooking.

    • cheftodd
      9:37 AM - 6 January, 2010

      Thanks for the kind comment. Once you start putting the pieces of Basic Cooking Methods together in your head, a greater world of cooking opens to you.
      I'm glad you've discovered this. I'm proud to have helped.

  • Carsten
    8:49 PM - 5 January, 2010

    Hey Todd,

    thanks to the internet i could take a peek into the show you've mentioned. Grand stuff, really. I tried an amouse-bouche the other day, from foie gras, a pesto of peppermint and pounded roasted corn, thuna marinated in balsamico, olive oil, lavender-flavoured honey, and a dash of fish sauce; and a mottled grape filled with the aforesaid roasted corn which is actually nibble stuff from Turkey.

    No recipe, of course, just a faint idea of matching aromas and corresponding textures.

    There is a TV show over here in Germany called "Küchenschlacht". Ambitioned amateurs compete for a week, beginning with their favored meal on mondays, then an appetizer on tuesday, a main dish on wednesday, and a dessert on thursdays. The attendees get assistance from well-known German chefs, like Alfons Schuhbeck, and Johann Lafer, while the jury consists of another likely well-known chef.

    The point is... the friday final. From monday on, the attendees can do what they want, whatever comes into their minds. At the finals, on fridays, they get a recipe from the hosting chef. Imagine somebody is incredibly creative in Indian cooking, and the the recipe they have to follow is like "foie gras with peppermint-corn pesto and a slice of marinated thuna"... guess what... 😉

    Todd, u rock! U're not teaching the art of cooking, u're teaching the art of being creative.

    • cheftodd
      9:39 AM - 6 January, 2010

      Cooking Methods always transcends recipes.
      Case in point - I was asked to cater an Indian wedding last year.
      I don't cook authentic Indian, but was able to take their ingredients,
      and using a French cooking method, arrive at a result that everyone loved.

      It wasn't like their Momma would make, but the flavors were familiar, and the cooking method unique.

  • justme
    8:05 PM - 5 January, 2010

    Much needed assistance and some real culinary class. Never had either one but was trained by some of the best to help me learn to cook more than something thrown on a plate and given 1hr to learn. Hmmm...where's Chef Todd???

    • cheftodd
      9:40 AM - 6 January, 2010

      The Food Network wouldn't want me on that show. I'd be too nice and nurturing to the contestants.
      They want someone to perpetuate the stereotype that chefs are allowed to yell at anyone, anytime.

  • Jeff Nelson
    4:59 PM - 5 January, 2010

    I saw that show as well... I kept saying wow this is amazing & how do these people exist. Like watching a terrible car crash it was hard to turn off. I am happy for the one lady who was crying bc/ she wanted to learn to cook for her kid but Holy s..t they could not make canned soup.

  • Bill Blunt
    4:54 PM - 5 January, 2010

    From my standpoint...the only thing they are building these so called WCA is fooling some judges....and in the time period that they have and for what I have seen so far...and unless one of these WCA's is a wringer...the judges will be looking at a gourmet meal...not saying that it can't be done...but???? Let's see what happens next....I am the Grill Sargent and I can cook...but I do it mostly with the 'R" word...sorry Todd....this is why I'm here.

  • casey
    4:51 PM - 5 January, 2010

    Hey may not be worst cook in america but I hold the title for biggist job mess up..go from private execuytive fine dining to applebee in matter of weeks ..what a change.hey I gotta pay the price if ya wanna live on the edge.I remind my self of anthony bourdaine in a way of my young life style .I will prevail.but atleast I'm not the worst cook and still apriciate homemade pasta ...and a quality demi.

    • cheftodd
      5:54 PM - 5 January, 2010

      Perhaps I'll finally eat at Applebee's if they're employing fine dining chefs.

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