'Cutthroat Kitchen' premiere: Sabotage with care

PLEASE, DO NOT ATTEMPT THESE SABOTAGES AT HOME.

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Do go ahead and sabotage your loved ones in other, more despicable ways. But leave the ones loosely based on cooking to the experts. The formerly (still? underneath the evil?) sweet food/science expert Alton Brown has a new series on Food Network: In Cutthroat Kitchen, quality dishes and even playing fields are swept off the cutting board as four contestants per week are encouraged to sack each other with burdens. FOR MONEY. Alton, what are you doing?! It’s sort of like if Bill Nye the Science Guy did a show about how to murder your enemies without getting caught by pesky forensics squads. Alton’s just so out of place.

In this game in which “Sabotage is not only encouraged … IT’S FOR SALE,” four chefs start out with $25,000 each, which they can either keep or spend wisely on “auction items” that will disadvantage their opponents. There are three rounds, with one chef eliminated in each. The last chef standing gets to take his or her remaining money home. This week, Chef Frankie (who netted $11,900 — just about the right price for one’s dignity) had to cook with a processed turkey blob, replace eggs and milk with powdered eggs and milk for French toast, and add a frozen element plus blue cheese and red wine to the same French toast dish at the last minute. Aggggghh. He also had to bake his own bread for a lobster roll with 15 minutes to go, and LOSE ALL OF HIS UTENSILS while the lobster was still boiling in a pot. The saboteurs are encouraged to ham it up and act as bombastically mean as possible. It’s so awful!

BUT. Halfway through the show, I figured out how to finish out the hour with my faith in humanity intact, or at least not completely deleted: You just gotta think of the show as a live-action board game. It is NOT a show about cooking; it’s about improvisation and wildly inappropriate hard knocks. I liken it best to the game SORRY! No one’s actually sorry! It’s just how the game works.

One interesting element: The celebrity chef judge, whom I assume will be different each week (along with the quartet of murderous contestants), gets to sample the food with zero knowledge of the extreme disadvantages inflicted on the players. It turned out that Antonia Lofaso — who competed in the fourth and eighth (all-star) seasons of Top Chef — often didn’t even comment on what was clearly (to viewers and the players) the dishes’ biggest setbacks. The evildoers made plenty of stupid, non-game-related errors all on their own.

I’m not sure why I found the promos for Cutthroat Kitchen so intriguing. Am I that evil? I was probably just that hungry. Anyway — if you checked this out last night … would you tune in again?

“Ninja, please” — discuss!

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