Over this past summer, one of my roommates got me hooked on watching the Food Network's Cutthroat Kitchen. Once I found out that the first four seasons were on Netflix, it was game over for any real productivity. I even got my mom to binge watch episodes with me. It's better to watch it (and drink) with someone else anyway. Plus, the fact that Dan Radcliffe's a fan is just icing on the cake.
For anyone who hasn't seen the show before, it's pretty simple. Contestants compete in three rounds, with one being eliminated at the end of each round. Sounds like your basic cooking competition show, but here's where the fun part comes in.
Host Alton Brown gives each competitor $25k to spend at auctions usually at the beginning or during each round. These auction items are used to sabotage other contestants. The winner keeps the money he or she has left at the end of the last round.
While it's wildly entertaining to watch a chef try to figure out how to harvest ingredients from frozen blocks of ice, I've also learned a few valuable life lessons along the way.
1. Think outside the box.
Okay, so time for a quick story. One Saturday morning, I was making chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast with my mom, and we realized we were out of eggs. Instead of heading to the store, we looked in our fridge and saw a tub of cream cheese. Ah-ha!
We substituted the cream cheese for the eggs, while thinking "what would a chef on Cutthroat Kitchen do?" And I gotta say, the pancakes didn't turn out too badly. (Please don't judge the amount of sugar that's piled on top.)
Overall, the lesson learned? Be a little creative when you run into sticky situations.
2. Don't give up.
I have yet to see a chef on the show give up after being given a sabotage. Some of them might think it's nearly impossible to use a blowtorch as their only heat source or use bread that has been submerged in water for their sandwich. I will sometimes even wonder how the heck they're going to pull it off.
But sometimes they can actually pull off a decent meal, and then the judge, who is not aware of the sabotages, doesn't eliminate them. In one episode, I watched a French chef survive the first round with all three sabotages against him.
The lesson's pretty basic here. Don't give up, even if it seems like all odds are against you.
3. Don't take life (and food) too seriously.
Don't get me wrong, many contestants on the show claim that winning is everything and talk smack about their competition. But at the same time, they have to complete in ridiculous challenges that usually require them to make a fool out of themselves.
I loved the episode in which the tables were turned on the regular judges — Jet Tila, Simon Majumdar and Antonia Lofaso. They competed against each other, along with guest chef, Geoffrey Zakarian, and the winner's money went to a charity of choice. Celebrity chefs have also competed against each other in later seasons.
Unlike most cooking competitions, the levels of fun and creativity outshine the seriousness of Cutthroat Kitchen.
4. Be Confident, But Humble
I think one of the best parts about this show is the fact that the cooking challenges are often very simple. I've seen episodes where the chefs had to make their best mac n' cheese or Philly cheese steak.
And oh boy, if I got a dollar for every time a chef says, "I'm from [insert city/region here] and I make this dish every day, so I've got this in the bag" or some variation, I'd be rich. Sometimes chefs can get a little too cocky. Then, lo and behold, the chili cheese dog is their downfall.
The game forces these chefs to trust themselves in order to navigate their way through sabotages. But at the same time, the simple dishes keep them grounded. (Yup, that's my metaphor for life.) Something we could all learn from, right?