Eric Smart learned cooking confidence from Worst Cooks in America

Recruit Eric Smart poses, as seen on Worst Cooks in America, Season 20. Courtesy Food Network
Recruit Eric Smart poses, as seen on Worst Cooks in America, Season 20. Courtesy Food Network /

Eric Smart found his confidence from Worst Cooks in America

In Worst Cooks in America, Eric Smart was often heard saying “yes chef.” While his desire to achieve and please Chef Alex Guarnaschelli was compelling, he was always trying to do better and learn from the Food Network cooking competition experience. From the first episode till his final challenge, he never wanted to disappoint himself, Chef Alex or his teammates.

In this Season 20 of Worst Cooks in America, the personalities in the kitchen were bold but their cooking ability seemed to shine brighter. Throughout the competition, Eric was always trying to please. Where other cooks might make funny remarks, he tried to make the best of the situation. Even if he was flustered or unsure, he never wanted to disappoint his chef mentor.

Recently, Eric Smart spoke to me about his Worst Cooks in America experience. His answers were as thoughtful and candid as he was on the show. Even without earning the Food Network title, he won over many fans. His passion about cooking is something that foodies can appreciate.

As a self-described foodie, Eric knew that this Food Network cooking show offered a huge opportunity. He said that it is “only show where people who were identified as ‘Worst Cooks.’ had an opportunity to turn around their designations, and perhaps become better cooks.”

Additionally, he said that “I know for a fact, in real life, I simply couldn’t afford to take cooking lessons from anyone, let alone a world-famous Chef.” Through the process Eric said that he fell in love with “my chef” and was honored to be on her team. That role he took very seriously.

In two instances this season, Eric didn’t want to submit his dish. After so many seasons of seeing cooks put up inedible dishes, his choice was refreshing. It showed how much he took this cooking show to heart.

Even in the first episode, Eric did not want Chef Alex to eat his chicken. Though the dish was flawed, Chef Alex took a bite. In some ways, that support pushed him forward to try harder.

Eric said, “I was mortified at the way my chicken turned out….and I was not only disappointed, but horrified at the prospect of making her ill!!! There is always a “first time” in any show, and I adored Chef Alex so much, I was fearful that my chicken would make her sick, and it would be “the first time in Worst Cooks history where a Chef was felled by a recruit’s dish!! I was so late getting the chicken into the oven to finish cooking….time was ticking….and I couldn’t imagine presenting her with something so sub-par….and I felt that I had really let her down!!”

While that dish might have missed the mark, Eric appreciated Chef Alex and all her guidance. Eric felt that “it was my own insecurities and lack of experience that made me so fearful of having her taste my “dish”, such as it was. Still, as I said, and will continue to say, she is such a consummate professional, and a really kind and loving woman…that I knew she wouldn’t make me feel bad by not tasting it….but still, I really didn’t want her to try it and would have been okay if she had passed on it.”

In some ways, Chef Alex’s demeanor and approach made this Worst Cooks in America season as well as Eric’s experience cooking on the Blue Team special. Specifically, Eric said, that “while the entire experience was amazing, I must say that meeting and getting the privilege and honor of working directly with the amazing Chef Alex is the most memorable and fondest memory of my time on ‘Worst Cooks in America.’ I’d do anything for Chef Alex….if I could never cook for her again, I’d clean her house and wash her car if she wanted me to.”

That connection between the cook and the mentor was clear. From Eric’s constant yes, chef to Chef Alex’s sarcastic retort, there was fun in the kitchen. It was never meant to be mean or divisive.

Eric said, “this was simply a wonderful and amazing opportunity in and of itself. I met some truly amazing people, many of whom I’m now calling “friends for life”. The entire experience, my first exposure to anything of this nature was not only eye-opening, but fun!!! Being identified as a “recruit”, getting “called” (and NOT LAST….as has been my experience throughout my life when teams were being chosen…for anything from sports to working teams)….was such a thrill, the very feelings I experienced when Chef Alex called me….I didn’t even know I was called as I was expecting to be called ‘last,’ or by ‘default,’ so while the entire experience was amazing.”

In some ways, that sentiment is the reason why people watch Worst Cooks in America. Sure, there is that moment of schadenfreude when a cook makes a big mistake, but foodies want these cooks to succeed. It gives all those home cooks a sense of hope.

With more and more people calling themselves foodies, people are starting to explore the kitchen and cooking. Eric was one of those people. While he has never met a food or a dish that he didn’t like, cooking those dishes are another story.

During the baseline challenge, Eric said, “my Beloved Mother Dear is from Louisiana, and she mastered cooking, fixing and preparing a variety of foods….but her signature dish was her ‘all day from scratch’ Seafood Gumbo. I recall vividly and with so much joy and love, her taking down the ‘giant pot’….I called it the ‘gumbo pot’ because I never recall her cooking anything else in that particular pot….it was heavy as all get out….but when it was on the stove, we all knew what was coming. Unfortunately, I didn’t stand with her as she made all the preparations….and now, because of all the WORK that is involved (cooking is hard!!) she simply doesn’t make it anymore. So, I would LOVE to be able to cook it for her… and carry on her well-deserved legacy.”

While Eric might not be ready for the professional kitchen, he learned a very valuable lesson. Eric said that it is important to realize that “it’s okay to make mistakes. Cooking doesn’t have to be “perfect”. Life can be rough around the edges, tearing at the seams and a challenge, but cooking doesn’t have to be.”

That lesson and advice is vital for any cook. Sure, it can be disappointing to ruin the chicken or forget an ingredient, but is not the end of the world. Everyone will be in the kitchen to cook another day.

With this Worst Cooks in America experience behind him, Eric believes that many home cooks are presented with a great opportunity to get into the kitchen and cook. Although he didn’t feel that he necessarily should be giving cooking advice, he encouraged everyone to cook and fix food.

Although the home kitchen isn’t fraught with competition, Eric said that “A nice well stocked kitchen pantry can yield many surprises….and even if one isn’t privileged to have a world-famous professional Chef like Chef Alex be there to walk you through the preparation or taste your food and give you advice, cooking can be fun and I can tell you from many, many years of experience, that eating can be very enjoyable….plus, you don’t have to ‘social distance’ from your cooking appliances or utensils!!!”

In the end, one phrase said to Eric Smart by Chef Alex Guarnaschelli should be everyone’s reminder as they step behind the stove. “Have confidence in yourself, if you don’t, who will??”

Worst Cooks in America airs on Food Network Sunday nights at 9 p.m. EST.

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What was your favorite dish from Eric Smart? Do you agree with his cooking advice?