Chef 'ambushes' student, president at Vanguard

Kristina Kuzmic believes anyone can cook.

The host of "The Ambush Cook" proved her theory when brought her show's theme to Family Weekend at Vanguard University on Saturday.

Kuzmic, a 2001 theater alumna, won the "Your OWN Show: Oprah's Search for the Next TV Star" competition in 2010. In her show, she teaches unsuspecting people how to cook. She said these people, from new moms to bachelors, needed to know how to cook.

At Saturday's demonstration at the Costa Mesa campus, Kuzmic invited unsuspecting Vanguard freshman Erika Gray, 17, to the stage to learn how to cook a caramelized onion butternut squash tart.

Erika's mother, Tiana Gray, entered her in a competition to learn to cook with Kuzmic after Erika failed to make brownies from a box.

Kuzmic also asked Vanguard President Carol Taylor to learn how to make the dish, which Kuzmic refused to follow a recipe for.

"Cooking shouldn't be about copying someone else," Kuzmic said. "You should be creative."

Although the stage lacked an oven, Kuzmic made a makeshift one to show Erika and Taylor how to make the tart.

"My true desire is for people to let loose in the kitchen and enjoy the cooking process," she said.

Kuzmic also shared some of her cooking secrets. She said always having chocolate around can make the cooking experience more enjoyable, so she frequently spoon-fed Erika Gray and Taylor some Nutella during the demonstration. She also said she uses goggles to prevent tearing up while cutting onions.

About a half hour after the demonstration started, Kuzmic presented the crowd with a tart, which she said she prepared the night before. While she shared the tart with Erika Gray and Taylor, Kuzmic said there was not enough to around for the audience members.

"This isn't like Oprah," she said jokingly. "Not everyone gets some. You don't get a car either, so sorry."

Erika Gray said her experience was "surprising."

Tiana Gray said she was impressed with her daughter and that she expects her to make the tart for Thanksgiving.

Kuzmic said she enjoyed sharing her talents at her alma mater.

"[The experience] was so neat," she said. "It was like a full-circle moment. I loved my experience here at Vanguard, and this meant a lot."

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