Landing on a show called “Worst Cooks in America” has its perks.
For LSU graduate Alex Stein and New Orleans designer Chet Pourciau that was learning at the hands of a master, Food Network’s Bobby Flay.
Both Stein and Pourciau were nominated for the reality competition series “Worst Cooks” by friends.
“We were at a lakehouse, there’s about 20 people, and we were barbecuing, and I made hamburgers and hot dogs and the four girls that ate the hamburgers, I got four girls sick, because I didn’t cook them (the burgers) enough, so I got them on video talking about how I got them all sick,” Stein, who now lives in Los Angeles, said. “As soon as the Food Network people saw that, they said I’d be perfect for ‘Worst Cooks.’”
“My best friend said every time we have one of these parties I can decorate a really beautiful table but when it comes to cooking, I always fall short,” Pourciau, who grew up in New Iberia, said Monday from New Orleans.
The men both ended up on team Bobby. In the series, Flay and fellow Food Network chef Anne Burrell attempt to transform bad cooks into competent ones in seven weeks’ times. Each chef has seven students, and at the end, the top members from each team vie for the $25,000 prize.
“It’s culinary boot camp, and they purposely want us to be bad so they can make fun of us,” Stein said.
Looking bad wasn’t hard for Stein, a bail bondsman/car dealer. Cooking burgers was one of the show’s challenges.
“I caused a fire in the kitchen that was so bad they had to call the fire department,” Stein recalled. “I’ve never cooked with canola oil, and Bobby Flay, he teaches in the show you cook with canola oil and you season with olive oil, and I didn’t know that. Canola oil’s just a much more volatile oil. I probably caused five fires in the kitchen, honestly, the whole show.”
Stein and Pourciau got to be good friends on the show, in part because of their shared Louisiana connections. But their thoughts on their teacher differed.
“Bobby was really nice, and I mean this in the nicest way, the guy is an ego-maniac,” Stein said. “‘You cook with your heart,’ he’d say. ‘Does it look like it’s cooked?’ He wouldn’t give us measurements. But when you’ve got a bunch of bad cooks, our hearts don’t have a clue how to cook. So it was kind of difficult to learn how to cook from arguably one of the best chefs in the world.”
“It was an amazing experience,” Pourciau said. “And one of the things that I really learned from Bobby Flay was the fact that Bobby Flay, you know he didn’t graduate from high school, he dropped out, got a GED and went on to find his passion which was cooking.
“He developed this empire of restaurants and became a TV personality. You know, I graduated from high school but I was not a good student. What I was interested in was being in design, but coming from southwest Louisiana, I didn’t have a mentor to be a designer.
“I went to USL (now the University of Louisiana at Lafayette) and studied journalism until I moved to New Orleans and realized that design was my passion. Being taught by him and hearing his story made me want to excel even more.”
The two agreed, however, that they are better in the kitchen since their time on “Worst Cooks.”
“Did I get better as a cook? One hundred percent, one hundred percent,” Stein said.
“I think I’m a much better cook and I think I taste food differently now,” Pourciau explained. “Food and design are kind of similar. I learned that in order for food to taste good you have to season it, something I never really did.”
Pourciau said he does cook more at home now and even his fear of knives has diminished.
“Bobby Flay taught me how to handle a knife,” he said.
Alex Stein competed on the ABC reality show “Glass House,” which aired last summer. Chet Pourciau can be seen on New Orleans television on his WLAE-TV, Channel 32 design show “Chet Chat” and as the resident designer on WVUE, Channel 8.