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Local 'cook' gives Food Network a taste of her talent

Tuesday - 2/18/2014, 9:12am  ET

Maryland resident Stephanie St. Aubin was recruited by Food Network, but not for her good cooking. (Courtesy Food Network)

What it takes to be a 'Worst Cook' on Food Network

WTOP's Rachel Nania and Stephanie St. Aubin


WASHINGTON - Imagine being such a terrible cook that a family member nominates you as one of the worst in the country.

That is exactly what happened to Bowie, Md., native Stephanie St. Aubin.

Her "mushy spaghetti" and creative Haitian "stew" landed her a spot on Food Network's "Worst Cooks in America," which premiered Feb. 17.

The 26-year-old government employee got a call from Food Network after her cousin nominated her for the show.

"I didn't really pay attention to [my cousin] not eating my food or trying my food, but then when I got the phone call, I was like, ‘She really does not eat my food, or always passes it up, even though I hear her stomach growling,'" St. Aubin says.

So the former Saint Mary's College athlete made her way up to New York for a series of interviews, and eventually found herself cooking alongside celebrity chefs Anne Burrell and Bobby Flay with 13 other "worst cooks."

St. Aubin recently sat down with WTOP to discuss her experience on one of the Food Network's primetime competition series.

Why did your cousin nominate you for this show? What did you subject her to?

Well, if I can't even make a boiled egg, then you can imagine what else I can't do. After my cousin had experienced me trying to make a boiled egg, she was kind of like, "Ummmm no thanks, I'll pass." And then a couple of times I tried to make rice for her. That didn't work out so well.

I also tried to make spaghetti. I thought it came out pretty well, but it was a bit mushy and she was like, "This isn't good at all."

The 14-person cast of this season's "Worst Cooks in America" on Food Network. (Courtesy Food Network)

After Food Network called you, what did you have to go through to get on the show? Did you have to cook for them?

I had to cook for them. I had to go to multiple interviews. It was such a lengthy process, but it was such an experience and I'm glad that I'm able to say [it was something] I was able to do.

I had no idea what to cook -- like I said, I can barely boil an egg. So I was like, "What can I cook, but still bring my culture into it because I'm Haitian?"

So I was trying to cook a dish that not only would represent me, but my culture, as well. It was terrible.

What did you make?

I called it Curlappia Stew. So in my culture, we like to use a lot of seasonings. And one of the seasonings my mom uses is curry … I don't know exactly how much to put in a dish when cooking, so I just kind of went based off what I see my mom do, and just grabbed anything that I see my mom use in her food.

In addition to the seasonings, I used tilapia and then I also used rice. And then I kind of mixed it all together to make a stew. I didn't think it was that bad, but clearly it was that bad that it got me on the show.

Where did all of this take place?

Everything was filmed in New York, I had to do my interviews in New York. So when I got called for my interviews, I was like, "Sorry work! I'm leaving! Got to do some interviews!"

And they let you do that?

Thankfully, my job knows this is the career path I am trying to pursue, so they were very encouraging and supportive of me going to New York to do these multiple interviews. It was such an amazing experience.

What was it like meeting Anne Burrell and Bobby Flay? What was it like learning from them?

I was like, "Wait, are they really in front of me? Can I really touch them? Is this for real?"

They are so different. Both of them have very different personalities, but it was such an honor meeting both of them. I immediately clicked with Anne first … Learning from them was amazing. It's always different, learning from other people than learning at home.

People ask me all the time, "Why don't you just learn how to cook from your mom?" But it's a bit different … You have two professional chefs teaching you how to cook.

I was taking it all in and soaking in all of the experience, so it was definitely an experience. One I'm glad I'm able to say I had.

Did you acquire any skills from your time there? Do you feel a little more confident in your cooking now?

I do feel more confident in my cooking. My cousin better eat my food [now]. I think if you asked her now, she would say "Yes, I'll eat your food." Now going into the competition, she'd be like, "No, I'm not trying that."

Before, I didn't know what seasonings to put in any type of food. I just kind of grabbed whatever my mom grabbed. Being on the show really helped me be able to actually pick out seasonings that compliment the food that I am making. So that is definitely one thing.

Did you make friends with some of the other contestants while you were competing and filming?

The cast was amazing. We all came from different areas, we all have different personalities. We bring something different to the table, each and every one of us. I went in not knowing that I would leave making so many friendships and so many bonds. Still to this day, I can call some of them my sisters and best friends. It was just such an amazing staff.

Now that you're home from the show, going forward, what's going to be your motivation to cook?

I'm not going to lie and say that I'm going to cook every single day or every single week, but like I said before, I definitely am more confident and more comfortable in the kitchen … And I think that will definitely help me from here on out.

If you win the contest, the prize is $25,000. What would you do with the money?

You'll definitely have to wait and find out. But my number one thing was to give 75 percent of the money to my mom. My parents did a lot for me … so I truly feel giving back would be the best thing.

"The Worst Cooks in America" Season 5 sneak peek:

"The Worst Cooks in America" airs Mondays at 9 p.m. EST on Food Network.

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