Christine Cushing berates hapless cooks, risks food poisoning

Christine Cushing berates hapless cooks, risks food poisoning

Christine Cushing: "Being Greek, food is life and not just a means of not dying" (Photo by Karon Liu) 

Even though Christine Cushing was a Food Network mainstay with three shows, cookbooks and her own line of food products, she vividly remembers her worst moment in the kitchen:

“I was to cook for an Italian commission dinner, and they wanted me to make risotto for 300. Once I got there, I realized it was a chefs’ conference. I needed a plan to get out of there,” she says. “It was crazy because I was in a kitchen that wasn’t mine and it was a satellite kitchen. It was a nightmare. It tasted great, but I wasn’t happy because I thought it was too gluey and it was sitting out for a while. But no matter what situation you’re in, you had to make it work. Still, don’t make risotto for 300 chefs.”

So it’s not surprising that for her new show, Fearless in the Kitchen, which premieres on Saturday, Cushing takes self-professed bad cooks to the extreme by making them cook for hundreds of people at a major event (a wedding, the Shaw festival, etc.).

“It pushes them out of their comfort zone, and they really do feel a sense of accomplishment because it’s so far out of their reach. At the end, cooking at home is going to seem like a breeze.”

The show is a combination of Kitchen Nightmares, Take Home Chef and Dinner Impossible with this basic format: friends and family dish on someone’s horrible cooking. Cushing intervenes and asks the subject to make a signature dish. Cushing eats the dish Fear Factor–style, tries not to vomit, and then teaches the newbie chef the basics of cooking. This is followed by a challenge of putting those new-found skills to work for a restaurant that’s catering a big event. As a final task, the person successfully prepares a delicious meal for friends and family.

Thirteen episodes have been filmed in and around Toronto. Her more memorable moments include a guy who cracks his eggs on the side of a garbage can (“I just watched in complete agony,” she laughed) and a woman who prepared a baked eggplant doused in salsa.

Fearless in the Kitchen premieres Oct. 3 at 7:30 p.m. on Viva. Official Web site.