Corey Becker on competing in Ciao House, a favorite Italian dish, and staying positive, interview

Contestant Corey Becker, as seen on Ciao House Season 1
Contestant Corey Becker, as seen on Ciao House Season 1 /

When Food Network announced the new culinary competition, Ciao House, many people anxiously awaited the debut. Although the stunning Tuscany locale had many people dreaming of packing their bags to bask in the beauty and deliciousness that Italy offers, the chefs competing had more on their mind. For Corey Becker, this Food Network competition is a way showcase his impressive culinary skills, knowledge and a few of his favorite recipes along the way.

Corey Becker is a successful chef from New York. From his CIA training to his time working in well-known restaurants, Corey understands the hard work and dedication that comes with being a professional chef. From the ups, downs, and in between, he has weathered more than some.

As viewers watch the competition unfold, Ciao House is more than just tackling a challenge and making an impeccable dish. The chefs must navigate living together. Sometimes personalities can flavor the experience.

Recently, FoodSided spoke with Corey about Ciao House, his culinary experiences, and how he stays positive throughout his journey.

Corey Becker on Ciao House Food Network
Contestant Corey Becker, as seen on Ciao House Season 1 /

While the chefs on Ciao House all have various backgrounds, Corey has studied at the CIA. Speaking to that experience, Corey said, “When I first started at CIA, I think it was during orientation, there was a presentation of all the majors available to students opting for the 4 year program. Some included trips to other countries like China and others were focused on food science. However, the one that stood out to me was the farm to table program. If accepted, you were given the opportunity to study at the Greystone campus and learn directly from the legendary Chef Larry Forgione. I’ll never forget walking the train tracks of Saint Helena, California every morning to work on the farm. This program defined who I became as a chef. From the importance of sourcing, quality of ingredients and relationships with farmers/purveyors. Without this opportunity I would have never ended up at Barbuto where I fell in love with Italian food. I fully believe the hands-on education gave me a very strong advantage.”

Whether it is the lure of Italian food, the appreciation of culinary techniques, or the celebration of impeccable ingredients, Corey understands that being drawing on that knowledge and being confident in your abilities is vital.

Corey Becker said, “When you work for big name chefs there is always an air of competition. Every cook in the building wants to prove their worth. These kitchens attract an immense amount of talent. These aren’t cooks that just show up for a check, these are people who truly want this. They want to be chefs. That’s why these kitchens are so formative. It isn’t about the big name chef. It’s about the talent around you. Pushing each other, making each other stronger and crushing busy NYC dinner services. So yes, I’d say working for these chefs brings confidence but for the reason that great chefs attract great cooks.”

While learning from other chefs can be helpful to hone personal skills, there is an element of navigating each other’s personalities. In Ciao House, there seems to be an element of learning to cook and compete with everyone else.

When asked, Corey said, “I’m not phased about living with people I’m competing against. I’m in this villa for one reason and that’s to represent myself and my abilities.”

Still, this experience is far different than the typical dinner service or restaurant grind. Even if a traditional night might be full of diners, there is something more in this Food Network competition.

Speaking to the lessons he learned by being on Ciao House, Corey said, “This environment is intense. You’re surrounded by talented chefs and cooking directly for legendary chefs. The pressure I put on myself to perform was heavy. Very heavy. It’s my natural personality to be a very competitive person especially with food. Food is my world and I pride myself on my ability to compete. The biggest lesson I learned was to take a breath. Let myself off the hook a bit and just enjoy it.”

When the chefs were thrown into the Food Network competition and told to make a dish that represented themselves, Corey knew what he was going to make. Even given the limited time and accepting the risk, his dish impressed the judges.

Corey Becker on Food Network Ciao House
Judge Gabriele Bertaccini visits contestants during the first trial, as seen on Ciao House Season 1 /

Corey shared that “My favorite Italian dish to cook is Bolognese. It always has been and always will be. It stems from when I was kid and my parents had got divorced meaning my dad now needed to learn some basic cooking skills. His vehicle of choice – ground beef. So “meat sauce” as he calls it was a classic staple in the house. Now, it isn’t that it was particularly outstanding in flavor – it was just ground beef and tomato. However, the fact that I could go into the kitchen and dunk a piece of bread and have snacks available while it cooked had me sold. I loved being able to taste the differences the longer it cooked. It’s comfort food at the end of the day. A cold rainy NYC night plus a hot bowl of Bolognese and red wine – that’s everything. I can’t say there’s really any dish I wouldn’t serve. Some dishes are more labor intensive like cleaning artichoke hearts, but the tastiest treats take time.”

While Food Network viewers will tune in every week to see Corey Becker on this Food Network journey, the talented chef has a personal battle. Recently, he revealed that he is battling cancer.

Corey shared, “My health is a battle right now. I’m doing my best to stay positive and stay active. In the beginning I was very down. Didn’t want to talk to anyone and really just secluded myself from the world for a bit. But that just isn’t me. I’ve never been someone to give up or not fight so I made a choice to start doing yoga. Yoga helped get my body moving again, build strength and build confidence. Now I have a pretty firm routine of clean eating and exercise which has helped in ways I couldn’t imagine. It’s one of those things that’s hard to talk about. You don’t want to be looked at as sick or weak – especially as a chef we pride ourselves so strongly on our abilities to endure and push through what perhaps others could not. I recently started posting on social media about and sharing the process a bit. Finding talking about it more actually helps not only me but those around me. I’d like to normalize the conversations so people aren’t so afraid to approach the topic. If there’s anything I can do to bring attention to all forms of cancer then I will do that.”

From being a voice for health issues to offering delicious dishes on a bountiful table, chef Corey Becker is standing tall and taking every opportunity presented to him.

Ciao House airs on Food Network Sunday nights and can be streamed on discovery+.