Nancy Manlove

Location: Greater Houston, TX – Galveston Area
Current job: Personal Chef
Awards: 1st Place McCormick Go For Gourmet Recipe Contest, 1st Place at World Food Championships Recipe Contest, Sous Chef for Robert Irvine LIVE Series and more.
UPDATE: Manlove was named Winner of Cutthroat Kitchen Season 9 Episode 4.  Aired on September 6, 2015.

How did you get invited to audition for Food Network’s Cutthroat Kitchen?
It started with a phone call from a wonderful casting director in response to me applying for a completely different TV reality show. Phone call, then emails and then interviews and paperwork!  I had actually cast for another show and my POV was too close to a recent episode, so they asked me to consider Cutthroat Kitchen.  They asked about my style of cooking, experience, family, specialties, which word my friends would use to describe me (the word was “tenacity”), my background and why I chose to pursue culinary after many years in corporate America.

Competitive cooking is something you are very seasoned at! How did you get started?
It all started with an eight-ounce block of cream cheese about five years ago! The recipe contest fever bit me big time. It lit my fire to know more about food, understand how ingredients work together and the science behind cooking.

Where do you learn about these culinary competitions?
I found them on the internet at first, then cooking clubs, Facebook and through friends!

How many culinary competitions do you enter in a year? 
Since going professional, I don’t have as much time to enter as many contests as before. I would say that now I try to enter once a month but it varies. I don’t win them all, but I don’t give up either!

How and when did you know that cooking professionally was what you wanted to do?
Well, in high school I won the Home Economics award! Then later in life, I became a little Susie homemaker, helping raise four children from a blended family. Everyone always loved my food so when I found myself retired and still ready to take on the world, I went to my local community college and took a Culinary Arts Certification Program. I get to have fun developing new recipes and inspiring others to take their dream off the shelf and do what they want in life. My dream is cooking!

How long have you been a World Food Championship (WFC) competitor and what are you most excited for this year?
I have had the honor of competing twice before: one year in the Recipe Category for pasta and another year in the Sandwich Category. Just to qualify for the WFC is an accomplishment. I am super excited to be in the Seafood Category this year because most of my life, I’ve wanted to taste every kind of seafood and learn to cook it well. Having lived on both the Texas and Mississippi Gulf Coasts, I personally judge a restaurant by its gumbo and po’ boys, because if you can’t get those two right… well then, get the nails and boards out!

What do you do to prepare yourself for a culinary battle?
It’s all about organization and process control. You must know every step of the recipe so you can adapt as needed, because sometimes you will not be able to control certain elements like environment, equipment failures, time restrictions, not being able to use a favorite product, and so on.

What do you see yourself doing five years from now?
I like being able to cook for others.  I want to be able to continue doing that, mentor, and demonstrate the joy of cooking great food. Maybe in the future, I’ll have a successful food truck so I can travel and cook too! Opportunities are in play for a café, restaurant or catering service.

What are some of your most proud moments and accomplishments?
Certainly being cast for Food Network’s Cutthroat Kitchen along with the recipe contests I’ve won or placed in over the past several years. I am proud that I reached for my dream and made it a reality. One of my recent favorite clients was a gentleman that wanted a one-on-one cooking class so he could check it off his bucket list of things to do. So on the eve of his 70th Birthday, we cooked three outstanding dishes!  We now have a friendship (he is shipping me halibut cheeks that his son will be fishing for this season). Life doesn’t get any better than that! It’s about the friends you make on your journey to discovering yourself  – they are the best accomplishments.

Have you appeared on television prior to Cutthroat Kitchen?
I did appear on the 2013 World Food Championships airing on FYI channel (A&E Network) as a featured contestant. I understood that the producers would have to interfere with my timeline and that meant being cordial, giving them what they needed from me and getting back to my food with enough time to turn them in against the clock. I put my Macaroni and Cheese down with one second left on the clock!

What advantages and disadvantages do you have as a private chef competing against restaurant or hotel chefs?
I’ve worked in a hotel kitchen and restaurant so I know that there is a huge difference between preparing food for a small gathering versus a large event. The recipes are industrial strength and must be prepared to how the Executive Chef likes it.  You learn to do it and say “Yes, Chef”!  Now as a Personal Chef, I carry these experience and apply it to my clients, but the recipes are mine and created with their needs in mind. You work hard either way and you do your best whether you are cooking someone else’s recipes or your own. When I compete, I can hold my own up against anyone. I have no fear! Some days you are in your element and everything works beautifully and then there are times when Murphy’s Law rules!

What advice would you give to another chef that is preparing to go on the Cutthroat Kitchen?
Be yourself, have fun, leave your ego in the hotel room, do your best and then pray the judges love your dish best and if you can’t think fast on your feet or adapt under pressure… don’t do it!

Have you gotten more media/press from the experience?
Many! I am scheduled for a radio show, being interviewed by newspapers, local TV, acquired new social media followers and more.

Would you do it again?
Without any hesitation… A resounding YES! What would I do differently… maybe not swear as much or sweat the outcome and have more fun if that is even possible! It was a blast!

What is your definition of success in our industry?
Love what you do.  Remember that if you are there just for a paycheck and your heart is not in it, there are other gratifying occupations to pursue.  I want to leave the world a better place through my food.

What is your culinary “best case scenario”?
Oh this one is easy… I have not had it yet! Like wine, I just keep getting better each day!

How did you find Chef’s Roll and what urged you to join?
I discovered Chef’s Roll while searching the internet, so I built a basic profile and then I met them in person at the World Food Championships in 2014. I am so delighted by Chef’s Roll – I now have one place to share my culinary story without having to have a blog or set up a personal website.  I can also easily plug my profile link all over social media! Casting teams are using it for sure. Talent management agencies use Chef’s Roll as well. It has gotten me more business!  Anyone in this industry should have a profile on Chef’s Roll. It’s easy to maintain and it is a great resource. One of the best decisions I ever made was to invest in myself!

What’s next for you?
Many things, stay tuned. Only during my journey to becoming a culinary professional did I truly discover my artistic capabilities.  There is nothing like an edible piece of art that someone will look at, taste and remember.  Satisfaction comes one plate and bite at a time, one client at a time! I found my passion. I love helping others and will be mentoring those who think they want to pursue cooking as a career.  There is a diverse but connected array of occupations in this industry, but you must have passion for food and for learning!  But definitely look to see me next year on more reality TV if everything goes as indicated.

Learn more about Chef Nancy Manlove on her Chef’s Roll profile here.
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