Marti Cummings and Peachez Iman-Cummings are known for bringing the heat on stage during drag performances, so much so that they are booked constantly all over the city. However, they both are self-proclaimed “hot messes” when it comes to cooking.
“If you need an assassin, use my cooking. It’s so bad,” said Cummings with a laugh.
After a stint of running for New York City Council’s 7th District seat, Cummings decided that it was time that they and Iman-Cummings needed to do something more fun together. Soon enough, they landed spots on the new season of Food Network’s “Worst Cooks in America.”
“Over the last two years I was running for City Council and it took up so much of my time, and Peachez was by my side almost daily helping with the campaign, connecting with voters, doing stuff,” said Cummings. “When the campaign was over, it was one of those things where it was like, we need to do a fun bonding experience that’s just silly where we can just be full-tilt boogey drag artists learning something new that neither one of us knows anything about.”
“When Marti called and said what it was, I freaked out. I am a big girl and growing up, I was the kid that would Top Ramen as a kid and pretend like I was on the Food Network,” said Iman-Cummings. “Of course, that was the extent of my cooking abilities. It was just so exciting to be like, I’m going to actually get to do this on the television.”
A quick recap of “Worst Cooks in America”: Hosted by Anne Burrell, in each season a new batch of struggling home cooks are put to the test to learn cooking skills through a rigorous boot camp. The contestants are split into teams and go head to head each week in a number of cooking competitions that showcase basic skills and can also to interesting turns.
This season, Burrell, captain of the red team, is joined by Chef Cliff Crooks, who is managing the blue team. The most improved chef goes home with $25,000.
This season brought in a new twist: while most contestants in past seasons came in as strangers, this season couples, friends and co-workers were cast on the show together. Thinking they would be on the same team, it was a shock to both competitors that they were going to be separated, with Cummings on Team Red and Iman-Cummings on Team Blue.
“As we saw in the first episode, we are still getting split up into the red team and blue team under the guidance of Chef Cliff Crooks and Chef Anne Burrell, and then it’s kind of a free-for-all after that,” said Iman-Cummings. “It’s kind of exciting because so many of us know each other or know one other person on the show, but it’s still the full competition. It’s still gladiator style, let’s knock them out to get to the end.”
“It was really fun to go in with Peachez and say ‘Yass, we’re all in this together!’ And they were like, just kidding, you’re against each other,” said Cummings. “I love this girl, they’re one of my best friends, but I’m going to eliminate them.”
Though the two are no strangers to performing (and with some TV experience for Cummings), what they weren’t prepared for was just how emotional and challenging the show would actually be.
“I truly have no idea how to cook. As you saw in episode one, I put whole potatoes in a blender to try and mash them, that’s not how it works,” said Cummings. “What I wasn’t prepared for was how emotional I would get over making sure food was presented beautifully. I wasn’t expecting to get emotional over food and certainly had my moments.”
“As someone who is always emotional over food, whether it’s love, or crying, or both, there just wasn’t anything that could prepare us for what we were going to get into. I consider myself a foodie in that I go and eat at restaurants all the time,” said Iman-Cummings. “I love food, I love to eat, but having to make all of these, I have such an appreciation for restaurants and what it takes to run a restaurant because I could barely make one dish in that amount of time, I couldn’t imagine doing it all night for people that are grumpy and sending it back to you.”
Even still, both Cummings and Iman-Cummings have picked up a couple of skills in the kitchen that they now take into their day-to-day cooking.
“I love cutting onions. A theme through all the seasons is that Chef Anne teaches how to properly dice and onion or cut it in general. And now it’s one of my favorite things in the world,” said Iman-Cummings. “I was making Christmas dinner with my boyfriend and I was like, don’t worry baby, I’ve got the onions, it’s my expertise now!”
“Something that should be a no-brainer, but for someone that just is not a cook at all, is tasting everything throughout the process,” said Cummings. “Tasting every little bit and making sure you know how much salt you’re using, how many different seasonings you’re doing. Don’t just throw a bunch of stuff in the pot and hope for the best. I’m still not the best cook, but I have loved since being on the show trusting myself to try new things in the kitchen and explore what that’s like for my own life.”
Should either Cummings or Iman-Cummings win the entire show, while the money is a huge plus, they both acknowledge that there is a lot of growth that they both experienced throughout their time on the show.
“It kind of feels like a double-edged sword because you walk away with the title of “Best Worst Cook.” It would be so cool to walk out and say I did that, I won this competition, because I think we are particularly competitive people, we want the title of the best of the worst, but also got to keep remembering that we were the worst,” said Iman-Cummings. “But that means we grew, we showed that we can learn and we can adapt. That’s what the show is all about, learning these skills and getting to show that you can listen and take on all these challenges and rise to the challenge.”
“A lot of these skills we learned apply to other aspects of our lives also, really taking the time to just pause and think everything through, and if you’re gonna fail, fail really big and use those moments,” said Cummings. “To think about the first episode, I was terrified about messing those potatoes up, I was terrified that I wouldn’t be able to put that fire out. Fail big, learn from it, regroup and keep going. it’s not a bad thing to fail as long as you learn from it.”