by Maria Russo in Shows, July 9th, 2014
by Nikhita Mahtani in Shows, July 6th, 2014
From The Next Iron Chef to Iron Chef America, Simon Majumdar is no stranger to a judges’ table, but the difference between the evaluations on those shows and those on Cutthroat Kitchen is that with the latter, he isn’t aware of all that led to the chefs’ finished dishes. Round after evilicious round, Simon and the other judges are introduced to seemingly innocent plates, and they’re unaware of the oddball products and the perhaps inferior utensils and tools used to create them; it’s then up to Simon and the other judges to review chefs’ offerings as simply as the food they are, not as the results of sabotage. FN Dish checked in with Simon recently to chat about his experience judging on Cutthroat Kitchen, plus his memorable dishes from the show and the process of being hidden from the competition.
What are you most looking forward to as Cutthroat Kitchen continues to evolve into more seasons?
Simon Majumdar: Alton’s getting into his stride with it, so I think he loves the fact that it’s getting more and more evil .… There’s a lot more [that's] elaborate coming up. I mean there are fat suits, there are mini kitchens, there are – I mean it’s getting seriously crazy. I walk out of the studio sometimes to the trailer where they put us and I walk past the challenge producers — the ones who devise all this eviliciousness — and I have no idea what they’re doing. There are carpenters out there, bouncing table-tennis balls, I mean, and it’s basically becoming like Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, and I think that’s what people love. Because I think people were worried at first; they were like, “It’s not a cooking show, and how can you eat that food?” but the thing is that some of the food is really good.
by Nikhita Mahtani in Shows, June 29th, 2014
On Cutthroat Kitchen, there is nothing worse than an ingredient swap. Ingredients can make or break a dish, and switching out quality ones for those that are inferior can completely ruin the elevated flavors the competitors are trying to accomplish. In this week’s episode, the contestants have to make biscuits with gravy, so the culinary team was experimenting with an ingredient swap where the butter was replaced by cooking spray. While the team realized that the cooking spray could be gathered and solidified to develop a butter-like consistency, the real test was whether the cooking spray could provide the same taste and texture that butter could in a buttermilk biscuit. The taste of the biscuit alone would determine whether the cooking spray swap would work for the episode.
Click play on the video above to see whether this sabotage was approved or rejected by the Food Network culinary team.
by Nikhita Mahtani in Shows, June 22nd, 2014
Many times on Cutthroat Kitchen, host Alton Brown demonstrates his truly evilicious side by taking away the contestants’ ingredients, their heating appliances and even all their knives. In this week’s episode, Alton takes evil to a whole new level — he takes away all pots, pans and mixing bowls, and replaces them with a bread bowl for one of the contestants and a soup ladle for the other. The two contestants have to make both a soup and a salad without all their mixing equipment. This challenge didn’t come without its share of difficulty — the soup ladle was extremely small and could heat up only a small amount at a time, and the bread bowl kept soaking up all the liquid for both the dressing and the soup. While sabotages on Cutthroat Kitchen have to slow the contestants down and make things difficult for them, they can’t make it impossible for them to make a dish.
How did these two sabotages get approved by Food Network’s culinary team for this episode? Click the play button on the video above to find out.
by Nikhita Mahtani in Shows, June 22nd, 2014
The Cutthroat Kitchen competitors are no strangers to host Alton Brown‘s diabolical sabotages – from ingredient swaps to alternate sources of heat, there’s no limit to the amount of tricks up his sleeve. Still, no one could have prepared for Sally, a mechanical cow that had udders underneath that one chef had to milk in order to get the dairy needed to create a Tres Leches cake, which involves three types of milk.
“Here’s the terrible thing. We didn’t label them either,” said Alton to Judge Jet Tila. “So they really had to know their dairies.” Chef Shane was given this sabotage and made an ice-cream, which turned out to be a very smart move. “The cool thing about ice-cream is that it makes your mouth cold and once your mouth is cold you don’t notice certain things in the rest of the food,” said Alton on this week’s After-Show. ‘If I didn’t trust the rest of my food, say my cake, I would so make you an ice-cream!” Ultimately, Chef Shane won the show and Chef Candace was eliminated, on account of her ‘cake’ being more like a crepe. “It just doesn’t work, man,” said Judge Tila.
Click the play button above to hear more from Alton and Jet, and to see Chef Shane try to milk Sally up close.
Don’s miss Cutthroat Kitchen on Sundays at 10|9c.
by Nikhita Mahtani in Shows, June 15th, 2014
On this week’s episode of Cutthroat Kitchen, competitors had to cook the perfect breakfast sandwich — a standard dish that involves toast, eggs and meat. It may seem easy enough, but not on this show, where the competitors are sabotaged in every way, from ingredient swaps to the removal of cooking utensils. While some of these sabotages may seem completely outlandish, they are indeed possible; Food Network’s culinary team tests each ingredient, heat source and kitchen appliance to make sure that the contestants will be able to create a dish with the sabotage within 30 minutes. In this round, one competitor had to give up all of his or her heat sources and use a paint-dryer to cook all of the ingredients.
How is this possible? See for yourself by clicking play on the video above, in which the Food Network culinary team tested the sabotage beforehand. Also see which heat source didn’t make the cut.
by Simon Majumdar in Shows, June 14th, 2014
On Cutthroat Kitchen, the sabotages are created to confuse the contestants and make them think on their feet. This is especially the case with the ingredient swaps, where the chefs have to trade in their gourmet ingredients with sub par foods of host Alton Brown‘s choosing. This is precisely what happened in the cheesecake round, where Chef Diana made Chef Eric harvest his cheese from a platter of leftover cream cheese bagels, cream cheese Danish, Philly cheese steaks and sour-cream-filled baked potatoes.
“That’s messed up,” said judge Jet Tila on this week’s Alton’s After-Show. “I don’t know how long that’s been sitting here!” Still, he admitted that he had no idea that the cheese had been adulterated in any way, stating, “It came together, it was cheesy, and I didn’t get any of the weird savory bits.” Chef Eric smartly harvested the cream cheese of the Danish and bagels, and, as Alton said, “He definitely earned every bit of it.”
by Maria Russo in Shows, June 2nd, 2014
Thanks to a winning combination of one of the best production crews in the business and the #Evilicious leanings of its host, Alton Brown, Cutthroat Kitchen has not only become a huge hit, but it has also provided me, as a judge, with one of the most-fun jobs I’ve had since I moved over to this side of the pond.
Dozens of people ask me what it takes to succeed on the toughest culinary show on television. So, just in case you’re ever called upon to stand face-to-face with Mr. Brown, here are my top 10 tips on how to win in Cutthroat Kitchen.
1. Shop Smart: As I found in my one appearance behind the stoves to date, you don’t need Alton Brown to ruin your day in Cutthroat Kitchen; you can just as easily do it yourself. A bad showing in the pantry can easily lead to an early exit. Be sure not only to make a mental list of basics for the dish you are asked to prepare, but also grab some staples like eggs and flour, ingredients that can get you out of a bind if the bidding goes against you.
by Maria Russo in Shows, June 1st, 2014
After nearly three seasons of doling out constructive critiques and eliminations on dozens of chefs, the Cutthroat Kitchen judges took their turns in the contest and battled each other in an epic three rounds of competition. Antonia Lofaso, Geoffrey Zakarian, Jet Tila and Simon Majumdar faced the same kind of evilicious sabotages that host Alton Brown is notorious for auctioning off to other contestants, but the rivalries among the judges were fiercer, as each wanted to claim Cutthroat glory once and for all.
If you haven’t watched the episode yet, don’t read any further because FN Dish is about to break down the rounds and reveal the winner.
by Maria Russo in Food Network Chef, Shows, May 29th, 2014
This week’s was a Cutthroat Kitchen episode like none other as host Alton Brown welcomed four of Cutthroat’s frequent judges into the kitchen — not to evaluate competitors’ dishes, but to be the battling chefs for the day. In true evilicious fashion, the sabotages didn’t stop just because the contestants were superstars Antonia Lofaso, Geoffrey Zakarian, Jet Tila and Simon Majumdar; in fact, this episode saw some of the trickiest tests yet, and what resulted were three rounds of brutal mind games. While Alton’s After-Shows are known for revealing all to the once-sequestered judges, this week’s catch-up found Alton with the judges-turned-competitors, and together they shared plenty of laughs as they looked back at the good-natured challenges that had just taken place.
The infamous mini kitchen made an appearance in Round 1, and much of the group agreed with Simon when he deemed it the “Best. Challenge. Ever.” After being gifted that challenge, Jet admitted, “I was deathly afraid of it. I didn’t even know how to, like, navigate that thing.” Geoffrey ultimately found himself tasked with adapting to this tiny workspace, but, according to him, “It’s not as bad as it appears.” And it’s a good thing that Geoffrey didn’t seem to mind the sabotage, as Simon — jokingly — noted later: “The reason it only went for $1,500 is I think some of us agreed that we should give it to Geoffrey for no other reason than we wanted to see Geoffrey Zakarian — the Iron Chef — kneeling down, cooking in the kitchen.”
For the first time on Sunday night (at 10|9c), the contestants taking their turns on Cutthroat Kitchen won’t be everyday chef-competitors; instead the judges, Antonia Lofaso, Geoffrey Zakarian, Jet Tila and Simon Majumdar, will enter the throes of sabotage and battle against each other for Cutthroat glory. Although the group is most familiar with simply tasting the aftermath of a challenge, they’re keenly aware of the kinds of evilicious obstacles Alton‘s been known to auction off. Just ahead of this weekend’s special episode, FN Dish checked in with Alton to find out what he has planned. Read on below to hear from Alton in an exclusive interview and learn his thoughts on the competition plus his advice for the judges.
Regardless of who’s competing — contestants or judges — what is one key piece of advice you think everyone should know before beginning a Cutthroat battle?
Alton Brown: Shop for the unexpected. It’s easy to grab ingredients for a specific dish, but remember … in Cutthroat Kitchen you never know what sabotages might be coming your way. Don’t just load for bear; load for monsters.