Skip to Content
reality TV reviews, news, and analysis since 2000

America’s Test Kitchen Next Generation’s final three (spoiler!) on their journeys

America’s Test Kitchen Next Generation’s final three (spoiler!) on their journeys
The contestants of America's Test Kitchen: The Next Generation in the ATK's kitchen set during the first episode (Photo by Joseph Keller/Amazon Freevee)

When Amazon’s Freevee premiered America’s Text Kitchen: The Next Generation in December, it brought back a format that I’d missed, the job interview reality TV competition, and was just a great cooking competition show on top of that.

The penultimate episode dropped today, with the final four—Antoinette Johnson, Garrett Schlicte, Robbie Guevarra, and Marc Sievers—competing in a three-hour, three-course meal served to judges Dan Souza, Elle Simone Scott, Jack Bishop, and Karen Akunowicz.

The judges eliminated one of those contestants, and I interviewed the remaining three, who are competing for a role on America’s Text Kitchen in next Friday’s finale. So, there’s obviously a major spoiler for the end of episode 9 just in the nature of who’s included below.

America’s Test Kitchen: The Next Generation filmed for five weeks in June and July of 2022, and I asked its finalists about how they found their way to the show, what their biggest challenges were, how competing affected them, and more.

Garrett Schlichte: ‘This seems fun!’

Two people in a kitchen, with their hands over several bowls of food as they finish plating
America’s Test Kitchen: The Next Generation finalist Garrett Schlichte prepares dishes in episode 9, while host Jeannie Mai helps (Image via Amazon Prime Video)

Garrett’s enthusiasm on TV is present in real life, too, and his desire to try something fun led him to apply. “I loved America’s Test Kitchen; I have for a while. I follow them on Instagram, and they posted an open casting call. And I was like, This seems fun!

It was a fun experience for Garrett, who described it to me as “truly a very surreal experience” that “just kind of like felt like a big summer camp, where everyone’s into the same things. It was really nice to wake up with 10 other people in a hotel every day, and get free hotel breakfast, and then be thrown into like the most insane obstacle course you’ve ever experienced in your entire life.”

It was also a true job interview. “I was laid off two days before I found out that I got on the show, so I officially didn’t have a job going into this. I really wanted to get this job,” Garrett told me.

Being on America’s Test Kitchen: The Next Generation, gave them an opportunity to try new things. “For me, food is like very cool and very exciting, which like sounds like a very simple way of saying it, but it’s just a medium that I love to play in, and I just got really excited for every challenge,” they added.

Garrett’s approaches to the challenges have often involved risks, and not playing it safe, but that wasn’t intentional. “I don’t think I realized I was taking as big of a risk as I was until I watched it back and I was like, Girl, stop! Just relax. Just do the thing,” Garrett said.

Going overboard included making far more food than was necessary. “I was constantly cooking for the entire crew, is what it felt like,” Garrett told me. “We only had to make two dishes, and at the end of everything I had like all of this food. They were like, you only need two portions, and I was like, I don’t know how to do that.”

Garrett has been writing about each episode in their newsletter, if you’d like insight into each episode’s challenges, and has also been applying the experience to post-filming experiences. “So much of my time on Test Kitchen gave me confidence,” Garrett said, and that’s led to things like working in a fine dining restaurant in Oakland and at a pop-up during a weekend event.

And Garrett told me they’ve come quite far in that area since filming. “My producer Mindy—every time I finished a challenge, I was like, That’s it; I’m going home. I’m done. like that was that they hated it. She was like, they literally said you did great. I was like, They were lying. It’s a great exercise for me to just have a little bit more self confidence.”

Garrett described competing on the show with a metaphor: “I felt like I was on fire, but I was on fire surrounded by people that I loved,” Garrett told me. “I just really had the best time.”

Antoinette Johnson:  ‘I can get it done’

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)

America’s Test Kitchen is an institution in Antoinette’s family, and she heard about the show’s casting call from her aunt, who sent her a text upon seeing an Instagram casting call.

“I was familiar with America’s Test Kitchen. My mom watches it all the time—her, my sister, and my dad at home—so they’re very familiar with the brand,” Antoinette told me. “So I was like, Yeah, sure. I’ll try.”

In Boston, Antoinette said, the experience “definitely was like an emotional roller coaster. Like you said: high highs and low lows—back to back to back, three times or whatever. It was a lot of me realizing the importance of consistency, and also realizing that I can bounce back from low situations.”

One thing that surprised her was the speed of the competition, and specifically “how quick we had to come up with these recipes,” Antoinette told me. “You have to make something that you might have never made before, and you have one take. There’s no take-twos, there’s no trying this and coming back. It’s one shot.”

The biggest challenge Antoinette faced was, she told me, was “kind of everything” together. “A lot of the reality TV portion of it—being a TV show, having to not be in your regular life, being around the same people the whole time, having to be on such a strict schedule—that part was really hard,” she said. “Because you don’t realize how much that really affects you during the cooking process and having to be focused.”

That included “just the production of reality TV” and the “lot of waiting … how you have to get up early and be ready just to wait.”

In addition, the cast was sequestered. “We were in a hotel; we couldn’t go anywhere. It was still COVID time, so we had to take tests every day,” she said. “You were confined; you didn’t really have any freedom to do what you wanted. So that was hard. And I never really realized that. I thought on reality TV was fun; they were doing whatever they wanted to and all of that. But I had to realize we’re the talent, we’re making the show. They have to protect us, and make sure that we can show up every day.”

The America’s Test Kitchen: The Next Generation schedule was particularly grueling for Antoinette because of what she did after filming.

“You have to get there really early in the morning, we’re on set all day, you might get off set late, have to record interviews, come back,” she told me. “Then, for me, I was working the entire time. I might come back from filming and then have to hop on a call, or have to create some portfolios, or send stuff to clients. I never felt like I was taking a break.”

I told Antoinette that I’d never heard of a reality TV contestant doing a full-time job while filming, and I had no idea how she didn’t just collapse into bed every night. “I don’t know how I did it either!” she replied. “It was an interesting summer.”

Those challenges, both in the competition and with the production, taught her that “when I focus and I think about what needs to be done and what I really want to achieve, I can get it done.”

Robbie Guevarra: ATK ‘just made me happy’ 

A person holding a piece of flat dough behind a crowded table of kitchen equipment
America’s Test Kitchen: The Next Generation finalist Robbie Guevarra in the show’s penultimate episode (Photo via Amazon Prime Video))

“I’d never had any aspirations to be on TV. I never cared to be on TV,” Robbie told me. But he ended up on TV because of a friend who knew his passion for food, and suggested he fill out the application.

“I was like, no, no, I really don’t really want to do TV.” Robbie was mostly resistant to the idea of what he reluctantly called “trash TV.” “I wasn’t here to be on Worst Cooks of America, I wasn’t here to be on Guy’s Grocery Games,” he said. “If anything, I want it to be part of a show that had a great reputation, and was a good jumping-off point for me to do something with food.”

America’s Test Kitchen: The Next Generation did not blindside Robbie by secretly being one of those drama-producing shows. “What I thought, seeing the casting application, to having completed the show, my feelings about it are not different,” he told me. “It was exactly how I thought it would be—down to not even just the way I was challenged, but the way the America’s Test Kitchen family took care of us.”

That extended to the production itself, which he described as “being led into someone’s home in the most gracious way,” and the challenges, which he said offered “an incredible platform for us to show each our own specific point of view on cooking,” he said.

The edited show, Robbie said, “put every person competing in the best light possible,” and he felt pressure to do the reverse.

“America’s Test Kitchen is quite an institution. I personally didn’t want to do anything to ruin that,” he said. “I do think that [for] all 11 of us, there was a little bit of pressure to uphold the standard that they have.”

Robbie’s calm under pressure is, he said, “how I am in my everyday life.” “I don’t get too emotional; I don’t get too upset about things. I’m very level-headed.”

“Halfway through I was, like, wow, I miss my home, I miss my boyfriend, I miss my family, I miss my friends, I miss my apartment. You’re on set for 12 hours; you’re in high-pressure situations. I definitely was like, I think I’m good. I think I could go home now.

He obviously stuck around, and the experience on America’s Test Kitchen: The Next Generation has affected him professionally.

During production, Robbie said, “I did so many things that just made me happy, and it was truly my passion.” The job he had before filming was not something he was passionate about, and “coming back from the show and working that job for a little bit, I was like, This is so silly. I am clearly worth having a career that I can feel passionate for, and I can love what I do. And it propelled me to start looking at other options.”

The experience also affected him personally. “My dad never knew that the reason why I was there was really inspired by him,” Robbie told me. “Like, he did not know that until he watched the first episode, and that made our relationship a lot stronger.”

“The way I talked about my dad on the show, you would have thought that we were best friends. We weren’t; we are not. My dad and I have had a lot of lovely, meaningful conversations that I don’t think would have happened without the show.”

All reality blurred content is independently selected, including links to products or services. However, if you buy something after clicking an affiliate link, I may earn a commission, which helps support reality blurred. Learn more.

More great stories

About the author

  • Andy Dehnart

    Andy Dehnart is the creator of reality blurred and a writer and teacher who obsessively and critically covers reality TV and unscripted entertainment, focusing on how it’s made and what it means.

Discussion: your turn

I think of writing about television as the start of a conversation, and I value your contributions to that conversation. We’ve created a community that connects people through open and thoughtful conversations about the TV we’re watching and the stories about it.

To share our perspectives and exchange ideas in a welcoming, supportive space, I’ve created these rules for commenting here. By commenting below, you confirm that you’ve read and agree to those rules.

Happy discussing!

Tracy Valdary

Wednesday 8th of February 2023

Hi, who won this contest? I watched all the episodes, but the last one was not on the free app.

Andy Dehnart

Wednesday 8th of February 2023

The finale premieres this Friday, Feb. 10!