Jake Pavelka knows a thing or two about cooking. He feels very much at home in the kitchen.
Yet the Dallas resident and reality TV personality says competing on Rachael vs. Guy: Celebrity Cook-Off was “the most stressful show I’ve ever done.”
That’s saying a lot, given his past on-camera experiences, so pardon our skepticism.
Pavelka is seriously trying to convince us that preparing a meal on this Food Network program (which begins its third season at 8 p.m. Monday) is more pressure-packed than trying to stand out among 30 eligible men in the 2009 edition of The Bachelorette?
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That it’s tougher than balancing 25 clinging women in 2010’s The Bachelor?
That it’s more daunting than learning ballroom dance moves on the 2010 Dancing With the Stars?
“It’s true,” Pavelka says. “And it’s because I’ve never cooked while the clock is ticking. Or against people who definitely know what they’re doing in the kitchen. And I can tell you, everybody this season, they can cook! And it’s no secret that they deliver a challenge every week on the show.
“So, yeah, it was absolutely stressful. But it was probably the most fun I’ve had on a show, too.”
Pavelka, who’s a commercial pilot and real-estate developer when not starring in reality TV shows, was a member of Team Rachael alongside actress Florence Henderson, magician Penn Jillette and stand-up comic Judy Gold.
Members of Team Guy were football legend Herschel Walker, actor/comedian Chris Kattan and musical artists Tiffany and Vanilla Ice.
The winner of the six-episode season receives $50,000 for the charity of his or her choice.
“I was a fan of the show from the first season, when Lou Diamond Phillips won it,” Pavelka says. “The first season was fantastic. I had never thought about going on the show, but when Season 3 rolled around, someone from the Food Network asked, ‘Does Jake do any cooking?’ ”
He signed on immediately, assuring the producers that, yes, he can do more than just pop a TV dinner in the microwave.
His signature dish? “That would probably be a lemon pepper chicken,” he says. “You brown chicken in a pan and pour either a white wine over it or a chicken broth, reduce it down, add some lemon rind, create a sauce. Usually I have something green on the plate, add some rice or some sort of starch.
“Or if I need to whip something up really, really fast, I’m good with a beef chili stew.”
As a matter of fact, Pavelka filmed a number of kitchen segments on The Bachelor, although they all wound up on the cutting room floor.
“Listen, with all reality shows, they air about 3 percent of what happens and it’s the most interesting 3 percent,” Pavelka says.
Still, one could argue that his cooking prowess should have been revealed on The Bachelor, because that quality might have had some extra appeal to the women on the show.
Pavelka admits to being a fan of celebrity chefs Rachael Ray and Guy Fieri. “I consider myself a foodie,” he says. But the celebrity he most enjoyed meeting during his appearance was Walker, the 1982 Heisman Trophy winner and a former Dallas Cowboy.
“But it wasn’t because of his celebrity status,” Pavelka adds. “We have some mutual friends in Dallas, and he’s just a really nice, All-American guy. So it was a pleasure getting to know him.”
So how can a guy who flies planes AND sells real estate for a living keep finding enough time in his schedule to appear on all these reality shows?
“Well, they don’t take that long to shoot, to be honest,” he says. “With my schedule, especially in commercial real estate, I have to make sure that I don’t have any property that I’m marketing under contract leading up into a show. I have to make sure I have all the loose ends tied up.
“Then I can get away for two weeks or a couple of months, whatever it turns out to be. And once it’s over, you just get right back into the swing of things.”