In just one year, Cutthroat Kitchen fans have watched as hopeful chefs have donned souffle suits, stooped inside mini kitchens and spun the Wheel of Heat, all in the name of sabotage — and at the hands of Alton Brown. The no-nonsense host is no stranger to the ruthless challenges that befall competitors round after round; after all, he’s doled out and auctioned off every single one. FN Dish caught up with Alton recently to learn his thoughts on a year of contests and get his advice for approaching infamous sabotages.
Cutthroat Kitchen recently celebrated its first on-air birthday, and it’s getting set to air its fifth season soon. Why do you think the show is so popular?
Alton Brown: It’s a game; it’s an actual game. People love games. And it’s a kind of game where anything can happen — and often does. And I think people like that too. That’s it. It’s a game; people like games. Sabotage is fun. It’s fun to see what is going to come out of that shelf later.
How do you manage to keep your evilicious edge episode after episode?
AB: It’s easy when we keep coming up with sabotages that are so diabolical.
What are you most looking forward to as the show evolves into Season 5 and beyond?
AB: I’m hoping that the more and more competitors that are seeing the shows, the smarter they are about playing the game. They’ll bid smarter, they’ll cook smarter, they’ll play their competitors off of each other better. I don’t think that we’ve been around long enough yet for people to really know how to play the game with finesse, so I’m looking forward to seeing that. It’s still going to take a little while.
You’ve hosted several of culinary competitions, including Iron Chef America and The Next Iron Chef. What’s one piece of advice you would give to a competitor who’s doing this on TV for the first time?
AB: Just cook your food. Don’t get caught up in the challenges or whatever — the distraction of the sabotages. Just cook the food. You’ll be fine.
Imagine you were faced with three of the most-infamous sabotages — the mini kitchen, “no salt available” or “no standard utensils available.” How would you overcome each of those?
AB: Well, in the mini kitchen, cook small things. That’s simple. No salt? There’s always alternatives: soy sauce, Worcestershire. There are always sauce somewhere if you look for it. No utensils available? Have plenty of Band-Aids on you.
What is the most-memorable bidding war you’ve had on Cutthroat Kitchen so far?
AB: Oh, it’s definitely the pickled ginger for the gingersnap round – basically they bid, like, $16,500 for some pickled ginger that ended up not making any difference at all. It’s just when people fixate on winning an item that they don’t actually really need and then they go and spend all their money, which is really ridiculous, but it happens. So I would say definitely that.
Can you list an adjective to describe each of the judges — Antonia, Jet and Simon ?
AB: Tall, short, bald.