Food Network debuts ‘Chef Boot Camp,’ starring Cliff Crooks

March 5, 2021

Cliff Crooks of “Chef Boot Camp” (Photo courtesy of Food Network)

The following is a press release from Food Network:

Food Network’s newest series, Chef Boot Camp, takes a deep dive into one of the most critical and essential elements of restaurants everywhere – the chefs running the kitchen. The success of a restaurant starts and ends with the food they serve and trouble in the kitchen can jeopardize everything. Enter Cliff Crooks, Culinary Director of a global restaurant brand whose job entails making sure the entire enterprise runs smoothly, including hiring and firing the chefs for each kitchen. Now Cliff is taking his decades of expertise and embarking on a new mission to help struggling chefs from restaurants across the country prove that they deserve to keep running their kitchens. Nominated by their respective restaurant owners, each episode Cliff will put a trio of underperforming chefs through a grueling series of challenges to test their real-world culinary skills and fitness for the role. With their jobs on the line, these chefs will attempt to not only survive but thrive in Chef Boot Camp and prove to their owners they have the talent and passion it takes to succeed. Chef Boot Camp premieres Thursday, April 8, 2021 at 10pm ET/PT on Food Network. “Cliff Crooks knows what it takes for a restaurant to be successful and in Chef Boot Camp, he brings his tremendous experience and a commitment to excellence to struggling restaurateurs and their kitchen staffs,” said Courtney White, Food Network President.

“Cliff’s investment in these chefs is evident every step of the way as he gives everything he can to help them improve and succeed.”

 In each episode, three struggling chefs embark on a three-day boot camp with Cliff who will assess their skills in the kitchen and address their areas for improvement. After an introduction to each chef that reveals what brought them to boot camp, he gets a firsthand look and taste of one of their signature dishes to begin to understand what the issues may be. Next, the chefs must demonstrate fundamental cooking techniques of a classic dish which they must create on time and to Cliff’s satisfaction, showing their skills, knowledge, and ability in the kitchen. Then, the chefs must bring it altogether – working a fast-paced, live dinner service at one of Cliff’s restaurants, and then, finally, whipping up a creative, new dish for their restaurant owners to demonstrate their growth and progress from boot camp. Some will rise to the challenge while others will not, with the fate of their career in the hands of chef Cliff. Chef Cliff Crooks has been cooking in prominent kitchens throughout New York City for more than 20 years. Prior to joining BLT Restaurant Group in 2010 as Executive Chef of BLT Steak New York, he held positions at Salute!, Blue Water Grill and Gramercy Tavern.

Chef Cliff has appeared as a contestant on Top Chef and a judge on Hell’s Kitchen and Chopped Junior, and will also be seen on Food Network’s Tournament of Champions. After more than two years of leading the kitchen at BLT Steak New York, the hospitality group’s flagship restaurant, Crooks was named Culinary Director of BLT Restaurant Group and has since played an integral role in inspiring culinary growth among his staff while demonstrating a strong commitment to the brand’s ethos of exceeding expectations through outstanding food and hospitality. 

Fans can get to know Cliff and learn some of his best cooking tips at FoodNetwork.com/ChefBootCamp. Follow along with the competition on social media using #ChefBootCamp and tell us about your biggest cooking mistakes. Chef Boot Camp is produced by Left/Right Productions for Food Network.

·       Premiering Thursday, April 8, 2021 at 10pm– “Have a Little Faith”

Chef Cliff Crooks works with three chefs in need of professional help, starting at Tara Inn in Port Jefferson, N.Y. Head chef Andrew’s poor performance could mean the end of a local favorite restaurant since 1977. In New Haven, Conn., the chef refuses to change the menu at his best friend’s restaurant, putting his relationship and his job at risk. Finally, Chef Cliff meets Shakilah, who took over for her mom as head chef at Carolyn’s Southern Comfort Cuisine in East Meadow, N.Y., but overspicing the food and her lack of drive could mean the end of her mother’s dream.

·       Premiering Thursday, April 15, 2021 at 10pm– “Sloppy, Snarky and Silent”

Chef Cliff Crooks works with three chefs with very different issues. Aiden has been the head chef of Blue Mermaid Island Grill in Kittery, Maine, for years, but he’s timid, and the restaurant’s owner questions whether he can lead a kitchen. Pat was recently promoted to head chef of Beefeater’s Tavern in Horseheads, N.Y., but his sloppy appearance and subpar culinary skills threaten his success. Finally, Shy has spent 16 years running the kitchen at McGeary’s Pub in Albany, N.Y., but she has an attitude problem that could mean the end of her run.

·       Premiering Thursday, April 22, 2021 at 10pm– “Three Dreams”

Chef Cliff Crooks connects with three chefs in need of help, starting with Carlos in New London, Conn. He came to the U.S. from Ecuador and achieved the American dream while working in kitchens, but as the head chef at Hot Rods Cafe, he must learn some tricks beyond cooking wings and burgers to help his best friend and the restaurant’s owner bring in new customers to pay for a costly renovation. In Essex Junction, Vt., cooking saved the life of former addict Cody, but he needs help getting past his self-doubt to successfully run the kitchen at El Gato Cantina. Finally, Chef Cliff meets Kelly, a self-taught chef who transformed her health-food meal prep business into Fit Foodie Express in Long Beach, N.Y. She and her husband put their savings into the business, but her lack of cooking and restaurant experience could mean the end of not only their business but also their marriage.

·       Premiering Thursday, April 29, 2021 at 10pm– “I Will Be Great… Tomorrow”

Chef Cliff Crooks draws on his expertise to help three chefs in need, beginning with Chris at The Striker in Portsmouth, N.H. Chris was hired for his creativity, but he’s lost his passion and his food is uninspired. In Albany, N.Y., Kizzy is chef and co-owner of Allie B’s Cozy Kitchen, which features her mom’s soul food recipes, but she needs to branch out to reinvigorate business. Finally, Chef Cliff meets Nicky, who has been the chef at Bella Napoli in Bloomfield, N.J., for more than 40 years — and it shows in his terrible plating and the owners’ desire for new dishes to bring in more customers.

Online, fans can get to know Cliff and learn some of his best cooking tips. Follow along with the competition on social media using #ChefBootCamp and tell us about your biggest cooking mistakes.