By Cady Schulman
Leslie Cohen can’t wait to see her culinary television premiere Sunday, July 19, when she faces off on Food Network’s “Cutthroat Kitchen.” But that’s not all she’s excited about over the weekend: Her brother, Jason, is also taking the stage as he
“It’s so special for both of us to have an experience together back to back,” Cohen said. “It brings a lot of joy to the entire family.”
Cohen, the general manager of Roasters restaurant at Lenox, has always wanted to be on a culinary show and was shocked when Food Network representatives found her on Facebook and asked her to audition.
“I sent in profile pictures, my bio, a small portfolio and did a Skype interview,” Cohen said. “That’s kind of how it all sort of unraveled. It was so exciting. It was unbelievable how an opportunity like that came about.”
Cohen said she felt every possible emotion when she filmed the episode.
“It’s excitement, it’s nervousness, happy,” she said. “You have every emotion. It’s like a roller-coaster ride. You’re scared, but you’re trying to dig down deep and pull out that creative side. It’s a lot of emotion. But it was a lot of fun.”
Cohen has been sworn to secrecy regarding the outcome since she finished filming the show in December. It’s a secret that has been hard to keep.
“People will really interrogate you,” she said. “They’ll say, ‘I know you won,’ and they’ll try to look at your face. It’s intimidating. You have to play dumb. It’s been very hard to not talk about it, especially with family members and close friends.”
The show will be interesting, Cohen said. “You’ll just have to find out. You’ll get to see all my skills, and my personality will come out.”
Cohen knew she wanted to become a chef after taking a two-year culinary program in high school. She studied at Johnson & Wales University, a culinary arts school in Rhode Island. During college she interned at One Midtown Kitchen under celebrity chef Richard Blais.
“He’s a creative genius to me,” Cohen said. “To be able to work under him for six months was amazing. I learned more there than I ever learned anywhere.”
After graduation, Cohen began working at Roasters and became its general manager at age 22.
“I fell in love with getting to manage people and lead a team,” she said. “I like to be able to do the creative side, which is any specials, and re-creating menu items. I also learned how to run a business, which is very important to my career.”
As excited as she is about her national TV debut, she’s just as excited for her brother, who takes the stage at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre for a three-day run of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical “Cats.”
“My brother is a very, very talented guy,” Cohen said. “I’m just really proud of him. He’s been working extremely hard at what
he does. He’s an incredible dancer.”
Jason Cohen has been dancing since childhood. In 1996 he was one of 30 children chosen out of 1,000 who auditioned to be a Coca-Cola Kid during the Olympics. He and the others performed several shows a day at Centennial Olympic Park.
“That was a huge thing when that happened,” Leslie and Jason’s mom, Lynn, said. “It was very cool.”
As an adult, he performed in such stage shows as “Chicago” and “Catch Me If You Can” and is planning to start rehearsals soon for “Young Frankenstein.” He performs with the Atlanta Lyric Theatre, the city’s only professional musical theater company, and teaches at Dance It Off in Sandy Springs, the studio his parents, Steve and Lynn, own.
Lynn Cohen said she is in shock over everything that’s happening this weekend for her children.
“Things are good in your life always, but to see your kids shine, especially on the same weekend, we’re going to be on Cloud 9,” she said.
The “Cutthroat Kitchen” episode premieres Sunday, July 19, at 10 p.m. A viewing party will be held at Roasters, 2770 Lenox Road, from 8:30 to 11 p.m. Appetizers and drinks will be provided. A second viewing party will be held at Dance It Off, 6780 Roswell Road, on Friday, July 24, from 8 to 11 p.m.
“Cats” will be performed at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at the Cobb Energy Centre.