Lisa Washington will be representing the city of Atlanta on season two of the Food Network’s hit cooking show, “All-Star Academy.” Washington will be competing in the culinary classroom against nine of the nation’s most talented home cooks with the help of returning mentors Alex Guarnaschelli and Curtis Stone and newcomers Robert Irvine and Andrew Zimmern. These star chefs will be there every step of the way to help coach the competitors through kitchen challenges to take their cooking skills to the next level.
As for Washington, cooking runs in the family, so this Georgia peach might not need a second opinion in the kitchen. Born to a mother who’s a natural born cook and a father who’s the first chef in Atlanta to run an interracial restaurant, it’s safe to say Washington might be the one to beat. Throughout the eight-episode season, each mentor will pair up with a team of students to teach them how to cook like a pro. As the challenges heighten each week, one student will be sent home, hopefully leaving Washington closer to the grand prize of $50,000.
“All-Star Academy” season two is set to premiere on the Food Network on Sunday, Feb. 14 at 10 p.m. EST, and thereafter will air during its regular time on Sundays at 9 p.m. EST. Washington spoke to rolling out and filled us in on her favorite recipes, cooking style, and what it was like preparing meals on camera.
Who were your cooking influences growing up?
My dad was a chef here in Atlanta. He actually was the first African American chef to open up and run an interracial restaurant back in the ’50s. My cooking style was mostly influenced by my mom. She was an amazing southern home cook and probably one of my biggest influences in terms of cooking with flavor. She always taught me that food should look beautiful but it should also taste as good as it looks. She was one of my biggest influences aside from my father being a chef. I really didn’t get into cooking until I got in my 20s. I became a mom and I wanted to cook nutritious food for my son. I use to love cooking recipes for him. I love people who appreciate good food.
What are some of your favorite childhood recipes that you use now as an adult?
Oh my gosh! Some of my favorite dishes that I grew up eating and changed a lot would have to be Southern food. It is delicious, but it is not that healthy for you. I loved collard greens, macaroni and cheese and fried chicken. Those are some of the dishes that I enjoyed growing up eating as a kid.
Why did you want to join the cast of “All-Star Academy”?
It was really interesting because I got an email from a friend about this show. I thought it was something that was local. I put in a recipe, a headshot, some of my food and I got a call back 30 minutes later. They told me it was for the All-Star Academy, which is ironic because I watched last season thinking it would be so cool to get on a show like that. I said if it’s for me then it will come back to me. I was blown away that this opportunity has come back to me. It was a pretty cool process because I got to show the casting people what I can do.
What was it like cooking under pressure on national television versus cooking in the privacy of your home?
Oh, girl! I think about that a lot. It was definitely a different world. I have a husband and kids so I do have a time limit, but you know it’s your everyday routine. You go from knowing where everything is at in the kitchen to having cameras in your face in a totally different kitchen. Also, you’re not the one doing the grocery shopping so you don’t know what’s in the kitchen. It was very challenging but it was also so much fun. It was such an adventure.
How has your cooking style changed after being on the show?
I look at food totally different now. The way I prepare my dishes, the way I plate the food and the way I prepare my meals. Everything is heightened. It took me to another culinary level. I am definitely taking my skills to a place that are more gourmet and more restaurant style. I have learned how to make a Beurre Blanc. I never knew how to do that. I definitely learned a lot. Being a home cook, you boil and fry but learning how to make all these beautiful sauces took me to another level.
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SOURCE: Rolling Out