- The Washington Times - Friday, April 25, 2008

Chevy Chase resident and financial communications type Peter Bakel exchanges his white collar for an apron starting Monday on Rachael Ray’s “Hey, Can You Cook?!” as he and four other contestants show off the cooking craft.

The show airs 10 a.m. Mondays on Fox Five through May 19.

“It’s one of the most exciting things I have ever done,” Mr. Bakel says. “The other contestants are awesome.”

But it’s reality TV. At the end of each episode for the next five weeks, one person will have to hang up his or her apron. So, can we expect back-stabbing, ingredient sabotages and rolling-pin chases?

“We haven’t had a chance to be cutthroat yet,” says Mr. Bakel, but anything is possible, he adds.

The 38-year-old, who cooks daily with his wife, Beth, and son Bruno, 3, is the only male contestant. (Son Hugh is just 18 months old and hasn’t stirred any pots yet.)

“It must be hard for him to concentrate surrounded by four pretty ladies,” Miss Ray says in an e-mail to The Washington Times.

She calls him a nice guy and adds: “We named him Sweet Pete.”

So, what’s Sweet Pete’s strategy? “The only strategy on the show is I have to get an ingredient I am comfortable with so I am not completely at a loss,” he says.

That “comfortable” ingredient probably wouldn’t be flour. Sweet Pete (who learned to cook from his father and Julia Child, whom the family watched so religiously on PBS “that I thought she was a relative”) concedes that he is a much better cook than he is a baker.

Among favorite foods to cook and eat is provincial Italian; restaurants of choice are Dino and Vace in Cleveland Park.

If he wins the contest (prizes include a chef’s kitchen makeover, including Viking appliances; a chance to participate in a culinary training program at the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu in Paris; and having an original recipe published in the Every Day With Rachael Ray magazine) then what?

He chuckles and says, “I’ll be a little closer to knowing if people actually liked my food over the years, or if they were just extremely hungry.”

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