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Cutthroat Kitchen

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Alton Brown

Original language(s)

First episode date
11 August 2013

Simon Majumdar


Reality, cooking

Country of origin
United States

No. of seasons

Food Network

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No. of episodes
168 + 1 special (list of episodes)

Simon Majumdar, Antonia Lofaso, Jet Tila, Richard Blais

Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directing - Reality Programs

Guy's Grocery Games, Chopped, Beat Bobby Flay, Iron Chef America, Chopped Junior

Cutthroat Kitchen is a cooking show hosted by Alton Brown that premiered on the Food Network on August 11, 2013. It features four chefs competing in a three-round elimination cooking competition. The contestants face auctions in which they can purchase opportunities to sabotage one another. Each chef is given $25,000 at the start of the show; the person left standing keeps whatever money he/she has not spent in the auctions. The show is in its fifteenth season as of November 2016. The series shares some basic elements with other four-chef, three-round elimination-style competitions on Food Network including Chopped and Guy's Grocery Games. Numerous Cutthroat Kitchen contestants have competed on these shows.


Cutthroat Kitchen Cutthroat Kitchen


Cutthroat Kitchen The Real Reason to Watch Cutthroat Kitchen Vulture

Each episode features four chefs competing in a three-round elimination contest. Brown gives each chef $25,000 cash before the first round; for insurance reasons, prop money is used instead of actual currency. The chefs each have their own stations to prepare and cook food, and the kitchen includes a wide range of other tools and equipment as well as a pantry stocked with ingredients.

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In each round, the chefs are assigned a dish to create. Although most dishes are specific, such as macaroni and cheese, French toast, or fish and chips, Brown occasionally issues a broader challenge such as British pub food or a skillet breakfast. Other than in the first season, and a handful of second and third-season episodes, the first two rounds typically feature savory dishes and the third features a dessert. After the dish is announced, the chefs have one minute to collect all of the ingredients they need from the pantry in one trip, using metal hand-held shopping baskets. When the time runs out, Brown shuts the pantry doors; any chefs who remain inside must surrender an ingredient of Brown's choosing.

Cutthroat Kitchen Cutthroat Kitchen Wikipedia

In each of the first two rounds, Brown follows the shopping time by auctioning off a series of items that the chefs can use to sabotage one another. Sabotage types include equipment/ingredient changes, restrictions on movement freedom, and loss of cooking time. The highest bidder pays for the item out of his/her remaining funds, and if necessary, decides which opponent(s) will face the sabotage. The auctions are followed by the chefs preparing and plating their dishes in 30 minutes. Brown occasionally offers additional auctions during the cooking time. In the final round, the two chefs remaining begin cooking immediately after shopping for their ingredients, and the auctions take place while they are working. As each round progresses, Brown offers comments (delivered as a piece to camera) on the chefs' cooking methods and strategies to compensate for the sabotages.

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Once the cooking time has expired, all visible indication of the sabotages is removed from the set and a judge is brought into the kitchen to evaluate the dishes. In order for the judge to be able to offer an unbiased opinion, he/she is sequestered in an isolation room during each round and is not told about any of the sabotages that were in effect. Each dish is judged solely on three criteria: taste, presentation, and resemblance to the assigned dish. The chefs are given a chance to describe and explain their dish and choices. They may not complain in general or disclose any sabotages they faced, but they may try to explain (truthfully or otherwise) the cooking choices they made or were forced to make.

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The chef whose dish is judged the least satisfactory is eliminated from the game and forfeits all of his/her remaining money. After the final round, the surviving chef keeps whatever money he/she has not spent on auction items.


Jet Tila, Simon Majumdar, and Antonia Lofaso have served as regular judges since the series premiere. In 2016, Richard Blais became a regular judge as well, starting with the Season 12 episode "The Breakfast and the Furious." With the exception of "Judging Judges" and "Valentine's Day Massacre" (see below), each episode features only one judge who evaluates the dishes in every round. The contestants do not learn the judge's identity until he/she enters the kitchen at the end of the first round.

Guest judges have appeared in some episodes, as shown below.

Superstar Sabotage Tournament

In October 2014, a special five-part celebrity tournament subtitled "Superstar Sabotage" began airing. The contestants competed on behalf of their favorite charities for a potential top prize of $75,000. Four preliminary heats were held, with four chefs participating in each heat. The winners received their unspent money as charity donations and advanced to the finals, where they were given an initial stake of $50,000. All chefs eliminated in the preliminary heats received $2,500 for their charities.

A second Superstar Sabotage tournament premiered in November 2015.

2014 contestants

2015 contestants

Evilicious Tournament

From April 19 to May 17, 2015, Cutthroat Kitchen aired a five-part "Evilicious" Tournament featuring 16 of the show's most memorable contestants. Similar to Superstar Sabotage, this tournament consisted of four preliminary heats, with the winners keeping their unspent money and advancing to the final round for a chance to win up to $50,000 more.


Camp Cutthroat

From August 12 to September 9, 2015, Cutthroat Kitchen aired a five-episode Camp Cutthroat tournament, which Variety described as Brown "invit[ing] the most elite Cutthroat Kitchen alumni to a secret location deep in the wilderness for an extreme culinary throw down." These episodes were filmed in Santa Clarita, California, at the same movie ranch site as the 2014 FOX reality series Utopia.

Instead of the usual 16 contestants for a tournament, only 12 participated in the 2015 tournament. This meant that each preliminary round featured only three contestants and two rounds. The finale had the usual four contestants and three rounds. Due to there being less contestants in the preliminaries, there was potential for more than one mid-round sabotage in the first round in each of the heats. The second and final round of each of the heats also had the contestants bid on auctions before they began cooking their dishes. This was the first such occurrence in the history of Cutthroat Kitchen.

2015 contestants

A second Camp Cutthroat Tournament, titled Camp Cutthroat 2: Alton's Revenge began airing August 2016. The 2016 Tournament brought back 16 contestants and was filmed in Big Bear, California. No auctions were held in the last round of the finale. Instead, both chefs were subjected to conditions of simulated warfare, collecting ingredients and prepping/cooking under a bombardment of water balloons.

2016 contestants

Time Warp Tournament

In June 2016, a special "Time Warp" Tournament aired. All 16 returning contestants were the winners of their original episodes. Each of the four heats and the finale featured dishes and sabotages from different decades, from the 1950s-80s in the four heats until the 1990s in the finale. This is the first tournament where the chefs in the finale were given the standard $25,000 to start. In all previous tournaments the chefs in the finale started with $50,000.


Tournament of Terror

On September 28, 2016 a Halloween themed tournament, titled Tournament of Terror began airing. It brought back 16 previous contestants for a chance to win up to $50,000. The tournament concluded on October 30, 2016.



Two companion series are available on the Food Network website. In Alton's After-Show, Brown meets with the judge from a particular episode and reveals the sabotages that were in effect during each round of the competition. The two discuss methods by which the chefs could have adjusted their recipes to compensate for these disadvantages. Testing the Sabotages features food stylists' efforts to create assigned dishes while complying with restrictions on ingredients and equipment.


On April 23, 2013, Food Network announced Cutthroat Kitchen as part of a package of new series to be presented on Food Network.


In the episode "My So-Called Trifle" (season 12 episode 1; 13 March 2016), featured the first time a chef was eliminated due to (self-inflicted) injury, from cutting off her own fingertip. Instead of elimination, all the remaining chefs made it through to the next round, and instead the best chef of the round was selected, who then had their money total reset to the full amount. This led to a new record for most spent at $35,300 and also least won at $300.


Cutthroat Kitchen Wikipedia