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Northeast Kingdom Chef Thomas McCurdy Competes on New National Cooking Show

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Thomas McCurdy and his mother, Cathy Jacobson, competing on 'Crime Scene Kitchen' - COURTESY FOX CRIME SCENE KITCHEN
  • Courtesy Fox Crime Scene Kitchen
  • Thomas McCurdy and his mother, Cathy Jacobson, competing on 'Crime Scene Kitchen'

In April 2020, Ardelia Farm & Co. co-owner Thomas McCurdy was simultaneously riding the high of victory on Food Network's "Chopped Sweets" while navigating his food business through a major pandemic-prompted detour.

A little over a year later, the Irasburg pastry chef  is once again competing on a national television cooking show and making changes to his business.



Earlier this spring, McCurdy earned himself (and his mother) a chance to win the $100,000 prize on Fox's brand new "Crime Scene Kitchen." The cooking competition is hosted by actor Joel McHale with celebrity judges, chef Curtis Stone and cake artist Yolanda Gampp. The first episode airs Wednesday, May 26, at 9 p.m.  

McCurdy chatted by phone with Seven Days while looking at "a pile of piglets sleeping in the sun and a greenhouse full of flowers" on the Northeast Kingdom farm he co-owns with his husband, Bailey Hale. 

SEVEN DAYS: Before we get to TV, can you give us an update on your food business?
THOMAS MCCURDY: When I transitioned all bakery operations over into what we called Kingdom Direct, the prepared food and meals delivery business, we were thinking, OK, maybe for a few months, we'll do this until this COVID thing goes away. But then, cut to a year later, I was still going strong. I [had] hired a couple of new employees and bought a refrigerated delivery van and just really hit it. And then I got really tired. I don't want to say burnt out, but pretty close.

Thomas McCurdy with Kingdom Direct team members - COURTESY OF THOMAS MCCURDY
  • Courtesy of Thomas McCurdy
  • Thomas McCurdy with Kingdom Direct team members

Almost a year to the date that we started Kingdom Direct, I shut it down and sold off on my commercial kitchen equipment. I moved out of my rented kitchen space that I've been in for the past six years. I'm turning the page to the next chapter and it feels great.

Right now, the plan is just to spend the summer on our farm and help Bailey in the greenhouses growing flowers, grow a good veggie garden again. We're doing another round of cows and pigs and chickens. I'm just looking forward to slowing down.

As much as I loved delivering prepared food and meals to people's doorsteps, I realized how much it just feeds my soul to share food with people together, face to face. For 2022, I hope we can resume our on-farm events. 

SD: Now tell us how you landed on "Crime Scene Kitchen."
TM: I’m on listservs for all sorts of different casting agencies. Emails are always coming through like, "Looking for a nurse in the tri-state region who really wants her house to be decorated for Christmas." Ninety-nine out of 100, I don't even give it a second thought. But every once in a while, one catches my eye.

[This one] was very, very vague, there were hardly any details at all, just a new show. "Are you a professional baker or skilled baker who is good at puzzles and reading clues and things like that?"

I love puzzles. I'm always reading crime mystery novels and I love movies about detectives and private eyes. It just sounded like this could be up my alley. It all happened pretty quickly. I expressed interest and then before I knew it, I was in California filming this new show.  

SD: With your mother, right?
TM: Yes, there are a total of 12 teams — different types of teams with different types of people. There are parents with children, married couples, best friends, business partners.

They were casting a team, a pair. And so I called my mother and said, “Here's this opportunity. Here are [the] very few details I have. This could be fun. What do you think?” And she said, “Oh no, absolutely not,” and immediately started listing all the other people in my life that I should call instead.

Thomas McCurdy and his mother, Cathy Jacobson - COURTESY FOX CRIME SCENE KITCHEN
  • Courtesy Fox Crime Scene Kitchen
  • Thomas McCurdy and his mother, Cathy Jacobson

My mom's an extraordinary cook and baker and she's such a hostess. She wasn't really giving herself enough credit. When I called her again a couple of days later, I couldn't even finish the sentence before she said, “I'm in.”

SD: The concept is pretty original, as cooking shows go.
TM: Each episode contains two baking rounds [during which] each team of bakers enters a kitchen in which an item has been baked, but the item is no longer there. Contestants have a very limited amount of time to scour the kitchen, or the crime scene, to find all the clues. The clues could be crumbs on the counter or the residue on dirty dishes, items in the refrigerator or freezer, [in the] trash. Then [they] try to interpret those clues to determine what was made in that kitchen — and then make it.

SD: After "Chopped Sweets," you told Seven Days that you thought you should have had more fun with it. Did you manage that this time?
TM: I can say I went into this experience really wanting to just lighten up and have fun. I was taking it seriously in that I wanted to do well, but not taking it too seriously. Whether or not I was successful is to be determined [laughs]. But it was fun, and having my mother there was such a trip. 

SD: I know you can’t tell us how you did, but you and your mother are still talking?
TM: We are still talking. We've always been close, but we only see one another once, maybe twice a year. To have this extended period of time together, we really got to know one another on a completely different level. 

SD: You’ve talked about doing your own TV show, something like Martha Stewart meets the Pioneer Woman. Now that you’ve done two different shows, what do you think?
TM: It's not something that I think I will be pursuing anytime soon. However, if I were to get a call today from some production company saying, “We want to send someone out to film a little sizzle reel of you and Bailey and have you making brunch on the farm in your event barn for a possible new show,” I would say "yes" in a heartbeat. 

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and length.

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