Ten Questions: Lawrence Crawford
TV turns an SJ native into a good cook
By Terri Akman

Lawrence Crawford, 27, is trained to save soldiers on the battlefield. He’s got plenty of skills, lots of discipline and working under pressure comes easy to him – just don’t ask him to cook.

As a contestant on season four of the Food Network show, “Worst Cooks in America,” Crawford competed with 13 others for a $25,000 prize. Making it to the finale, but coming in second in the competition, the Deptford High graduate says he may not have won, but at least he’s now proud of his cooking skills.

How did you get on the reality competition?
My wife and I were watching the show, and I was talking about how bad these people were. She laughed at me and said she thought I was right in there with them. I didn’t think I was that bad. I said, “Fine, then put me on the show.” Next thing I know I’m getting a phone call from the producers.

I had to submit a video of myself cooking – I made steak and potatoes – and talking about my past experiences trying to cook for my family. I told them about my oily pancakes and rubbery eggs. They wanted to know what my appetite is like and about my tastes, but also about my character. They were making sure I didn’t have a dry personality. I think I’m a fun spirit. At the audition on the first episode I was in line with hundreds of other people, all with the meals we made. They told me my steak was “hammered.” I thought it tasted alright. 

Are any of your comments on the show scripted, especially when they do the close-ups when you speak to the camera?
Negative. Nothing is scripted at all. It’s all real. It’s all shooting from the hip. They say, ‘This happened, tell us everything you were thinking.’ They ask questions but none of the responses are scripted or even suggested.

You mention your three kids throughout the show. What does your family think of you being on TV?
My wife Tenahya, daughter Alahya, 11, sons Lawrence III, 4, and Kevin, 2, were all excited, especially the little ones. On the first episode they wondered what I was doing, but then when they knew the show was coming would yell for the popcorn. They’d see me on TV and yell, ‘There goes Daddy.’

Was it hard leaving them for the production?
Yes. The cast lived in a hotel in New York throughout the entire production, but we had very limited chance to speak with our families. I missed them. I wouldn’t be where I am in life if it weren’t for the support of my family.

It seemed like you were flying under the radar throughout the show, staying calm and quiet. Was that strategy or your personality?
I am a very, very competitive person, and I’m very focused. When things might not be going my way I’ve learned to stay cool, calm and collected. It’s what the army teaches you. That helped me a lot during this process. I think that’s a part of my personality I get from my dad.

Did you have a particular plan for competing on the show?
My strategy was to do whatever Chef Tyler told me. That’s been my strategy from when I was a kid playing sports down to band competitions. Listen to what my instructors tell me and try to do what they say to the best of my ability. As long as you’re paying attention and keeping that focus, there should be no reason why you can’t do well and accomplish what you want. That’s true in life, period.

What about the show’s production is different from what viewers see?
There are a lot of pauses. For example, Chef Tyler would say ‘Good morning, recruits,’ and we would all say, “Good morning” and be really excited. But there could be a 15- or 20-second break before he would say his next sentence, and we’d all just be looking at him. It’s probably when they were getting reaction shots.

Recruits Lawrence Crawford and Glenda Galeano try to turn on a stove as seen on Food Network's Worst Cooks in America, Season 8.

Recruits Lawrence Crawford and Glenda Galeano try to turn on a stove.

Beyond specific recipes, what was the most important thing you learned?
If you did not plate it, it did not happen. That means you can cover for your mistakes as long as you don’t put the food on the plate. There’s always a chance for you to recover, don’t be the victim. There is always a way.

What’s your best advice for someone who can’t cook?
Try to simulate what you see from people you know who can cook. If you really put your whole heart into it and it’s something you want to learn how to do, you have to look at it in a positive light. Put your best foot forward and pay attention to people who know what they’re doing, not the ones who think they know what they’re doing. For example, on the show there were people who thought they knew what they were doing, and they’d try to give me advice. I’d just say no and listen to Chef Tyler.

How would you grade yourself as a cook now?
I’m a B+. I love making chicken, especially fried. I have more confidence now, that’s one thing I definitely learned.

March 2016
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