Garrett Schlichte ’15 MA, an upbeat copywriter from San Francisco, has never backed down from a new adventure. So when he saw a casting call on Instagram for a new television cooking competition, he thought “Why not?”
He was not only cast in “America’s Test Kitchen: The Next Generation,” but made it to the finale, beating competitors with such dishes as lemon ricotta dumplings and pavlova with key lime lemon curd.
Each episode challenged the home cooks to make and present meals for the chance to win $100,000 and become the next on-air chef on the PBS series “America’s Test Kitchen.”
Since this was the first time “American’s Test Kitchen” had produced a cooking show, the cast had no idea what to expect. They weren’t sure whether it would be a cutthroat competition like “Top Chef” or a more wholesome, collaborative show like “The Great British Baking Show.” It ended up being more wholesome and educational.
“None of the challenges were like, ‘Here’s gummy worms and tree bark. Now make a meal out of it.’ There were never really any big we’re-trying-to-make-you-look-ridiculous moments.”
For the finale, Schlichte and two other finalists prepared two dishes, produced a photo shoot of the food, then demonstrated how they made one of the dishes on camera. Schlichte — spoiler alert — ultimately lost to Antoinette Johnson, but loved the experience.
“I gained a lot of self-confidence doing it,” Schlichte says. “I didn’t even unpack my bags until the second or third challenge because I was so afraid that I was going to go home. I think that I come across as very bubbly and excited, but I think we all deal with a lot of self-doubt. It really helped me to believe in myself.”
“None of the challenges were like, ‘Here’s gummy worms and tree bark. Now make a meal out of it.’”
He also formed strong friendships with his castmates during the shoot in Boston last summer. “We all talk almost every day.” Growing up in Florida, Schlichte developed a love of cooking from his father. “I was just always in the kitchen with him. Everyone always called me his little sous chef.”
He came to UConn to earn a master’s in higher education and student affairs, inspired by the staff he met as an undergraduate at Florida State University.
“My UConn experience was great, honestly,” he says. “There are two camps in higher education: theory-based and practitioner-based.
UConn was practitioner-based. I wanted to work with students and they had just some phenomenal practitioners.”
He went on to work in Washington, D.C., as a coordinator of orientation, transition, and retention at American University, then at Johns Hopkins as the assistant director of student life. On the side, he freelanced as a writer and was recruited to be a brand copywriter for Dipsea in San Francisco. He now works as a social engagement manager for Caraway, a startup that provides health care services to women on college campuses.
And he’s still cooking — he runs the monthly Virgo Supperclub, serving six-course, plated dinners with friend Lara Ortiz-Luis.
By Grace Merrit
- 2 cups whole milk ricotta
- ¾ cup all-purpose flour (plus potentially a little more depending on how wet the ricotta is)
- 2 large eggs
- kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
- zest of 2 lemons
- 4 tbs fresh lemon juice (and maybe more juice depending on how tangy you want them)
Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Mix all ingredients together, taste, and adjust seasonings. Let sit for 15-20 minutes so the flour can fully hydrate—the batter should be slightly gluey, like a thick banana bread.
Working in batches of 10 to 15, spoon tablespoon-sized dollops of ricotta mixture into the boiling water (I just use a regular small soup spoon and push the mixture off the spoon into the pot with my finger.)
Once dumplings float to the surface, let cook for about 3-5 more minutes and test for doneness, then remove from water and set aside (I use a spider or slotted spoon to pull them out. To test for doneness, cut one in half. If it’s the same color and texture throughout, it’s done!)
Toss in shallot vinaigrette.
- 1 large shallot, minced
- ½ cup olive oil
- ¼ cup rice wine vinegar
- juice of half a lemon
- kosher salt and black pepper
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1-2 tbs mayonnaise
- 1-2 tbs Dijon mustard
- 2 tbs fresh dill, finely chopped
Combine all ingredients in a large mason jar or bowl. If in a mason jar, cover and shake until emulsified. If in a bowl, whisk until emulsified.
The dumplings are great on their own, just tossed in dressing, or served over grilled vegetables or salad of shaved carrots, cucumbers, and snap peas.