CHARLOTTE – Kevin Pettice joined the cast of Food Network’s “Worst Cooks in America” to learn how to replicate the dishes he buys from the frozen dinner aisle and nukes in the microwave.
Pettice grew up in Charlotte and enjoyed home-cooked Sunday meals with the family. While he never learned how to cook, he was a talented singer, having attended the Northwest School of the Arts.
He graduated from Livingstone College in 2016 with a business degree, but it remains to be seen if he can survive the intense culinary boot camp hosted by chefs Anne Burrell and Tyler Florence.
Pettice will be among 16 recruits competing in cooking challenges for a chance at $25,000. The 10-episode seasons begins at 9 p.m. Jan. 7 on Food Network.
South Charlotte Weekly recently caught up with Pettice to get his thoughts heading into the show. We’ll follow his progress each week.
Q: What were some of your favorite foods growing up?
A: Growing up, I used to love when my mom would cook downhome Southern food like meatloaf, fried chicken and lasagna – those hearty dishes.
Q: Did your mom cook every day?
A: She couldn’t cook every day because she worked. She would cook Sunday meals. Sunday meals were very important.
Q: I heard you don’t make anything more than a frozen dinner. Is that true?
A: That is very true. I just do a little Michelina’s in the microwave for three minutes, stir it up and I’m good.
Q: How many days a week do you eat frozen dinners?
A: That would be about every day but Sunday – if I’m not going out with my sisters. Sunday dinners are at Mom’s. We all just show up and eat.
Q: Did you not have an interest in learning how to cook or was there another reason?
A: I just couldn’t get in the groove of cooking. I guess I would get distracted. Something on TV would be much better.
Q: Your Food Network bio says you have a fear of knives, flames and eggs? Do these things really bother you?
A: I just can’t stand eggs. I guess when I was growing up, I just never liked them. They would cook them for breakfast. They would cook them in any style. They would do omelets. They would do scrambled. I could never really appreciate them and never liked them.
Q: How did you hear about the show?
A: My mom actually watches the Food Network a lot. I watch it sometimes with her but I had never seen that show in particular. She had told me to go ahead and apply and my sisters jumped in on it. “Go ahead. That’ll be good for you. Somebody can help you if Mom can’t.”
Q: How did you apply?
A: You do an audition video. I sent it to the producers. I prepared a version of my lasagna. I wouldn’t say its quality, but a version of my lasagna.
Q: “A version of my lasagna” – that sounds peculiar. Did you put special ingredients in it?
A: I put in some ravioli and my pasta sauce and threw some cheese on top – Kraft Singles. I thought it would make it more cheesier.
Q: Did you taste the dish after you cooked it?
A: Yes I did and I just threw the whole plate away. I’ll just leave that to the frozen meal.
Q: You went to the Northwest School of the Arts. Did you ever have a dream of being on TV or were you a performer in school?
A: Actually, in school I did music. So I was piano major, band major – I did choir for a number of years – started the Northwest Gospel Choir. I didn’t really think about being on TV or anything. I just was a performer and wanted to perfect my craft.
Q: I guess that gives you an advantage going on a TV show, because you’re used to the spotlight and people looking at you while you’re performing.
A: We learned that from a very young age at Northwest. They were going to throw you to the wolves.
Q: Did you get nervous about the camera or the competitions?
A: Mainly the challenges. The sharp objects. The heat from the stove. Open fire. Different types of pots and pans that I don’t know what they are.
Q: Frozen foods gets a bad rap in terms of healthy eating. How do you maintain food groups?
A: With the food groups, you just got to buy the frozen meals with the vegetables. Let’s say you want to do your frozen chicken with peas and carrots. You just throw it in the microwave. You get your greens. You get your chicken. You get carrots. They say that’s good for your eyes. You can eat anything with frozen.
Q: So healthy eating is just getting the version of the frozen dinner with the vegetables in it?
A: Mm hmm. Yes indeed.
Q: Do your frozen meals come with side dishes or is it all mixed together?
A: Sometimes I get like those Banquet meals. Like a meatloaf and then get you some potatoes and corn. Oh, you’ll be eating good.
Q: Heading into the show, were there foods you wanted to learn how to make?
A: I would love like the Michelina’s that I always ate. I would love to make the fresh versions of those. Like the chicken and the pasta and the sauce. Dishes like that.
Q: How you are going to watch the show? Any big watch parties planned?
A: Probably just be family and we all huddle up in Mom’s living room – eating something she cooked.
Want to watch?
In the season premier: “Can It Really Be This Bad?” 16 of the worst cooks in America enter boot camp with dreams of putting their kitchen nightmares behind them. Chefs Anne Burrell and Tyler Florence. The show airs 9 p.m. Jan. 7 on Food Network.