Is Lulu Boykin the ‘Worst Cook in America’?

Posted 1/3/20

PITTSBORO — Dr. Lulu Boykin likes to get creative when she cooks.

The result, she says, is often ruinous.

Case in point: a year or so ago, shortly after she and her husband Anthony moved into …

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Is Lulu Boykin the ‘Worst Cook in America’?

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PITTSBORO — Dr. Lulu Boykin likes to get creative when she cooks.

The result, she says, is often ruinous.

Case in point: a year or so ago, shortly after she and her husband Anthony moved into their new home, she began working on what she thought would be a tasty meal. Along the way, something went terribly wrong and Boykin set fire to the kitchen’s cabinets.

That meal ended with Anthony putting out the flames.

If that incident didn’t already qualify her, this does: Boykin is officially in the running to be considered one of the nation’s worst cooks.

She’ll be competing on season 18 of Food Network’s “Worst Cooks in America” — a reality show which pits the worst cooks in the country against each another — premiering at 9 p.m. this Sunday across the country.

Boykin isn’t a stranger to the stage. She’s known for wearing tutus and for her performances as Mother Goose for children. She earned a masters of fine arts in acting from UNC-Chapel Hill and performed around the world with the Playmakers Repertory Company before returning to Pittsboro from New York several years ago.

“Worst Cooks,” a reality television series, is hosted by renowned chefs Anne Burrell and Alton Brown. The program takes 16 contestants known for their culinary shortcomings and puts them through a cooking boot camp, where they’re trained on cooking techniques with the goal of gaining enough skill to prepare a restaurant-quality meal for food critics. The contestants are divided into two teams led by one of the hosts and compete to recreate a recipe or similar challenge based on the skills they learn on air. The best team member stays, while the worst team member goes home. The “worst cook” standing will win $25,000 at the season finale.

Boykin seems made for the show.

She told the News + Record she often watches the Food Network to try to improve her cooking, and she’s especially drawn to Burrell and celebrity chef Rachel Ray and the Food Network’s Holiday Baking Championship, where eight cooks compete for who has the best holiday sweet treats.

“Not that is has improved my cooking at all,” Boykin quipped.

She was nominated for “Worst Cooks” by her brother, Ron Royster, who Boykin says “has been complaining about my cooking since he was a boy.” Unbeknownst to his sister, Royster filled out an online application about Boykin’s cooking, then received a phone call from the network almost immediately. Boykin recounts that they asked Royster if all the things he said about her in the application were true — to which he responded, “Yes, I’ve been traumatized by it my whole life.”

Royster called Boykin to tell her that a representative from the Food Network network was about to call her, promising that it was not her brother “trying to fool you.” Twenty minutes later, Boykin learned she was going to be a contestant on the show.

The first episode of season 18, which is available for preview on the Food Network website, shows Boykin in her standard attire — a teal tutu, colorful, chunky jewelry, a feathered hairband and an infectious smile. The show opens with each of the contestants being asked to create their own “signature dish.” For most of the signature dishes, hosts Burrell and Brown were left spitting out the food as soon as they tasted it. Boykin’s creation was something she called “some ‘othered pork chops,” her own take on smothered pork chops, which the hosts described as “such an interesting uniform shade of grey.”

Each of the contestants are unique, and Boykin is no exception. Brown described Boykin as “Cyndi Lauper’s mother” — after the quirky pop star — after observing her appearance, and Brown’s quips about how Boykin prepares her meals demonstrate that she was made to be on the show.

Though Boykin was unable to provide any details about how the series ends — it’s already completed filming, but her contract prohibits her from revealing details prior to airing — she does make it past the first round. Viewers can tune in Sunday to see what happens next.

Boykin described the experience as “full of mystery” and “so much fun.” What was most rewarding for her, she said, was “learning some basic skills,” but “mostly it was fun and challenging.”

“I love to challenge myself,” Boykin said. “It was a unique experience that inspired me to cook more and more. And it was fun. The chefs were wonderful and it was a great experience.”

She said she’d like to encourage everyone to “keep your path and follow your dreams.

“People may think you’re a non-conformist,” she said, “but just keep doing it. You can make a difference in this world.”

Casey Mann can be reached at


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