By Burt Constable
If you had Googled identical twins Skyler and Spencer Nick in 2009, the first response probably would have been about how the boys both achieved the rank of Eagle Scout at age 16. Now that online search turns up the 25-year-old Wauconda residents as contestants on the Food Network's "Worst Cooks in America."
"We earned the cooking merit badges through Boy Scouts, but I don't think that accounted for taste," explains Skyler, who is 11 minutes older than Spencer.
"Every campout we went to was fun. We cooked in different ways," Spencer says.
As Scouts, the brothers excelled in meals that restored energy and kept them alive in the wilderness. But those recipes don't fare as well on the first episode of "Worst Cooks."
"You take a freezer bag, add ham, green pepper and eggs and pitch the bag into boiling water, and there's your scrambled eggs," Spencer says about his "Happy Camper Eggs" recipe. The low expectations for that dish drop even lower when the plastic bag melts.
Skyler had more success with his signature "foil-pack dinner" recipe that is "just ground beef with some salt and pepper and some vegetables and you wrap it in foil and throw it over a fire."
Spencer came within an eyelash of being eliminated from the show, which airs at 8 p.m. Sundays and features celebrity chefs Anne Burrell and Tyler Florence.
"Skyler's going to cry more than Spencer," thought their mom, Sally Nick, as she watched Sunday's premiere episode with her sons and friends at Austin's bar and restaurant in Libertyville.
A single mom and special education teacher with Hawthorn District 73 schools in Vernon Hills, Sally Nick says she had to go into "Mommy Mode" at dinnertime. Working extra jobs as a certified tutor and keeping the financial books for a salon, Sally Nick would arrive home at the same time as her sons, whose days started with swing choir at 6 a.m. and finished after school with practice for football, wrestling or track and field.
"While I was prepping, they were at the table doing homework. While we were eating, we'd talk about how their day went," the mom remembers.
"We always had time to enjoy dinner, but Mom was always cooking the food," Skyler says.
After graduating high school, the twins earned their bachelor's degrees and MBAs from Lake Erie College in Painesville, Ohio, because their mom read in Reader's Digest that the school offered twins educations for the price of one. As communications majors and cheerleaders, the Nicks landed television internships in summer 2013 with the WGN Morning Show, where they became on-air personalities.
"They remind me of the late, great John Candy," their mom says. "They can light up a room without saying much."
Their "twintern" stint led to roles as contestants in "Twinning," a 2015 VH-1 show that pitted 12 teams of twins against each other in odd competitions. The Nicks finished fifth and were forced to spend a couple of weeks apart.
"Before that, we weren't apart for more than 12 hours," Spencer says, noting they live with their mom, work at the same Lake Zurich mortgage company, sport the same haircut and facial hair, dress alike, and share the same Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts, where they go by TwinTornadoes92.
"Our mom always tried to dress us differently, but as soon as we got old enough to dress ourselves, we started dressing alike," Skyler says.
"Growing up, we always thought it was better to be the same," Spencer says. "We're very competitive but only because we want to make each other stronger."
The cooking show was filmed last summer in New York, but the twins are sworn to secrecy and haven't even told their mom how they finished. In the meantime, she says some things around the house are different.
"They are cooking," Sally Nick says of her sons. "Their knife skills are incredible, and I'm not cooking as much as I used to with them around. It's all good."