Cutthroat Kitchen fans knows that when competitors are gifted a sabotage, no matter how treacherous or simple it may seem, it could ultimately mean disaster for them if they don’t know how or do not have the time to remedy it. But what happens when a challenge must incorporate not just one sabotage, but multiple? Will they use the double dose of damage to further fuel their creative energy, or will they succumb to the pressure of the contest and crumble?
On this week’s installment of Alton’s After-Show, the host revealed to judge Jet Tila two competitors’ attempts to adapt to multiple challenges after finding themselves victim to an onslaught of sabotages. The first set occurred in the initial round’s sandwich-and-side battle, when a chef was forced to harvest bread from prepared convenience-store sandwiches before learning that he or she would also have to make the dish on a TV-dinner-size tray instead of an oversized workspace. “And I think from there [the contestant] went insane,” Alton joked of the competitor. This chef was ultimately overwhelmed by the tasks at hand, as he or she didn’t make it past the first round of competition.
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Given the unexpected sabotages, limited time on the clock and looming judgment with which they’re forced to adapt, it’s likely that when chefs compete on Cutthroat Kitchen, they’re cooking under a crushing amount of stress and pressure. For some, that anxiety may serve only to better their game, forcing them to work smartly and efficiently, but for others, such a burden may get the better of them.
In this week’s competition, a chef’s inability to cope with the competition’s demands ultimately led to his or her exit. Judge Antonia Lofaso told Alton on his After-Show that the contestant’s Round 1 lasagna offering featured such grievous errors that she had no choice but to eliminate him or her on account of these seemingly elementary errors. Although inexperienced with making fresh pasta, this chef was forced to make pasta dough from scratch, but the end result proved “dense,” according to Antonia, and was only one part of an overall unsuccessful plate. “It was just poorly executed, everything on the dish,” she said, “from the cuts of the bell peppers to them not being cooked to pasta that was just completely inadequate.”
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While the sabotages dealt to chefs on Cutthroat Kitchen
may be downright devious and may cause the competitors to rethink their culinary approaches, the dishes they’re tasked to cook are, in fact, straightforward. Common plates like tacos, cupcakes, fried chicken and burritos have made appearances in the past, and all Alton asks of the contestants is that they create these meals for the judge. It sounds easy enough — until he reveals unknown curve balls, like mandatory ingredients and inferior cooking utensils, of course. It’s these challenging sabotages that cause — or, perhaps, force — the chefs to abandon all aspects of simplicity and ultimately reinvent the dishes as next-level versions.
Although this week’s battle indeed featured its share of sabotages, judge Antonia Lofaso told Alton Brown on the host’s After-Showthat the chefs’ culinary offerings could have been stronger, if only they had not tried to make the dishes complicated and too unlike the originals. In Round 2, one chef was given leftover fried rice to feature in jambalaya, and rather than merely steam it to outfit it with the proper texture, he or she turned it into rice patties, but the rice wasn’t apparent. “You would have been starting with a product that you can have control over,” Antonia told Alton. “[The chef] could have just resuscitated it, but instead [the competitor] ground it into a paste,” Alton added. “I would have simply just used it.”
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Although the stipulations of almost every Cutthroat Kitchen
sabotage force competitors to reimagine the classic versions of challenge dishes, chefs still should be able to serve plates that are at least reminiscent of the original concept. They may not be able to cook with every seemingly crucial ingredient or prepare plates in the most traditional style, but the final offerings ought to be valid interpretations of assigned dishes; for this week’s competitors, that meant burritos, pie and teriyaki bowls.
“It has to come down to what the challenge is,” judge Jet Tila told Alton Brown on the latest installment of Alton’s After-Show. The competitor ousted in the Round 1 burrito challenge presented a deconstructed Vietnamese-style burrito that was, in fact, hardly a burrito at all, according to Jet. “I’m sorry, but it was a ridiculous play on a burrito,” Jet explained of the summer roll-inspired dish. He added, “If she took a few pieces of lettuce and actually made a tight, concise roll, at least I know you’re thinking burrito,” noting how the contestant could have improved.
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Some weeks on Alton’s After-Show
the focus of Alton’s chat with the judge revolves primarily around the finalists’ abilities — or inabilities — to cook within the confines of Cutthroat Kitchen
, particularly the sabotages. But other times it’s the sabotages themselves that dominate the conversation, almost too shocking or simply laughable for the judges to believe. That was the case this week as Alton revealed to returning judge Jet Tila the roster of culinary interferences to befall the chefs.
Perhaps most appalling to Jet was the ingredient swap-out in Round 2, when the competitors were tasked with preparing a dish of sausage and peppers. Instead of being able to cook with everyday salt, pepper, spices and herbs, the contestant to receive this sabotage would be forced to use jelly beans flavored with tastes like habanero, wasabi, buttered popcorn and bacon. “That’s genius,” Jet admitted after a hearty laugh, before wincing at the thought of incorporating such oddball flavors into a dish. “I would have bid the farm and torpedoed somebody.” He soon realized how the unlucky chef to receive this sabotage ultimately offered a too-sweet plate of sausage and peppers. “The sweet … sticky sweet — it worked,” Jet said, reflecting on the contest. “I almost felt bad offering it. Almost,” Alton told him later.
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No matter the competition, judges aren’t shy about their desire to receive thoughtfully plated dishes. After all, the saying goes that we eat with our eyes before our mouths, and it’s important for food to look as appetizing as it tastes. But oftentimes contestants take the notion of inspired plates too far, opting to include edible — or not — garnishes atop their offerings. In a supposed effort to showcase their commitment to elegance and simple visual appeal, they end up self-sabotaging what would have been a fine meal with unnecessary toppings.
A frequent judge on Cutthroat Kitchen and Iron Chef America, Simon Majumdar knows what he likes to see on a plate, and superfluous finishes is not on his list of must-haves. In this week’s battle, several chefs learned the hard way that too much of a garnish — or the inclusion of something inedible — could be disastrous, as he explained on Alton’s After-Show. “Putting … what was for all intents and purposes a Christmas tree atop your steak is not a good idea,” Simon said of the oversize sprig of rosemary on one contestant’s steak. “Chefs really need to learn how to garnish when they’re doing a competition like this.”
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It’s no surprise that to be successful on Cutthroat Kitchen
competitors ought to come equipped with a strategy for how they’ll approach the contest, as Alton’s culinary mind game requires more of contestants than basic kitchen chops and the ability to work under pressure. For a chef to be victorious, he or she will need a strategy, and this week’s champion ultimately claimed the win thanks in part to a method of restrained bidding. After three rounds and only two wins at the auction, the top chef left with $11,800, a grand sum compared to the small wages some rivals have taken home.
Alton and judge Jet Tila dished on such an approach to the contest during the latest installment of the host’s After-Show. “You want to walk out of here with your dough,” Alton explained. Jet added, “You’re not here just to spend, spend, spend to sabotage people.” On several past episodes, chefs have gotten caught up in back-and-forth bidding wars only to “spend their way to victory,” as Alton noted. This week’s victor, however, claimed just two wins at the auction, guaranteeing a take-home sum of $11,800, a large figure compared to the small wages some rivals earn after three rounds of seemingly careless spending.
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Coming into Cutthroat Kitchen, the chefs know to expect sabotage, backstabbing and true competition. So the only things they can rely on are their skills and experience, but sometimes in the heat of battle those skills and experience go right out the window. After all, the chefs are racing to finish their plates while also maneuvering sabotages they’ve been dealt that often lead their dishes down a disastrous road.
In the latest installment of Alton’s After-Show, the host and this week’s judge, Jet Tila, dished on the competitors’ seeming disregard for key basics in cooking, such as taste and texture, and their inability to have a dish live up to some sort of standard of expectation.
Taste is No. 1, explained Jet, when talking about Round 1′s spaghetti and meatballs, where one of the sabotages took away the ability to taste from three of the chefs. “You have to have cooked for a phenomenal amount of years to just cook by feel,” says Jet. Alton added that it’s especially true when it comes to making sauce, which often needs many tastings before it’s ready to be served. These chefs were too brash in thinking they didn’t need to taste — and even Chef Davidi who won the auction didn’t manage to put out a flavorful dish. When it came to the wings in Round 2, stuffing them with ingredients that made no sense — like Chef Glick’s celery and carrot batons — just went to show there was no forethought. And the chef’s use of bottled sauce did nothing to show creativity. In Round 3, it all came down to a lack of experience when making the doughnuts. Each chef’s doughnuts turned out to be leaden balls of dough, far from the fluffy, airy confections that anyone would expect.
Click the play button on the video above to hear more from Jet and Alton, and then chat with fellow fans in the comments section below.
Once the competitors on Cutthroat Kitchen
complete their brief 60 seconds of pantry shopping, they can’t say for certain what will come next, blissfully unaware of the ingredient swaps, time freezes and utensil prohibitions with which they will be forced to comply when cooking. Host Alton Brown
‘s deliciously mischievous competition is just four weeks into its premiere season, yet chefs have already experienced interferences like prepared pie crust in place of pizza dough, the inability to use salt in their taco dishes and the challenge of fashioning their only utensils out of aluminum foil.
Two of the seemingly most insurmountable sabotages, however, occurred in the first two weeks of the series, when Alton revealed French wine and blue cheese, which had to be featured in one chef’s French toast preparation, and bright-green sour apple gummy candies, which were to be used in place of fresh apples when making a dish of pork chops and apple sauce. What happened next in both instances was a no-nonsense bidding war, with several contestants willing to go to great lengths — and exorbitant sums — to avoid cooking with these products themselves.
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No matter how prepared a chef may be when he walks into Cutthroat Kitchen
, or how well-conceived his ideas are for one round’s challenge dish, he can’t say for certain whether he’ll be able to use those skills or his thought-out plan, as a sabotage may ultimately get the better of him. The key to success in this contest is a competitor’s ability to adapt to culinary interferences as he meets them — finding new ways to add flavor to food when salt isn’t an option and learning how to fashion utensils out of foil when traditional devices are prohibited, among them.
But what happens when, whether because of strategic game play or simple good fortune, a chef has the opportunity — the time, ingredients and equipment — to make just what he had intended?
In the latest installment of Alton’s After-Show, the host and this week’s judge, Antonia Lofaso, dished on the competitors’ seeming need to do more and cook more than they ought to have or needed to simply because they could.
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