BALTIMORE COUNTY — One of the happiest places for Bettina Applewhite to be is in her kitchen creating recipes.
"I love food. Who doesn’t love food, I mean really?" she said with a laugh.
So when she had the opportunity to compete in Bravo's Top Chef kitchen, Applewhite jumped at the chance.
"I said if they have an amateur version [of Top Chef], that’s something I would try out for. And God works in mysterious ways because the next thing I know, I saw a flier for Top Chef Amateurs and I was like alright here’s my opportunity."
Working alongside a professional chef, Applewhite competes against another amateur chef in a pre-recorded, 30-minute episode. The winner will walk away with $5,000 and bragging rights.
"I was in the Top Chef kitchen, which I can’t believe I’m even saying that sentence," Applewhite said. "It was amazing to be in a professional kitchen and cook alongside a professional chef."
By day, Applewhite works as an operations supervisor in the Office of Food and Nutrition Services for Baltimore County Public Schools. She describes herself as a "lunch lady" and travels to school cafeterias around the county to ensure students are getting healthy meals.
"There’s a little bit of everything to being the lunch lady. You’re the person that helps to feed the students in the middle of the day or when they start their day with breakfast," she said. "I’m really about promoting variety and making sure we can get some different choices and different options."
Applewhite's co-workers said they are excited to watch her compete in Top Chef Amateurs.
"She is very passionate. She’s passionate about food. She loves to be out with people. She’s got a great, bubbly personality," said Terri Smith, manager of Food Services Operations for BCPS. "I think she'll be great."
Applewhite's personality is evident in her blog and Instagram page called "Bites with Applewhite" where she shares her recipes and meal prep ideas. To celebrate her Top Chef Amateurs appearance, she is sharing a free e-book of recipes for after-school snacks on her blog.
She can't say if she ends up becoming the Top Chef of lunch ladies, but she can say she'd love to do something like this again.
"You cannot imagine how you’re going to be when you step into that Top Chef kitchen but it was so exciting and I was glad I was able to compete," she said.
You can watch Applewhite compete on Top Chef Amateurs on Thursday August 12 at 9 p.m. on Bravo.