When it comes to hosting cooking competition shows, Alton Brown has one main qualification for deciding to sign on or not: it needs to be fun.
“When they asked me to host Cutthroat Kitchen, I told them that if it’s a competition show, unless it’s fun, I don’t want to do it,” he told The Daily Meal. “I just won’t do it if it isn’t fun.”
The show, which premieres on Food Network on Sunday, August 11th at 10 p.m., certainly looks like it’s whole lot of fun to host, and a real challenge to play. At the beginning of each episode, four competitors are each given $25,000 to play with. During the competition, they have the opportunity to bid on items that can either help them or hinder their opponents, and after each round a judge samples the food (without any knowledge of what took place during the round) and the competitor with the least appetizing food gets the boot. At the end, the winner leaves with however much cash he or she has leftover. As opposed to a more cut-and-dry competition show like Chopped, where there’s one basket of ingredients per round and everyone is on equal footing, there are a lot more variables at play here.
“It’s all about how you play the game,” Brown, who also hosts Food Network’s Iron Chef America and is a mentor on Food Network Star, said. “The judge has no idea what’s unfolded, so that makes it so much fun. One contestant paid a huge amount of money for exclusive use of salt, and the judge told him that his dish could have used more! It’s really every man for himself, and you never know how it’s going to turn out. The winner might end up bringing home no money because it had all been spent. It’s not just about skill; it’s about human nature and how you play the game.”
For Brown, hosting the show has been a ton of fun. “When we shot the pilot, I knew that it was a lot of fun, and really hope that it shows,” he said. “I get to be devilish, and I really have no idea who’s going to win. On Iron Chef America, I can usually tell who’s going to win within the first ten minutes. On Cutthroat Kitchen, it’s really anyone’s game.
This Is Who Alton Brown Thinks Should Be The Next Host Of Cutthroat Kitchen
Alton Brown, who has been uncharacteristically absent from Twitter following a bizarre pre-election meltdown and a subsequent bombshell drop regarding his party affiliation (tweets since deleted), has finally broken the silence — thankfully, not with any more talk of politics! Instead, he's back on the subject of food, or rather food TV, which is a far less divisive topic.
Okay, so we can get pretty heated over the best way to prepare a steak (Brown says it's okay to eat it with ketchup, though this is not a popular opinion amongst his fellow foodies), but it's not the kind of thing we typically throw down over (not unless Bobby Flay is involved, at least). As far as food TV fandoms go, we've yet to hear of any turf wars between members of Team Rachael vs. Team Ree.
So what's got the chef all a-Twitter? It seems he's now lobbying Food Network to revive his old series, Cutthroat Kitchen. Not with him back in the hosting role, though — he bailed on the show in 2018, and hasn't looked back since. The CK reboot, Brown thinks, should instead star Jet Tila, the Thai-American chef (via Food Network) who so often appeared as a judge on the show.
In June of this year I was selected to compete on Food Network’s new show, Cutthroat Kitchen hosted by the famous foodie Alton Brown. This would be my first ever exposure to a major broadcast production and the Food Network. I was extremely fired up and very anxious. The producers gave little information about what was going to occur on the show, and for good reason. The shock and awe effect of the craziness just adds to great television drama.
The cooking challenges were pretty straight forward, but with ‘devilish’ twists thrown in by Alton Brown. He would present to us a dish to make, we would have a panic filled 60 seconds to shop for EVERYTHING we needed, and then 30 minutes to execute the dish. However, before we started cooking there were three items up for auction which would hinder your competitors cooking strategy if you successfully won the item. More on this later…
After a long morning of rules, non-disclosures, kitchen tours and nervous pacing we finally got to meet Alton and begin our competition. He presented us with our cash and I can speak for all the chefs saying that our heart rates definitely started to climb. It was time to battle. Our first dish ‘a perfect Burrito.’ I was fired up. I knew exactly what I wanted to make, I knew exactly how to do it, and I knew I had more than enough time. I was feeling good. The pantry raid was hectic to say the least. What you can’t see on TV is how hard it is to get all of your ingredients in 60 seconds. Literally throwing elbows and grabbing anything and everything you see into your tiny basket. Luckily I made it out in time, and I was pretty sure I grabbed everything I needed.
And now came the Auctions. The first item was 2 chefs knives. I was confident I could make this burrito with out the use of my knives so I stepped away and observed how the other chef’s bid up the item. $5k they went for, a bit too much if you ask me. The next item was frozen cocktail weenies. I wasn’t to worried about getting hot dog meat for my burrito, but I easily stepped away from this item when Chef Ma Le & Chef Greg got into a fierce bidding war. I knew the loser was going to get them, and I was correct. The last item was frozen burritos, where we had to use the shell for the tortilla. This was going to be difficult with out a knife. But, I laid back a bit and observed the bidding. All 3 other chefs got into it, but things got scary for me when Chef Greg bowed out. If I didn’t start bidding against the ladies, I was going to get these nasty things. So I won and saved Chef Greg by giving them to Ma Le, solely because Chef DiCarlo didn’t have tortillas. I didn’t want to give her something that would eventually help.
Finally we cooked. This was fast and furious. I was doing hot laps around the kitchen looking for items that would substitute for a knife. I pulled a board scraper, an oyster shucker and a grater. During the first 8-10 minutes I was doing pretty well. I had a salsa roasting in the oven, my protein was cooking, I had hash browns getting crispy I was feeling good. And then another auction item came. Oven mitts for the remainder of the battle. Are you kidding? Well, cutting through it all they landed on my station. Chef Ma Le got me back for the frozen burritos. I don’t even wear oven mitts when I pull things out of the oven. Cooking with these things was a serious handicap. My plans for making my California Burrito upscale and elegant went out the door, and my main concern was to just be able to roll the burrito and put something on the plate. As time ticked down (FYI. The clock does NOT exist in the kitchen, you have to ask Alton for time remaining) I gave myself a solid 5 minutes to try and roll this burrito with those huge, red oven mitts. What you don’t see on TV is that it took me about 4 trys to find the process for rolling it into a passable and tight burrito. I looked around and I thought I was surely done. I was so upset and angry that I was going to get eliminated in the first round. I knew my only chance of making it through was if I got lucky on a technicality that Chef DiCarlo didn’t use a tortilla thus didn’t make a burrito. Well, I was right. Thank goodness.
I was feeling better about the second round. Ready for redemption, and genuinely excited to cook again. And then Alton gave us Pie. In 30 minutes. Fuck. Pastry is by far my weakest skill. Not gonna lie, I panicked inside the pantry. I just grabbed things I thought would help me make a dessert. And to top that panic off, Chef Greg took ALL of my hand tools and gifted me the Pie Scraper for the battle. Awesome. Luckily I made do, and crafted some spatulas and hand tools out of random parts of other bigger kitchen items. My proud moment was using a piece of a food mill to create orange zest (the graters were off limits too). I pressed on and threw together items that I could hopefully spin off as a pie. Meanwhile, I was getting accosted by Alton Brown the entire battle for making what he called a Cobbler. I pressed on, and made my dish as pretty as I could. I knew it tasted good, so I was banking on that to carry me through to the finals. However, when looking at all of the finished dishes
I was sure I was going to get eliminated by the same technicality that got me into the 2nd round. I was feeling a bit frustrated and upset that I was likely going to get tossed out of the competition. But I looked down at my dish and thought, you know I got something delicious and pretty on the plate. If I am going home, I knew I would be eliminated for a dessert. Head high, fuck it. Judgement went as expected, but I didn’t realize that Chef Ma Le had completely botched her crust. Holy shit, I’m in the finals. Fuck yes. I am winning this.
The finals. Alton announced it was going to be a Teriyaki Bowl challenge. Teriyaki was one of the first things I ever learned to make. I could smell victory. The pantry raid this time was a little more methodical for me. I knew I wanted to get every sauce component first so I wouldn’t be scrambling at the end of 60 seconds and not grabbing soy sauce or something vital. Chef Greg had gotten to the proteins before me, so the steak was gone, but I was pretty happy when I saw Salmon. I also took both packets of Sushi Rice, not knowing that Chef Greg had taken Farro. This would actually end up being useful after I was gifted some $11,000 coconuts. The coconut water sabotage was absolutely brutal. It was insanely difficult to get the husk off and get to the coconut. I had all of the line producers, both medics and three cameras around me on the floor as I wailed through the husk to harvest the water. Shit was flying everywhere. I couldn’t help but laugh, and also try not to hack off my fingers. I was real lucky that there was enough water in one coconut to cook rice with… I just prayed I had enough time to cook it. I believe I started my coconut water rice with about 21 minutes left in the battle. And, with all of the time it took me to harvest the water, I was behind in cooking the other components of my dish. But, I knew my sauce was good. So I pressed on. Not totally portrayed on TV, I pulled my rice with 90 seconds to go, and had to construct my plate after the rice had hit the bowl. I literally was down to the final seconds. If my rice was cooked, I was going to win.
Judging was a little more fun for me this round. I got railed a bit for the vegetables, but without any water and being pressed for time I thought I did a good job on the broccoli. Luckily Chef Tila made his decision based on sauce. Once he said that, I knew I had won. Fired up! I was ecstatic and in shock that I was able to overcome all of the shit that was thrown at me. No knives, Oven mitts, no hand tools, a Pie Scraper, and that goddamn Coconut. This was no small feat. I got handed something detrimental in every round. And, I won. Between my boy scout background and my profession cooking in a different place every night truly helped and prepared me to win this competition. Also, being a former Division 1 water polo player helped fuel my competitive nature and ability to fight with my back up against a wall.
I have to say that I was very fortunate to compete against some incredible Chefs. They are all extremely talented at their craft, and also good people. It was fun hanging out all day, I think we all agree on that.
I have been apart of a number of different advertising productions, but this was my first experience with a TV show. I have to say, the production team was incredible. I can’t relate how great the producers were. Kelly and Mike especially! (hope you guys read this!). Huge kudos to everyone that works on the show, I thank you for such a wonderful and positive experience.
If you haven’t seen Alton’s After Show, check it out as the sabotages were revealed to Chef Tila!
The Cutthroat Kitchen concept was born out of another Food Network show
Cutthroat Kitchen didn't have much in common with Good Eats, the show Alton Brown hosted from 1999-2012. The idea behind having chefs try to cook a dish in the middle of the most ridiculous situations possible came about during Brown's time with The Next Iron Chef.
Brown explained that during a few of the Next Iron Chef episodes, they did a series of challenges where certain ingredients would be auctioned off based on how quickly a chef claimed they could cook it. "So if we're bidding on tuna: 'I can cook that tuna in five minutes,' 'I can cook that tuna in four minutes,'" Brown explained. He went on to say that the scenes proved to be incredibly fun for both the chefs and the audience, and this led to discussions of how the auctioning concept could be expanded on its own. "My thing was, the judges shouldn't know what's going on, because then everyone's judged on a level playing field, and that makes the game more fun," Brown said. Of course, what Brown might consider "fun," Cutthroat Kitchen contestants probably considered downright evil.
Alton's Dream Cutthroat Kitchen Sabotages Revealed
Let's set the scene: utensils made from aluminum, no salt, missing ingredients and an evilicious grin to top it off. These are all the ingredients that make up Cutthroat Kitchen. Every Sunday night, Alton dishes out sabotages that can trip up even the best of chefs — but here's the kicker: Alton truly enjoys watching the chefs distribute and overcome the obstacles that are thrown at them.
"I love seeing people play the game, so anything that accentuates that, I'm a fan of. I grew up loving game shows," Alton recently told FN Dish on the set of his show. "The auctioning segments are my favorite part — I enjoy the strategies used by the chefs," he continued saying.
So what's Alton's dream sabotage? "When it comes to the sabotages, I can envision episodes that take place off set, like outside challenges. Though I don't necessarily think that bigger is always better," Alton said. "For instance, I would love to do a show where the sabotages aren't decided until after the chefs have shopped. Where we're changing the game as the game goes along. Or another idea I like would be to give them more options: Which would you rather face? Why not give them the opportunity to choose the paths that they would take, like on an obstacle course?"
Alton Brown on Hosting Cutthroat Kitchen: “I Get to be Devilish” - Recipes
After writing, producing and hosting Good Eats on the Food Network for 13 years, Alton Brown was ready for a new challenge. Cutthroat Kitchen is Brown's "evilicious" game show-style cooking program that pits four chefs against each other in a race to cook gourmet meals as quickly as possible. The meals are then judged by celebrity guests.
If you're a fan, you'll enjoy watching a day in the life of Alton Brown on the set of Cutthroat Kitchen. Alton Brown never leaves his trailer without going through his "checklist," which includes his watch to time the challenges and the microphone, which he wears on his foot. Alton also needs to remember his glasses and his phone so he can get to the set when he needs to, but most importantly, he requires a cup of coffee.
Alton goes into makeup before he begins shooting. He also checks on the money the contestants receive in a big briefcase. But guess what? It's not real money! Alton stands offstage before he makes a grand entrance to the typically intimidated chefs. Once the segment has been shot, the crew goes in to clean up the kitchen, which must be cleaned three times a day, and is not small job. Alton also inserts his culinary commentary for each of the chefs based on what he and the culinary producer have noted.
At the end of the day, Alton says he sometimes snacks on the food in the pantry!
Watch the video above for a behind-the-scenes look at Alton Brown's Cutthroat Kitchen.
He had no idea what he was talking about
Alton Brown makes being smart look pretty effortless, but when he first started on Iron Chef America, he says he didn't have the foggiest idea what half the ingredients were. He'd already been doing Good Eats for a few years, but still told the Bitter Southerner that when he got the call for Iron Chef, he agreed, showed up on set, and was dumbfounded.
"I showed up to do that job, it's like, 'What the hell is any of this stuff?' . I'm like, 'I shop at Kroger, OK?' You don't get 16 different kinds of freaking kelp at Kroger."
Brown says it was a huge learning curve, especially considering they started out shooting two episodes a day. He needed to learn so much, so fast, and talk about it on the fly that he said he would get home at night and not remember a thing they cooked, used, or that he talked about. "As soon as I was done using it, I flushed it."
Alton Brown shares recipes to try during the quarantine
RICHMOND, Va. -- Celebrity Chef Alton Brown shared his new project “Quarantine Quitchen.” Chef Alton has been a member of the Food Network family for over 20 years and has served as the writer and host of Good Eats.
Additionally, he served as the culinary commentator and host of Iron Chef America and Cutthroat Kitchen and has written eight books on food and cooking.
Today, he joins us to share his newest project, “Quarantine Quitchen” and a special recipe for his signature french avocado and hearts of palm salad. To learn more about Chef Alton, visit his website.
Interview provided by Conagra - Healthy Choice Power Dressings
French Avocado and Hearts of Palm Salad
Recipe Courtesy of Alton Brown
4 ounces (115 grams) French bread, sliced into 1-inch cubes (about 3 cups bread cubes)
7 tablespoons Healthy Choice Power Dressing Garden French
1 1/2 teaspoons safflower or other neutral oil
2 (5-ounce/140-gram) ripe avocados, pitted, peeled, and sliced into thin wedges
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
3 lightly packed cups butter lettuce, torn into 2- to 3-inch pieces
3/4 cup (4 ounces/115 grams) thinly sliced rounds of hearts of palm
1/4 cup (1 ounce/30 grams) finely diced inner celery stalks
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1. Heat the oven to 300 degrees F.
2. In a large bowl, combine the bread with 1 tablespoon dressing and the oil. Toss, squeezing the bread lightly, to coat it completely with the dressing and oil. Transfer to a sheet pan and bake, stirring occasionally, until the croutons are lightly browned and crisp, about 30 minutes. Let cool to room temperature. Measure out 1 cup of croutons for the salad and save the remainder for another use.
3. In a medium bowl, toss the avocado slices with the lemon juice and 1/4 teaspoon of salt.
4. Divide the lettuce between four chilled salad plates and sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Top with the seasoned avocado, hearts of palm, and celery. Drizzle 1 1/2 tablespoons dressing over each salad, then top with the croutons and a few grinds of black pepper. Serve immediately.
Alton Brown taking a break from ɼutthroat Kitchen'
Marietta's own Alton Brown announced on social media today that he will be taking a break from hosting Food Network's popular reality competition show "Cutthroat Kitchen" to focus on an unnamed cooking show on the Internet.
He didn't provide any details about how long the break will be, what the new show will look like or where it might air. He merely made the announcement in a microwave, "Good Eats" style. Presumably, his Web show will have a bit of that original, off-beat "Good Eats" flavor.
Since 2013, Food Network has pumped out an astounding 178 episodes of "Cutthroat Kitchen," where Brown creates a panoply of sadistic sabotages to make cooking more difficult for the contestants. Examples: using an extra-tiny kitchen replete with mini-utensils, prepping food in a colorful ball pit or forcing a chef to wear a dog cone and mix ingredients in traffic cones.
Every 13 episodes is considered a season, so the network has almost completed a whopping 14 seasons in 38 months. It's unclear how many Brown has pre-taped but I expect Food Network will pump out several more episodes before the hiatus arrives. I'm awaiting a response from Food Network, if the network plans to provide any information regarding Brown's announcement.
If you want a deeper dive into Brown's psyche, check out this New York Times profile. The normally very private Brown promotes his new book "Everyday Cook: This Time It's Personal" and delves into his live show, his divorce, his subsequent drinking and his current exercise obsession.
Brown built his fame on TV over 14 seasons and 249 episodes of his own quirky show "Good Eats," followed by stints on "Iron Chef America," "Food Network Star" and "Cutthroat Kitchen." You can still catch "Good Eats" repeats on the Cooking Channel.
Rodney Ho writes about entertainment for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution including TV, radio, film, comedy and all things in between. A native New Yorker, he has covered education at The Virginian-Pilot, small business for The Wall Street Journal and a host of beats at the AJC over 20-plus years. He loves tennis, pop culture & seeing live events.
Alton Brown on What the 'Cutthroat Kitchen' Cameras Never Show
Cooking show host Alton Brown is best known for Good Eats , an exploration in the science of cooking that's hilarious and just a bit weird. He's also worked on Iron Chef America and Cutthroat Kitchen a high-stakes competition that's hilarious and…just a bit weird. This spring, Brown's stepping out from the TV cameras to travel the country on his " Eat Your Science " tour. He'll be taking over the Bon Appétit snapchat account this Saturday, April 9 (find us there at username BonAppetitMag , and Brown at thealtonbrown ). In the meantime, he took a break from truckin' across the country to answer some questions about cooking, dining out, and, duh, bacon.
If you could add one cooking lesson to kids' sciences classes, what would it be?
It would be making caramel sauce, because the burning of sugars is a huge part of not only cuisine, but also how molecules break down, how digestion works, and how energy is stored in carbon chains. It's very visual and also dangerous because it involves high heat. But I think understanding the relationship between energy and heat, and how that changes is a valuable lesson from both a chemical and culinary standpoint.
What cuisine would you like to learn more about?
I am fascinated by Asian cuisines in general, but specifically Thai, Vietnamese, and Japanese. The kind of near-mysticism around the almost obsessive nature of Japanese food is very seductive to me getting everything so perfectly right, and the process and technique that drives everything. And the flavor balances that come out of Thai and Vietnamese food blow me away every time.
You're on tour what's your airport food or drink of choice?
I don't drink a whole lot of alcohol anymore, but the only thing I will drink on an airplane or in an airport is vodka and tonic—and I never drink it unless I am on an airplane or in an airport. Heavy lime.
What is one thing the TV cameras will never show on a food show?
A few weeks ago on Cutthroat Kitchen we had a young lady who cut herself badly enough that she had to be taken out of the competition. We didn't try to cover that up, but we would never show the actual moment of injury.
What do most people say when they recognize you in public?
The largest number of people that say something to me will say something like, "You're that science guy!" I appreciate the irony of it because I flunked most of my science classes in high school and had to take several of my college ones twice. The fact that I am now "the science guy" says something very peculiar about something.
What's the biggest misconception about you as a cook?
It's the assumption that I'm a chef, which I do not purport to be in any way, shape, or form.
What food are you powerless against?
A bag of barbecue potato chips. In my heart, I am a trash eater. Keep your freakin' truffles, bring me the potato chips.
What's the weirdest thing in your fridge right now?
Why is that in your fridge?
Experiments? I was actually using it as a coagulant in sauce. I was also using it in sausages. I have a friend with chickens and he gave me a pint of chicken blood.
What's the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word "foodie"?
Pretentious. I am seriously over the term. People used to say, "I'm a gourmet," or "I'm a gourmet cook," to connote a preoccupation with food and culinary matters. We've recycled that term into "foodie" for the Instagram generation.
What's the first dish anyone should master?
It's scrambled eggs. I truly believe that it's lesson number one. It's what I call a launchpad dish. Because eggs are basically liquid meat they're cheap and come in individual containers. You can even eat them when they're not cooked very well. It doesn't require butchery or knife skills. It's something even a kid can do.
What's your preferred method for scrambling them?
Butter in the pan. Nothing but butter.
What's a popular food obsession you just can't get behind?
Sriracha. It's not that good! It's fine, but everybody goes gaga over sriracha. On Cutthroat Kitchen , the chefs put it on everything, like it's bottled bacon or something.
Interview has been edited and condensed.
Make sure to follow BonAppetitMag on Snapchat to see what Brown is up to this weekend, and for general adventures in the test kitchen. Things get weird.