A Hanover Mom’s ‘Drunk Food’ Earns Her a Spot on Worst Cooks in America
Mandy Thornton is pleased the “drunk food” she created for her Worst Cooks in America audition tape sufficiently disgusted the judges, because the Hanover home cook—a term used broadly here—says her experience on the show is invaluable. While she’s bound to secrecy ahead of the January 1 premiere, “I can officially say cooking is part of my life in a positive way,” she says.
Thonton, 25, of Hanover, is a mother and a medical assistant at Carney Hospital. She’s a self-proclaimed “condiment queen,” who admits that she “didn’t know ‘flavor’ existed” before flying to New York to be mentored by Food Network stars Anne Burrell and Rachael Ray.
“I can’t completely break up with ketchup, but now that I know how to measure, and season things well,” Thornton says. She even made the mashed potatoes for her family’s Thanksgiving spread this year. She knows that might sound like no big deal to most adults, but it was huge for her. “The only time people ever eat my food is when they’ve had a little too much to drink,” she says.
Which brings us back to her audition tape. Thornton’s best friend submitted her name to the show. It actually took her by surprise: “I knew I was a bad cook, but I didn’t think everyone else realized,” she says, laughing. But she was looking to make a change. With her daughter, Ryland, turning 2 this month, Thornton wanted to start demonstrating better choices.
“I don’t even know what a lunch, dinner, and breakfast meal is,” she says, usually just heading for the microwave (it’s the only kitchen appliance she knew how to operate, before the show), or popping open a bag of chips. “I don’t want her to have my eating habits. I want her to be active. I know a lot about health, and carbs and sugars aren’t good.”
When the show’s producers called her out of the blue, Thornton got to work on her official entry making something of a signature dish: A microwaved pizza, topped with a fridgeful of incongruent ingredients—cheese, chicken, blue cheese, ketchup. But when she opened the package of frozen pizza dough, she realized it was past the sell-by date.
“Like, expired. Years old,” Thornton says. So, she improvised (which is actually a great trait for a budding cook!): “I had one of those little skinny sandwich breads. Whatever they’re called. I was a hot, hot, hot mess in that video.”
After filming Worst Cooks, Thonton is more comfortable in the kitchen (she now regularly operates the oven and the crockpot, she reports), and Ryland is expanding her palate. “She no longer eats mac and cheese out of the microwave on a daily basis. She loves chicken, she eats turkey. She loves corned beef, though I don’t know where that came from,” Thornton says.
Worst Cooks was a very real experience, with hours passing the fastest she’s ever felt them go by, Thornton says. And the mentoring hosts didn’t just help her figure out the oven.
“They don’t just want to teach you how to cook, they really care about you, and want you to have the most fulfilled life. It all stems from cooking,” Thornton says.
Catch Thornton on Worst Cooks in America, premiering Sunday, January 1, at 9 p.m. on Food Network.