The Worst Cooking Instructors in America

The Worst Cooks in America continued on the Food Network last night. Last week’s premier episode had such promise, and I'm still anticipating the cutting edge of culinary instruction from the MTV of Food. The point was to teach the contestants to cook, right?

Accurate and safe knife skills are always the start to any cooking instruction, and Worst Cooks in America starts off correctly this week. “Hooray for the Food Network!” I thought. They’re going to teach by building on basic cooking methods, not recipes! My excitement didn’t last until the next commercial break. Perhaps it’s the editing of a one hour show, but the criticism and crying took the place of teaching very quickly.

Instead of instruction on Worst Cooks in America, the contestants are just told to “do it”, placed under time constraints, and criticized as if they were already professional chefs. It’s obvious that they haven’t been taught any actual cooking methods from their reaction to the chefs erasing the blackboard recipe in the middle of their challenge, total chaos.

The contestants were taken to a Japanese restaurant
and told to cook scallops and steak on a flat-top grill that Chef Beau said was “like 800 degrees”. This is like taking someone that doesn’t know how to drive, putting them on a NASCAR track, and yelling at them for not going fast enough.

“Actors practice lines, chefs practice recipes,” Chef Beau scolded the contestants. I don’t agree. Actors practice acting method, then interpret their lines. Chefs practice imparting heat to food, then interpret with ingredients.

So, it’s time for me to take over. In my online cooking classes, as well as my DVD series, the focus is on basic cooking methods, not recipes. The essence of cooking is how you control the transfer of heat to food. This should be the second step, knowing the difference between direct conductive heat, and indirect convective heat.

Rather than giving the contestants delicate and difficult products like scallops and duck breast, I would start with a simple sauté of a chicken breast. Saute’ method is the best start for anyone learning to cook. Here, you can watch all that happens as you transfer heat to food. You can combine flavors quickly, drop the temperature of the pan with a cold liquid, and make a sauce. The best way to learn anything is to start with simple procedures and expand upon them.

The chefs on this show have missed the opportunity to start at the beginning with explanations of what actually happens when we cook food. This would empower the contestants with skills and knowledge that will help them over the next 4 episodes. Maybe this is another piece of entertainment about chefs who make people cry. If that’s it, they’re doing a great job.

Previously about Worst Cooks in America

I promise, I won't yell at you or make you cry.

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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  • bbock
    1:18 AM - 18 January, 2010

    I just flipped to this show and thought, what the hell are they doing to these people. Cooking shouldn't make you cry, unless you get too close when you chop onions.

    There was a great show on Food Network that did show novices to cook, although they did so by following a recipe rather than by technique, which I agree is the only way to cook well. The show was a Canadian production called The Cookworks. They had several couples who would pick and prepare a recipe as a chef would go from station to station giving advice, showing techniques, etc.

  • Marque Hernandez
    8:34 PM - 12 January, 2010

    Hi Chef Mohr. I am one of the contestants on WCA and wanted you to to know how much I enjoy your website and am enjoying your reviews of the show. Chef Beau was great and I did learn a lot from being on the show. It really sparked a love for cooking I never knew I had hence why I am scalking about the internet looking at great websites like yours. I do agree with you that once you learn a good technique, a recipe becomes more of a flavor guide. At least that's my experience. Can't wait to see the DVD. Thanks and God bless!

    • cheftodd
      8:45 AM - 13 January, 2010

      Thanks for your note, I know you can't tell us the final outcome, but I'm sure you did very well on the show. I can tell you have a serious intention to learn this new skill. I'm so glad the experience was the catalyst for the beginning of your culinary journey. Perhaps it's the editing, but they don't seem to be teaching you anything on that show, hopefully you left with some cooking methods knowledge despite what they are showing on TV. I'd be glad to help you continue with your cooking skills development, and I don't make people cry. Stay in touch, I'd love to hear your perspective on the show as it progresses.

  • Laurence Hill
    12:52 AM - 12 January, 2010

    I do not understant why the Hosts cannot be a little more nice.

    The same on Challenge.

  • Ana Echenique
    12:02 AM - 12 January, 2010

    I tuned in for the first time last night, VERRRY BRIEFLY. It was terrible. What a way to turn someone off to cooking forever! These guys were already admitting that they didn't really have any cooking knowledge and then these two drill sergeants tell them in 10 sec or less to duplicate a recipe. They didn't tell them what signs to look for, why they were doing each step, nothing! And then of course they have to compete with each other and receive very negative criticism of their inevitable failure. BOOO food network! Thumbs down on this one. It seems like prime time is a time to just have contests, not really to teach anyone anything.

    thanks Chef Todd for breaking the mold,


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