by Maria Russo in Shows, March 1st, 2015
by Maria Russo in Shows, February 22nd, 2015
No matter chefs’ culinary skill levels or the amount of time they’ve prepared for competition, nothing can ready them for battle on Cutthroat Kitchen. Combined with the fierce time constraints in any given round, the unruly sabotages doled upon them practically guarantee they must reimagine any preconceived ideas about their dish and simply attempt to finish on time. For many finalists, however, the only way to complete the round is to offer a deconstructed version of their dish, featuring just its parts, which when combined, may make up a whole.
Such a maneuver is risky, as judges — especially seasoned ones like Antonia Lofaso, Jet Tila and Simon Majumdar — can see past a chef’s mention of purposely deconstructing a dish and realize that it’s likely a last-ditch effort to plate his or her food. On tonight’s all-new episode, Chef Jenny was faced with a doozy of a sabotage that landed her in a racecar seat, so her ability to cook quickly was compromised. And much to the judge’s horror, Chef Jenny told Antonia that her lasagna was “deconstructed.” Antonia explained of her reaction to Alton Brown on the host’s After-Show, “I almost can’t take it seriously when they say ‘deconstructed’ to me anymore.” Alton added, “Because nobody actually does it unless they’re in trouble.” Antonia said of Chef Jenny sarcastically, “She’s like, ‘Oh, I really meant to just throw the noodle down the center and put some raw tomato on it with a dollop of ricotta.'” Ultimately the curse of the deconstructed dish struck again: Chef Jenny said goodbye after the lasagna round.
by Maria Russo in Shows, February 15th, 2015
A competition like Cutthroat Kitchen can surely be a transformative undertaking for the chef contestants, as they’re almost always pushed beyond their culinary comfort zones. But their ingredients, too, are often forced to become something they’re usually not in order to satisfy a challenge — that’s where Testing the Sabotages comes in. Before Alton Brown could auction off a test to, say, turn potato chip crumbs into gnocchi, as he did on tonight’s all-new episode, the Cutthroat culinary crew had to attempt the conversion firsthand to make sure it was both possible and fair within the time limits.
Just minutes into starting his test, food stylist Hugo Sanchez struggled to work with the gnocchi dough, and he admitted, “The chips in it are preventing it from binding as a normal dough would. It’s actually turning out to be a bigger deal than I expected.” Nevertheless, he soon managed to roll the dough into a log and lob off bite-size dumplings, and in the spirit of evilicious cooking, he said, “It may not taste like gnocchi, but it’s going to look like gnocchi.” Sure enough, after a quick boil and pan-fry, he served up a simple yet presentable gnocchi offering, though he wondered if chefs could use their imagination to create an even better rendition. “It’s definitely something you can play with,” Hugo noted. “Maybe some bacon, some sour cream — call it a baked potato gnocchi.”
by Maria Russo in Behind the Scenes, Shows, February 11th, 2015
Cutthroat Kitchen isn’t for the faint of heart, that’s for sure, and Anne Burrell learned that the hard way when she took her place in the arena as a competitor in the Superstar Sabotage tournament a few months ago. But on tonight’s all-new episode, she experienced the contest from a judge’s perspective as she guest-starred in this particularly evilicious battle.
A Round 2 sabotage forced Chef Ventura to dictate to Chef Emily how he wanted his food to be prepared, though he couldn’t see what she was doing because there was a wall between them, and vice versa. So when it came time for Anne to judge the competitors’ taco offerings, she judged Chef Ventura’s on a taco that was ultimately prepared by Chef Emily — and, again, vice versa. “She wildly underseasoned it,” Anne said of Chef Emily’s preparation of Chef Ventura’s taco. And, sure enough, Anne found Chef Emily’s dish to be “delicious,” though of course it was prepared by Chef Ventura.
by Maria Russo in Shows, February 8th, 2015
While Cutthroat Kitchen may serve as home to Food Network’s most-diabolical cooking arena, it’s also a fully functional and well-outfitted kitchen, brimming with hundreds of ingredients, dozens of pots and pans, and enough tools and equipment to arm four chefs in battle — plus a single briefcase filled with $100,000, of course. Recently FN Dish traveled to the set of Cutthroat Kitchen for an insider’s look at what makes the space so special, including its close-quartered pantry, wall-to-wall shelves of gear and the chalkboard full of evilicious inspiration. We also caught up with Katie Allen, the show’s culinary producer, who’s responsible for equipping the kitchen, and she dished that during each week of filming, her team accepts a delivery of “43 boxes of vegetables, fruits and herbs,” and that’s just for the fresh produce. When it comes to food prep, there are some “86 pots and pans available on set”; for plating, no fewer than “27 varieties of plates, 16 varieties of bowls, 9 different types of glasses, and 21 different types of small dipping bowls, plates and spoon options” are available to the chefs during the contest.
Click the photo below to check out a behind-the-scenes photo tour of the set and peek inside the refrigerator, and look up close at the myriad ingredients, serving pieces, tools and utensils at the ready in each battle.
by Maria Russo in Shows, February 2nd, 2015
In celebration of Valentine’s Day, tonight’s all-new episode of Cutthroat Kitchen focused on perhaps the ultimate sweet treat — chocolate — and surely no chocolate showcase is complete without molten lava cake. Boasting a tender, moist cake on the outside and a warm, gooey center, this dressed-up dessert is tricky to master, even for the most-experienced chefs under optimal conditions. And inside the Cutthroat arena, the circumstances for preparing this cake turned even trickier when a sabotage forced one chef to mix all of the cake ingredients within the tiny compartments inside a now-empty box of chocolates.
As with all sabotages, the Cutthroat Kitchen culinary team tried its hands at this doozy of a test before Alton Brown sold it at auction, and within just minutes of starting, Food Stylist Codii realized, “The key to this is patience, which I think Cutthroat Kitchen lacks on a daily basis.” Despite her initial struggles, however, Codii managed to incorporate her ingredients as best as possible, and ultimately turned out cakes that, while “not pretty,” featured the signature lava river flowing from within.
by Maria Russo in Shows, February 1st, 2015
While the never-ending onslaught of sabotages may be unnerving and downright frustrating for Cutthroat Kitchen competitors in the midst of battle, for fans at home who are watching the eviliciousness unfold, it’s nothing short of sidesplitting funny. It turns out, though, that there’s more hilarity to Cutthroat Kitchen than just the diabolical challenges. In the more than six seasons of the series, each episode has been given a telling — and amusing — title to signify either the dishes or the sabotages rivals would meet in the contest. FN Dish recently combed through the dozens of punny titles and rounded up the 15 best, and now it’s time for you, fans, to choose your ultimate favorite.
Browse this photo gallery to see each title and relive its corresponding episode, then vote for your pick of the top title ever in the poll below.
by Maria Russo in Shows, January 25th, 2015
From canned whole chickens to dairy milked from a plastic cow, Cutthroat Kitchen is no stranger to strangeness. In fact, it welcomes such oddness. It’s a good thing that’s the case, because on tonight’s all-new episode, one chef was tasked with making a turkey burger out of not moist ground turkey meat, as would be expected, but processed deli turkey meat. But before the contestant could be saddled with such a sabotage, the Cutthroat culinary team had to try its hands at the challenge to make sure that whatever burger resulted — if any did — was edible, given the amount of time on the clock.
Food stylist Jamie took to the kitchen to attempt this next-level ingredient swap-out, and after making what he deemed “turkey dust,” mixing it with chopped bacon and cooking the patty, he realized he’d made something “real weird.” He explained, “It’s a funky-looking patty; there’s no two ways about it.” Nevertheless, despite its nontraditional appearance, Jamie added that the more important question would be whether or not the patty tasted fine. Much to his surprise, it did. “It’s that good. I’m voluntarily eating my own sabotage cooking,” he said.
by Maria Russo in Shows, January 19th, 2015
Cutthroat Kitchen is nothing if not punny, as Alton Brown is notorious for putting literal spins on the challenge dishes, all in an effort to create hilariously diabolical sabotages. When it came time for the competitors to make brownies for dessert on tonight’s all-new big-game episode, he reached for what else but brown bags to auction off as one contestant’s sole mixing and cooking vessel. These everyday bags are surely thin and weak, so would such a mandate be fair to ask of a chef, and is brown-bag baking even possible?
The Cutthroat Kitchen culinary crew set out to answer that very question as they attempted this sabotage before the contest in the latest installment of Testing the Sabotages. After a quick triple-ply maneuver to prevent batter seepage, food stylist Chelsey proclaimed, “Brown-bag brownie. Nailed it,” proving once and for all that brownies can indeed be made in brown bags.
by Maria Russo in Shows, January 11th, 2015
So often in the Cutthroat Kitchen arena, chefs split their focus between the challenge dish and a side dish or two to round out their offerings for the judge, only to find out later that the sides did more harm than good, perhaps detracting from the primary dish or suffering a flaw that the judge cannot ignore. But on tonight’s all-new episode, it turns out that the side dish saved the day for one competitor and ultimately clinched his win.
It was up to judge Simon Majumdar to decide which of two chefs’ granola bars was worthy of the prize, and while Chef Julio’s plate indeed featured a bar, Simon noted of the taste during the After-Show, “It wasn’t the best granola.” That prestige was awarded to Chef John’s dish, as Simon explained, “John’s was really good granola, but it wasn’t a bar.” Therein lies the problem. “The fact that both of them had real problems — one didn’t have a bar and one didn’t have great granola — meant I had to judge the dish as a whole,” Simon said, “and [Chef Julio’s] pineapple dish was really great.” While such a judgment doesn’t happen regularly on Cutthroat, Alton Brown told Simon, “In that case, it was the side item that sealed the victory.”
It’s no secret that when Antonia Lofaso, Jet Tila and Simon Majumdar enter the Cutthroat Kitchen arena as judges, they’re evaluating chefs’ dishes based on three and only three elements: taste, presentation and authenticity. But what happens when these judges come face to face with an ingredient they simply don’t enjoy? While it may seem as though they’d be likely to mark down a competitor for featuring a taste that’s off-putting to them, Antonia revealed to Alton Brown on tonight’s all-new After-Show that that’s not the case.
“I don’t think any of us judges judge based on our own personal preference,” she revealed after Alton noted the possibility of some judges not liking sardines, which one chef was forced to contend with in a sabotage. “I’m actually not a big fan of sardines, but I do appreciate their flavor, and I would know what to be looking for in a good sardine,” Antonia told Alton. She added of sardines, “I wouldn’t have judged against it.” It turns out that while Chef Gina — who was tasked with working with sardines in Round 1’s fish taco test — was ultimately sent home, it wasn’t for too much sardine but rather too little. As Alton noted to Antonia, “You got rid of Chef Gina because you didn’t like the mushrooms and the fact that there wasn’t enough sardine in there to make it a fish taco.”