Chef Tomica “Tom” Burke took a leap of faith that made her a Food Network champion.
Burke, a Douglaston resident who grew up in Cambria Heights, came out the victor Sunday on the Food Network’s “Cutthroat Kitchen.” She went head-to-head with three other chefs on the reality cooking show hosted by celebrity chef Alton Brown.
“I couldn’t breathe in the morning before we started filming,” Burke said. “Once we got into the studio, it was a totally different ball game. You’re there and doing the best you can. It was very hard; between every round I had no idea what was going to happen.”
Contestants are given $25,000 at the start of the show to bid on the right to sabotage their competition during three rounds of cooking challenges.
In the episode called “Chain of Tools,” Burke had to create her own versions of Cobb salad, enchiladas and layered cake while facing sabotages such as having to mix ingredients in a cement mixer and create her own kitchen out of items within a shopping cart.
Although Burke had received no training as a chef and never enrolled in culinary school, the Queens resident beat her competition Sunday night and took home a total of $8,600 in winnings.
“You have no idea what you can do until you have to do it,” she said.
Burke, however, did not start off as a chef. The 31-year-old graduated from Columbia Law School and, while studying and working in a city law firm, took courses at the Institute of Culinary Education. She then decided to leave the legal profession and opened her own catering company in 2013 called “TomCookery – New Comfort Cuisine & Catering.”
Since then, Burke has been cooking Caribbean and Southern-inspired food, influenced by her grandmothers, out of the Entrepreneur Space in Long Island City. TomCookery caters for any kind of party including weddings, bar mitzvahs and much more.
She said as a new business it was very important for her to take the risk of competing on the show, which she hopes will create more business and recognition for TomCookery.
“I think taking risks is super-important in general,” she said. “You shouldn’t limit yourself, just jump at every opportunity and let life decide what is going to happen.”
For those who want to catch a rerun of Burke on “Cutthroat Kitchen,” the episode will air again on April 26 at 4 p.m. and May 4 at 6 p.m.
For more information on TomCookery visit here.