Worst Cooks in America review: Let’s Get Ready to Tailgate


In this review of Worst Cooks in America, we delve into the delicious world of tailgating. A mostly American tradition, tailgating celebrates backyard comfort food. Will the worst cooks be able to score a victory or will their cooking end in a fumble?

The Worst Cooks in America recruits enter the kitchen and immediately guess the theme based on the green field flooring, goal post, blue and red coolers, blue and red solo cups and football decals. As usual, we will get the blood flowing with a game that has no impact on the outcome of the remainder of the show.

This time, we will have a relay race. One member of each team will have to create a classic dish, run it to a referee and pass inspection before letting the next team member start their own dish. The winner will be determined based on speed and taste. Fittingly, Eddie Jackson will act as referee. As a former football quarterback as well as a contestant on MasterChef and Food Network Star, he has the chops to judge the teams’ dishes.

We begin with Jefferson for the blue team against Ryan for the red, both tasked with dressing buffalo wings and making blue cheese sauce. Jefferson finishes first. Kelly for blue then beats out Leslie for red in making a crudité platter with dip.

Leo for blue goes against Lulu for red in making pasta salad. Blue loses time when Leo dumps whole olives into his salad. Alton asks if he is planning to not cut them and Leo’s response is to add more whole olives, only to be told he has to remove them all for slicing. Meanwhile, on Anne’s team, she is leading them in a rousing cheer of “slices, sticks, dices.”

Not to be left out, Alton’s team begins a soft medley of classic cheers, “give me an L…give me an E.” Alton, who is really leaning into his evil villain on the show, or at least grumpy old man, gives them a death glare until the cheer ends. Lulu ends up getting her dish to Eddie first and blue has now lost their speed lead.

Mike for blue and Bridget for red must both create pico de gallo. Red is again done first and goes into the final round ahead. Monica for blue and Shannon for red present their spinach artichoke dip at nearly the same time, but red is still faster. Though it looks like Anne’s team will win yet again, Eddie gives the win to Alton’s team for flavor, his first team win.

We now move onto the first challenge. Anne is clearly excited about the sports theme. Alton, on the other hand, says “we will attempt to take this to, I don’t know, the end zone or first down or something like that.” Anne and Alton will demonstrate burgers.

Anne is making an Asian-inspired turkey burger. Alton is making cheeseburger sliders. In full teacher mode, Alton makes sure we understand that a slider is not just a mini burger. Instead, it is unique in that it is technically steamed and in that the most important ingredient is not beef but onions.

Alton’s demonstration is actually quite informative. He starts with a lot of diced onions which he salts to draw out moisture. While the onions sit, he rolls out his beef into a thin rectangle using a cold wine bottle. He drizzles mustard onto the flat meat and then folds it like a book to seal in the mustard. He cuts the book into slider-sized squares and is ready to cook.

To cook the sliders, he makes a rectangle of onions on his grill and lays the meat squares on top. He pours some of the onion juice over that. Next, he layers cheese and the buns and covers the whole thing in foil to steam.

The cooks will have thirty minutes to create their own version of a burger for Anne, or six sliders for Alton. We spend little time during this round with Alton’s team. Leo gets over-eager and cuts far too many onions, using up a third of his time. Monica struggles to roll her meat into a rectangle and instead gets an “amoeba of meat.”

The most time is spent with Alton admiring Kelly and again likening her to a robot. He is impressed by her speed, ability to follow directions and cleanliness and says she must have had a firmware upgrade overnight. Though he calls her “robot girl” and tells her she is a machine, she takes it for the complement that it is and actually tears up in confessional. It isn’t easy to get any sort of admiration from Alton Brown. As proof, he tells the rest of the team, “I’m here to help you all be your best so that when I eliminate the next one of you, I feel OK about it.”

Over on red, the cook is less smooth. Leslie wants to make a Greek-inspired burger and wants lamb but can find none. She selects bison though she does not know what it is. She settles on “big cow” and wonders, “how different can it be other than the fact that it’s a completely different animal?” She also tries to make a tzatziki sauce but doesn’t know what that means other than white and dill. She decides on mayonnaise, lemon, dill and sour cream.

Bridget wants to make a breakfast burger using chorizo, bacon, “spicy stuff,” butter and blue cheese. The combo sounds completely weird to me but the only way you learn is to experiment. In order to stay focused, Bridget mumbles an Anne catch phrase over and over, “brown food tastes good.”

Shannon, stuck next to Bridget, wants a new table mate. She imitates Bridget, really nailing the nutty way she sounds as she rocks herself while whispering the mantra and then startles, looking scared and wide-eyed. Shannon might not have much room to talk, though, as her combo sounds equally nutty. She is using roasted red peppers as well as BBQ sauce, soy sauce, and maple syrup. She also selects “moo nester” (muenster cheese) for the top.

Just before time is called, Ryan of the red team realizes he has burned his burgers. “Mother scooter,” he exclaims. The round is over and Anne cheers, “let’s go red team!” Alton tells his team they did an adequate job.

Over on red, Lulu’s sausage, roasted red pepper burger with a pine nut basil spread features way too much romaine, mostly stalks. Bridget’s super weird breakfast burger has a confused flavor profile but Anne applauds her for getting out of her comfort zone as she has never cooked with most of the ingredients she chose. Shannon’s equally weird roasted red pepper cheeseburger with pickles, parsley, onion, BBQ sauce, soy sauce, maple syrup and red pepper jelly is crazy but “weirdly works.”

Leslie’s Greek-inspired bison burger with spinach, goat cheese, arugula, and tzatziki sauce gets a positive review, though Anne tells her that the tzatziki is missing Greek yogurt and cucumber (so basically is not tzatziki). Ryan closes out judging with his burned double green chili bacon cheeseburger with avocado spread. His actually sounds really good, if executed well. Anne is not happy he has served a charred but otherwise raw whole jalapeno.

Over on blue, Alton is unhappy at Jefferson’s very sloppy plating. Kelly has swapped Alton’s mustard drizzle for BBQ sauce and he likes it. He has decided she is a cyborg instead of a robot, capable of not just replication but personal touch, and he wants more. Monica gets a “not bad,” but she burned her onions. Leo’s onions aren’t cooked enough.

Mike of the creative names calls his offering the Chocolate Slide. Alton asks if there is chocolate in it. Negative, says Mike. “That’s what throws you off, right? I’m the chocolate.” Alton find the slider quite good though his knife cuts are not great.

To introduce the next segment, a cheer squad appears. After exuberantly bouncing around, they begin to leave. Alton begs them, “hey! You guys, take me with you. I’ve been here for five weeks. I can be cheery!” Anne looks amused and reminds him that cheery is one thing he can’t be.

For the main dish challenge, they will honor the Southern tailgating tradition with Southern foods. Anne is making barbecue ribs with bacon mac and cheese. Alton is making fried chicken and deviled eggs. After a fairly standard demonstration, they release the recruits with seventy-five minutes and a requirement to make their own spin on mac and cheese or deviled eggs.

Alton starts the round by begging Jefferson for a pretty plate that doesn’t “look like it was put together by children in an earthquake.” Jefferson has more immediate problems as he has forgotten to add seasoning to his flour and has already floured his chicken pieces. He adds the seasonings to the top of his chicken instead. Other than Jefferson, we again see little of Alton’s team other than to note that Monica has set alarms but does not know what they are for and Leo, a fifty-eight-year-old chemist, has never peeled an egg before.

Over on red, Ryan has decided to add “fidel” cheese to his macaroni. He is surprised to learn it is fontina and we are treated to a visual that shows Castro versus cheese. Lulu is immediately confused by the number of ingredients needed and tells us she has the attention span of a gnat, so she constantly refers to her notebook. This annoys Anne to no end.

Shannon, upon being told by Anne to get her pasta out of the cooking water immediately, spills her cooked pasta into the sink, right onto the sponge. She scoops it back up and decides to use it anyway. Bridget is unfamiliar with hot sauce and thinks the sauce will shake out it drips. Instead, she manages to pour in a glug and to get it in her eye. Her mantra for this round is “hot pan” said over and over. Finally, Leslie wants to add ground beef and jalapeno to her mac and cheese but it cooks down to almost nothing and some of it burns.

Time is called and Anne and Alton are ready to sample the results. Anne starts with Leslie. Her beef and jalapeno are nearly imperceptible in her mac and cheese but her BBQ sauce is tangy and her ribs are tender. Ryan has put hot dogs in his macaroni which is creamy but messy. His BBQ sauce has come out too ketchup forward and his ribs need salt.

Shannon has made broccoli mac and cheese. As Anne tastes it and determines the macaroni to be overdone, Shannon admits it went in the sink and Anne’s fork comes right back out of her mouth. Her ribs have a nice char but her sauce it too thin. Bridget has done nothing to her mac and cheese that Anne didn’t do so it tastes the same, despite the extra hot sauce. Her ribs aren’t brown enough and her BBQ sauce looks like marinara. Lulu has made pimento cheese macaroni but the sauce is way too thick and lumpy. Her ribs are tender but lack sauce and Anne reminds her that she is spending too much time reading her notes.

Over on blue, Alton continues to terrify with his decision to review the dishes like a true contest judge. He will only sample the chicken, turning to the deviled eggs just for the bottom two. He judges silently, starting by sniffing the chicken, then staring at it, then biting it while staring dead into the eyes of the recruit. After Jefferson’s chicken, we know there’s trouble as Alton scrapes his tongue with his teeth and takes a hefty drink of water.  Alton decides to sample the deviled eggs of Monica and Jefferson and we are ready for the final reveal.

Anne’s winner is Shannon. She declares Leslie and Bridget safe. Her bottom two are Lulu for spending too much time in her notebook, and Ryan for constantly lacking seasoning. Alton’s winner is Leo whose chicken was extraordinarily good. Also safe is Kelly, whose chicken was not quite brown enough, and Mike who had decent flavor and doneness. Not surprisingly, his bottom two are Monica and Jefferson.

Monica’s chicken was underdone, a huge no-no. Jefferson, having added his spices to the outside of his chicken and then frying, burned the spices for an unpleasant experience. For failing to do what he was told, Alton eliminates Jefferson. For failing to season properly, Anne eliminates Ryan.

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Next week, the Worst Cooks in America recruits tackle unusual pairings. Given the ingredients thrown together this episode, the recruits should have no problems with that. A pairing isn’t unusual when you have no normal. So, who is up for some of Alton Brown’s sliders?