Firestone resident Kayla Longstreth never thought she would be on television, nor did she ever expect to get into cooking, but at the beginning of this year both things happened — thanks to her mother. The 24-year-old became a contestant on Worst Cooks in America, a Food Network show all about, you guessed it, people who can't find their way around the kitchen. Now in its seventeenth season, the show, hosted by celebrity chefs Bobby Flay and Anne Burrell, aims to showcase terrible and clueless cooks and teach them important kitchen skills. Longstreth joined thirteen other contestants on the show, and during the season premiere this Sunday, everyone can see how well — or poorly — she did. Until then, learn a little more about this Colorado dance teacher and how she came to be one of the worst cooks in America.
Westword: What made you decide to try out for the show?
Kayla Longstreth: It wasn't me, it was my mom. She was watching Worst Cooks in America with my aunt, and they nominated me, and here I am. I actually had no idea until I got the call from Food Network to be on the show. It was a month after she nominated me. I thought it was a prank when they said, "It's Worst Cooks in America; are you interested in being on the show?" I called my mom and asked if it was real.
Why did your mom think you should be on it?
I guess, in a way to put it, I'm not a practiced cook. I burn things and over-salt, things like that. She figured if there was any way to learn to cook, this show was how.
Didn't she teach you about cooking?
Here's a secret: She can't cook, either. Growing up, we would order pizza one night, takeout one night, make spaghetti one night, then chili and hamburgers and then leftovers.
Do you like cooking now?
I love cooking now. Ever since the show, I have been experimenting with new recipes. Sometimes it doesn't work out, but now I know that's part of the process.
What do you like to cook?
I love cooking steak and different types of meat. There are so many types of meat I never cooked that we had on the show. Now I typically try and cook something new every week since I came back home in March.
What's the most surprising thing you learned on the show?
How important knife cuts are. The size and the way you cut, and the proper way to chop an onion or a tomato. Now I have a mini knife set. It's nothing compared to what we used on the show, but before I would basically cut a tomato with a butter knife, so I'm doing better than that.
How do you feel about being on the show?
I am very happy I went on the show. It was an amazing decision. I am so happy my mom sarcastically nominated me.
What's changed since you've been back?
Now I try to go out to eat at places I didn't really go to. I used to do the typical Olive Garden and Chili's, but I'm checking out more of the cute little places around. Like Alice's — it's a cute diner that my family has always gone to.
What else have you learned from doing the show?
I learned a lot about myself and the different ways to go out and do things. The decision to go out and do the show, it's hard. It's something you aren't good at, and to air to the world that you aren't good at something, it's hard for me. But now I am not afraid not to be good at things.
There's also the friendships I made. We all talk, sometimes every day. There were lots of amazing people on the show who taught me.
So have you been teaching your mom about cooking?
I taught her a few things. I try to cook all the time, but I'm still not very good — but I am better. So I will teach her the things I learned, like temperatures and how to use a cast-iron skillet. Those things are so useful; I had no idea. Now I have, like, five of them. I like to cook steak; I love steak and meat. I also make potatoes, vegetables, onions. There are so many things you can cook in it.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I am a dance teacher and director at a studio in Broomfield and Boulder; they have two locations. I just have all my students; I teach like 300 kids, and my little brother. I take care of my little brother a lot; he has autism, and he is my best friend. That's my favorite thing to do — dance and hang out with him.
What do you two do together?
I volunteer at his school and take him on adventures. I have shown him my cooking, and I mess up a lot, and he thinks it's funny. But now he will actually eat what I cook. I let him help, throw things in. It's great to work with him and see him love cooking and get excited about it.
So you love dancing. Can we expect anything on the air?
The dancing I did was just goofy dancing — it's funny. I didn't do any real crazy things.
Are you going to watch the show?
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My family is trying to plan a watch party so we can all watch it together for the premiere. It's going to be so exciting, but I am so nervous. I didn't do that great in the beginning, so there are a lot of embarrassing moments. I have no idea what will happen; we haven't seen it [the finished show] yet.
Any teasers you can give us?
Hmm...well, in one episode I get myself in a pretty cheesy situation.
Tune in Sunday, August 4, at 7 p.m. to see Longstreth in action on Worst Cooks In America, airing on the Food Network.