UW-Madison food science graduate students Amy DeJong and Maya Warren are among the cast of the 25th edition of The Amazing Race, a CBS television reality show where the duo will compete against 10 other teams in various physical and mental challenges as they trek around the globe. The way this multi-Emmy Award-winning TV series works, the teams that lag behind are gradually eliminated, while the first team to arrive at the final destination wins $1 million.

Amy DeJong

“Maya had the idea of doing The Amazing Race for a while, I guess, and was able to talk Amy into trying out,” says food science professor Rich Hartel, who advises both students. “During the process, they had to show their personalities and explain why they would be good on the show. They’re both characters, so I don’t think it was difficult for them to show that they’d be an entertaining duo, and also smart.”

The race kicked off on Saturday, May 31 in Times Square in New York City. DeJong and Warren can be seen (toward the right wearing magenta tops) in a photo from the opening event shared in a web post on The Amazing Race’s website, which also revealed the names of the new cast members for the first time.

Throughout the tryout period, DeJong and Warren kept their efforts largely a secret, only sharing information about it on a need-to-know basis.

Their first audition involved a one-minute skit that they performed live in Chicago back in October. They were then invited to submit a three-minute video about themselves, which they filmed partly in Hartel’s lab, calling themselves “Doctor Ice Cream” and “Doctor Candy,” a reference to Warren’s ice cream research and DeJong’s candy research.

Maya Warren

“I’m sure they were as wacky as only those two can be,” says Hartel, who believes the video may include footage of them smashing a marshmallow peep that they’d frozen in liquid nitrogen.

They then flew out to Los Angeles for an in-person meeting, which ultimately led to an invitation to join the show. At some point, CBS flew a camera crew out to Madison to film the students working in the lab, yet hardly anybody found out about the shoot.

“It’s remarkable that they were able to keep the secret for so long,” says Mary Rice, the department’s graduate student coordinator, who learned about their involvement only after the official CBS announcement.

“So now they are off on the four-week adventure of a lifetime,” says Hartel. “They don’t get back until the end of June, and, even then, I’m not sure they can say a lot about what happened. You’ll have to watch the show to find out the result.”

Lead photo from The Amazing Race website:

Headshots of DeJong and Warren by Wan Mei Leong.