STILLWATER (TNS) — The people close to Copan Combs can be sure that he will always find new and surprising ways to challenge himself, especially if it involves an audience and a chance to have a good time.
“He’s always doing something,” friend and former roommate Matt Fletcher said. “He just gets this idea in his head and goes for it.”
The Oklahoma State University admissions counselor is appearing on Season 14 of the Food Network cooking competition “Worst Cooks in America” which premieres at 8 p.m. Sunday.
People who know him say a reality competition doesn’t seem like much of a stretch, but a cooking show definitely does.
His mother JoAnn Combs calls her son’s previous half-hearted attempts in the kitchen “a catastrophe” and says she’s prepared be amused by his extreme lack of skill.
“It will be hilarious,” she said. “I promise that’s the most cooking he’s ever done … He was definitely a blank slate, that’s for sure.”
It’s not so much that he’s a bad cook; It’s just something he didn’t have to learn.
“I spoiled him rotten,” JoAnn said.
Fletcher expands on her assessment of Copan’s kitchen talents, saying it’s really more a basic lack of skill around the house.
“In the three years we lived together, I can’t think of one time he cooked for me,” Fletcher said. “I had to teach him how the dishwasher worked … It just wasn’t on his radar and he didn’t know … He’s not always the handiest. He has his strengths but it’s not in handiness.”
JoAnn said she tried to teach him to make pancakes once, and watching him try to flip them was painful.
“He had trouble using the Fry Daddy to make cheese sticks,” she recalls. “He kept saying, ‘How do I know when they’re done?’ I told him, ‘Look, some of them are floating and the cheese is oozing out of the ends, and he just kept saying, ‘But how will I know?’”
She said his audition tape for the cooking show involved baking, which created a huge mess in her kitchen. He wound up with flour everywhere and had to shut the video off, clean up and start over.
Food Network isn’t as odd a fit as it might seem to be, Copan says. Even though he doesn’t cook except for doing a little food prep involving baked chicken and steamed broccoli, he watches the network obsessively.
When he saw an advertisement for “Worst Cooks in America” he thought, ‘That could be me’ and decided on a whim to see if they were casting.
But “Worst Cooks in America” Food Network isn’t his first foray into television.
Copan appeared on the game show Family Feud last year with his father and step-siblings. He says they suffered a humiliating loss but had a lot of fun and were approached by producers about possibly coming back next year.
He’s just the kind of guy who looks for and says “Yes” to unusual opportunities, like in 2014 when he won $10,000 by kicking a field goal at an OSU football game.
“I couldn’t believe it,” JoAnn said. “He never played football. I don’t know that he’d ever kicked a football in his life.”
In spite of his fun-loving nature, he focuses on the things he wants.
“He signed up all season,” Fletcher said. “The day of the game, he went to a park and kicked the football by himself forever … He cleared it by a foot. He just barely made it … We were all going crazy.”
Then Copan used his prize money in a typically quirky way.
“He bought an orange suit. I mean, who but him wears an orange suit?” Fletcher said. “And he bought tickets for him and a bunch of friends to go to WWE Monday Night Raw in Tulsa and then he paid some student loans.”
Copan has already completed filming “Worst Cooks in America” and can’t say how he fared but he does say he’s looking forward to gathering with some friends to watch it.
“I know he learned something there,” Fletcher said. “I’m prepared for him to impress us a few times.”
But Fletcher says he’s even more ready to finally taste the results.
“He didn’t cook for me after he got back either,” he said.