Paso Robles chef Kelly Wangard is no stranger to stress.
As the executive chef and inn manager at SummerWood Winery & Inn in Paso Robles, she oversees a dozen staff members, caters three weddings a weekend and keeps the nine-room boutique hotel in running order. Between shifts, she ferries her 5-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter from school to soccer practice to dance lessons.
“To say the least, I can handle some pressure,” Wangard said.
But she had no idea the pressures she’d face as a contestant on the Food Network cooking competition “Cutthroat Kitchen.”
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“It was just insane,” said the chef, who appears in the episode “The Undertater,” airing Sunday.
Hosted by Food Network stalwart Alton Brown, “Cutthroat Kitchen” challenges four chefs to whip up gourmet dishes for a celebrity judge — with a sinister twist.
Brown gives the chefs $25,000 each at the start of the game, then auctions off opportunities for competitors to sabotage each other or benefit themselves. For instance, a chef might force a rival to swap fresh ingredients for frozen ones, cook a dish on an upside-down wok or prepare a meal while running on a treadmill.
Since “Cutthroat Kitchen” premiered in August 2013, Wangard said she had only seen “a couple clips.”
“I basically came home from work one day … and I had a message from one of the (show’s) casting directors” who had found her name by Googling “female executive chefs,” Wangard recalled.
Via Skype, the casting director interviewed Wangard and her husband, Gregg Wangard, who is executive chef of The Gardens of Avila restaurant at Sycamore Mineral Springs Resort in Avila Beach and corporate chef for the Boutique Hotel Collection.
A week later, Kelly Wangard was invited to appear on “Cutthroat Kitchen.”
To prepare, Wangard watched old episodes of the show and studied the layout of the set. She also practiced making simple dishes such as macaroni and cheese and brushed up on her baking skills.
“I knew that no matter what I planned or what I did, they were going to totally throw (me) a curveball,” she said.
And “Cutthroat Kitchen” wasn’t the only thing on Wangard’s schedule.
An avid runner, she competed in the Boston Marathon in April, then headed to Los Angeles in early May for three days of filming. After the shoot, she spent two weeks in Japan, where the Fukae family, which owns SummerWood Winery and Inn, is based.
Oh, and she celebrated her 41st birthday in May as well.
“I had an amazing experience. It was definitely the largest-scale thing I’ve done in my career,” Wangard said.
The chef, who joined the staff of SummerWood Winery & Inn in 2009, is planning a private viewing party to watch her “Cutthroat Kitchen” debut.
Although she can’t divulge too many details about what happens on Sunday’s episode, she described the experience as “really nerve-racking.”
“The hardest thing was managing my nerves,” she said.