Cutthroat Kitchen has turned out to be one of those “just one more episode” shows where I could easily waste the entire day on it if I didn’t have the self-control of a saint (yeah, right). It’s a fun show, a tongue-in-cheek show, a show full of delicious and not-so-delicious culinary experiments. Lastly, it’s a show where I often have cause to yell at the screen. “Really? REALLY? You IDIOT!”
For those who don’t know, Cutthroat Kitchen is a reality competition in which chefs must prepare dishes within a time limit, under the watchful scowl of host Alton Brown. Each chef gets $25,000 in cash, which they can spend auction-style to sabotage their opponents in cruel and funny ways. The winner only keeps what money they haven’t bid away. This leads to some epic kitchen smackdowns and desperate, improvisational cooking. You just know that with this kind of pressure, people are bound to screw up. Sometimes, their whoopsies are worthy of the facepalmiest of facepalms. And I’ve been cataloguing them for you! Here are...
DANG-BLASTED’S TOP TEN BIGGEST ACTS OF STUPIDITY ON CUTTHROAT KITCHEN
10. BBQ, Where Are You?
(S1E13, “S’more Sabotage”)
The time limit is everything. As a professional chef, you better be capable of whipping off a quality dish in a brief period. That’s how restaurants operate and it’s how Cutthroat Kitchen operates. When faced with making a barbecue platter, Chef Rocco was delighted. He knows barbecue like nobody else! He’s gonna blow the judge away with a succulent selection of meats! And believe me, his little buffet looked absolutely amazing. Did it taste amazing? Probably, but we’ll never know, because when the clock hit zero, Chef Rocco had abso-fucking-lutely none of his food plated. And guess what? The judge can only go by what you present them on a plate! Them’s the rules! Luckily for Chef Rocco, they showed mercy and sampled his bean salad, which was technically in a dish...and delicious enough to keep him from elimination in that round. But the rest of his elaborate BBQ platter went in the garbage, as did my respect for a guy who’s so smitten with his own brilliance that he ignores the ticking clock.
9. Maybe You Should Stop Strokin’ Off
(S4E5, “Welcome to the Jungle”)
Don’t laugh too hard at the misfortunes of others. This ep came down to a grudge match between Chef Tom and Chef Matt, and during the second round (beef stroganoff), Tom hit Matt with a seemingly innocuous sabotage that turned his life into a living hell: he had to switch between different-sized pots while cooking. Poor Chef Matt...first he failed to boil water in a huge pot, then he kept spilling and losing his ingredients from a tiny pot. He was clearly miserable, convinced he was doomed...and while his opponents were busy chortling at his ordeal, they both fucked up. Chef Tom dumped parmesan on his dish at the last minute, ruining his flavors, and Chef Jessica undercooked her pasta and overwhelmed her meat in cognac -- after bragging about said cognac for the entire round. Oh, man, the looked of shocked relief on Chef Matt’s face when Chef Jessica was eliminated. I’ve never been happier to see someone survive a round. Karma.
8. Exclusively a Dumbass
One recurring sabotage on Cutthroat Kitchen is when a chef gains an exclusive advantage. They might be the only chef in the kitchen who can cook a certain way, or they might swap their opponents’ choice ingredients for shitty alternatives. That sort of leg-up is not to be pissed away. However, I’ve noticed that again and again, the chef with the “advantage” will utterly blow it. Chefs have big egos by necessity, so the demons of hubris can strike hard. A chef has the exclusive right to use salt...and their final dish is under-seasoned. While making pea soup, only one chef wound up with good, fresh peas...and his soup was badly textured and pea-deficient. It’s kind of funny to see the look on the face of an eliminated chef who thought they had the high ground, but then you see the other chefs biting their tongues in outrage. You spent all that money to prop yourself up, then kicked away the crutch and hung yourself? YOU INCOMPETENT OAF OF A CLOD!
7. Don’t Be a Maverick
(S3E11, “Well, Hot Clam”)
I dunno where Chef Maverick got his name from -- hell, maybe he was born with it -- but it did him no favors, and neither did his doofus behavior in the first round. During the auction, Chef Maverick proved ready to blow all his money from the start (smart chefs save their moolah for when it really matters) and even tried to bid more than he actually had. Did he spend wisely? Well, when granted the power to assign heat sources, he bizarrely gave the best option, a barbecue grill, to someone else, and awarded himself a crappy little countertop grill because “I use these all the time!” So “skilled” was he that he finished his sliders and coleslaw ten minutes early, then aimlessly wandered around the kitchen, getting on everyone’s nerves, while his dish cooled and congealed. The final straw? Chef Maverick was eliminated for having overdone meat and a dry bun. How can you finish too early and still overcook? Meet the ditziest Maverick since Sarah Palin.
6. Self-Sabotage, Take Three
(S4E12, Chili’d to the Bone)
We’ve seen how chefs can be their own worst enemy. This was demonstrated in an episode where in all three rounds, the losing chef tasted defeat as a result of their own fuck-up. Taken in a row, they created a glorious parade of derp moments. First round: Chef TJ forgets to get cheese for her chili cheese dog. Buh-bye! Second round: Chef Nick sabotages the others with shitty pasta, but randomly opts to make Alfredo sauce without any milk or butter. Arrivederci! And in the final round, Chef Aaron, who was doing so well, deflects all sabotages. Problem is, they’re making Crêpe Suzette and Chef Aaron has no everloving clue how to craft proper crêpes. He does his best. He makes some very pretty...pancakes. Bonsoir! The winner, Chef Todd, did do a great job of rolling with the punches, but all he really needed was to sit back and let every one of his opponents shoot themselves in the foot.
5. Zoned Out
(S6E3, “In It to Twin It”)
Strategy is important, especially when faced with merciless Italian twins. In this twin-themed ep, Chef Sammy, along with brothers Nick and Nate, were forced to share a kitchen separated into three zones: prep, cooking, and equipment. One chef per zone. They could switch between zones, but only under mutual agreement. Chef Sammy began in the equipment zone, which would have been an advantage had he actually grabbed what he needed right away. Nope. With tragic foolishness, he returned to the equipment zone partway through the round and became trapped there: Nick and Nate could simply swap between prep and cooking while Sammy looked on, helpless, his time ticking away. And when Sammy finally escaped, what did he do? He forgot a fucking spatula. And back to the equipment zone he went to be trapped a second time. Dear lord, man! Do you not learn from your mistakes? I guess the other twin got all the foresight.
4. All and/or Nothing
(S6E13, “Alton and the Chocolate Factory”)
Chef Jackie from New Jersey could not be called endearing, what with her shrill voice and aggressive, trying-too-hard-to-be-witty schtick. However, her dishes were consistently delicious (if sloppy) and that propelled her to the final round. She was as type-A as they come, but her need to throw her weight around led to a ridiculous maneuver and a Cutthroat Kitchen first: she willingly spent all her money. In one single bid. Know how a pit bull will bite a stranger’s hand and then immediately look guilty? Chef Jackie’s horror came too late. She was headed for a purely symbolic victory, and, worse, her opponent didn’t even get the nastiest sabotage of the round. He merely had to stick chocolates in boxes for five minutes while Chef Jackie was elbow-deep in melted chocolate, clawing for various weird ingredients. She still pulled off a delicious dessert, but she didn’t win. Did she even want to at that point? Lose your cool on TV and you’ll lose every dollar, lose the match...lose at life.
3. The Black Egg of Doom
(S3E5, “Chain of Tools”)
Okay, so, there’s taking risks, and then there’s going out of your way to wreck a perfectly good dish. The challenge was cobb salad, and the sabotage was, Chef Nikos had to swap out three good ingredients for unpleasant substitutes. He could choose what he swapped, though...and he chose a fucking tactical nuke. Know what a century egg is? It’s an egg that has been buried and allowed to ferment for weeks, months, possibly years. You open its shell to reveal a black, slimy horror that gives off the fumes of Hades and...well, to call it an “acquired taste” is a fucking laugh. Keep in mind, Chef Nikos could easily have passed over this abomination and taken harmless Cheez Whiz instead. Nope! He opened that century egg and plunked it down whole on his salad like Smaug the dragon lurking atop his leafy green hoard. I’m pretty sure they skillfully edited out judge Antonia Lofaso’s projectile vomiting after she sampled Chef Nikos’ Cthulhu-approved terror plate. Farewell to her taste buds, farewell to Chef Nikos. Suicide by sulfur.
2. Letting Her Have It
(S2E12, “It’s Not Delivery”)
My boyfriend insists this is the stupidest thing he’s seen on the show, and while I don’t quite agree, I can understand the sheer hands-in-the-air retardation of Chef Athena’s final blunder. We’re in the third round, Chef Athena vs. Chef Rina. Athena has $19,300 remaining. Rina has bid her ass off and only has $3,000. So it should be a cinch for Chef Athena, right? She can hit Chef Rina with all the sabotages and still walk away with tons of cash! Only......she doesn’t. She fucking doesn’t. For reasons known only to Chef Athena, she allows Chef Rina to purchase the final sabotage, requiring Athena to salvage the tortillas from frozen enchiladas in order to make her fajitas. “I just let her have it,” Athena says with a shrug. WHYYYYYY??!! You had EVERY SINGLE advantage! So guess what? Chef Athena is eliminated and Chef Rina “wins” with a measly $1,400, which was, at the time, the lowest-ever Cutthroat Kitchen prize. I hope Chef Athena went home to a chorus of outrage from everyone she knew.
1. White Chocolate Lobster
(S1E3, “Porkchops and Sabotages”)
I refuse to not put this at number one. It looms huge in my mind, a monolith of stupidity. Meet Chef Taylor. Chef Taylor is young. A hotshot. He likes to push fine dining to the extreme and think outside the box. So the chefs are doing macaroni and cheese, and Chef Taylor gets hit with a great sabotage: he has to prepare dessert mac-n-cheese. And I was honestly rooting for him as he mixed mascarpone and white chocolate to create something that looked really, really yummy. A few minutes left on the clock and Chef Taylor’s golden...and then he utters the words of doom. “It’s missing something.” What does he toss in at the last second? Mother. Fucking. LOBSTER. I was stunned speechless. So was everybody on the show. LOBSTER? Judge Simon Majumdar looked at the plate in utter dread, and probably decided to boot Chef Taylor before he even tasted it. LOBSTER? If this is what Chef Taylor serves at his restaurant, stick its address on my GPS so I can maintain a fifty-mile radius. This was John Carpenter’s The Thing in a porcelain bowl. I do not like lobster, but I understand its culinary appeal...WHEN IT’S NOT INSIDE A FUCKING WHITE CHOCOLATE DESSERT! JESUS BARFED!
And that is the stupidest thing I have ever seen happen on Cutthroat Kitchen. And now do you see why this show is so great?