Celebrity chef Lorena Garcia is gearing up to see if she can stand the heat on Thursday’s episode of NBC’s high-stakes cooking competition Food Fighters. Her rivals: miniature amateur cooks — aka kids.
Armed only with recipes for their best signature dishes, the teeny boppers will square off against Garcia, who will have to cook the same dish but with no advance notice of what it will be. If the home cook wins, he/she earns a cash prize of up to $100,000.
We spoke to the Venezuela native who specializes in Latin cuisine and lives in Miami about her experience on the show, hosted by Man v. Food’s Adam Richman:
What is the hardest aspect of cooking during this type of showdown?
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I’m just hoping that either I tried the dish, or I know what I’m sitting there talking about because you walk in, and you have no idea what you’re making. The first five minutes you can gather in your ingredients, so you only have 18 to 20 minutes to really make something. Being able to work under pressure and figuring out the piece that you’re being presented with are the toughest for me.
What is the difference in dynamic between competing with child chefs as opposed to competing with adults?
Well, I don’t want to give away much of what happens, but one of the things that’s being showcased is the importance of the home cooks and the knowledge and the attention that they pay to detail. It’s not an easy task, but you’ll be amazed at what they come up with.
Which ingredient is the most challenging for you personally?
If it is a dish that I have never heard before, I think I could be in trouble because I’m a master at Latin cuisine. That’s what I do: fresh, modern Latin. It’s about having a pretty good understanding of different dishes from different cultures and doing your very best, not so much one particular ingredient.
Does doing this invigorate that youthful approach to cooking for you again?
I think so, 100 percent. I’m all about that. My best recipes are the ones that I learned with my mother and grandmother, and I try to take it to another level or to the next level through my studies and my experiences. I love the show. It’s a perfect opportunity for the entire family to see what happens with two people: one that has dedicated her life [to the craft], and the other who has recipes from generations and generations back, and how they come together.
Why do you and your culinary colleagues like competing in a format like this?
It’s funny because I always thought that I wasn’t competitive, and then I realized that I am. It’s the nature of just being in the industry, the nature of the beast. You do it for the experience and for being with my peers and just having fun. Our line of work — being in restaurants —the day-to-day can be a little intense. So I like to get out of it and just enjoy my friends.
Can you name your most memorable moments?
I love how all the different cooks are putting themselves to the test. It’s not an easy thing to cook just any kind of dish, especially in front of the cameras. The pressure is on.
The episode airs at 8 p.m.