‘Worst Cooks in America’ gets boost of 90’s nostalgia in new season premiering this weekend

Worst Cooks in America
Recruits Tracey Gold, Mark Long, Jodie Sweetin, Elisa Donovan, Matthew Lawrence, Nicholle Tom, Lori Beth Denberg, Jennie Kwan and Curtis Williams, as seen on “Worst Cooks in America”
Photo courtesy of Food Network

The popular Food Network show “Worst Cooks in America” is getting a huge dose of 90s nostalgia in its new season premiering this weekend.

Hosted by Anne Burrell, “Worst Cooks in America” puts struggling home cooks to the test to learn cooking skills through a rigorous boot camp, and are split into teams and go head to head each week in a number of cooking competitions. This season, Burrell is joined by Jeff Mauro and aside from their lack of cooking skills, the competitors all have one thing in common: they are all 90s television stars.

This season’s competitors include Lori Beth Denberg (“All That”), Elisa Donovan (“Clueless”), Tracey Gold (“Growing Pains”), Jennie Kwan (“California Dreams”), Matthew Lawrence (“Boy Meets World”), Mark Long (“Road Rules”), Jodie Sweetin (“Full House”), Nicholle Tom (“The Nanny”) and Curtis Williams (“The Parent ‘Hood”), and this season has officially been dubbed “Worst Cooks in America Celebrity Edition: That’s So 90’s.”

“This cast is so much fun – and most of them have never spent this much time in the kitchen,” said Courtney White, President, Food Network and Streaming Food Content, Discovery Inc. “The season is a nostalgia-filled blast with familiar faces, hilarious challenges and some impressive culinary transformations.”

For many of the competitors this season, cooking was completely foreign to them. For example, Elisa Donovan grew up in a home where she describes her mother as the “worst cook in America,” and therefore she never was able to really learn until now.

I grew up not knowing anything about cooking whatsoever. I would try to teach myself to varying degrees of success,” said Donovan. “When they approached me about this, I felt that the show was made for me.”

Another competitor, reality star Mark Long, didn’t even own a full set of pots and pans before competing on the show. Though he is no stranger to reality competitions, competing in “Worst Cooks in America” was a complete change for Long.

“I thought it was totally outside of my wheelhouse in terms of a reality competition. I grew up on the MTV and All-Stars versions of reality TV doing the craziest things, but this was totally different. Could I boil pasta? Yeah, but anything remotely advanced or normal? No. I thought I could learn some things and bring a fun-loving attitude to the show,” said Long. “I remember talking to my parents when we were filming and saying, ‘I hope I make it another day.’ I had this conversation with a lot of people, that’s why the show was so perfect for me, you don’t want a great cook to be on ‘Worst Cooks.'”

Throughout the season, the competitors are put to the test through a number of challenges, each of which has some elements of the 90s weaved in for that extra nostalgia boost. Along the way, competitors learned the absolute basics that they could bring back into their own kitchens.

“I learned how to hold a knife, that seems pretty key to not injuring yourself,” said Donovan. “Also properly chopping and prepping food.”

“I wasn’t confident going into the kitchen as I am now. As Anne and Jeff said, whether you are here a day or the entire time, you are going to take away something that you will use in the kitchen, and they are so right,” said Long. “They don’t call it boot camp for anything. You are cooking day one, it’s a kind of trial by fire. Any dish I made on the show, I make at home and perfected it. And now I have a set of pots and pans!”

Like in past seasons, the winner of “Worst Cooks in America” goes home with $25,000. Each celebrity this season is playing on behalf of a different charity, which will be given the prize money from the winner. Donovan is playing for The American Institute for Cancer Research and Long is playing for Give Kids the World.

While the money would be nice for their charities, both Long and Donovan agree that the exposure for their charities is just as helpful.

“It would mean everything because I have put my heart and soul into the project since the day it started. A $25,000 chunk goes a long way with the organization, but to say Give Kids the World on TV in that arena is a win in itself,” said Long. “The fact that if I win or lose, it gets a lot of publicity. It’s a win either way.”

“It would be so great because part of what these charities need is visibility and resources,” said Donovan. “To be able to give them a little bit of both of those things, a chunk of money and some visibility in the public eye is really meaningful to these organizations and would thrill me.”

The contestants say that between the cast, the 90’s nostalgia and the competition, this season certainly is one for the books.

“You can expect to see pans on fire when they shouldn’t be, fingers getting cut when they aren’t supposed to be cut, expect seeing people not finishing plates,” said Long. “When they say you have an hour to do a dish, it’s hour competition, this thing runs whether done in an hour or not, there’s no fudging the time. You’re gonna see people not completely finish plates, you’ll see tears, happiness, and a lot of mishaps in the kitchen.”

“I can honestly say this is the most insane, hilarious, challenging, outrageous thing I have ever done in my career — I never would have thought that this would be how I describe that experience,” said Donovan. “It was incredibly difficult, very funny, and at the end of the day, I think we really learned something. I think you can expect a lot of things on fire, a lot of smoke, a lot of flames and a lot of laughs. We all bonded, it was like we went through a war together.”

“Worst Cooks in America Celebrity Edition: That’s So 90’s” premieres on Sunday, April 24 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Food Network and streaming on discovery+.

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