This isn’t really a food blog, per se. I’m all about the vino. So when it comes to Cutthroat Kitchen, I tried to stay away. I really did. But it’s kinda like looking at a big multi-car-and-truck smashup. Some things you can’t just pass by without watching in horror, and some things can’t go unaddressed.
I wrote about Cutthroat Kitchen last year shortly after it debuted. While I had had a feeling that it was going to be somewhat smarmy, I was unprepared for the sheer nastiness and stupidity that’s the show’s concept.
I happen to think that there’s a certain dignity in those who are schooled and experienced in the culinary arts that even shows like Chopped can’t entirely erase. The likes of Julia Child, James Beard, and Thomas Keller, among others, are respected world-wide for their legacies. No matter what you may think of Gordon Ramsay and his notorious histrionics, there’s no doubt that he takes his work very seriously and insists upon high standards in every regard.
“Food competition” shows as a genre are a little – or a lot – on the silly side. Are they fun? Apparently, when you look at the neighborhood spin-offs that the shows seem to inspire. More than once I’ve seen a commercial about faux “Iron Chef,” “Chopped,” or “Cupcake War” competitions that have been held at neighborhood block parties, workplaces, schools, PTAs, etc. Okay. I can buy that, and some of them did look like fun. Even – and I grimace as I say this – the neighborhood “Chopped” competitions.
I watched the first Cutthroat Kitchen episode out of curiosity more than anything because by that time I had come to accept Chopped as somewhat of an anomaly – weird, incomprehensible, oddly entertaining. I had also decided that Chopped was entertainment despite the faux seriousness of the judges’ demeanors while judging dishes made of incomprehensibly incompatible ingredients. “Incompatible” sounds better and more high-class than “nasty.” Taking the high road here.
When Food Network decided to renew the abortion that is Cutthroat Kitchen for another season, I was revolted. And then some. To use a quasi-Las Vegas term, they doubled-down on stupid.
I commented earlier about the late Julia Child, James Beard, and the very much alive Thomas Keller. Maybe I don’t have much of an imagination, but I have a difficult time picturing them participating in Cutthroat Kitchen. My respect for the CK “judges” (accomplished in their own right) has nose-dived because of their involvement in this silliness. Apparently Food Network has enough commas in the paycheck or enough contract lawyers on retainer to make that little annoying trait called self-respect irrelevant.
“Well Irene,” you may say, “there are people who watch it, like it, and it’s gotten good reviews!”
Yeah? So? There are people who think WWF is real, the Kardashians have talent, and who throw newborn puppies into rivers. None of these has anything to do with good taste, selectivity, or entertainment. When I watch the newly wicked and scheming persona that Alton Brown has donned, I try to imagine, say, James Beard performing in the same guise. You know, I just can’t.
I know that what I have to say isn’t going to change anyone’s mind at Food Network. Their apparent goal is to go after the lowest common denominator that will bring the largest amount of advertising dollars. Hey, it’s a business and I’m all about free enterprise. And, frankly, I like a lot of the shows on the network. Even Iron Chef America, despite its whooshes, culinary curveball, and the first-dish-in-20-minutes silliness, is still one of my favorites, although I still feel that the whooshes enforce inappropriate racist stereotypes. I just DVR the episodes and fast forward through the parts that affect my blood pressure.
With that being said, it’s unfortunate that they seem to feel that in order to be relevant in today’s world of entertainment, they have to stoop to this level. And what’s worse is that the chefs who eagerly participate will have – by dint of being a contestant in this show – divested themselves of the dignity of the profession and taken themselves out of the same conversation where the names of the greats are spoken with whispered respect. Somehow someone who has schemed to have his fellow chef cook with plastic utensils so that s/he could win some money out of a suitcase just doesn’t garner much admiration. Unless, of course, one feels that such scheming is worthy of admiration.
I guess that for the sake of filthy lucre, stabbing your colleague in the back with a spork is how things work nowadays.