Posted by Lee Abbott on Mar 23, 2016 in Tips & Tricks


And the “behind the scenes” scoop continues…



This one took me a while to be able to get around to writing about.  For those of you who don’t know…I got knocked out of the competition.

Everyone has just been so damn tough and it was my turn.  Simple as that.  However…

DAMNIT if that Duck that I cooked was also simply one of the very best dishes I have ever cooked in my life!  I even had a culinary producer tell me, “I love duck – and that is the best duck I have ever had.”  And ALL credit goes to Chef Guarnaschelli for the coaching and elevation of that dish.  I was merely the hands that did it, the taste buds that tested it, and the heart that made it.  But without her…y’all would  have seen yet another Tri-Tip!  Ha!

But I still went home.  Thoughts swirled for a while… I mean the challenge was “Air, Earth, Wind, & Fire” and I LOVE spicy food – why the hell didn’t I put in some cayenne or something!  And for crying out loud one of my all time favorite bands is well…

Bottom line is the cooks are too damn good. And this competition is in the end about food – which is absolutely about personal taste.  So just like how you might order chicken, and your friend might choose beef at the same restaurant – the judge is guided by personal taste… blah blah blah because MY GOD did you see what Anna and Lisa cooked?  Holy Crap!  As proud of my dish as I was – I had to watch the show myself to see what Anna made, and are you friggin’ kidding me?  Skate, Uni, Escargot, etc. upon etc….WHAT?!  Damn!  Anna and Andrew Bravo!  And Lisa… come on… PERFECT salmon, with that malfunctioning smoker plus her health issues creeping up on her?

Let me tell you…  Lisa SHOULD HAVE BEEN in a hammock with a Green Drink and me cooking for HER but no…here she was battling it out like a culinary warrior!  Lisa – I truly ADMIRE you.

Both of them showed crazy talent, ferocity of spirit – and that they are very very special human beings.  Good cooks, do so with their hearts – and THAT is why Lisa and Anna’s food is so damn good.  Oh yeah and lets not forget that Natasha’s Round One dish was so damn good she got to FINALLY skip an elimination round!  Whoop-Whoop! Lets not forget that fer cryin’ out loud!  ‘Bout Time Girl!  Man I love these women.

Which brings me to the real message of this posting – the people.  May I just say THANK YOU to all the outpouring of love and support.  Facebook blew up.  Natasha you wrote the most heartfelt message right when I needed to hear it.  My goodness what everyone has written has truly been humbling and so very welcome.  Because… even though I of course knew the outcome before the viewing…it got to me.  MAN was I sad the next day.  Deeply crushed.  It was like reliving it all over again.  Dain, Lynn, Jermaine, and Anna too – y’all know what I’m talking about.

Because you just can’t be a great chef, guitar player, football player, parent…unless you have a huge heart.  You gotta give a shit to be any good.  So losing…hurts.  Yeah I know… nobody in this thing “really loses” …but try and tell that to any of us as we walk out of the kitchen.  And this even includes our celebrity all star Chef and mentor Alex Guarnaschelli.

As I got the word I dreaded hearing – this is the photograph.  This is the parting shot of me leaving the stage.  I had to choke back the tears as I spoke my parting words, embraced my wonderful soul partner Lisa, and made my way backstage… where I was met with hugs from crew, story producers, culinary producers…people came out of the woodwork backstage.  Tears were on many faces – mine included.  I was told that in the Producers Booth a collective “NOOOOOOO!” arose when I was knocked out.  I was told by a culinary producer (the ones who buy all the produce for us and prep the kitchen so awesome) “I tasted everyone’s food and yours was my favorite.” I was told by our key PA, “I’m gonna miss your hugs.”

I say this only to note…none of them had to say such kind things.  And my life has been very very devoid of kindness this past few years.  I’ve been rock bottom.  And not just bouncing once down there…but more like a skipping stone, “OUCH, OUCH, OUCH, OUCH…”.  Life truly can be a bitch and it certainly turns some people into one!  Those who know me…know how true the song “Tears of a Clown” matches my smile.  Yeah I hide it.  But guess what….as this big sappy heart hit those rocks…it didn’t shatter. Guess I’ve got some granite in my veins after all.

And then…out of nowhere… the Universe hands you a gift… my kids asking me to sign up for this show.  MAN WAS THIS FUN!

And then backstage as I “lose” comes the whammy.  In the middle of this outpouring of appreciation, I’m told, “Alex is crying out there.  She NEVER does that.”

This proves my point.  People at the very top of the mountain – have huge hearts to get there.  They are people who have paid in blood, sweat, tears and scar tissue to get there.  Alex – is abso-fucking-lutely one of those.  Does anybody think she got to be as damn great as she is…and had an easy road along the way? HA!  So to have this wonderful badass Alex crack, because some home cook Lee Abbott is leaving the kitchen?  Lets just say… I discovered I hadn’t been “just another” contestant.  I discovered that I don’t just like to cook…but I AM a cook.

Thank you so very much to friends old and new who have supported me on this journey.  Thank you to very old friends who resurfaced and reminded me that I’ve been cooking all along.  Thank you to my newest best friends the Magnificent 9 who so quickly “got me” better than those who should have known me all along.  Thank you to Food Network for picking me. Thank you to my kids for sending me!

And THANK YOU to Iron Chef, Chopped Judge, Restaurateur, and Badass Mama Alex-Fucking-Guarnaschelli for taking off my culinary training wheels…and so generously pushing me down the flambé path of my future.

Meh…so I wobbled, tripped over a duck and skinned my knees…I’m already back up and pedaling :)

Air, Earth, Wind, & Fire took me out… so I’ll take you out with:

~ Lee

P.S…did anyone really notice the cliff-hanger when the show ended?…hmm…better watch this coming week ;)