Manhattan resident competes in latest season of ‘Worst Cooks in America’

Recruit Jonathan Hanna poses, as seen on Worst Cooks in America, Season 21.
Recruit Jonathan Hanna poses, as seen on Worst Cooks in America, Season 21.
Photo courtesy of Food Network

A New York City man joined the cast of the latest season of the Food Network hit show “Worst Cooks in America.”

Manhattan resident Jonathan Hanna is no stranger to reality TV. The social media manager turned hand model had previously appeared in Netflix’s “Dating Around” in 2019, and it was one of his castmates on that show that suggested the Hanna audition for “Worst Cooks in America.”

“I didn’t hear about the show until [my castmate] was on it. I applied for it in December 2019 on the very last day of applications,” said Hanna. “I submitted kind of late. I was on a hand modeling shoot when [the casting crew] texted me and they wanted me for the new season.”

“Worst Cooks in America” takes amateur cooks from across the country and places them on teams led by celebrated chefs in the industry. Week by week, the amateurs learn kitchen skills and recipes and either advance or are eliminated based on their performance. This new season’s coaches were Anne Burrell and Carla Hall.

The new season filmed in Queens, Hanna says, with contestants and crew members being quarantined and tested regularly before the show started filming in September 2020. Hanna was placed on Hall’s team, also known as Team Blue. Going in, Hanna says he did not cook and was more familiar with the city’s take-out scene, and that working with Hall was incredibly helpful.

They’re both really nice, I think they both really like me. I remember during filming, Chef Anne told me, ‘Jonathan, your smile is contagious.’ I was glad to be selected for Carla’s team,” said Hanna. “She’s nice and a good teacher. I literally don’t cook. The extent of my cooking was boiling pasta or using an egg cooker, or baking chicken with no seasoning. Learning how to use a knife properly was a big step for me. Working for Carla was good. Even at the end, she told me that once the show airs, I should take a photo of the dish I made from the season and tag her in it.”

The new season of “Worst Cooks in America” premiered on Food Network on Jan. 3, 2021. Unfortunately, Hanna was eliminated from the competition, alongside Joy Blessing of Jacksonville, Florida, at the end of the season premiere.

Hanna admitted that the fact that he was eliminated so early on was not a huge surprise for him because he had no cooking experience while his competitors had tried to cook in the past.

“After doing the baseline dish and seeing where everyone stood, I was not feeling confident at all. After learning the steps and taking notes, I saw that it was actually doable if you do pay attention. I didn’t realize how hard it was because I don’t cook,” said Hanna. “Although my castmates were horrible cooks, they did at least cook. Everything was new to me. I was glad my rice came out good, and I was happy with my presentation. But I learned that just because it looks good, doesn’t mean it tastes good. I’m not surprised, though I wish I could have gotten further because I wanted to learn more.”

Following his experience on “Worst Cooks in America,” Hanna says he’s been working on his own to step up his cooking skills. He got a subscription to the delivery service EveryPlate and has been adding spices to his own food that he cooks.

“It absolutely changed my life whether I wanted it to or not. When I started cooking at home, I googled dicing, chopping, mincing, stripping leaves off of thyme — I got so many things, bought a chef’s knife and spent a lot of money on kitchen supplies — and my food actually tastes good!” said Hanna. “It truly changed my life and actually enjoy cooking now more than eating out.”

Hanna says that his time on the show also helped him realize that he can think on his feet while in the kitchen and not worry so much about the amount of time.

“The chefs said, ‘Jonathan, you need to not focus so much on the time and go with your gut. Just because it says to cook something for this amount of time, if it feels ready, then it’s ready,'” said Hanna. “Something else that wasn’t shown was that Carla told me that she likes how I cook on my feet and that being quick-witted while cooking is good, it meant I responded well to change. She’s right, I can now say when a dish is too salty. It really was a great experience for me.”

Plus, Hanna says his newfound knife skills will help him land more hand modeling work.

“My hand modeling agent is very excited, she thinks that it can get me more work because there are a lot of jobs that require having knife skills,” said Hanna. “Now that I’ve been on the show and know some chefs, I can definitely improve.”

To stay up to date with Hanna, follow his personal Twitter and Instagram @jahlyricist or his songwriting pages @thehannafranzen and hannafranzen.com.