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Series / Worst Cooks in America

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A Food Network reality show that began airing in 2010, Worst Cooks in America takes 12-16 home cooks who are terrible in the kitchen and sees if some of Food Network's most experienced chefs can't teach them how to cook. The contestants acknowledge that they're bad cooks and are nominated for the show by friends, family, and even themselves in some cases.

The recruits are divided into a red team and a blue team, with one person from each team being eliminated every episode, based on their performance during that week's tasks. The recruits are tested for their presentation, seasoning, knife cuts, and other kitchen skills in two challenges. The last two chefs prepare a restaurant-quality three-course meal during the final episode of the season, for three food critics and one winner is chosen. The prize is $25,000 and a Food Network-cooking set.


Seasons 7, 9, 11, 13, 16, and 19 were different from the other seasons for a few reasons:

  • 1.) They're all "Celebrity Editions."
  • 2.) In the first two, the number of contestants matches the number of what season it was.
  • 3.) One person was eliminated each week (it didn't matter which team they were from).
  • 4.) The prize money was doubled to $50,000, which was donated to a charity.
  • 5.) The losers got $5,000 for their charities.

On October 2nd of 2016, a spin-off focused on baking premiered, titled "Worst Bakers in America", headed by chefs Duff Goldman and Lorraine Pascale (who hosted the blue and red teams respectively), and brought back two contestants from Worst Cooks, namely David Rosenberg from Season 6 and Carla Johnson from Season 4. It received a second season in July 2019, with Jason Smith replacing Duff as the blue team captain.


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    Team Captains 
Worst Cooks
  • Red Team: Anne Burrell (all seasons)
  • Blue Team:
    • Beau MacMillan (Season 1)
    • Robert Irvine (Seasons 2 and 14)
    • Bobby Flay (Seasons 3-5 and 17)
    • Tyler Florence (Seasons 6, 8, 12-13, 15-16, and 19)
    • Rachael Ray (Seasons 7, 9-11)
    • Alton Brown (Season 18)
    • Alex Guarnaschelli (Season 20)
    • Carla Hall (Season 21)

Worst Bakers

  • Red Team: Lorraine Pascale (both seasons)
  • Blue Team:
    • Duff Goldman (Season 1)
    • Jason Smith (Season 2)

    Worst Cooks Winners 
  • Season 1 (red team) — Rachel Coleman (23), a marketing website editor from Brooklyn.
  • Season 2 (red team) — Joshie Berger (36), an attorney from Brooklyn.
  • Season 3 (red team) — Kelli Powers (40), a stay-at-home mom from Los Angeles.
  • Season 4 (blue team) — Alina Bolshakova (28), a caretaker/actress originally from Riga, Latvia.
  • Season 5 (blue team) — Amber Brauner (37), a tattoo artist from Redlands, California (who also had really long fingernails).
  • Season 6 (red team) — Kristen Redmond (25), a singer/songwriter from Austin, Texas.
  • Season 7 (red team) — Jenni "JWoww" Farley (29), reality TV star best known from Jersey Shore and Snooki & JWoww.
  • Season 8 (red team) — Nick Slater (24), a construction worker from Rancho Cucamonga, California.
  • Season 9 (blue team) — Loni Love (44), a comedian and host of the TV show "The Real".
  • Season 10 (red team) — Daniel Mar (35), a photographer from Burbank, California.
  • Season 11 (blue team) — Perez Hilton (39), a social media influencer.
  • Season 12 (red team) — Hazell Mckenzie (36), a graduate student from Brooklyn.
  • Season 13 (blue team) — La Toya Jackson (61), a singer and icon; sister of The Jackson 5 (including Michael) and Janet Jackson.
  • Season 14 (blue team) — Bradley Garcia (22), a model from Miami.
  • Season 15 (red team) — Allison Wolfe (30), a stay-at-home mom from Richmond, Texas.
  • Season 16 (red team) — Tonya Harding (48), a retired figure skater and reality TV personality.
  • Season 17 (blue team) — Adrian Read (29), a Zumba instructor from The Bronx.
  • Season 18 (red team) — Shannon Akins (24), an aspiring cosmetologist from Tempe, Arizona.
  • Season 19 (red team) — Wells Adams (35), radio/podcast host and reality TV personality.
  • Season 20 (blue team) — Ari Robinson (28), a teacher from Simpsonville, South Carolina. (Sadly, in January 2021 Robinson was arrested for the murder of her adopted daughter, whereupon Food Network began pulling all episodes of this season from its various platforms.)
    • All but eight of the overall winners of WCIA were from the red team and all but seven of the overall winners are women.
      • Joshie Berger (from the red team) was the first male recruit to win the show.
      • Alina Bolshakova and Amber Brauner are the first and second recruits from the blue team to win the show.
      • Nick Slater (from the red team) is the second male contest to win the show.
      • Daniel Mar (from the red team) and Perez Hilton (from the blue team) are the third and fourth male contestants to win the show.
      • Bradley Garcia (blue team) and Adrian Read (blue team) are the fifth and sixth male contestants to win the show.
    • Some contestants have chosen to leave the show early:
      • In Season 3, Benjamin Dennis (a stay-at-home dad from Dallas, Texas) voluntarily dropped out of the competition due to personal reasons.
      • In Season 12, Sylvia Jefferies left the show voluntarily.
      • In Season 16, Taryn Manning walked off the set early in the second episode and never came back.
    • Two recruits have been forced to drop out of the competition due to either being too sick to compete or due to injuries on the show.
      • Stephanie Streisand (not related to Barbara Streisand), a writer from Los Angeles, who competed in Season 6 on the blue team, was forced to drop out of the competition due to somehow contracting food poisoning and being deemed "too ill" to continue competing.
      • Carmen Electra, who competed in Season 11, was forced to drop out after getting injured on set.

    Worst Bakers Winners 
  • Season 1 (red team) — Carla Johnson from Las Vegas.
  • Season 2 (blue team) — Melody Pfeffer from Haubstadt, Indiana.

Worst Cooks in America provides examples of:

  • Achievements in Ignorance: Usually at least one of the cooks, in the first main dish challenge, will manage to produce a surprisingly good dish in spite of their complete inexperience in the kitchen.
  • American Title: "Worst Cooks in America". It's of the variety where American-ness has nothing to do with the show's content and only labels where it's set.
  • Berserk Button: The chefs have several.
    • Not taking things seriously.
    • Not listening to their instructions (hurry up, get your food on the grill, etc.)
    • Completely copying their presentations, unless instructed to do so. Explanation 
    • Poor sanitation Explanation 
    • An easy and rapid way to piss off Chef Anne is to presume familiarity. Justified in that the people doing this are, well, the worst cooks in America.
    • Another for Anne is knife safety. She will run up to a recruit and draw on their fingers with red marker if she sees them holding knives incorrectly — specifically, with their index finger extended over the back of the blade.
  • Catchphrase: From Chef Anne: "Brown food tastes good!"
    • Anne Burrell also says, "That's it. Hands up, you're done" after time is over for cooking. This is her go-to phrase whenever she is judging a timed competition.
  • Celeb Crush: Season 4 contestant Carla towards Bobby Flay, and she's still crushing on him when we see her again in "Worst Bakers". Numerous other contestants as well (for example, Melissa in Season 3), but very few were so open about it.
  • Chirping Crickets: In the premiere episode of the fifth season, "Worse Than Ever," the first challenge is making pizzas. Anne asks the cooks as a whole what the foundation of a pizza is. Cue this inserted as a sound effect.note 
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: There's usually one in every season.
  • Confession Cam: Both the hosts and contestants use it to comment on various things that go on.
  • Cordon Bleugh Chef: The premise of the series.
    • The first meals the contestants prepare in the kitchen show just how bad they are. One dish in Season 4 was essentially spaghetti with a pound of melted M&M's mixed in.
    • Kitchen sanitation is a big problem.
      • Two chefs in Season 4 were sent home for sanitation issues (Dr. Bob in week 2 cut his finger and continued to cook without even an attempt to bandage the wound; Aadip in week 3 licked his fingers during the main dish challenge and returned to cooking without washing his hands; in both cases, they likely would have been sent home anyway for failure to follow directions, but the sanitation made it a particularly easy decision).
      • In one season 18 challenge, Alton refused to taste anything prepared by his team because every single one of them made a sanitation or cross-contamination mistake. He judged their food based solely on appearance.
    • Since the recruits are, quite literally, the worst cooks in America, they will more often than not know very little about flavoring. Thus, when some dishes are nothing but flavor (like ice cream), there's bound to be one bad batch.
  • Crossover: On one occasion when the chefs were secretly watching the contestants cook, Willie Degel, host of Restaurant Stakeout, came on the set with his cameras.
  • Deaf Composer: Many recruits forget to taste their food as they're cooking. Many dishes end up coming out as very salty, very spicy, very sweet, and so on.
  • Death Glare: Anne Burrell has a particularly good one. A contestant earns this in the first episode of Season 6 by calling her "honey." He doesn't repeat his mistake.
  • Denser and Wackier: Insomuch as a cooking-based reality show can do so, but later seasons feature visual gags, goofy props and set designs, and cutaway gags out the wazoo.
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: While most coaches tend to take a calm approach to teaching the contestants, Anne Burrell is very prone to this trope, often times she'll outright scream at anyone who's not being fast enough or committing mistakes. If she catches poor sanitation - and she will - she will make the hapless cook throw away the contaminated dish and start over (Serving contaminated food can make somebody seriously ill, making this highly justified).
    • Anne's DSN tendencies are brought out by recruits who are visibly screwing around, refusing to take boot camp seriously, and generally treating her and her kitchen with disrespect. She has a lot of patience with recruits who are actually struggling; none with recruits who are only struggling because they aren't taking her teaching seriously.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: Season 1 had the shortest episode order (12 cooks for 6 episodes) and a different selection mechanic (started with 24 cooks, selecting down to 12 in the first episode).
    • Season one also had some features they couldn't really use again, such as not telling the recruits at first that it was the worst dishes that would be moving on rather than the best. Also the final episode had the judges completely in the dark and believing it was the chefs' dishes they were judging, so emphasis was placed on the chefs' reputations being on the line more than in later seasons.
  • Failed a Spot Check: The recruits are usually not used to cooking, so thus, not used to cooking under a time limit. It's very often that they end up burning their food as a result, or some other accident that occurs due to absent-mindedness. For example, many contestants accidentally turned their gelato into scrambled eggs in season 6. Explanation 
  • I Lied: One episode per season will have the chefs telling the recruits that the chefs will be blind-taste-testing their food. They're actually watching behind-the-scenes.
  • Jaw Drop: Sarah's jaw drops in "Blast from the Past" from Season 6 after Tyler tells her that the truffle he's holding is worth $350.
  • Lady in Red: While definitely downplayed here, there has yet to be any Red Team leader that isn't Anne Burrell.
  • Lethal Chef: As previously mentioned, the contestants do actually acknowledge that they're really bad at cooking and genuinely want to improve their skills. Many of the contestants have admitted that they have accidentally given friends and relatives food poisoning because of how bad their cooking is. Much of the bad sanitation practice on display can make someone seriously ill or even kill them.
    • In auditions for one season, one contestant was made sick from eating his own food.
    • Chanda from Season 8 admitted that she thinks that may have actually killed a relative of hers with her bad cooking — she mentioned that she had made a birthday cake for her great-aunt, who died the next day. To be fair, the great-aunt's death was probably just a coincidence — she had mentioned that the great-aunt she made the cake for was 91, so the great-aunt probably just died of old age.
  • Let's See YOU Do Better!: Most of the recruits are on the show because of their families — either the recruit went there for their family, or their family sent them there.
  • Long Runner: The show has made 20 seasons so far.
  • Not Listening to Me, Are You?: It's really easy for the chefs to tell when the contestants are listening to them and when they're not. For example, putting a piece of fish flesh-side-down first when the chef said to do is skin-side-down first is a good indicator.
  • Oktoberfest: One episode that coincided with actual Oktoberfest had it as a theme for the episode. Contestants had to make their own wurst using the meat grinder and sausage-filler attachment on a stand mixer...and use natural casings for the sausages. There was also an appearance by a band wearing lederhosen.
  • Pet the Dog: If the recruits truly seem to know virtually nothing about cooking at all, the chefs hosting the teams will try their best to be as patient as possible. Generally a recruit who simply knows nothing at all about working in the kitchen will survive until at least week 2 (or later - Rasheeda in season 4 went from a seemingly-hopeless case at the start of the season all the way to the finals) while a recruit who doesn't seem to be listening and is generally trying the chefs' patience will go home in the first week.
  • Picked Last: In the premiere of the third season, a contestant named Rachel was embarrassed about being picked last, having flashbacks of dodgeball. This, suggests, however, that she didn't really understand the process, in which one-by-one Anne and Bobby each picked a chef they wanted for their team and foisted one they didn't want on the other team. Her being in this position, while not the best, certainly at least indicated that they felt she had some potential, compared to some of the others. Otherwise, one of them would have foisted her off on their opponent a lot sooner.
  • Picky Eater: Some contestants admit to being this, like season 5's Benji, season 8's Nick and season 13's La Toya.
  • Sadistic Choice: Of a cooking variety. In the second-to-last round of season 3, which was a challenge to prepare food for school children, Bobby is forced to choose which contestant to send home and which one to take to finals. Melissa handled her time perfectly in the kitchen, but her food was disliked by the kids. Vinnie handled his time poorly, but the kids loved his food. He chose to send home Melissa. This may have cost him the season.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Taryn Manning pulled this early in Season 16's Celebrity Edition. She lost her round in the episode's knowledge competition, was faced with eating chicken feet as the penalty, and walked off the set. Anne and Tyler agreed to count her departure as the episode's recruit elimination. (It's not clear whether her charity got the usual donation.)
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Season 5's Lance went into the show calling himself "the black Bobby Flay" and being supremely confident in his abilities, not even taking notes during demos, apparently forgetting that he got chosen to compete because he's a terrible cook. He was eliminated during the second week. Season 4's Alex constantly defended himself and deflected criticism, resulting in his being sent home in week 3.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: Season 12 contestant Brandon was smug early on, mugging for the camera at any possible opportunity, but he mellowed as the weeks progressed. In week 5 he helped teammate Robin recover from a disastrous attempt at putting a pizza in the oven that could have sent her home. He was sent home in week 6 when his dessert failed
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Season 4 contestant Chet as his time on the show went on. He didn't enjoy working alongside fellow contestant and eventual season winner Alina, and it showed in his behavior for the rest of his time as a contestant. Fortunately, when he made a reappearance alongside several other cut contestants in the final episode of the season, he seemed to have mellowed out.
    • Let's be fair, Alina was rather intolerable during the episode in question, becoming extremely bossy to Chet and shooting down his guesses even when he was correct. Context  Her intolerance to his contributions caused their team to miss a few key elements and could have cost them the match.
    • Season 3's Tiffany started off mellow and likable but became rather smug and jerkish later on. As a professional poker player, she should have known better.
  • Unperson: All of season 20 was pulled from streaming services and the Food Network website after season winner Ariel Robinson was arrested in January 2021 for homicide by child abuse.
  • Unskilled, but Strong: Some contestants tend to show this overtime, displaying good palates and understanding of putting flavors together despite their relative lack of culinary skills. One of the most notable cases was David Rosenberg, especially when he returned for Worst Bakers, as while he struggled to understand the intricacies of baking and his plates were not presented well, he constantly stunned the mentors with really tasty flavors in his baked goods.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: It's almost guaranteed that at least one contestant per season will be absolutely freaked out by seafood, Amber from Season 5 and JWoww from the first Celebrity Edition probably being the most prominent examples.
    • Kimberly from Worst Bakers had a fear of eggs. Considering that eggs are a staple in most baked goods, she was doomed to have a hard time from the get-go.