By Megan McDonald
Food Network Worst Cooks in America contestant and Naples resident Melissa Rhodes.
We were thrilled to see Naples resident Melissa Rhodes on Food Network’s popular reality show Worst Cooks in America, and even more excited when she made it to the final four of the competition. So we sat down with Rhodes—who, in addition to coaching softball at Community School of Naples and working at Lululemon Athletica, is also busy planning a wedding (“it’s either Naples in December or the Bahamas next summer!” she says)—to ask her some questions about her time on the show and her life in Naples.
Why did you decide to go on the show?
My fiancé, David, and I watched the first two seasons and we thought it was hilarious. But every time we watched, he’d tell me, “Wow, you’d be so great on this show”—what a terrible thing to say to your future wife, right?! (Laughs.) When I found out they were accepting applications for the third season, I applied, and one thing led to another.
You've been vocal about your struggle with anorexia. Did the show help with that?
I struggled with anorexia for seven years—right after I met David, I went to rehab in Arizona, and I’m three years recovered now. Before the show, knowing how to cook was something that was off-the-charts-scary for me. Now I look up recipes and I’m excited about food. It was a huge confidence booster.
What was the reaction like from friends and family?
The day I found out I was going to be on the show, my mom and sister were taking me wedding dress shopping. So I was standing in the dressing room, halfway in this gorgeous gown, when I saw a 212 [New York] number pop up on my phone—I had to literally jump out of the dress to take the call! Everyone was very excited; we’re a religious family and we believe that everything happens for a reason.
Rhodes (pictured here with Vinnie Caligiuri) was one of the final two contestants on Chef Bobby Flay's team.
But there's no contact with friends or family while you’re filming, right?
You’re completely shut off. There’s no Internet, TV or radio and phone calls a very limited. That helped develop friendships with the other people there.
What might viewers be surprised to know about chefs Bobby Flay or Anne Burrell?
Chef Anne has a pretty hard outer shell, but when it comes down to it, she would have done anything for any person on her team. And her off-camera personality was cool—I could definitely be friends with her. Bobby Flay is almost exactly like he is on camera. He’s really chill, very confident and funny. He’s exactly like I thought he would be.
Do you have cooking fever now?
I absolutely, 100 percent have the cooking bug. My fiancé and I recently went into the commercial kitchen at the Naples Sailing and Yacht Club, where he works as a boat captain, and he said I started glowing—there were stainless steel countertops, big sinks, huge knife sets, everyone’s in chef coats. I loved it.
Rhodes, who says she has a newfound love of cooking, in action on the show.
What's your favorite thing to do in Naples?
I work most of the time, and I find my happiness helping coach the pitchers on the Community School of Naples softball team. I’ve been able to tell the girls my story and reach out to them at a time in their lives when they’re struggling with the same issues I was at that age. And I love going paddleboarding on the beach with my fiancé or taking our dogs on walks and playing fetch with them.
What's your favorite restaurant in town?
Campiello [on Third Street South]. It’s Italian and the menu changes frequently. I love the fried calamari—it melts in your mouth—and their flatbread margherita pizza.
Would you do Worst Cooks in America again?
Absolutely—but we’d have different results this time! Everybody involved with the show was amazing to work for. It was such a great experience. I’m ready to go on TV again right now!
Rhodes writes a blog, I Promise I’ll Write, that’s dedicated to sharing her experience with an eating disorder; click here to read it or follow her on Twitter at @promiseillwrite.
All photos courtesy FoodNetwork.com.
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