Leah Cohen shares why The Great American Recipe Season 2 is better than ever, interview

Leah Cohen on The Great American Recipe Season 2, photo provided by PBS
Leah Cohen on The Great American Recipe Season 2, photo provided by PBS /

As The Great American Recipe Season 2 is set to debut on PBS, Leah Cohen, one of the series judges, offered some insight on the culinary competition and why the second group of home cooks will have everyone hungry to tune in every week.

Leah Cohen has had success in the culinary world. While her New York City restaurants continue to draw guests to the table, she understands that food is more than just enticing flavors paired with impeccable technique. The connection between food and the people around the table makes each bite even more memorable.

When PBS announced The Great American Recipe, the idea was straightforward. The food television program was meant to celebrate the idea of culinary diversity. Even though the term melting pot can be debated, the show is a convivial celebration of food and culture.

Although it is a culinary competition, the vibe is more friendly in that barn. Each round is served with a conversation about the recipe. The story helps season the dish with tales of history, tradition, or even a little humor along the way.

As The Great American Recipe Season 2 airs on PBS, Leah shared that a few changes will give viewers a more complete look into the home cooks’ and the judges’ backgrounds. Since each cook is telling their story on a plate, understanding that background and why they have a particular culinary point of view is valuable.

Although everyone can appreciate the home cooks’ point of view, Leah mentioned that the judges’ feedback tries to focus on the positive. While constructive criticism can be helpful, everyone understands that there is an overall appreciation for a dish, its traditions, and its flavors.

The Great American Recipe Season 2 with Leah Cohen and fellow judges
The Great American Recipe Season 2 with Leah Cohen and fellow judges, photo provided by PBS /

Luckily, Leah relied on her fellow judges to offer some insight. For example, she mentioned that one of the Season 2 contestants is Guyanese. The team leaned on each other to understand how those flavors should be presented. While she loved all those dishes, it was important to appreciate how the dish should and should not be.

Still, Leah understands that as a judge she wants to help these home cooks hone their craft. No one can argue if a protein is raw, but the nuances in seasoning preferences can vary. Overall, she is sensitive in her approach. After all, the purpose of this PBS show is to inspire people to put their food story on a plate. Those recipes can be a type of archive.

While each challenge is important for the home cooks to move forward into the next round, Leah said that the experience is meaningful for her and her fellow judges. Specifically, she mentioned “we’re kind of learning alongside the viewers and the fellow contestants.”

In last season, the home cooks presented a signature dish that gave a glimpse into who they are and what their culinary point of view is. When asked, Leah mentioned that her signature dish would be chicken adobo. She said, “it is one of the first dishes that I learned how to make. Also, it is one of the dishes that I make for my family at least twice a month. It is one of the dishes that they always ask for.”

Leah believes that this dish speaks to her story. “I make it for someone who has never had Filipino food and they fall in love with it. It is easy and complex all at the same time.” Whether that first bite starts a love affair for a lifetime or sparks a desire to learn more, the whole point is to create excitement. Bland and boring are two terms that should never be associated with food.

Although Leah would not give away any spoilers about The Great American Recipe Season 2, she did reveal that this season if full of amazing food and stories. The group is very diverse and their talent is impressive.

New episodes of The Great American Recipe Season 2 can be watched on PBS. The new season begins June 19 and new episodes air weekly.