Father Adam Young lives on a prayer in the kitchen.
A self-described culinary disaster, Fr. Adam Young of the Diocese of Providence casually admits that the moniker “Worst Cook in America” might not be far off.
While watching television one night with some friends, some channel flipping led them to the Food Network. The pastor of St. Paul Church in Cranston, Rhode Island, who had never seen Worst Cooks in America, recalls, “Suddenly I realized all my friends were looking at me.” Those friends gleefully encouraged Fr. Adam to submit his name to the show, which he did through the show’s website.
He received an invitation to audition the next day.
The Food Network reality show enrolls 14 hapless cooks in celebrity chef Bobby Flay’s “boot camp.” The culinary recruits compete for a $25,000 cash prize. With a contest profile that reads, “Father Adam has been a priest for 9 years, but says that God seems to abandon him in the kitchen,” Fr. Adam will definitely need some divine assistance to become a master chef.
“Asking the bishop’s blessing to go on the show is perhaps the strangest request I’ve yet made,” Fr. Adam demurely admitted. “He was, however, very supportive.” Fr. Adam recounts that the bishop liked the idea of showing people a different face of the priesthood; allowing people to see a priest in a different setting.
A different setting was exactly what Fr. Adam found. “Going on the show has been very humbling,” he said. “In the parish I lead and guide, but on the show I had to be willing to be a student again. I had to let the chefs help me face my limitations.”
Fr. Adam discovered a great sense of community among the show’s contestants. “The majority of contestants were Catholic, but some had never met a priest before.” The diverse cast connected well and remains in touch on a group chat. They support and laugh together throughout the episodes as they air.
“The friendships and fraternity among the other cooks echo my seminary experience. We shared together great joys and sorrows. There’s something so fundamentally human about that.” Some might expect the environment would have been difficult for a priest, but Fr. Adam insists everyone on the show was polite and supportive of his vocation. He was even able to offer Mass for the contestants on Sundays during the filming.
Reflecting on what he learned in the kitchen, Fr. Adam shared, “The show highlights the best of what cooking does for people. Sharing a meal allows people to provide and produce. That’s why I wanted to go on the show: to be able to bring people together.” This after all was the method of the Lord; Christ did that. Fr. Adam lamented, “We’re so isolated by our work and our [electronic] devices that we need to consciously find ways to come together.”
When he left to film the show, there was an aura of secrecy. Fr. Adam explained, “My time away was shrouded in mystery.” Owing to network requirements, he couldn’t discuss the show until close to the season premiere. When he eventually explained from the pulpit his absence was due to competing on Worst Cooks in America, his parishioners offered the biggest laugh he’s ever gotten.
“My parishioners are seeing me in a different light. One Mass-goer told me, ‘Father we never would have thought you could get so nervous!’ The competition is real, and watching the episodes as they air has me re-living the tense moments of the different challenges. But over all, I’ve learned a lot. Being on the show was a joyful experience and I’m grateful for it.”
Though he can’t reveal the results of the contest, if he were to win, Fr. Adam would donate the prize to his inner-city parish school. With three episodes aired, we’ve seen Fr. Adam win one challenge and lose two. Tune in this Sunday night to cheer Fr. Adam on as he competes in episode four.