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Cooking For Honor and Tradition

by  Jeanine Lewis on June 29, 2012
Cooking For Honor and Tradition

Food Network reality star Kelli Powers won a title least likely to be coveted at first glance, but is one which has proven to be quite an accomplishment. Powers won Season 3 of the competition “Worst Cooks in America” in April, beating out 16 contestants who were chosen for the reality show because of their lack of cooking abilities.

The goal of the show was to makeover these well-intended culinary challenged applicants into knowledgeable cooks in their respective kitchens and to choose the most improved. Powers, who was on the red team led by Ann Burrell, went through an eight-week culinary boot camp that included the basics of cooking such as baking, seasoning, preparation and dish execution. After applying the lessons learned, Powers won the title and $25,000. She opens up with how her own health challenges and family goals motivated her to go on the show.

As a teenager going up in Vacaville, Calif., Powers focused on college and a career rather than learning the fundamentals of cooking. Watching her nana (grandmother) cook gave her a sense of the importance of food for a family, but until she built a family of her own, learning how to cook remained on the backburner. After graduating from college and meeting her husband in Los Angeles with plans to start a family, Powers wanted to be able to provide the kind of culinary comfort her nana gave to her. But first, she had to learn how to cook.

Like many African-American women, Powers suffered from fibroid tumors which made it a challenge to get pregnant.  After Powers learned that eating healthy could help her condition, she centered her cooking around a “fresh is best” philosophy which is shopping locally and more often.  “I feel I can’t afford not to eat well. I stay away from frozen foods and go to farmer’s markets that aren’t expensive. Weekly grocery shopping as opposed to monthly wholesale shopping will save you money. Also, buying fresh herbs and spices rather than having a collection of bottled seasonings saves money and your meals taste better,” says Powers.

With the birth of her son Apollo, Powers set out to recreate the meals and traditions enjoyed with her nana and winning “Worst Cooks in America” not only showed her commitment to learning how to cook but provided the necessary skills for preparing healthy meals for her family as a way of life all year long.

Powers claimed the prize after preparing a three-course restaurant quality meal for food critics David Burke, Marcus Samuelsson and Susan Feniger with help from Burrell. With a new found confidence for working her way around the kitchen, she has these words to share for other beginning cooks, “Be fearless in the kitchen. If your meal doesn’t turn out well, you can always just order a pizza. Don’t let a complicated recipe stop you from trying it. Practice is the key to better cooking.”

“Don’t be so hard on yourself. Being a success in the kitchen is no different than being successful in anything else.”

Photo credit: Bobby Quillard 

Jeanine Lewis

Jeanine Lewis

Jeanine Lewis is a renaissance freelance writer. As an alumna of University of Washington, she has been published in a variety of subject matters. full bio

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