When producers were casting Season 25 of “Worst Cooks in America,” they weren’t just looking for culinary failures.
They were looking for social media success.
“They didn’t know anything about my cooking skills,” said Tina Kim of Koreantown in Los Angeles. “They just contacted me and, lo and behold, they were lucky. I didn’t know how to cook.”
“Worst Cooks In America: Viral Sensations” features 12 contestants who are active on TikTok, Instagram and other social media. The series airs 8 p.m. Sunday on the Food Network, and episodes are also streaming on Discovery Plus.
Contestants face a series of challenges and eliminations until the final episode on Feb. 5, when a survivor will win $25,000.
The season is co-hosted by Anne Burrell, a regular, and first-timer Darnell Ferguson.
The show is made in New York City, but half of the contestants, like Kim, live in Southern California.
Kim is a comedian who said in a phone interview that she began to follow Korean soap operas during the novel coronavirus pandemic.
“For two years I sat on my couch and watched K-dramas non-stop. I watched 14 hours a day. And then towards the end of corona, I said to myself, ‘I’m going to start my TikTok account since I’ve watched every single Korean drama.’”
She has since expanded her TikTok videos to include K-pop and other aspects of Korean culture.
Kim wound up on Team Blue, coached by Ferguson, who she described as very positive and welcoming.
But the cooking is real, she said, and a big challenge.
“It’s fun and stressful at the same time, because we’re all in a pressure cooker. I think one of the challenges was only 45 minutes. And the chefs give us elaborate meals. We don’t just cook the main dish. It’s like, here’s the side dish. And here’s the sauce to go on the main dish. It’s like your brain is thinking of 20 different things you have to do. And they make it hard because they make use all that different — what is it? — kitchen stuff.”
Mitchell Tyler Ralston of Huntington Beach was on Team Red, coached by Burrell. Ralston is an amateur ghost hunter and likes to make TikTok videos about paranormal activity. The “Worst Cooks” graphic department had fun with the concept and depicted him as being tormented by the evil spirit of Chef Anne.
In a separate phone interview he rated his cooking skills as terrible, although he’s comfortable making spaghetti and mashed potatoes.
“Years and years ago I worked for a very famous California burger company known for their red aprons. Part of my duties was preparing the potatoes for french fries. So I’ve got peeling potatoes down.”
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Ralston said he was the first contestant to cut himself this season. Cuts and fires are commonplace on the set.
“Chef Anne told us, ‘Don’t be afraid of fire. If you have fire, I’m very good at putting out fire. This is the 25th season’. Luckily, I didn’t burn myself too much. I cut myself way too much.”
Kim and Ralston found being on camera a challenge, even though they are used to shooting their own videos.
“The hard part was smiling for hours and hours. I only have to smile for 10 seconds on my TikTok,” Kim said.
Both found the experience valuable, and Ralston said it has gotten him some TikTok viewers. But it didn’t turn either of them into chef.
“I did learn a lot about the kitchen,” said Kim. “It’s just I’m not going to bring it into the real world.”
‘Worst Cooks in America’
Food Network: 8 p.m. Sunday, foodnetwork.com/shows/worst-cooks-in-america
Discovery Plus: discoveryplus.com/show/worst-cooks-in-america
Rich Aronovitch, New York City: Professional comedian, 233,000 followers on TikTok. @richisfunny
Michael Judson Berry, Jersey City, N.J.: Actor who does imitations on TikTok. @mjudsonberry
Tessica Brown, Los Angeles: Known for a viral video in which she put Gorilla Glue in her hair instead of hairspray. @im_d_ollady
David Chen, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.: Tennis enthusiast known for videos cheering at matches. @davidchenofficial
NaJe’ Elmore, Texarkana, Texas: Known for singing videos, @who_she_naje
Tina Kim, Los Angeles: K-drama and K-pop follower. @kdramalogic
Adam Kreutinger, Buffalo, N.Y.: Puppeteer and puppet maker. @adamkreutinger
Paris Nicholson, Los Angeles: Known for “Top Five Hottest” lists. @parisnicholson
Eliza Petersen, West Jordan, Utah: Dinosaur enthusiast, @lizemopetey
Mitchell Tyler Ralston, Huntington Beach: Amateur paranormal investigator. @mrspooky13
Sabrina Rios, Los Angeles: Covers many topics in humorous videos. @abelinasabrina
Nick Trawick, Los Angeles: Posts videos of a character called Kleptora who steals wigs. @nicktrawick13