Dancing Around the Kitchen

November 28, 2001

When Carrie Lee Riggins joined New York City Ballet at 16, she had no clue how to cook. And living in New York City, she never had to—delivery was just at the other end of a phone call. Jump ahead sixteen years to the present day, and she found herself still lost in the kitchen. So she wrote an email to the Food Network’s reality competition show “Worst Cooks in America,” featuring restaurateur Bobby Flay. They cast her, and after starting a fire in the first episode, Riggins admits that she completely lives up to the show’s name.


What made you sign up?

I watch “Chopped” and “Top Chef,” and every moment—from pairing together flavors to plating the dish—fascinated me. Cooking is a creative medium, much like dance. I wanted learn about the art, not just be awed by these wizards of the kitchen.


Why is cooking an important skill for you?

I want to know exactly what nutrients I’m getting—and avoid harmful additives.


How do you think relying on takeout affects dancers’ health?

When you depend on prepared foods, you don’t know what’s fueling your engine. After a long day of rehearsal, you want to have the energy to perform your best—not in a faded fog. What’s the point otherwise?


What was your experience on the show like?

It was wild. Learning to cook in such a manic situation set up for cameras was challenging. Like most dancers, I’m a perfectionist, so I was extremely rough on myself if things didn’t go exactly as planned. But I found out that mistakes are a natural part of learning process. Letting myself be comfortable with that was difficult, but part of the positive experience I drew from the show.


How do you feel about cooking now?

Right after filming ended, I happened to meet an amazing man who’s a wonderful cook! Now, Justin and I make meals together and I couldn’t be happier to be his sous chef. He’s a patient teacher, and it’s a calm environment—much better than trying to learn on a TV show with seven cameras and people screaming at that tops of their lungs. And at least, cooking at home with Justin, I’m the only one flirting with the teacher!


Catch the fourth episode of the season of “Worst Cooks in America” this Sunday at 9 pm/8 c.