Review - Cutthroat Kitchen
Originally posted: September 7th, 2013

Text by: Robert Seidelman

It's becoming more of a trend over at Food Network that to make a new cooking competition show, you take a person who worked at Food Network at some point, take an existing format that's currently on the air, and add something to it and presto, you have a brand new show to air. In 2012, they took Food Network Challenge and made it even more bigger and blingier and you had Sugar Dome, which flopped incredibly hard. This line of thinking brings us to the recent debut of the new cooking competition show: Cutthroat Kitchen.

The formula now features the following: Take person who now does Iron Chef in Alton Brown, the format is Chopped (Which has been ripped off to death over the past 4 years), and add purposeful sabotage and an auction format and you have Cutthroat Kitchen. I'm already tired of Chopped being dissected, moved into harsher habitats (See, Extreme Chef), reformatted with a single food item in its presence (See Cupcake Wars) and then blended with more unpleasant items and twists, so already it's not looking good.

The show has Alton Brown as your host. While normally very dependable as a host on Iron Chef and Next Food Network Star, here he is really out of place. Here, he has to play diabolical auctioneer and snarky madman to the benefit of nothing. Actually, his hosting is very detrimental to the hosting of it all. He's better as someone who knows what he's talking about in a booth or in a production setting. In a chopped setting, he really doesn't have that oomph like a Ted Allen does or a Ben Robert-Israel did on Sweet Genius.

The format has this: 4 contestants start with $25,000 and try to create a dish that Alton calls for in a certain amount of time and has to create a tasty version of said food in order to appease a judge who doesn't see them cook or knows what circumstances they have to endure. That's right, circumstances they have to endure. In this show, they start with 1 minute to grab ingredients in the pantry and have to get out before Alton shuts the door on them. Following the pantry, the auctions start. The auctions are essentially penalties that the chefs can force on someone such as they have something from their basket stolen, they are forced to use a camp stove as their only means of cooking among other punishments. This type of stuff was ripped from the worst Food Network cooking competition: Extreme Chef. After the cooking time is up, a singular judge comes down and tastes the dishes, not knowing what obstacles they had to endure or what ingredients they had to make. After the judge is done tasting, a decision has to be made in who gets sent home. The eliminated person gives back the leftover money and is out of the game. This repeats two more times until we have a winner and the winner gets the money they have left over from auctions. I can understand recycling the tried and true Chopped way of eliminating contestants, but adding in stuff from Extreme Chef makes it all just nauseating. Chopped had an act of fairness. Everyone deals with the same basket of mystery ingredients and each of them deals with them in their same way. Cutthroat has it where one person can just skate by with a mediocre dish that Alton calls for because they have no punishments levied on them. It's basically having us root for the person with the most punishments, but there's one major flaw in all of this.

The biggest flaw is that they gave us the most unlikeable batch of contestants I have ever seen in any food network show since Geoffrey Zakarian won The Next Iron Chef. Watching the first few episodes in the run and the contestants are usually stereotyped in the hard-working, but annoying white guy, the annoying white housewife, douche bag foreigner and the over the top and self-aggrandizing minority (either race or LGBT, take your pick). Not only that, they give us no reason to cheer for any of them. They all vow to screw each other and win the game and the money is secondary. That reasoning irks me to no end. Shows like Iron Chef, Chopped and even Cupcake Wars all had a good reason to back the people playing the game, whether to prove them self as a great chef, to visit relatives they haven't seen in a long time in a foreign country or some other reason to make us root for them. This show doesn't do any of that.

At the end of the day, the show itself is little more than a Chopped wannabe where nothing about the show works. The concept is fine, but it's thoroughly destroyed by slipshod production, Alton Brown as an unlikeable host and contestants straight out of a casting for Big Brother, namely this past season. It's also worrying that Michael Davies decided to do this show, when he's capable of much better shows like Pyramid and even though it had a terrible host in Dylan Lane, Chain Reaction. It's hardly worth a look, but if you like Chopped and one of the few that liked Extreme Chef, you might find something in this show that you'll enjoy.
Rating: D