Local chef Beau MacMillan has had a six-month reprieve from some of his usual duties as executive chef of elements at Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain as the resort's signature restaurant gets a multimillion-dollar overhaul.
During that time, he filmed the Food Network television series Worst Cooks in America, in which he and fellow chef Anne Burrell try to whip 24 of the nation's worst home cooks into shape via a cooking boot camp. The show premieres this Sunday at 10 p.m./9 Central. We caught up with Beau to get the inside scoop on the show.
What can we expect from Worst Cooks in America?
It's action-packed. It's shot with 12 cameras, so they captured every ounce of drama they could muster in these kitchens.
I gotta be honest with you, if you like watching professionals meltdown in the kitchen, just wait until you see novices running around in circles and bumping into walls and catching stuff on fire. It's a lot of comedy!
How did you get chosen for the show? Was it because of your past victory on Iron Chef America?
I had to go to New York and audition. They called twenty chefs from around the country to audition. Some had been on Food Network before, some hadn't. I think they had their eye on certain people.
Why did you decide to brave the Worst Cooks in America?
What I liked about the show was the concept itself. Instead of going after young professionals who are aspiring to be chefs and running another reality show with a twist, they went and found what they believe are the worst 24 cooks in America and tried to see if they could flip them in 13 days. I truly believe they found the 24 worst cooks, at the time.
The 24 cooks couldn't be that bad, right?
Worse. I had no expectations going into it, because I didn't know what was going to happen. They had to make a dish on opening day that represents them, and these dishes were across the board. None of them made any sense.
The closest one was someone attempted a macaroni and cheese debaucle. Another person's idea of a dish was opening up four different cans of soup. Over the years they developed this recipe and named it. These guys are bad. No skills whatsoever.
Were you nervous about going before the critics and pretending like these were your dishes?
There was never a more humiliating experience. The critics had no mercy on Anne and myself. One critic looked me in the eye and said "I was expecting way more."
They butcher me, then they butcher Anne. Then, after they get done butchering us, we let them know these dishes were made by home cooks that up until ten days ago couldn't boil water. When that happened, we saw the transition, almost a relief. It became "how did you even get them to this point?"
What about the elimination part at the end of every show? Were you brutal?
I remember one girl's hand was shaking and I could see it. I had one guy looking at me like, "any word from the governor??"
Other people cried. [One girl even batted her eyelashes to try and coax him into not cutting her, Chef Beau told New Times]. That's how desperate they were. I have props for all of those guys who hung in there because I know how tough it is in kitchens.
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How did the show turn out?
I haven't seen the whole show. One thing I do know is that Food Network is very happy with it, and it's gotten very favorable reviews from the people who have seen it. Everyone in America is gonna identify with these people and want to root for them. These are all underdogs. They are real, everyday people.
After everything was said and done, was it worth it to suffer through eating horrible food and getting flayed by the judges?
I loved it. It was fun. It taught me a lot about myself. With me, it was an opportunity to inspire someone and show them my passion.
If you want to be a great second baseman, you've got to love to play baseball. That was my goal; get these guys to understand how much we love this and maybe they'll get something out of it.