Worst Cooks in America Winner Kelli Kirkland – Interview
Kelli Kirkland is Season 3’s winner of FOOD NETWORK’s Worst Cooks in America. Kelli went on to win the 25,000 cash prize in the April 1st finale. I personally love to cook, am a huge Food Network fan, and admit that my children and I have recently become hooked on the Worst Cooks in America reality show.
The basis of Worst Cooks in America is that two teams of contestants with poor cooking skills compete against one another for the title. The teams are guided by celebrity well-renowned Food Network chefs Anne Burrell and Bobby Flay.
The contestants are taught cooking skills by Anne and Bobby, and then they are put to the test. Kelli ended the show with some fantastic cooking skills, and I recently had an opportunity to chat with her about her journey on Worst Cooks in America and find out the behind-the-scenes scoop at Food Network.
Oakland County Moms: Why did you want to become a better cook?
Worst Cooks in America Winner Kelli Kirkland: Really for my son. Honestly, if I had not become a mom, I don’t think I would have cared one way or another. I would have kept eating my fast food and restaurant food, and I don’t think I would have thought anything of it. Suddenly, you give birth. And for me, I went through a long fertility battle to have my son and his health meant so much to me. It became such a big deal for me. I couldn’t go through all that, and then eat fast food fries. It’s not that I don’t care enough about myself, I just never thought about it for me. When I saw him, it just had an impact on me that I probably would not have had otherwise. I needed to know how to cook awesome food that makes him not want to be eating fast food all the time.
Oakland County Moms: What was it like working with Anne Burrell? She seems like a softy with a hard outer shell.
Worst Cooks in America Winner Kelli Kirkland: That’s the perfect way to describe her. She is a softy although she may growl at me for saying that out loud. She is very loving, very passionate about teaching and food education. And, you can tell it’s her greatest heart’s desire to make sure people appreciate and love food, and know how to make good food for themselves. Working with her was great. You know exactly what to expect with her. She’s tough, but she’s not unreasonable. She just wants you to learn and I work well in that environment. She’s a great teacher, and I feel very honored to have worked with her.
Oakland County Moms: How competitive are Anne Burrell and Bobby Flay?
Worst Cooks in America Winner Kelli Kirkland: (Laughs) There is no competition between Anne and Bobby. Anne is the victor…again! Maybe Bobby had some competition, but Anne doesn’t.
Oakland County Moms: But did they make it obvious? Did Bobby try really hard to beat Anne?
Worst Cooks in America Winner Kelli Kirkland: Well, you know what’s funny? I honestly don’t think Bobby tried that hard in the beginning. I almost think Bobby thought he had it in the bag. He is a totally decorated Iron Chef. I don’t think Bobby really thought he had anything to worry about until we got about four episodes in and he was like ‘Oh, wow! She can cook – game on!’ I think he was very surprised that this competition was different for the chefs. It’s not just about cooking, it’s about how well you can teach what you know. And, that is a different skill. Bobby doesn’t teach and Anne does. So, they’re both great chefs, but she has the upper edge because she knows how to teach.
Oakland County Moms: Viewers always get to see everyone running around the kitchen like crazy. Was the amount of time given for each task reasonable, or was it really chaotic stress every time?
Worst Cooks in America Winner Kelli Kirkland: It’s completely unreasonable and they know that makes for great television! What the audience doesn’t know, is that for every one challenge you would see, we would probably have 2-3 that we had to do at the same time that never made it on the air. The audience is watching and thinking ‘Wow, what went wrong, you can’t make three meatballs in one hour?’ Well, we also had to make a salad, an original salad dressing from scratch, an original sauce… the audience would think we had to make three meatballs and there were actually four components to that challenge. For everything you see on TV, there were at least 2, and easily 3 additional things we had to do in that amount of time.
Oakland County Moms: What was your worst mistake on the show? And what was your proudest moment, other than winning?
Worst Cooks in America Winner Kelli Kirkland: Clearly I don’t have any idea what to do with a salt shaker, and I need to just put it down. In all those episodes when Anne would talk to me about the salt, I would think ‘What is wrong with her. I barely even used any salt.’ It wasn’t until I saw the episodes that I was horrified! In a frenzy, I literally forgot I put salt in and I ended up putting more in. That’s very embarrasing. The proudest moment actually was when Bobby (it didn’t air) said during the meatball challenge as he tried my meatballs, and I was very nervous, “Mmmm. I would actually be happy to get this as an appetizer in any restaurant.” I thought ‘Bobby Flay just said that to me about my food’! I will never forget the exact words. I just sat there stunned and so happy. I just don’t think there is a better compliment that you could get. To please his pallett with food I made? Thrilled me.
Oakland County Moms: Do you find now that when you cook for your family that you are using all of those things that you learned, and is cooking a completely different experience in your house?
Worst Cooks in America Winner Kelli Kirkland: Absolutely. I will never forget those things. And not only do I use all the techniques I learned, I can’t stop critiquing food anywhere I go. I sit there and talk to my son about the fact that they needed a little honey in this balsamic to cut some of the acid. I’m talking to him like I’m Anne Burrell. And then at some point I realize, he doesn’t know, he doesn’t care, he just wants to eat his chicken fingers. Critiquing the food gives me ideas on how to make certain things.
Oakland County Moms: If you could sum it up, what would you say you learned from your experiences on the show?
Worst Cooks in America Winner Kelli Kirkland: To be fearless, not specific to cooking, but in life. Take a chance. Do something that scares you. Do something you think you might fail at. Failure is not going to kill you, it’s going to make you stronger so keep trying. Don’t be afraid to give it your all. Mess up, fall down, brush yourself off, and get back up and do it again.
Click here to read an Oakland County Moms interview with Food Network Chef Anne Burrell.