This season on Worst Cooks in America, 14 new hapless home cooks have joined the ranks to be mentored by chefs Tyler Florence and Anne Burrell. Split into the Blue Team and the Red Team, the recruits face new cooking challenges every week, gathering new cooking skills until just two finalists remain to face off in the last cook-off. That winner will walk away with $25,000 in cash, and his or her mentor will win bragging rights. Unfortunately, every week the two lowest-scoring recruits will be kicked out of Boot Camp. They lose the chance to win the prize money, but they leave with new skills learned from their mentors.
Every Sunday night, FN Dish has the exclusive interviews with the eliminated recruits, one from the Red Team and one from the Blue Team.
This week’s challenges focused on creative flavor combinations. For the ice cream sandwich Skill Drill challenge, Ernie created a peanut ice cream sandwich cookie that put him in third place overall. The flavor creativity continued in the Main Dish challenge, where the recruits had to make empanadas with a dipping sauce. This time, however, Ernie wanted to go basic, but Tyler encouraged him to try and get out of his comfort zone. Ernie ended up presenting a Caribbean-inspired turkey empanada with bacon, olives and dates — but it didn’t come out well. He ended up in the bottom two with Ginny. From there he was eliminated.
How are you feeling after just having been eliminated?
Ernie Adkins: I’m totally bummed out. You know, I let myself down, but it doesn’t come as a shock. I bungled another sauce. … Like I told Chef Tyler, like I told Chef Anne, this is me. I brought this on myself. This and, you know, hey, there are no victims in the kitchen. That’s what Chef Tyler kept saying: There are no victims. So, I did this to myself. I support their decision. Their decision was fair, clear-cut and honest. … I had fun while I was here. I learned a lot. I really did. So, I’m no longer a worst cook in America. I’m just not the best, but I’m far, far from the worst. I feel pretty good about myself, actually, and my whole experience here. Everything’s been great.
Talk about why you signed up for Boot Camp. What did it mean for you to be here?
EA: You can’t take away what I’m walking away with. It’s knowledge. You can’t take that from me. It’s in my head. You’d have to kill me to get it out of me. So, what does that mean to me? I get to go home and show my girls what I did. Then we get to use that as a baseline to jump from. We get to experiment. I learned to conquer some of my fears, some of the anxieties, how to respond, what proper kitchen etiquette is. Taste as you go. Don’t just throw it on the damn plate and hope it tastes good. Taste as you go. … We don’t do that where I’m from. We open up a can of soup, or we, we go butcher, you know, we go kill a chicken, and we throw it in some flour and fry it. It’s supposed to taste good. That’s it. I really learned a lot here.
Take us back to your Skill Drill challenge. How was it making ice cream sandwiches?
EA: Now, that was just absolutely stellar. I was so proud of myself. I don’t feel I played it safe. What I wanted to do was capitalize and make bigger flavors out of simple ingredients. I felt I did that. I placed in the top three.
Going into the Main Dish challenge, were you worried about making empanadas?
EA: The only thing I was worried about [with] the empanadas was the sauce. We [were] supposed to express ourselves. That’s the part I failed on. I liked the texture of it. The texture was good. It was exactly what I wanted. It was thick. … You stick your empanada in there, boom, and it grabs hold of the empanada, and it’ll cling to it. Nobody wants a sauce when you dip it in, it just slides off. It’s like, what? So, the texture was exactly where I wanted it. The taste wasn’t. I let myself down. I failed on the taste. … Texture’s not everything. It’s just a portion of it. Taste is the biggest thing. You can have the best texture in the world, but if it tastes like a sewer system, nobody’s going to want to put it in their mouth again.
How was it being on Tyler’s team for you? How was it having him mentor you throughout this competition?
EA: I know both are very accomplished chefs. I know this. Personality wise, I feel that I capitalized on Chef Tyler’s tolerance and patience for my inabilities, and he in return was able to, if you will, handhold me. … I mean, he’s patient, thorough, allows you to ask questions. He doesn’t mind the questions. … I feel it was a really good match, between my personality and his, and, you know, I’ve got mad respect for him. … I’ve got a new love for food because of that man. … He’s incredible, and if he’s ever down on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, I hope he comes over, and we can have a beer together, or whatever — he’s that kind of a guy. He’s grassroots, but yet he’s so well-accomplished, but yet he never forgot that he came from humble beginnings, like all of us have.
Is there a skill, or maybe a piece of knowledge, that you learned from him that you think you’ll use again?
EA: Oh, yeah. Day One: If you’re not searing, you’re stewing. I had no idea what that meant when he first said it, but then after we began Boot Camp, he explained it to us that … you’re sealing off the capabilities of that piece of meat from losing its, you know, natural moisture — its juiciness. … And that’s so important, because I’ve put my fork into so many plates of sand that were barely held together, and it’s just (sighs) …
When you get home, do you plan to do some more cooking? Will you cook with your daughters?
EA: I feel that the ladies in my life will now allow me in the kitchen, other than to repair the dishwasher, or to clear it or load it. Am I going to have the skill set that these ladies have? No, but I’ve always felt like I was the nervous father waiting for the baby to be born back in 1922, standing outside the house, or standing outside the doors, while … his wife is inside giving birth. And I wasn’t even allowed to look in, and … all that bonding is going on in there. My daughters are creating memories with my wife. … I’m not; I wasn’t doing that. I was sitting on the couch watching television, because I wasn’t allowed in there, and my family loves me, so that comes across a little wrong, and I want to make sure I’m very clear about this. My family loves me, but they know I’m a danger to myself and others. So, that’s why I wasn’t really allowed in the kitchen first and foremost — and the only reason. If I’d brought something to the kitchen, besides chaos, they would have gladly invited me in. Now I feel I’ve got something to show them.
Is there someone on your team you think might possibly make it to the end?
EA: Yes. I honestly believe either Lawrence or Holgie will make it to the end. Ginny seems to be confident in the kitchen, and she’s a nice lady. So, I mean, no harm, no foul to her. It just seems that since Chef Tyler critiqued her on oversalting, then she’s undersalting. So, it doesn’t seem like she’s grasped that just yet, but I don’t feel fair saying that, considering the fact I’m sitting here in the eliminated chair. So, I’m trying to make sure that I say this humbly. Rachel’s still a little tender with fire. She’s done really well. She had two great rounds, and I think she’s going to do well. But ultimately, I think it’s going to come down — I think the last two standing are going to be Holgie and Lawrence. That’s my prediction.
How was the overall experience of being a part of this competition show?
EA: I would do it again in a second. Even knowing … that I would be sitting here again, right here today, road blocked at this point … I would do it all over again, because this … has been enlightening. … This is not a reality show for me. This was a crash course in culinary school, and I enjoyed it. … I would recommend anybody in America who is freaked out, thinking that they can’t do it … ignore the cameras. Ignore the microphones. Ignore all those people. All those people are wonderful. Don’t make a mistake about that. All those people are great, because they’re needed to make the show happen, but without someone stepping forward to commit to the show, there is no show. … I’m a little bit of a ham in front of the camera, and I know I am. … I enjoyed cutting up in front of the camera, you know, taunting the camera crews, taunting the sound crew, taunting my producers. But overall this whole experience was wonderful, and I think more people should do it. I really do.
Watch Worst Cooks in America on Sundays at 9|8c to find out which recruit goes home next.