McNary teacher set for national TV debut

Promotional photo of Matt Kuerbis from Rat in the Kitchen

He may be on the McNary High School campus during the week, but culinary teacher Matt Kuerbis will be on televisions across the country Thursday night.

Kuerbis will appear as a contestant on the third episode of the new TBS cooking show Rat in the Kitchen. And while his lips were sealed about what happened in the kitchen — even what dishes he made — he was able to talk about what the experience meant to him. And just like most instructors, it was all about a teaching moment.

“I’m excited for my students because I want them to see their teacher, a normal person from the community working on these kinds of things and getting some notoriety,” Kuerbis said. “That’s what I teach my kids everyday. ‘All of you have potential, you just got to go out and do it.’ I did, and I’m no different, just older.”

McNary houses a popular culinary arts program, one that principal Erik Jespersen says gets more requests than seats available each year. And he sees this as another way to showcase the program.

“Here you have a guy that sells his own hot sauce, is on a nationally televised program, oh and by the way he’s showing all the secrets of how to be a great culinary arts student,” Jespersen said. “It just adds so much more credibility to a program that is already outstanding.”

Kuerbis is no stranger to cooking competitions. He has entered his hot sauces, Hoss Soss, in multiple, but this time it was different. Kuerbis said he didn’t get to plan as much as he typically does.

But the biggest difference for Kuerbis was the cameras.

“Once that red light goes on, then you’re like ‘how am I acting?’” Kuerbis said. “All that kind of stuff comes into play.”

In the end, Kuerbis relates the pressure to any other day working in a kitchen trying to get orders out on time, even if there was an extra element of detective work at play.

The premise of Rat in the Kitchen takes the standard team cooking format and adds in a saboteur, the rat, whose goal is to ruin as many dishes as possible. For each failed dish, money from the team’s bank goes to the rat’s bank. After two rounds, if a majority of the real chefs guess the rat correctly, the team keeps the money in their bank. If not, the rat keeps the money they stole.

Kuerbis’ chance to catch — or maybe even be — the rat comes Thursday night at 9 p.m. on TBS.