We’ve been through the emotional highs and lows of America’s Test Kitchen: The Next Generation. We celebrated alongside Christina Phan as she won a coveted trip to New York, and we shed a tear saying goodbye to the inimitable Marc Sievers in the penultimate episode.
Meet the Winner of America’s Test Kitchen: The Next Generation
Of course, there could only be one winner to earn a coveted position on the America’s Test Kitchen cast, a cookbook deal, and $100,000 to pursue their culinary dreams. And there is no more deserving winner than the incredible Antoinette Johnson.
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Here’s what she had to say about her time on the show and what we can expect from her in the future.
What was it like when you first found out you were going to be on the show?
I actually didn't know I was officially going to be on the show until three days before I flew out to be there! I was originally cast as an alternate, so I was supposed to fly out on a Sunday, and I didn't find out until the Friday before that I was officially going to be on the show as a full-fledged cast member! So that was such an emotional experience.
That’s why I always said that if I made it on the show, I wasn't going to go home, because I felt like it was just a blessing making it onto the show at all, considering I was originally an alternate.
Meeting your fellow cast members must have been nerve-racking. But it seems as though you’re all very close!
Oh my gosh, it was so great meeting them. I guess the assumption would be that since it's a competition, it would all be very cutthroat, but it wasn't like that at all. We would eat our dinner together and go spend time out on the lawn outside of the hotel. And we really bonded. I mean, of course it was a competition, so we did have that competitiveness. But it wasn't a hateful place at all; it wasn't bad spirits. It was a really good vibe and such a great way to spend the summer.
As if meeting your fellow contestants wasn’t intimidating enough, it must have been incredible meeting the ATK cast members!
Meeting everybody in person, it was so surreal. I was really honored to get their feedback and to have people who are leaders in the industry and really skilled at what they do critique my food. It was an amazing learning experience and just really cool . . . You see these people on TV and then to see them in real life! Yeah, it was really cool.
Let’s talk about that final challenge that won you the competition. What was going through your mind when it all began?
So, I knew exactly what I was going to make. Once we got told what the challenge was, I felt confident in my abilities. The thing is, you can only compete against yourself. I don't get to taste my other competitors' food. I don't really know what they're doing. So, all I knew was that I had to focus on what I was making and make sure that I was executing it to the best of my ability. And that really was what was going through my mind—staying focused!
America's Test Kitchen: The Next Generation Episode 10 RecapIt’s the finale, baby.
You were paired with Jack Bishop in the final media challenge. What was that like, and what do you think he brought to the challenge for you?
Oh, nerves! Being paired with Jack made me so nervous. I feel like it would have been hard enough if you got Elle or Dan, but I felt like, “Oh gee, America's Test Kitchen’s Jack Bishop is going to be with me while I do my demo. I have to bring it!” So, I was really nervous going into it. I had to do some breathing exercises, getting myself together before we started, just to make sure that I was focused. But it was really great. Once we got going, I feel like we really played off of each other's energy and it was really good to work with him.
It must have worked because you won the challenge and earned yourself a spot among the ATK cast! What was it like finding out you had won?
That moment when you say you're going to do something and you do it, you sit there with that kind of accomplishment . . . It’s incredible. I was just going back in my head the whole time thinking about how much I doubted myself before. I thought I couldn't do it and then I saw myself there doing it . . . It was a confidence booster! It was reassurance that all of my hard work was worth it. It was knowing that I completed a goal and was going to be able to go back to my family and share it with them. It was a lot, but really I just felt kind of . . . complete.
And now you’re working on your cookbook. Tell me all about it!
The cover has been shot which is so exciting, and we're working on recipes now! It’s been such an amazing experience and also a great learning experience. Being able to work with the America's Test Kitchen books team has been such a big help in allowing me to understand the science and the technique behind developing recipes for a cookbook. As much as I love to cook, I wanted to create a cookbook for people who didn't like to cook or don't like to cook and who get intimidated by it. So, it'll have a lot of easy recipes. It's going to be approachable. It's going to offer what I like to call “halfway homemade” dishes that you can easily get on the table. There's a lot of good things in there. I'm excited!
And what was it like filming for the upcoming episode of America’s Test Kitchen?
It was such a different experience being back in the America's Test Kitchen studio without all the cameras, the whole production crew, cables in the hallway . . . a bunch of people walking around with audio equipment! So, that was different in itself. But it was great to be able to not have the pressure of competing, being able to film my episode and being actually me. Everybody was so welcoming and genuine. And even though I was only there for about two or three days, I really did feel like I was a part of the family.
Is there anything else you want to mention about your time on the show?
It was a hard experience, honestly! There were times where I didn't know how I was going to have the energy to do my regular job and then be ready when it was time to shoot. And then, you know, there's also being a mom but being away from my daughter. So I really hope that people watch the show and they see my journey throughout it. I really hope people see my story and they feel like they can get through whatever hardship or whatever low point in their life that they're going through. I never would have thought a year ago I would be in this place, that I would have had the confidence to be in this place or even the opportunity. So, I just want people to be able to see that, wherever you are right now, that doesn't have to be the end of your story and that in any moment you can change your story.