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America’s Test Kitchen: Next Generation’s winner on the finale ‘mind game,’ and their new job

America’s Test Kitchen: Next Generation’s winner on the finale ‘mind game,’ and their new job
America's Test Kitchen: The Next Generation winner Antoinette Johnson and finalists Robbie Schlichte and Robbie Guevarra. (Photo via Amazon Prime Video)

After 10 episodes and a multi-stage final challenge, America’s Test Kitchen: The Next Generation found its winner, and America’s Text Kitchen has its newest member: Antoinette Johnson.

Antoinette beat Robbie Guevarra and Garrett Schlicte, winning $100,000, a cookbook, and a role on the PBS cooking show.

From start to finish, the Freevee reality competition was an entertaining and refreshing competition, a return to early Food Network Star days, but also clearly adopting the tone and warmth of America’s Test Kitchen, even in the midst of a competition.

A person wearing an apron uses a mixer in an industrial kitchen
Antoinette Johnson on America’s Test Kitchen: The Next Generation on Amazon’s Freevee (Image via Amazon Studios)

When I interviewed Antoinette two weeks ago, she was in Boston, having shot the cover of her upcoming cookbook, and also filming for America’s Test Kitchen. She’ll make her debut in its next season, and the cookbook will be out sometime this year.

During the season, Antoinette found herself on the top and the bottom. “While I was experiencing it,” she told me, “it was pretty stressful, but with hindsight, and with the outcome, it made me realize that things can happen in life where you’re at the bottom, but then you can also be at the top. It was a full-circle life moment.”

Antoinette’s success in the competition is even more impressive considering that she kept doing her full-time job from the hotel at night after production concluded for the day.

During the final episode, Antoinette, Robbie, and Garrett had to prepare two dishes, produce a photo shoot of that food, serve it to the judges, and then do an on-camera demo. I asked Antoinette if she had any sense of how she was doing compared to her competitors during that time.

“Honestly, no, because I didn’t taste what they made,” she said. “I could kind of see and look, but I really wasn’t sure what they made, and I didn’t get to see their demo.”

“I was like, I can’t worry about that,” she added. “I have to stay focused on what I can control, and what I do know, and that’s how I can perform. So, it was nerve-wracking, because I just didn’t know.” Honestly, watching it, I didn’t know either, because they all had distinct strengths, and certainly none of them failed miserably.

The real challenge, she said, was not in the head-to-head-competition, but the, well, headspace competition.

“Everybody can cook, so it’s not necessarily you competing against what somebody else’s dish is, it’s more so you competing with yourself and what you can do, if you can be consistent, if you can make it right this time,” Antoinette told me.

“So I think that was the hardest part of just really having to focus and think, Okay, the technique, is it there? Am I doing this correctly? Am I presenting in a way that I’m not getting ahead of myself or overthinking things? It really was more of a mind game, and I think that was the hardest part at the end—not getting in your head and really being confident in doing this as if you already have the job.”

Antoinette’s on-camera test was interrupted by a loud beeping, which turned out to be from a camera, though she handled it well. I asked what exactly that was, since the episode didn’t explain the beep’s origins, and she said “one of the batteries in the camera was dying, and had an alarm on it.” The crew changed the battery and the demo continued.

Four people sitting at a table; one standing behind them has her hands spread above her head.
The America’s Test Kitchen: The Next Generation in the finale, when they chose the show’s winner: Dan Souza, Elle Simone Scott, host Jeannie Mai, Karen Akunowicz, and Jack Bishop. (Photo via Amazon Prime Video)

In the finale, after Antoinette won, America’s Test Kitchen star Elle Simone Scott, the first Black woman on America’s Test Kitchen, told Antoinette, “I’m excited to share this new experience with you—it’s everything, it’s everything.”

I asked Antoinette about that moment. “Oh my goodness, I don’t want to get emotional and cry. But it was really—it was a really good moment. I have worked in digital marketing and in the corporate space, and I’ve never worked with any other Black women. So, I’ve never been able to have that connection ever, to have that kind of mentorship before. To have that here, and to be in a space that’s in an industry that I’m passionate about, cooking, it was a really good feeling.”

Antoinette hopes that her presence on America’s Test Kitchen will have an impact on others.

“I want to show me as a Black woman, I want to show that we are multifaceted, we are not a monolith, and we are all different,” she siad. “So if I can connect to another woman who looks like me, great. If I can show somebody who hasn’t seen woman like me before—expose them to this greatness—than that would be cool too. It is pressure, you know, I’m not going to lie about that aspect. But it is an honored position to be here.”

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Happy discussing!

Molly

Sunday 2nd of April 2023

This is my first time on Reality Blurred. My son and I were trying to figure out what Antionette is doing now, between Next Generation and ATK. We are a family of three. My son and I thought Antoinette should/would win. I thought she was best overall of the remaining three contestants and would transition most smoothly into the role. My son’s gut reaction throughout the show was that she should/would win. My husband thought that of the three, Robbie should have won because of his consistent cooking and that he could learn screen presence. I didn’t think that he would be happy having to have the needed level of screen presence.

Great show!

Andy Dehnart

Sunday 2nd of April 2023

Welcome, Molly! Overall such a great show, and I wouldn’t have been mad at any of the three finalists winning!

Robert Karp

Tuesday 14th of February 2023

A decent cooking competition without any really silly challenges (Top Chef pay attention). I also thought Antoinette got the "winner's edit" from the very beginning. The final three seemed like the correct choice. I'm glad that there really wasn't any serious team challenge drama going on.

I think all these shows suffer from the "confessional" issue. Way too much time hearing about how they want to win. Of course they do, they wouldn't be there if they didn't!

Production values were strong. For a first season, a really good effort.

It does bring back the early Next Food Network Star competitions. Not a bad place to be.

Janice

Thursday 16th of February 2023

@Robert Karp, Great critique! Much appreciated!

Lee Holcey

Saturday 11th of February 2023

Antoinette was consistently firing on ALL cylinders. She most definitely came to WIN & secure her position!

Michelene

Saturday 11th of February 2023

Antoinette deserves the win fair and square. Her style, her ability to take extremely cheap ingredients and tuned them into a star fine dining dish, her consistency, her confidence in front of the camera during the demo episodes makes her the perfect fit. Robbie is good with the food he makes but he struggled a lot in the beginning with time, one episode he didn't even finish the food, he struggle a lot in front of the camera.

Sherry

Saturday 11th of February 2023

I knew from the first episode that Antoinette should win!