Inspired by his father, Brook Harlan began cooking before he was even 10 years old. His passion for food continued to develop as he grew older, and in 2002, he graduated from The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y. Now, he is a culinary arts teacher at Rock Bridge High School, through the Columbia Career Center, as well as the assistant wrestling coach.
Next week, however, Harlan will leave his cooking classes and wrestling team to someone else. Harlan, 24, will travel to New York to begin filming for Food Network’s new reality show “The Next Food Network Star.” Selected as one of eight contestants, Harlan will compete in cooking contests and other challenges for the chance to win his own Food Network series.
Though Harlan said he was surprised at being selected from more than 10,000 entries, he said he is not nervous about being on the show.
“If you can entertain students for 90 minutes, you should be able to entertain yourself in front of a camera,” he said.
Harlan said his knowledge of cooking extends beyond his culinary arts students. His wrestling team benefits as well. He said he has shown them how to cook healthy food to help keep them in shape for the season.
Jeff Rayl, 37, also a culinary instructor at Rock Bridge, said he thought it was great when he heard Harlan was one of the eight selected.
“I thought it was fantastic,” he said. “He has the personality and passion for food. It’s right up his alley.”
Rayl also said he thinks Harlan has a good chance of doing well on the show. He said Harlan is very driven and always on the go.
He also said Harlan is not camera-shy and has the demeanor to speak and to perform effectively.
“He’s got a good chance,” he said. “A real good chance.”
Harlan said he doesn’t have a favorite dish to cook. He said he cooks all kinds of food, but that meals turn out best when he cooks what he wants at the time.
“What I’m in the mood for I can cook better,” he said. “It allows me to feel the food.”