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La Toya Jackson talks ‘Worst Cooks in America: Celebrity Edition’

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La Toya Jackson (seen here with host Tyler Florence) is part of season 13 of the Food Network's "Worst Cooks in America: Celebrity Edition." New episodes, airing Sundays at 9 pm, feature the contestants vying for bragging rights and a $25,000 jackpot for their charity of choice. La Toya Jackson (seen here with host Tyler Florence) is part of season 13 of the Food Network's "Worst Cooks in America: Celebrity Edition." New episodes, airing Sundays at 9 pm, feature the contestants vying for bragging rights and a $25,000 jackpot for their charity of choice. (Photo courtesy of the Food Network)

Singer La Toya Jackson says she considered herself a fair cook – that is until she became a contestant on the Food Network’s “Worst Cooks in America: Celebrity Edition” - a star-studded culinary boot camp where recruits compete for bragging rights and a $25,000 jackpot for the charity of their choice.

“Before I started on the show, on a scale of one to 10, I would have given myself a three,” Jackson said via phone interview. “Once you get on the show, they start telling you and showing you things. You would be surprised at what you don’t know in the kitchen.”

The six-episode season of “Worst Cooks in America” – the show’s 13th - is hosted by celebrity chefs Tyler Florence and Anne Burrell. Jackson’s costars on the show include Ian Ziering (“Beverly Hills 90210”), comedienne Maria Bamford, Catherine Bach (“Dukes of Hazzard”), Oscar Nunez (“The Office”), Bronson Pinchot (“Perfect Strangers”) and Nolan Gould (“Modern Family”).

Jackson says she has learned an array of cooking techniques during her time on the show that have forced her to reconsider how to best prepare a dish.

“I thought I knew how to use a knife but apparently I didn’t,” Jackson said. “I used to hold a knife with my top forefinger on the top of the blade and you’re not supposed to do that. You have to pay close attention to everything and I didn’t before being on the show. Now I know you have to cut all of your vegetables the same size. I had never once given that a thought.”

Part of the fun of watching “Worst Cooks in America” is seeing how the recruits handle the various whammies thrown their way. The over-the-top challenges - while entertaining for viewers - can be frustrating for contestants.

“They throw these curveballs at you,” Jackson explained. “They would show us a dish and ask us to replicate it. But then they take some of our ingredients and force us to find substitutes. Your mind is rushing and you have 50 minutes to do it with the cameras rolling. It can be a little intimidating.”

Also nerve-wracking is trying to pull off a perfect dish when Anne Burrell and Tyler Florence are hovering over your work station.

“Like when they are standing behind you and you’re trying to do everything perfectly and they say ‘You don’t do it that way, you do it this way.’ Or they’ll say ‘Why are you putting that in there?’ You feel that there is just so much you don’t know. You just feel like a klutz in the kitchen,” Jackson laughed.

After shooting the first episode, Jackson says she considered her competitors’ strengths and weaknesses in order to identify her biggest threat among the other contestants.

“You try to feel people out and see what they have for culinary skills,” Jackson explained. “I would say that Ian Ziering is my biggest threat. He’s very good at what he does.”

Jackson and Ziering were both declared winners in the first episode of this season, allowing both to advance. “It felt great to have that under my belt but I knew I had to keep my eye on Ian,” she said.

Jackson has fond memories of cooking special dishes for her siblings in The Jackson family, recalling one dish that always came out perfectly.

“My brothers would go on the road and I used to surprise them when they returned by making their favorite dish for them,” she said. “Years ago, I learned how to make a German chocolate cake for Jermaine because that was his favorite. They all liked enchiladas and I used to love making them for my brothers. Before being on this show, it was the one thing that always came out really great.”

“Worst Cooks in America: Celebrity Edition” airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on the Food Network. On the episode scheduled for May 6 - titled “Nutritious and Delicious” - the recruits play a taste-and-describe game with unique comfort foods.

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