Norman native Cameron Bartlett left the New York City set of Food Network’s “Worst Cooks in America” as the runner-up, but he developed and refined skills that turned him into a capable chef.
After the four finalists competed in the first challenge of Sunday’s finale, host chef Anne Burrell chose Bartlett to represent her team as the finalist. The show’s other host chef, Carla Hall, eliminated Wichita, Kansas native, Chandali Gullick, and selected North Carolina bartender Amber Leverette as her finalist.
While Bartlett was ultimately the runner-up for the 21st season, he comes back to Norman with experiences he will remember forever. He said he intends to cook some of the dishes he learned again, but others will stay in the past.
“My least favorite dish was the pork roulade I made, because it was just so undercooked and like wrapping it in animal skin lining or stomach lining was just absolutely disgusting,” Bartlett said. “My favorite dish was the lobster risotto. Chef [Burrell] said she wanted to eat it again and I won that challenge.”
Bartlett said the most challenging situation on the show came during the season finale.
“Stress was everywhere, because it wasn’t in the normal boot camp kitchen, it was in a famous hotel in New York, so I didn’t know where things were” Bartlett said. “That’s on top of the high stakes of the $25,000 and who will take that home. Chef [Burrell] was in my ear screaming at me a little bit.”
Another high intensity situation for Bartlett happened in on the later episodes during a mini challenge after winning a cake decorating challenge.
“I did a mini challenge where we had to smash our faces into cakes to win a golden cupcake hidden in one of the cakes, and if we won the prize we get an immunity reward to last until the next week,” Bartlett said. “Amber and I went against each other and I smashed through all of them and so we are doubling back to see if we missed it and both of our heads were going for the same cake so I smashed my head on a platter and chipped my tooth.”
Bartlett looks back and laughs on the moment now that his tooth is fixed.
“I’m more upset that I didn’t win that golden cupcake than my tooth chipping,” Bartlett said.
During his time on the show, he developed friendships with both the other contestants and the hosts.
“I would say my best friend on the show would have to be Chef [Burrell], because I have her personal number, so we are tight,” Bartlett said. “Sunday was the finale, and Monday I woke up to a sweet text from her. If I couldn’t have won, Amber was the person to lose to, because she is an awesome lady and will do great things and has big plans in the works. I am going to her wedding in North Carolina in October.”
Bartlett said he also developed a close friendship with contestant McKayla Carter from Blackshear, Georgia.
“We talk all the time through calls and texts,” Bartlett said. “We’re lifelong friends, and really the whole case got close because we had those two weeks of quarantine when we arrived.”
Bartlett said the show completely changed his view on cooking, and would consider doing it for work if the opportunity arose. Armed with recipes and more confidence in the kitchen, Bartlett said he cooked dinner for his family Monday night which was a take on his finale challenge.
“It was fun to show off my skills, so cooking for friends and family is cool, but if the network said, ‘come do some cooking on this,’ of course I would be back to do something,” Bartlett said. “I’m going to apply for other opportunities to be on TV, so be sure to follow my trip to stardom on social media.”
Bartlett can be found on Instagram @cameron_bartlett15.