Food Network’s Worst Cooks in America, a reality cooking show putting amateur chefs through a sort of culinary boot camp, returns with a new season this January. The beloved Alton Brown and Chef Anne Burrell are mentors for season 18, which is exciting enough. But what’s more, two contestants are from the Phoenix area — Shannon Akins, 25, of Tempe and Ryan Grovey, 30, from Scottsdale.
Akins, a hairstylist at the Glow Blow Bar in north Scottsdale says she never intended to apply for the show. One day, her mother, a longtime fan of the show, expressed interest in being a participant. By the time Akins did her research and found the application, her mom changed her mind. “Actually, maybe you should go on the show,” she told her daughter. “My cooking skills have never, ever been up to par,” Akins confesses. “So I thought I might as well go.”
After submitting applications, participants undergo phone interviews and send audition tapes in which they cook a meal. Once accepted, the video-taped meal will be the first thing they prepare for the judges on the show.
Challenged as they may be in the kitchen, both Akins and Grovey were inspired by specific foods for their audition meals.
Akins’ favorite food memory is from growing up was her mom’s macaroni and cheese and fried chicken. Akins’ meal included fried chicken stuffed with goat cheese and spinach, veggie-loaded french fries, and almond milk cornbread.
Grovey’s favorite mom-made foods were her spaghetti and enchiladas. “My mom made the best spaghetti ever,” Grovey says.
Grovey was discovered on Instagram because of his unusual line of work — he's a mortician. He's also a master trainer at U-Jam Fitness and teaches around the Valley. “I had no idea what I was getting myself into,” he says, “because I do not know how to cook. I can barely boil an egg. I thought, is this a joke? Did someone I know give my name to them?” His audition meal was his mom’s dish of enchiladas and Mexican rice.
When asked if either of them prefer baking to cooking, Akins says she welcomes a challenge. “I can do some baking," she says. "I guess when you have the recipe, baking can be easier.”
Grovey, however, prefers to stay out of the kitchen altogether.
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As for what they plan to do with the skills learned from the show, Akins wants to explore what she can cook for friends and family. She remains open to any opportunities that might come her way as they relate to cooking.
Grovey plans to open his own funeral home in the future. One of the services he would like to offer is making food for bereaved families.
The show is scheduled to air at 9 p.m. EST this Sunday, January 5, on Food Network. The winner takes home $25,000.
Best of luck to the Arizonans.