Alison Milwe Grace thrives on chaos.
The 1988 Staples High School graduate is in her 10th year teaching a full load of culinary classes at her alma mater. She also owns AMG Catering, a thriving business that for over 17 years has served a full course of weddings, b-mitzvahs, parties, fundraisers and corporate events — while also offering cooking classes and corporate team-building kitchen events.
Oh, yeah. She has 3 kids, ages 11, 8 and 5.
But nothing could have prepared Chef Grace for the chaos of one day in January.
Chef Alison Milwe Grace. (Photo courtesy of Town Vibe)
For a wild 17 hours, the Institute of Culinary Education grad — whose resume includes a stint as the only female chef at Manhattan’s Patroon — competed in the Food Network’s “Kitchen Casino.”
The Food Network placed 4 talented chefs in “a high-stakes game of chance that is all about skill, speed and adaptability.” Racing a clock, competitors have to “outcook and outsmart their competition in 3 casino-themed challenges — slots, poker and roulette — for a chance to win a $30,000 jackpot.”
One test: The kitchen spins like a roulette wheel. Each chef gets someone else’s dish in progress, and must deal with it. While making suitably pissy comments.
Chef Grace calls it “cooking your brains out, with a time limit.”
The “Kitchen Casino” set includes a revolving roulette wheel, with 4 cooking stations. Each has an oven and stove top.
The Food Network found Grace, and asked her to appear. (She has no idea how.) She knew nothing about the show — it’s new, so no one did — and producers said little. They did mention, though, that contestants “might sabotage” each other.
Grace prepped for the shooting by “Googling random recipes, to get proportions right in my head.” She also watched a lot of “Chopped” and “Cutthroat Kitchen.”
The loooong day of shooting — on Martin Luther King weekend — was “the most exhausting, emotional, validating, energizing, exciting day of my culinary career,” Chef Grace says.
She likens the feeling to the middle of a huge catering event. She’ll work with a bride or fundraising organization for over a year; when the big day arrives, it all comes together. But there are tons of moving parts. It’s chaotic.
“The TV show was all that,” Grace says. “It was a very good fit for my personality.”
Her Staples students are just finding out their teacher will be a TV star. But her family has known for months.
“They love watching the promos on TV,” Grace says. “They’ve been totally supportive of my career.
“My kids know that Mommy works weekends. For them, seeing me on TV is way cooler than watching me leave every morning.”
So how did she do? Did she win the $30,000 jackpot?
Chef Grace can’t say. She signed tons of non-disclosure agreements. She not only can’t tell “06880” — she has not told her children. Or her husband.
They’ll find out when the rest of us do. The show premieres April 7. Grace’s episode airs Monday, April 21 (9 p.m.).
It’s the 50th wedding anniversary of her parents, Jeff and Judy. Alison and her family will be celebrating with the extended Milwe clan in Florida.
So she won’t even have to cook.
(For more on “Kitchen Casino” — including a trailer — click here.)