The Worst Cooks in America Finale: The Bittersweet Pride of Being the Best of the WorstFood Network
The fourth season of Worst Cooks in America was only seven episodes long, but it felt much longer. Rachael vs. Guy: Celebrity Cook-off, at six episodes, is a bite-size mushroom quiche at a cocktail party compared to this show, which feels like you’re being made at gunpoint to try to finish every dish on the Cheesecake Factory’s 30-page menu. And the person forcing you to do it puts the barrel of the gun in your mouth, which is frightening but also makes it extremely difficult to chew, so you keep hitting your teeth on the metal of the gun and you kind of have to just gum the food into mush with your left molars and sometimes food falls out of your mouth, because you can’t close your lips, but the person doesn’t let you off the hook and you also have to eat the food that falls. Last night’s finale was the food that falls.
We are down to the final two competitors, now no longer the worst cooks in America. That’s a quote from Bobby Flay, but there’s a chance these two are the worst. Maybe in the days since the other contestants were eliminated they took cooking classes and got so good. Who can know? My point is that our remaining cooks, Rasheeda and Alina, may still be the worst cooks in America. There is simply no way to be sure. But there is no denying that Rasheeda and Alina worked very hard to get here. Looking back, the contestants have shed a lot of tears. And blood. And press-on nails. And whatever comes out of old men’s throats when they dry-heave. Oh, and spit; Aadip shed spit onto his fingers and then put that spit onto the food. And we never saw it, but I bet some of those colored rubber bands that go on braces have been shed as well.
Rasheeda and Alina both want the $25,000 prize, and the winner will get a $5,000 Kohl’s gift card whether she wants it or not. They will cook a “sophisticated” three-course meal at Dutch, which according to the lines fed to Rasheeda is “one of New York’s hottest restaurants.” I don’t disagree. One time I answered a trivia question that the Dutch’s owner put on Twitter and won a free brunch there. It ruled, because of how free it was. Free brunches taste incredible, especially the third-cocktail part of them. I don’t remember all the parts of the meal, but I do know that we started with raw fish and then there was just a floater order of pancakes to be split, so my stomach felt perfect after. In conclusion, the Dutch is one of the hottest restaurants in New York where I’ve ever not paid for brunch.
This is only Bobby Flay’s second season coaching the worst cooks, but Anne is undefeated, with three wins. What a spectacular and specific skill that is, to turn terrible amateur cooks into television winners. I’d say that would be hard to monetize, but that’s exactly what Anne has done. Anne is not exactly a gracious winner, and she wastes few opportunities to give Bobby shit on his loss last year. Am I out of line in thinking that Anne is a jerk? Bobby seems like a sweetheart, and I think Anne should be nice to him. Anne: Be nice. My reviews will now read like someone’s mother wrote them. “Why can’t everybody be friendly to one another? The end.”
Some “old” “friends” show up to cheer on Rasheeda and Alina. They are neither old nor friends. Sue, Aadip, Michael, Chet, Carla, and Big Mike all roll in wearing custom T-shirts that say either Team Flay or Team Burrell. From the quality of the iron-on letters I can tell this show spares no expense. My girlfriend has bunk-themed summer camp shirts that are fancier than these shirts that are made for television. Rasheeda smirks at the shirts. “Team Burrell? It should be Team Rasheeda.” Rasheeda, I agree. Anne is holding you down. Luckily, the past contestants are not there to help cook, because that would help no one, and if these final dishes were so complicated they needed sous chefs you know Alina and Rasheeda would be in trouble. It’s unclear why these teammates are there. Maybe the minimum order for shirts was three.
Bobby’s menu for Alina will play to her strengths of using big, bold flavors. Anne’s menu for Rasheeda plays to her strengths of getting bullied by Anne. Bobby and Anne make almost all the menu decisions. There are small nods toward interactivity, with Bobby asking Alina one ingredient she might enjoy (“lobster”), but that’s about it. Anne doesn’t even bother picking out dishes that Rasheeda can pronounce or enjoys, like raviolo all’uovo and Cornish game hen stuffed with chicken livers. Rasheeda hates chicken livers. Alina is more positive about Bobby’s choices. “If you think I can do it, I can do it.” That’s the spirit, Alina. I understand what Marshall sees in her.
Eating is great fun, and cooking can be, too, but can anyone really argue that grocery shopping is a pleasure? I doubt it. Those weird ladies on the coupon-hunter shows are convinced grocery shopping is a fun and exciting game, but they also seem like they spend a good part of the day crying on the toilet and putting out cigarettes on their legs. Grocery shopping is not fun. So I still don’t understand why shows like these show the contestants shopping. “Let’s look at our list and try to find those things! Oh no, I slipped! And now we check out.” Rasheeda does meet a cute stock boy and get his number, though. Rasheeda, you made it to the finale of a reality show. I’m glad your improved cooking ability is helping your confidence, but also aim higher.
Rasheeda and Alina each get a chance to practice their three dishes with Anne and Bobby. It’s a lot of Anne and Bobby having panic attacks and projecting their fears onto their cooks. I bet they are both a treat to work for. I didn’t watch last season, but I guess Bobby’s finale meal was screwed up by the dessert water bath spilling into the custard. He is deathly afraid of a repeat of that with Alina’s bread pudding. He keeps yelling that well-known mantra: “No water in the bread pudding!” There must be absolutely no water in the bread pudding. We all know that when you go to a strip club, the dancers will try to get you to go with them into the bread pudding, but no matter what they promise, there is never any water in there. It’s illegal.
Rasheeda figuratively holds her nose while she cooks the chicken livers. She says, “Chef Anne is really pushing me to her limit.” Her limit is having to cook something she doesn’t like, on TV, for money. What a poor limit. You can do more, Rasheeda. Anne whispers to her, “I know all the judges. They like liver.” That feels like cheating to me. While Alina struggles with focus, Rasheeda struggles with time management. They both need life-skills classes, or a prescription for Adderall.
Rasheeda’s teammates love her raviolo, but Alina’s teammates think her polenta and lobster scampi lacks flavor. I think Carla is just threatened by all the hugs Alina and Bobby are giving each other. Carla wants to make Bobby “Husband No. 5.” Can you even believe four other guys were that lucky? Carla’s got a lot of luck to give. Rasheeda’s practice hen is less successful. Luckily, this is just practice. She can put more liver flavor in the final dishes. Rasheeda says, “I need to make sure tomorrow I stuff it up and nail it!” When she says “nail it” I assume she means drop one of her press-on nails in it, which is her secret ingredient.
We meet our celebrity chef judges, all from New York: Anita Lo, from Annisa, Floyd Cardoz of North End Grill, and Andrew Carmellini, the aforementioned chef/owner of the Dutch. He also wrote two great cookbooks I like a lot. Go buy them. That’s a rare endorsement from me. Lo, Cardoz, and Carmellini are all great chefs, but after the judges’ table at the finale no one is going to offer them a sitcom based off their chemistry. And if their chemistry was great, that’s what would happen. “Hello, this is Showbiz, I was just watching your chemistry and it was so good I’d like to buy a sitcom based on it. Which bank is yours so we can back up a truck full of money to it?” These three chefs do not look comfortable together. I kept rewinding to see if they were blinking out a message or tapping a code on their fingers like in Homeland. “PLEASE HELP. THEY HAVE MY SON.” They have monster back and forths like this: “It all comes down to dessert.” “I am definitely looking forward to dessert.” Now I can’t wait, either.
The chefs taste the dishes blind. Up first is Rasheeda’s raviolo and Alina’s lobster scampi with creamy polenta and garlic chips. Cardoz is pretty impressed. “Dish X is pretty adventurous.” He says “Dish X” because all the food is called either Dish X or Dish Y, to preserve the anonymity of the cooks. It also succeeds in making it sound like one of the dishes in each course causes stomach cancer in rats. Alina’s scampi is more a fine-dining presentation, but some of the garlic was a tad overcooked, as Alina feared.
Now they’ve got 60 minutes to cook the entrées, which is a long time for the judges to wait after their appetizer. Rasheeda is rapidly losing focus. She forgets to put a burner on. Alina, though, is in the zone. Her pork tenderloin comes out a perfect temperature. Rasheeda is nervous about how bland her chicken was in practice, so she overstuffs this batch with liver. It’s gross to watch the liver ooze out from underneath the skin. Anne looks nervous, but Anne always looks a little nervous. Rasheeda’s dish has “frizzled” Brussels sprouts, and Alina’s has “roasted” Brussels sprouts. I choose “roasted.” Floyd keeps saying that Dish X (Rasheeda) is a “risk-taker,” which I believe is his way of saying, “This is a little weird and did not work for me.” Anita is less kind. She couldn’t handle the liver. The pork receives raves.
As mentioned above, “It all comes down to dessert.” Will Alina put water in her bread pudding? No, she will not. Bobby is relieved. The gelato Rasheeda made back in Boot Camp turned into scrambled eggs, and she’s gotten better — it’s no longer a breakfast food — but the texture is still not quite right with her crêpe and cinnamon gelato. But the flavors work. Alina serves an apple bread pudding with cinnamon crème anglaise and whipped cream. There is booze in it. All the judges like booze. Anne is dismissive of it. “Oh, you mean that dessert you make when you can’t make dessert?” Yikes. Easy, Anne. She says she probably made that back when she was in 4-H. Man, I can imagine her in 4-H. I bet she milked those cows hard. “Oh shit, Burrell’s coming, look dead.” That’s what the cows would say.
With very little emotion, Anita says, “They are definitely making it hard for us.” I think the judges say it comes down to risk versus flavor. That seems easy. I prefer a flavorful meal over a “risky” one. And so do the judges. This year’s Best of the Worst Cooks in America is 28-year-old caretaker Alina. Marshall will be so proud. Bobby almost cries, and he gives Alina many hugs. I hope Carla’s not watching. Anne is bitter about her streak being broken. But Rasheeda gets a consolation prize in the form of another Kohl’s gift card. That makes her cry. “To all the men out there: This girl knows how to cook.” And even if she doesn’t, she has an insane shitload of Food Network kitchen gear in her house. Alina says, “I am officially NOT the worst cook in America.” I’m so glad it’s official. Anne sneers. “I still have a winning record.”