The popular Food Network show “Chef Boot Camp” is back for another season of helping chefs sharpen their kitchen skills.
Hosted by Chef Cliff Crooks, each episode of “Chef Boot Camp” features three chefs who go into a three-day boot camp led by Crooks, who is the culinary director at BLT Restaurants here in New York City. After assessing their skills, Crooks challenges the chefs to demonstrate fundamental cooking techniques of a classic dish. The chefs are then put to work in one of Crooks’ restaurants where they must demonstrate their growth by creating a new dish for their restaurant owners.
The show had a very successful first season, and Crooks is excited to have another season.
“I’m so excited. There’s nervous anticipation, all of the customary feelings of doing something for a second season and also very fresh and new, like doing it for the first time,” said Crooks.
This new season will follow the same format as the past season with all new chefs. Crooks says that “Chef Boot Camp” mirrors his day-to-day life more than other shows that he has been a part of, such as “Worst Cooks in America” and “Top Chef,” and Crooks is really proud of what the show can accomplish over the course of three days.
“Three days sounds like an extended period of time, but it’s very short and what we’re able to cover is impressive,” said Crooks. “These candidates are giving up time and are open to process in order to join us for three days.”
Throughout the course of the show, Crooks is very rarely surprised by what he sees his boot campers are doing, but what does surprise him is when candidates talk a big game and then can’t perform.
“Probably the one common thread I see is the belief in one’s ability vs. the actuality of the situation. More often than not, chefs think they are fantastic and do not need to learn anything else. In reality, there’s a lot of opportunities to learn aligned with each chef,” said Crooks. “For example, knowing how to cut something properly, one always says yes, they know how. But you look at them and say, why are you doing it like that? ‘Well, that’s how I was taught.’ They are taught one way and stick to that way and might not branch out and seek other information. It’s very eye-opening from a mentoring perspective.”
Crooks added, “There’s always the question, have you done this before, if not this opportunity to say so so everyone can see it. I’m not going to micromanage and treat them like children, but I will watch in actual practice. It really boils down to human nature, it’s okay to ask a question. Like, ‘Yes I know to do it, do I know how do it the way you want me to do it? Maybe not.'”
Crooks hopes that viewers this season can really get a good look at how challenging the hospitality industry can be as a whole.
“Being a chef is one thing, and being a business owner is another. It’s a large piece of luggage to carry,” said Crooks. “A good amount of chefs have the privilege of being both. It’s a great window into some of the struggles in these industries. One thinks ‘I can open a business or jump into a career easier because I do it at home or I did it a couple years ago,’ ‘I can make money doing this and be able to support myself and my family’ and not it’s not as straight forward as everyone thinks.”
The second season of “Chef Boot Camp” premieres on Food Network at 10 p.m ET/PT on April 7. Learn some of Crooks’ best cooking tips at FoodNetwork.com/ChefBootCamp.