Cooking without setting off the fire alarm is hard enough. Try cooking with an anchor on your back, an ice hockey skate for a knife or while sitting in a super-sized high chair.
Emily Ellyn, a current Ph.D. candidate at UCF for hospitality management with a focus in food service education, will show off her culinary chops this Sunday on Food Network's Cutthroat Kitchen, a TV show riddled with ridiculous challenges all aiming to sabotage the chefs' meals before they make it to the judge.
This isn't Ellyn's first foray onto the Food Network stage, however. She has also competed on The Next Food Network Star and Cupcake Wars, the latter of which was alongside Hollis Wilder of Sweet by Holly.
Her academic introduction to the culinary arts began at the Culinary Institute of America, where she received a bachelor's degree in restaurant management. From there, she received two master's degrees, one from Academie Internationale de Management in Paris and another from UCF in 2008. Ellyn has also taught both quantity foods and organizational behavior sources at UCF.
Between working on her dissertation, traveling across the country doing cooking demos at food and wine festivals and on morning news programs, Ellyn has also found time to work on a calendar and an apron line, as well as an upcoming book.
Ellyn met up with the Central Florida Future to talk about her first experiences in the kitchen, how she prepared for the grueling challenges that awaited her on Cutthroat Kitchen and what brought her to Food Network in the first place.
Central Florida Future: Tell me about the first meal you ever made.
Emily Ellyn: Well, it was a meal and a disaster in one. I had to be about 8 years old or maybe even younger. I pushed one of our heavy kitchen chairs up to the stove … I got a big old frying pan and I remember it was too heavy to really even hold … I remember making eggs and French toast, and I remember lifting a pan up and it was so heavy and kind of hot and I set it right down on the counter and it [hissed]. My mom's good counter tops were burned and had a huge welt on them. That first batch of cooking was burned into the counter top until my dad replaced them well after I went off to college.
CFF: What got you to pursue a degree in culinary arts?
Ellyn: I always knew I was going to be a chef, that I was going to embrace the world of hospitality. It was just ingrained in my psyche at a young age. I know my first cooking memories were [when] my mom would hop my sister and I up in our bassinets and we'd watch her cook. We could be on the counter and she would be canning, jamming or cooking dinner. After that, we were playing in the pots and pans under the counter. I was always in the kitchen
Then I realized that something magical happened around the table. Everybody gathered and they were happy. You might have had a hard day at work, but you come home and sit down and there'd be this sigh of relief and you'd eat good food along with your friends and family. I'd always wanted to be a part of that magic from a very young age.
CFF: What feelings do you get while you're cooking? How does cooking affect you?
Ellyn: I love cooking. It's always had a positive effect on me. It's very meditative. I will say that food is affected by mood. I'll often hear that people are in a bad mood and they burn the soup. I feel that, too, if I'm not in the right mood, the food isn't a direct reflection of [my skills]."
CFF: What's the worst part about cooking?
Ellyn: The dishes. (laughs) That's why I use rubber spatulas. They save you. You can scrape the bottom of a pan and you won't burn anything. They're my favorite thing.
CFF: What got you to go on The Next Food Network Star?
Ellyn: One of my students actually. [After helping him and his team franchise the doughnuts in Thailand], as a thank you actually, he and their crew signed me up.
CFF: How did you prepare for CutthroatKitchen?
Ellyn: There's nothing that can prepare you for Cutthroat Kitchen, OK? (laughs) When those producers first called me, I was like, "No way. I don't want to do another competition show," and my mom even said, "That's the meanest show, they're not even cooking." But then the producers came in and said, 'Look at it like a game show. You're going to have a blast. You're putting your creativity to the test, not your cooking.'
So I went and I did it. Let me tell you, I had fun. I think I would enjoy reality TV and filming reality TV more if I started filming with Cutthroat Kitchen. It's hilarious. I can't even explain. I'm shocked. I'm dumbfounded. I still get the giggles. And Alton Brown is as diabolical as he is [in person].
Stay up-to-date with all things Emily Ellyn on social media at...
Also search for her YouTube videos under her name.
There will be a watch party for the episode on Sunday from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. at Tin Roof Orlando at 8371 International Drive, Suite 100.
Ellyn will be giving away two tickets to Appetite for the Arches, benefiting the Ronald McDonald House.
Adam Rhodes is the Entertainment Editor at the Central Florida Future. Follow him on Twitter at @byadamrhodes or email him at AdamR@CentralFloridaFuture.com.