Two Words: Alton Brown
Why watch “Chopped” when you can watch Alton Brown encourage endless, cookery sabotage instead?
By Kristian Porter, Northern Kentucky University
There are two types of people in this world: Those who like to watch friendly culinary competitions and those who like to watch the world burn.
“Cutthroat Kitchen” is made for the latter. If you haven’t seen this piece of television art, let me just tell you now, it is not your mama’s cooking show. It is essentially a competition between chefs where they must use the $25,000 they are given at the beginning to bid on sabotages to ruin their competitors’ dishes. And when I say sabotages, I mean things like making your utensils out of tin foil, doing all of your cooking on the surface area of an axe blade and cooking while literally suspended from the ceiling. It’s a wild ride.
Many people debate over whether this show can hold its own against “Chopped,” but “Cutthroat Kitchen” has one thing that “Chopped” will never have—Alton Brown. Here’s a list of reasons why Alton Brown is the deliciously evil glue that holds the show together.
1. He Makes Chefs Spend Their Money
Each round begins with an auction. The chefs start out with $25,000, but they’re able to keep whatever money they have left when they win. Most chefs want to hold onto as much money as possible, but Alton Brown is there to make sure that there are no tightwads in his kitchen.
He will fuel any bidding war he feels brewing, and if he doesn’t feel like enough bidding is happening, he will hype his sabotages. He’ll throw in a “You really don’t want to have to do this,” or a maniacal “I’m going to love watching you fail at this.” Then he will laugh as the bidding jumps from $500 up to $3000.
My favorite thing is when, in the final round, one chef will bid more money than the other chef has left. Brown will ask (fully knowing the answer) whether the chef will go up another $100 and then immediately cackle “deez nuts” style because they can’t. “Will you go $5,100, chef? Oh wait, you can’t! You don’t have $5,000! Ha, got ‘em!” Alton Brown will savagely tear a chef down without hesitation.
2. He Laughs at Their Pain
As I mentioned before, the sabotages on this show can get seriously ridiculous—thanks in no small part to Alton Brown. The joy on his face while he watches other people suffer is priceless. He will take away their knives, their pots and pans and sometimes even one of their hands. I have seen chefs cook with shovels, with a Hulk fist and while strapped to a human rotisserie (literally on a rotating pole like a piece of chicken). All the while, Brown makes his rounds, eyeing the chefs’ dishes and telling them what a horrible job they are doing. It’s sadistic—but in the best way.
He does it all with such charisma and charm that it’s hard not to laugh right along with him. Even before the actual cooking process begins, Brown takes pleasure in screwing everyone over. He announces to the chefs what kind of food he’s in the mood for and then watches as they trample each other in the pantry trying to get everything they need in 60 seconds. Inevitably, someone will run out of time and get trapped while Brown laughs maniacally at them from the outside. He’s so evil that it’s hilarious. He’ll pick out whatever item he thinks will hurt them the most to lose and takes it before releasing them from their cell.
“Cutthroat Kitchen” is really not even a cooking show. It’s a show about survival and who can MacGyver their way to something edible. And Alton Brown enjoys every painful moment of their struggle.
3. He Laughs at Himself
The introduction of every sabotage is like its own little skit. Oftentimes, it involves Brown coming out in ridiculous costumes or riding on tiny vehicles or carrying props. The entirety of the spinoff show “Camp Cutthroat” is Brown dressed like a borderline caveman who gets all of his sabotage props from a man in a bear suit that hides in a bush. It’s impossible to take any of that seriously, and Brown knows it. He is not afraid to laugh at himself and his own bad jokes.
His humor helps to make an otherwise ridiculous show light-hearted and enjoyable. I will admit that it can get a little corny at times, but who doesn’t love a good dad joke?
4. He Loves Being Right (And He Usually Is!)
The thing about Alton Brown is when he tells you that you’re doing something stupid, he’s almost always right. The man knows what he’s talking about. Long before “Cutthroat Kitchen,” he hosted, wrote and produced a sweet little show called “Good Eats” that strived to teach people the science behind cooking. In between all his torturing of the contestants, he still provides the audience with a lot of food facts and scientific explanations. He’s basically Bill Nye: The Iron Chef.
And he’s not completely heartless. He does try to help out the chefs when they’re making mistakes. The problem is that they never seem to listen. They will sabotage themselves by being too stubborn to take Brown’s advice and then get called out by the judge for it. Those moments are the best parts of the show. Behind the judge’s back, Brown will relish in the fact that he’s right. He will look into the camera like it’s an episode of “The Office,” and it gets me every time. Sometimes he’ll even mouth a comeback at the chef just to rub it in their faces a little more.
Alton Brown is a treasure. His charisma, sarcasm and intelligence help make “Cutthroat Kitchen” so much more entertaining than “Chopped.” They share the same foundation, but Brown’s off-the-wall sabotages and savage attitude make it a completely new kind of cooking competition. The great thing about Brown is that he is not a chef, nor is he a very qualified “science guy.” He flunked most of his science classes in high school and college and has no formal training as a culinary professional. He’s really just a kooky dude that loves food—and I think that’s something that everyone can relate to.