Thursday, October 17, 2013

Cutthroat Kitchen

Doom has granted Cutthroat Kitchen, the new Food Network game show, a few weeks of his attention, and Doom has concluded thus: It's fatally flawed.

The premise is this: Four chefs are given an item to prepare -- tacos, fried chicken and a side, spaghetti and meatballs, etc. They have 60 seconds to grab items from a pantry. They are each given $25,000 and to bid on items to improve their meals or sabotage their competitors. They might give themselves better cuts of meat or make another chef cook exclusively with a campsite burner. Some chefs suffer multiple sabotages in each round. The chefs have a certain time to cook the item. Halfway through, they may bid on yet another sabotage. At the end of the time, a guest chef judges the dishes and eliminates one competitor round by round until one is left. The winner gets to keep whatever money he has left after all the auctions.

The problem is this: The dish is considered a success the closer it comes to the platonic ideal of that dish. For instance, when a chef cannot make spaghetti because he has lost his noodles in a sabotage, that chef loses the round because he has not made "spaghetti and meatballs."

The show demands the competitors react to curveballs and outright cruelty. The judge knows this but they are not told the specific sabotage the chefs have suffered. The majority of chefs have been eliminated because the end result of their improvisation and salvage has not produced the classic example of the requested dish. And the show is designed to make that nigh-impossible. Flavor and creativity and effort and resolve mean squat.The Accursed Richards could be judged the superior chef over Doom (yes, even over DOOM) merely because he stole Doom's ingredients.

One could argue this mirrors the chaos of a real kitchen. The customers don't know what happens behind those doors as their dish is prepared. But, the judge has not requested the food. He has not decided a longtime favorite or tried something new. He is informed after the food is made what the chef has been told to make. And the judge-chef decides which dish best matches that title regardless of available ingredients and resources. Again, the chefs' success is determined almost exclusively by the expectation of the judge based on a meal he didn't order.

In Chopped and Iron Chef, the judges of course don't choose the meals. But they know what the chefs have to work with and how they adjusted to hiccups in their limited cooking time. They take into account the effort in preparing the meal in addition to how successful those efforts are compared to other chefs.

In Cutthroat Kitchen, a show named for the many opportunities for sabotage, food is judged with no regard for that sabotage or the responses to it. That strikes Doom as silly. As silly as the Accursed Richards making taco deemed superior than Doom's.

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