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Lights, Camera and Action – the Seattle cooking competition is underway

Today is the day, I’m competing in a reality cooking competition called Kitchen Circus at Rover’s in Seattle. I’ve been creating recipes, practicing my heart out and struggling with a cold, all at the same time. But this Solo Cook is ready to take on the two other contestants today and tonight. We will chop, blend and boil in the professional kitchen and serve food to 45 guests at this amazing Seattle restaurant. As I get ready for makeup and hair – I’ll let you in on a little secret.  No – I can’t tell you what I’m cooking yet or what course I’m preparing. But I can say that there are two emotions stirring in my belly and neither is related to hunger. I’m excited and nervous. As The Solo Cook I’ve been tailoring meals and food experiences for one person. Cooking an amuse bouche and one course for 45 people is a challenge and I’m ready for it. Stay tuned for details of the competition itself.



Lessons and insights as I prepare for a live crazy cooking competition

With a cooking competition looming, it’s a great excuse to buy more gadgets. These cutters are fun to work with in the kitchen while other major equipment is failing. Photo by Christine Willmsen

Kitchen Circus tests you in more ways than one

As my fellow competitors of Kitchen Circus practice and some even compete this coming week, I’m reminded of the lessons I’ve learned already in this cooking competition. I have to prepare an amuse bouche and create a three-course menu soon and chef Thierry Rautureau will pick one course I have to prepare at Rover’s Restaurant for 45 people as well as an amuse bouche. I don’t compete until Nov. 20, but as I tear up my kitchen and run my dishwasher every night I’m reminded this live-cooking contest is no easy task. This isn’t about copying some recipe from Bon Appètit magazine or Betty Crocker’s finest cookbook. This is about creativity, a collective cool head under the heat and pressure of a professional kitchen and FUN.

My kitchen is covered in white flour and equipment like this is barely keeping up with my food challenges. Photo by Christine Willmsen

Here are just a couple of insights I’ve learned the hard way recently:

1. Old appliances don’t hold up to the rigors and testing for a cooking competition. Those Goodwill super finds (blender, mixer and other tools that look like your grandmother’s kitchen gadgets) that I discovered in the back of the store and bought several years ago were there for a reason. I dug those out to use occasionally for massive parties, but as I tried multiple recipes in a row I faced groaning motor noises and the smell of burning plastic. I fear major equipment failure will be fast approaching. I better check the smoke alarms and that fire extinguisher in the hallway closet to make sure they’re ready for my potentially flammable courses. And flour has covered my kitchen cabinets and counters more than once. It brings a new meaning to my house being dusty.

Butter makes the food world go around. I eat pretty healthy so I was shocked to realize how much butter is needed for desserts and sauces. No wonder they are so good. Photo by Christine Willmsen

2. Kitchen Circus gives me the excuse to buy new gadgets. I bought these cutters and have had so much fun with them. But I’m not sure they’ll be useful for my final idea for a dessert. I hate surprises but I love planning them. You’ll just have to wait and see.

3. Butter, cream and eggs. That’s really what makes the food world go around. I’m shocked at how much butter is put into desserts and other courses. I love it BUT.

4. That brings me to my next insight. BUT really is BUTT, which is a result of BUTTER. A friend told me to be leery of the competition because I may gain a few extra pounds as I test my concoctions. I shrugged it off, and then that night I shocked myself as I licked spoons of raw batter and sucked down extra portions and leftovers. I didn’t want to waste anything, and the little girl in me was suddenly cleaning the utensils, folks and spoons with my tongue. Even though I’ve given much of my trial food items to friends or coworkers, my friend was right. I have put on a little padding during the practices. Damn butter.

It is my responsibility to clean up the kitchen including the utensils, so like any smart resourceful home cook, I lick the cake batter off. But my butt is paying for it. Photo by Christine Willmsen



A live cooking competition at a Seattle restaurant – an opportunity I can’t pass up

This home cook is ready to play at Kitchen Circus

When I heard the news that I made it as a contestant for Kitchen Circus, a live cooking competition at the renowned Rover’s restaurant in Seattle, I jumped up and down with excitement like a little girl. Then I got nervous.

If you ask my friends what I’m passionate about they will tell you food and journalism. While being a hard-news reporter almost pays the bills, food fills my heart. I’m always chatting about food, creating new recipes, reading about food and, of course, eating it any chance I can get. That’s also part of the reason why I started this blog The Solo Cook.

So when I heard about the Kitchen Circus contest, I thought why not take it to the next level – right?

Why not challenge myself by stepping into a professional kitchen and cooking an incredible dish live and on camera – oh and for 45 people. So with nudges and encouragement from my friends, I submitted an application and a home video that talks about myself and shows me cooking an Italian fish dish.

Live Audition Nerves

To my surprise I made the first cut. But then I faced a live audition filmed at the restaurant, and I had no idea what to expect. Occasionally, I appear on local and national television stations, speaking about investigative stories I’ve written, but being on camera for this was different. I wondered what Chef Thierry Rautureau was going to ask me and how he would test me.

At the live audition, Chef Thierry Rautureau asked me questions about why I should compete in Kitchen Circus.

At the live audition, I met other potential contestants who equally loved cooking and I felt more at ease. As the camera rolled, the affable Rautureau peppered me with hard questions. On top of that – at the same time – I also had to separate an egg’s yolk and white, and later mince a shallot. I honestly don’t recall how I answered some of the questions. But soon the camera seemed to fade and there I was just chopping and chatting with Rautureau.

I must have impressed the chef and the crew because now I’m one of nine contestants who are up for the ultimate challenge. I will cook an appetizer, main entrée or dessert for at least 45 people; competing against two other home cooks during a Nov. 20 dinner at Rover’s. You can count on me channeling my competitive and creative streaks that night. Until then I will be obsessed with food and sharing that journey.



I’m a contestant in a live cooking competition – Kitchen Circus

This girl is taking food to another level as a contestant in a live cooking competition

This time, I’m not cooking just for me. I’m cooking for 45 people. I’m so excited to announce I’m a contestant on Kitchen Circus, a live cooking competition at Rover’s restaurant in Seattle. This competition challenges home cooks, like myself, to step into a professional restaurant kitchen and see if we can handle the heat. Kitchen Circus is organized by Thierry Rautureau, who owns and operates Rover’s and Luc restaurants.

Kitchen Circus contestants were announced recently and I’m one of nine (the last one on the right) who will be headed into Rover’s kitchen to compete.

Yes, this is hardly the type of cooking I’ve focused on with The Solo Cook blog. But what you may not know about me is that I often hold large dinner parties for friends and family. There is no doubt, this will stretch my cooking skills and creativity.

I am one of nine contestants chosen to compete, based on my application, video and live audition. I’ll tell you more about my live audition in upcoming posts. On Tuesday, Nov. 20, I will prepare one of a three-course meal for guests at Rover’s. I will have to prepare an appetizer, main course or dessert. Then, at the end of the night, guests will choose one home cook as the winner who will move on to the finale.

When I discovered I was one of the Kitchen Circus contestants, I literally jumped up and down like a little girl. I hope to bring my passion and love of food to a dining room full of guests at Rover’s. In the next couple weeks, I’ll be obsessed with food. I’ll be dreaming of food, taking notes on homemade recipes and trying out different meals on friends.

You, too, will be a part of this fun journey. I plan on sharing my Kitchen Circus experiences along the way.

You can follow the competition on facebook.

For more information about the Kitchen Circus competition, check out the press release.