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Anne Burrell shares lessons from 'Worst Cooks in America'

Published February 14, 2014 4:52 pm

TV • Even those who don't win gain life-changing skills, Anne Burrell says.
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Anne Burrell is no longer fazed by the atrocious cooking skills she sees co-hosting "Worst Cooks in America" on the Food Network.

"I used to be surprised," said the spiky-haired Food Network chef during a recent telephone call from New York City. "But now I just take it as it comes."

The fifth season of "Worst Cooks in America" premieres Monday, Feb. 17, with Burrell and co-host Bobby Flay each leading a team of disastrous cooks in a culinary boot camp competition.

During the season's first episode, the 14 recruits, nominated by family and friends for their exceptionally awful cooking skills, prepare a "signature" dish. The hosts then pick the teams they will mentor during the next seven episodes. Each week the recruits learn various culinary skills and are asked to use their new expertise to prepare a dish. The two recruits with the least successful dishes are sent home.

The series ends on Monday, March 31, when the two most-improved contestants prepare a three-course meal in hopes of winning the $25,000 grand prize.

As the new season approaches, Burrell — a best-selling cookbook author and Mario Batali's sous chef on "Iron Chef America" — answered questions about the show and what every home cook should know.

After five seasons, why do you think "Worst Cooks" remains popular?

People look at "Worst Cooks" as a cast of lovable losers. They start off so bad you can't help but laugh at them. But they turn it around and you end up rooting for them. Even for those who don't make it all the way to the end, they take home skills that change their life.

What do you like most about teaching home cooks?

Seeing that lightbulb moment when the dots start to connect. They start off so bad, then they start to feel so good about themselves. That blossoming transformation is really lovely.

What are five things every cook should know?

It's the low-tech solutions that people really need to pay attention to.

• Read the recipe from beginning to the end before you start cooking. People get a little overambitious and bite off more than they can chew. They decided to have a dinner party and serve short ribs. They start at 5 p.m. and people are coming at 6 p.m. and they miss the line about how it has to cook for three hours. Stuff like that is a problem. It's always better to do something easier that you know you can do really well than to try something you've never done, Food is like a dog, it smells fear.

• Make sure you have all the ingredients before you start. Don't just make sure you have bread crumbs, open up the container and make sure you have enough.

• Make sure you have all the equipment you need.

• Clean as you go. If you don't, things get all bunched up and they don't turn out right.

• Get in there and do it and just have fun with it.


'Worst Cooks in America'

P Chefs Anne Burrell and Bobby Flay turn recruits with exceptionally bad cooking skills into decent home cooks.

When • Premieres on Monday, Feb. 17, on Food Network. Check local listings for times.