Twenty-four of the country's worst home cooks come to New York City, in hopes of participating in a ten-day Culinary Boot Camp with Chefs Beau MacMillan and Anne Burrell. The eager applicants must prepare a sample of their terrible cooking, and then each chef chooses a team of six for the other chef to teach. Only one "recruits" from each team will make it to the final challenge: to cook a three-course meal for a panel of food critics who think the chefs did the cooking. The winner will receive $25,000. Boot Camp begins, and for their first challenge, each chef demonstrates a dish which the recruits must replicate exactly. The least successful recruit on each team is eliminated.
The ten recruits take a trip to Arirang Hibachi Steakhouse, where, in their first Skill Drill, they must learn to execute five fundamental knife cuts. Then each Chef teaches their team a Teppanyaki-style dish, cooked directly on a blazing hot flattop grill. The recruits' results are varied, to say the least. Back at Boot Camp for the Main Dish Challenge, the Chefs demo only a few key techniques for a dish; the rest of the recipe is posted on the blackboard. The Chefs repeatedly emphasize that a good cook must read and know their recipe completely. So, halfway through prep, to test whether the recruits have followed their directions, the Chefs surprise them by erasing the recipe!
To illustrate the importance of flavor, the Chefs provide the eight remaining recruits with a "blank canvas," jointly demonstrating a basic crepe dish. Each recruit must then flavor their own crepe, and the Chefs do a blind taste test. The Chef whose team has the best-tasting crepe gets to steal a player from other team and give up one of their own. Then as a further exploration of flavor, the Chefs demonstrate the basics of marinating and grilling. Each recruit must devise their own marinade, using ingredients from one of four international flavor profiles-France, Greece, Spain and Thailand. Each recruit must also follow a recipe for a side dish to go with their marinated grilled protein, and complete everything within the time allotted.
To show the importance of multitasking, each Chef teaches their team how to make fresh pasta, filling and sauce. Then for their Main Dish Challenge, the recruits are surprised to learn that they must cater a cocktail party for 30 guests. The Chefs demo how to make a basic crostini, and each recruit must put his/her own personal spin on that dish, as well as make an additional hors d'oeuvre from a recipe created by their Chef. The party guests weigh in on the results.
Each Chef teaches their two recruits a complicated dessert. Then, to test their retention of the recipe, the recruits must teach the dish to someone who knows even less about cooking than they do: high school football players! The recruits will be judged on how well the football player's dish comes out. Then for their final Main Dish Challenge, each recruit must completely reinvent the terrible dish they cooked for the chefs on the very first day, using everything they've learned so far. The recruits cook in a private kitchen at Benoit restaurant, and in addition to the chefs, they each serve a surprise guest-a beloved family member. After tasting all the dishes, each Chef decides who will represent them in the final challenge, cooking for the food critics.
The remaining two recruits meet their Chefs at Boot Camp, where they devise and plan menus for their final challenge: to prepare a three-course meal for food critics who think that the dishes were cooked by Chef Beau and Chef Anne. After shopping for ingredients, each recruit has three hours to practice their meal with guidance from their Chef. The next day, the recruits meet the Chefs at Compass Restaurant, where they proceed to cook, unseen, for the food critics. Upon completion of the meal, the Chefs reveal that the dishes were actually prepared by home cooks, who until ten days ago were two of the "Worst Cooks in America." The critics reveal their choice for best-executed meal-and the winner is declared.