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Series / Cutthroat Kitchen

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"Just how far is a chef willing to go to win a cooking competition?"

"I have $100,000 of cold, hard cash in this case. Four chefs get $25,000 each. If they want to leave this kitchen with any of the cash, they have to survive three culinary challenges—and each other—in a game where sabotage is not only encouraged, it's for sale!"
Alton Brown in the opening to Cutthroat Kitchen

In what can be best be described as "Chopped for psychopaths", Cutthroat Kitchen is another competition show from Food Network, hosted by Alton Brown. The show premiered on August 11, 2013 and aired 15 seasons through July 19, 2017.

In this game show, four chefs are given $25,000 each at the outset. Three rounds are played, each of which has a target dish that the chefs must create; the dishes are simple for experienced chefs, and are typically to be prepared in 30 minutes. They have 60 seconds to get whatever ingredients they wish from an onstage pantry, after which Alton auctions off a series of items that can be used to inflict a disadvantage upon other chefs or confer an exclusive advantage to the winning bidder. To keep things interesting, there will also usually be a surprise auction or two during the cooking time. After each round, a guest judge evaluates each chef's dish on three criteria: taste, presentation, and representation of the target dish. However, the judge is not told of any sabotages or advantages used by the chefs in order to allow for an unbiased evaluation. Whoever has the worst dish is eliminated and forfeits all remaining money.

The third round is slightly different in that the two chefs remaining have the same 60 seconds to collect ingredients, then start cooking immediately afterward. All auctions in the final round take place during the cooking. At the end of the day, the chef who is left standing will keep the money they have left.

The companion Webisode, Alton's After-Show, takes place after the cooking and features Alton showing the judges some of the sabotages that the chefs inflicted on each other. This is when the judges typically realize why a dish tastes so strange; they also offer their thoughts on how to make the most of the sabotages, particularly in the case of swapped ingredients. A second Web series, Testing the Sabotages, presents food stylists' attempts to prepare dishes while following the rules of proposed sabotages.

Win this auction, and you can force your opponent to read all these tropes. Who will give me $500 for this fabulous opportunity?:

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  • Ad-Break Double-Take: This is common and usually when going to a commercial break right before an elimination.
  • Air Quotes: In "Superstar Sabotage: Heat 2," Justin flashes these when Marcel uses colorful language to describe his "oatmeal cookie" to the judge that isn't really an oatmeal cookie.
  • All or Nothing:
    • The "All" is subverted, the "Nothing" is straight. The winner doesn't keep the full $25,000 but whatever they have at the end. But all the losers have to return their money before walking away.
    • In addition, each judgment is done solely on the dish currently in front of the judge. Made an outstanding dish last round? It won't stop you from getting the ax this round. (Mainly because that outstanding dish probably didn't have any sabotages to hinder it, mind.)
    • Played completely straight in "To Kale A Mockingbird." Alton offers to let one chef play for $50,000, in exchange for giving up their entire $25,000 and thus being unable to bid on any auctions.note 
  • The Alleged Car: Chefs frequently get their prep stations or equipment switched out for a build-it-yourself alternate, such as:
    • A bunch of tools and items attached to a backpack, apron, or poncho.
    • A pile of empty pizza boxes, which they have to stack up for a work surface.
    • A rolling tubular frame, which they have to cover with plastic wrap or butcher paper.
    • A shopping cart or cardboard box full of (seemingly) random implements.
    • Trash cans full of cardboard scraps and empty beer cans for a drunken noodle challenge used to build a tower to serve as a prep station.
    • A backpack full of school supplies replaced of all of a teenage chef's tools in the high school episode.
  • Angrish: Chef Mark, in "Hit Me With Your Best Pho". Eliminated due to having to cook his pho ingredients on a shovel, he is reduced to almost no vocabulary other than the word "shovel" during his Elimination Statement.
  • Ascended Fanboy: Any chef who comes into Cutthroat Kitchen having remembered something from Good Eats. They are few and far between.
  • Assembly Line Fast-Forward: Used in a sabotage in the "box of chocolates" round, where a chef is forced to stand at a conveyor belt for five minutes and box up the chocolates coming along it, facing a fine if he lets any of them hit the floor. The conveyor starts off slowly, but gradually speeds up until chocolates are pouring out of the machine. Alton "fires" the chef at the end of the five minutes and fines him $1,500 for all the dropped chocolates.
  • As You Know:
    • Before starting some dishes, Alton will describe the dish in detail while noting that the chefs have probably made said dish a hundred times. Though it's debatable whether this is for the benefit of the chefs or the audience, there have been some rounds where Alton has told the chefs the target dish, only for one chef to not know what the hell Alton just said.
      • This became particularly common after Season 4's "Anything but a Cake Walk," where one chef misheard "biscuits and gravy" and "brisket and gravy" due to being European and being unfamiliar with biscuits and gravy as a meal.
    • This also occurs during any games that feature returning chefs, and it also occurred during the "Judging Judges" episode.
    • In Season 4, one chef accidentally prepared the wrong dish because he had misheard Alton's initial challenge (to be precise, it was biscuits and gravy, but he heard "brisket and gravy"). For the rest of the season, Alton made the expected ingredients and preparation methods very clear.
    • Subverted in the Drunken Noodles challenge: Alton described the dish, and then laughed when all three chefs still looked clueless after his explanation.
  • Auction: A major part of the game. Remember the $25,000 they got at the beginning of the game? They have to use that money to auction, with $500 the minimum bid (except in a few exceedingly rare cases). One also has to be prepared for the mid-round auctions.
  • Auction of Evil: You have chefs bidding on the items to sabotage each other. How could it not be one?
  • Audible Sharpness: In the episode "Melts in Your Pot, Not in Your Hand," every time the X-Acto knife is pulled out of its holder during the auction, there's a brief "shing" sound.
  • Audience Participation: You're actively encouraged to suggest sabotages of your own via Twitter or the Food Network forums for possible future use.

  • Badass Biker: Alton dresses up as one for the 1950s episode of the Time Warp Tournament. Doubles as Truth in Television since Alton is also an avid motorcyclist.
  • Bad Boss: Alton, to the Bobs, as is implied in the After-Show.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: In the "Naughty vs. Nice" episode, there were two chefs for the "Naughty" side (previous winners) and two for the "Nice" side (previous losers). Both "Nice" chefs were eliminated before the final round, leading this to a Foregone Conclusion.
  • Batman Gambit: Pretty much required to play the game properly. Sometimes, it's better to throw away an auction and eat the punishment, especially if you are to keep any money, and especially if there are other auctions coming up. And sometimes it's better to game the auction so that even if you were to eat the punishment, it won't hurt you in any way.
    • Many chefs choose to let an auction go and accept whatever sabotage comes their way because they know or realize that they can turn it to their advantage with a little creativity. See also Unishment below.
    • Another variation is deliberately bidding on a punishment you're not interested in winning just to force someone else to pay out the nose for it. Can backfire horribly if you build the price obscenely high, and the intended victim backs down before you do. A few competitors have paid half their purse by pushing their luck too hard.
  • Beard of Evil:
    • Alton grew one specifically for this show, though he's obviously not evil in other Food Network Shows. Compare his demeanor from Cutthroat Kitchen to Food Network Star, where he has to keep the beard for Cutthroat Kitchen.
    • For the second Camp Cutthroat, Alton's beard is giant and bushy, to go with the crazier feel of this special. It's more like a Bush of Insanity for these episodes, accented by his broken glasses, shredded uniform, and the animal pelt he wears over it.
  • Bears Are Bad News: One of the sabotages in the first "Camp Cutthroat" episode is a raid by a hungry bear (a stagehand in a bear suit).
    • In the second Camp Cutthroat, the "bear" returns but wants to be a cook. The sabotaged chef had to relay all cooking instructions to the bear and could not cook the dish themselves. The way Chef Daniel handled it turned it Beary Funny in a hurry.
  • Berserk Button:
    • Just like Chopped, the judges do not like calling something on the plate anything other what it really is, similar to You Keep Using That Word.
    • Also, inedible objects on the plate. While misleading names won't necessarily get a chef eliminated if the dish turns out better than his competitor's dish, putting something inedible on the plate (a forgotten piece of the plastic wrapper or a fish hook, to name two) is a surefire ticket home.
    • Adding superfluous elements to the dish seems to really annoy all of the judges and Alton. In an episode of Season 2, Simon Majumdar excoriates a chef for including a translucent fishing lure on a plate that could have been eaten by a small child. The chef is sent home for it. Not understanding the nature of the criticism, the chef's Elimination Statement contains a complaint that his customers are smart enough to know what's edible and what's not.
    • Chef Jet also hates it when chefs try to pass bottled sweet chile sauce as their own creation.
    • Did a contestant present something to the judges that didn't closely resemble the assigned dish? If the judge in that particular episode is Simon Majumdar, nine out of ten times that contestant is being sent home.
  • Beware the Nice Ones:
    • The "nicest chefs" are often the chefs that win the game. Don't ever underestimate the silent or nice chef. They may hit you with all of the sabotages in a later round.
    • Judge Jet Tila, who normally is a nice judge, gave one particular young, upstart chef the Death Glare after tasting his dish, noting that it was nothing but acid. He was not pulling any punches when he sent that chef home.
  • Bilingual Bonus:
    • Invoked in a spanakopita challenge's midround auction, when Alton hauled out a board listing three sabotages written in Greek, the auction being that the sabotaged chef would have to choose between them. Needless to say, the sabotaged chef could not read Greek (and nobody else offered up any knowledge of Greek either). The phrase he picked translated as "one arm", which is what he was limited to for the rest of the round. (The other two phrases' translations? "Microwave" and "half the money".) You'd think that 'half the money' would be the big hit here, but the lack of an arm assisted in sending him home. Handing over half his money would have been a major pain later on, but at least he'd have been around to spend it.
    • From the finale of Superstar Sabotage 2 comes a ramen challenge. Appropriately, one sabotage requires a contestant to forfeit his basket and pick five items from Sabotachi — complete with a menu written only in Japanese. Fortunately, these are non-native Japanese foods and are mostly written in syllabic katakana; the items that the victim chooses include ラザニア (lasagna), ハラペニョポパー (jalapeño poppers), and シカゴのホットドッグ (Chicago-style hot dogs). Even with the odd assortment of ingredients, the chef saddled with this sabotage survives, describing his dish as "Late-Night Leftover Ramen."
  • Black Comedy: One large appeal (or, to its detractors, a turnoff) of the series is talented chefs getting humiliating and comical sabotages and attempting to cook despite them.
  • Blatant Lies:
    • Oh, Alton. You enjoy telling everybody that some of those sabotages came from your own home (like the heat gun you thought was your hair dryer) or that they're... trinkets.
    • A lot of times when a chef loses something to an auction that heavily changes their dish, they try and sell it as 'Mom's X' or 'My son/daughter's favorite'. Alton and the judges call this 'Playing the Mom card'. Similar to this is 'deconstructed', where someone might (for example) during a peanut butter and jelly challenge, not be allowed to use any spreading items, and present a cup of jelly, a blob of peanut butter and some toast, and call it a deconstructed PB&J.
    • In the breakfast enchilada challenge, Chef Chris leaves the pantry without cheese. He tries to explain to Jet Tila that he deliberately chose not to include cheese because he wanted to focus on healthy cooking. An amused Jet points out that the enchilada contains other not-so-wholesome ingredients.
  • Blessed with Suck: Alton decides to give the chefs superpowers during a Hero Sandwich challenge. Said superpowers are a Hulk hand (which is a large glove that's closed into a giant fist) or a Wolverine claw (which resembles a knuckle-duster with knives sprouting from it) that competitors have to wear for the round.
    • The episode "Superhero Sabotage: Age of Alton" takes the above to its conclusion; every sabotage is themed around superheroes.
  • "Blind Idiot" Translation: In the episode "Duck, Duck, Gnocchi", Chef Christopher claimed that gnocchi was Italian for "hello". Spoiler alert: it's not.
  • Brand X: Often used in sabotages that involve replacing fresh pantry ingredients with pre-packaged ingredients. For example, one sabotage replaced an opponent's cheese with "Nick's" (Ritz) cheese-and-cracker sandwiches. If they're not feeling especially creative, packaged ingredients will bear a generic "CTK" logo. Has some Lampshade Hanging in the webisode as well.
    Alton: Now this ingredient has a trademarked name for...spiced ham... (Spam)
  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: The show's title card encapsulates how the kitchen works. Hanging from a rack are a spoon, two spatulas, and an ax.
  • Bribing Your Way to Victory: The auctions invoke this trope by offering a way to help yourself and hinder the competition. Part of the appeal is seeing how these play out. A common pitfall is that one chef will buy multiple sabotages in Round 1, blowing through half of their cash - then ending up facing two angry chefs in Round 2 that each still have full war chests.
  • Brick Joke: When Jet Tila is first introduced as Culinary Ambassador to Thailand, he mentions having received a sash with the position, which Alton excitedly tells him to bring in some time. A couple of seasons later, Tila walks into a second round judging segment wearing the sash and mentions having done it specifically for Alton.
  • Briefcase Full of Money: Alton Brown walks down the stairs with one to start the show. The (prop) money is worth $100,000, and each chef takes $25,000 to use. However, the winner of each auction has to pay the amount of their bid to Alton, who in turn puts it back in the case, and eliminated chefs must return all of their remaining cash to it before leaving.
  • British Royal Guards:
    • Referenced in a British Pub Food challenge. Alton shows up in a guard's furry hat and auctions off forcing one chef to give up five minutes of cook time to "stand guard" wearing the hat - also warning that if they fall out of attention, they'll be fined. Once Chef Tim is given the hat, Alton does all manner of things to get him to break - tickling him with a feather, shouting through a bullhorn, dropping money in front of him - to no avail. Alton even compliments him once his cook time resumes. Turns out that Tim was a member of ROTC in high school.
    • In "A Dingo Ate My Dutch Baby," the dish for the second round is bangers and mash. The first sabotage is as follows: force both opponents to take turns standing guard, meaning only one can cook at a time while the other stands guard. Whoever stood in the guard house had to wear the British Royal Guard hat.
  • Bullying a Dragon: A great way to get other chefs to gang up against you. Unless that was the plan, but it usually doesn't work.

  • Call-Back:
    • The name Bob, which was used frequently when "greeking" name-brand products on Good Eats.
    • Elements of Cutthroat Kitchen can be seen in the Good Eats episode "Scrap Iron Chef". In this spoof of Iron Chef and Junkyard Wars, Alton and his opponent, the grandmotherly "Chef Prairie", compete in one-on-one cooking challenge. Included are ingredient theft and cooking station sabotages. Additionally, Alton's winds up pedaling on a stationary bike in order to prep one of his ingredients.
  • Can't Get Away with Nuthin': Did your sabotaged implement suddenly implode on you? Too bad; Alton has another one. In the Breakfast Sandwich challenge, one chef had her heat source replaced with a paint peeler. Since she covered the heat gun with a metal basket in hopes of heating the basket, she overheated the gun and short-circuited it. Alton promptly gave her another one to use. Sometimes the replacements are free; sometimes Alton helps himself to some of your money for them.
  • Cast from Hit Points: Want to win? Better fork over that money!
  • Caustic Critic: Although the judges on this show are rather reasonable, they could come off this way because they don't know what the chef had to endure. Until they find out in the Webisode. Or until they actually play the game themselves; see below...
    Alton: [Judge] has no idea what sabotages you've inflicted on each other, and guess what? They don't care!
  • Celebrity Edition:
    • Four of the judges: Simon Majumdar, Jet Tila, Geoffrey Zakarian and Antonia Lofaso play the game themselves for charity in "Judging Judges". Jet Tila admits he's gained a new respect for the competitors he judges. As it's an episode where they're playing for four charities, Antonia wins the full $25,000 for hers, while the other charities get $5,000, in a twist on the usual "winner keeps what's not spent" rule.
      • Alton does another one in 2016, with Richard Blais in place of Zakarian but Jet, Simon, and Antonia coming back for more. Unlike the first episode, the winner does only get to donate the money they have left, but the losers still get a $2,500 consolation prize. Antonia won again, donating $9,300 to her charity.
    • "Superstar Sabotage" is a five-show ''Chopped'' tournament-style one where celebrity chefs like Anne Burrell, Alex Guarnischelli and Jeff Mauro must compete first in four qualifying episodes, then a final one to determine the winner of the tournament.
  • Cement Shoes: In "Hedwig and the Angry Enchilada," the final challenge was to make a type of frozen custard known as a "concrete." The mid-round sabotage was to make your opponent wear "concrete shoes" for the remainder of the challenge.
  • Chained Heat: A common sabotage is to force two or more chefs to share some quality time together. For example:
    • Making two chefs share a cooking apparatus.
    • Binding two chefs together with an over-sized apron.
    • Limiting two or more chefs to only using cooking utensils chained to the center of the stations, to a heavy weight, or to the "Great Wall of Utensils".
    • Inviting two chefs to a "romantic dinner" where they can't leave their seats.
    • Cramming two chefs inside a "stuffed kitchen" prep station, which has barely enough room for them to fit back-to-back.
    • Forcing one chef to do both their own prep work and that of another chef, who in turn has to do the cooking for both of them. A barbed wire fence is set up in the kitchen to keep them separated.
    • Forcing each of two chefs to do their prep work on a station held/worn by the other, such as a backpack or pizza paddle.
    • Dressing two chefs inside a single Greek himation (which Alton also called a toga).
    • Forcing two chefs to hold hands for the remainder of the challenge. In the spirit of this trope (and not the show), the chefs did actually help each other. (It also helped that one of the chefs was left-handed, letting both chefs use their dominant hand while facing the same direction.)
    • Letting two chefs relax on a sofa for the entire challenge in Alton's 1974 living room/kitchen area — with a toaster oven and hot plate on one end of the couch and an old TV re-purposed as a prep station on the other. Alton even joined them for a little while.
    Alton: You know, I first kissed a girl on this very couch. And her sister was sitting where you were.
    • Giving two chefs a lumberjack saw, which requires both people holding each end if either wanted to cut something.
    • Strapping two chefs together back-to-back in an over-sized belt.
    • Keelhauling two chefs by making them walk the plank(s) — their feet were strapped to two planks, which forced them to walk in lockstep if they wanted to move anywhere.
    • Forcing three chefs to cook their omelettes in a single over-sized skillet.
    • Sending two chefs on a joyride by making both of them sit on a tandem bike for the whole challenge.
    • Seating three chefs in a diner prep station and cook area. Each chef only gets a small chunk of counter to prep on, and the only heat sources are an industrial toaster and an industrial coffee maker.
    • Shanghaing three chefs by making them prep inside a canoe - that's suspended off the ground. Chefs were extremely careful when anyone climbed into or out of the canoe.
  • Chekhov's Skill:
    • In one episode, judge Jet Tila was introduced as the "Culinary Ambassador to Thailand". The second round had the chefs make pad thai. His status came up again for "Satay and peanut sauce".
    • In another episode, Tila judged a stir fry, appropriate because he currently holds the world record for the largest single stir fry (over two tons of it in one big fourteen-foot pan).
  • Chirping Crickets: In a moo shu challenge in "The Tong and Short of It," Alton Brown pulled out a cowbell from the dubmwaiter for the second sabotage, which one chef would have to mix and cook everything in. When nobody seemed to get the pun, he commented "because cows go 'moo'," at which point some chirping crickets were played on the soundtrack.
  • Classical Movie Vampire: Alton dresses up as one for the 2014 Halloween episode, complete with an Ominous Opera Cape that he swishes dramatically. At one point, he swishes his cape to leave - then the Bobs come in with a coffin that Alton rises out of, asking, "How do you like my new digs?"
  • Clumsy Copyright Censorship: In the original airing of the Superstar Sabotage Finale, the first sabotage for the meatball challenge featured a Brand X label covering the top of what was visible as Campbell's Chunky Soup. Chef Greenspan, who gets stuck with it, notes that it's horrible for making meatballs because it's all filler. In the syndicated version, the label is completely covered with an obvious neon purple overlay with "CTK" in white.
  • Combat Commentator: Alton, starting with season 3. Though the chefs do this in interviews after the show. According to Word of God, Alton doesn't always see what's going on during the round. Some of the commentary comes in after filming the round, and then the editors splice in the commentary to make it appear as if he was commenting on it live.
    Alton: He's supposed to make a snack. He's braising an endive. ...that's all I've got.
  • Combat Pragmatist:
    • You have to play dirty at this game. Whether you bid just to jack up the price to troll your opponent or shut down an auction to avoid getting a sabotage, there is no way to play this game cleanly. The chefs are, however, specifically forbidden from sabotaging other chefs through overt methods other than through the auction. Hell, Alton warned Chef Fabio Viviani that if he threw ingredients, he would be docked money.
    • Averted with Kyle Schutte, who won without placing a single bid in any auction and kept the whole $25,000.
  • Comedic Sociopathy: Admit it. One of the reasons to watch this show is to watch the chefs suffer trying to deal with the sabotages.
  • Cone of Shame: In "The Cone Ranger," the final challenge is to make ice cream cones and one of the sabotages involves making the opposing chef wear this. It sells for only $500 because the other chef is determined to leave with $25,000, even though he's already been sabotaged by having to mix his ice cream in traffic cones. He, Kyle, wins and becomes the first ever to leave with $25,000!
  • Cooking Duel: The Final Round.
  • Cordon Bleugh Chef: Often, and not always due to sabotages.
    • For the Cobb Salad challenge, one chef was sabotaged into trading three of his ingredients with three of Alton's ingredients. Notably, he traded his perfectly good egg with Century Eggnote  The chef tried to sell his Cobb salad as a "Cantonese Cobb Salad", but Antonia Lofaso was turned off by the Century Egg. Three guesses as to what happened to that chef, and the first two don't count.
    Antonia: *shudders* That egg...
    • In a season one episode, one contestant had to make a dessert macaroni and cheese. The chef prepared a white chocolate mac and cheese which he decided to top off with lobster. Simon Majumdar specifically noted the lobster to be the reason for his elimination, and said chef was "surprised" that he was eliminated for the lobster, saying someone else had a worse dish.
    • In the Club Sandwich round, one chef decided to make his club sandwich with salmon and bleu cheese. He didn't survive the elimination.
    • In a Chicken and Waffles challenge, a chef made "pate" out of a canned whole chicken, doing little more than stripping the meat off and chopping it up in a food processor set to "puree." The result was about as disgusting as you might expect. The real gem came during the episode's after-show, when Alton revealed the sabotage to guest judge Giada de Laurentiis.
    • For a Scotch Egg challenge, one chef was forced to give up the meat he was going to wrap his egg in and use haggis instead - and canned haggis at that. (The fact that he wasn't allowed to cook for five minutes due to an unrelated mid-round sabotage certainly didn't help.) He went home at the end of the round.
  • Cosplay:
    • In the "SaBOOOtage" 2014 Halloween special, Alton says, "What's Halloween without dressing up?" He auctions off two costumes that competitors have to wear for the entire second round: a pirate costume with an eyepatch and Hook Hand, and a zombie costume with braces which keep the arms stiffly raised forward. The Zombie costume caused the chef to have trouble tasting his stew since he couldn't bend his arms. When he asked Alton for help, Alton obliged by holding up the spoon for him...juuuussstt out of reach. (The chef eventually figured out how he could taste his food — he put the spoon on the edge of his prep table and kneeled down to taste it.) Ah, yes, and Alton himself dressed up as a vampire.
    • Also from "SaBOOOtage", Jet Tila showed up to judge each round (and the After-Show) in a different costume (cowboy, gladiator, justice/judge).
    • In 2015, three more costumes were auctioned off: a chainsaw victim (could only use one arm), mummy (arms wrapped tightly to sides, leaving only the hands free to move), and a flat-topped Frankenstein-monster head (had to be worn and used as a prep station). Alton showed up as Dr. Evilicious, the Bobs were Oompa-Loompas, and Simon wore a different costume for each round: Elvis Presley, Uncle Fester, and Princess Leia (using the last of these for the after-show as well).
    • One chef who was a former pro wrestler turned up in a luchador's mask and a sparkly cape, though sadly he took them off for the actual competition.
    • The episode "Superhero Sabotage: Age of Alton" saw Alton turn up as "Professor Sabotage", while Antonia Lofaso dressed as "Super Judge" (basically Supergirl with Wonder Woman's bracelets and tiara). One of the sabotages involved making the chefs wear awkward and uncomfortable superhero costumes.
  • Couch Gag: The appearance of the utensil rack in the title card (spoon, spatulas, axe) changes for special episodes.
    • For both Halloween specials, the rack is covered in cobwebs and the axe in blood.
    • For the first Camp Cutthroat tournament, the spoon is replaced by a camp lantern, the rack and spatula handles are made of wood rather than metal, and the chalkboard backdrop is replaced with mosquito netting.
      • For the second one, the lantern is hanging crookedly, the rack and tools are covered with moss and rust, and "Alton's Revenge" is burned into the mosquito netting.
    • For the "Stop, Drop and Flambe" firefighters' special in Season 9, the axe is replaced by a fire axe with a bright yellow handle.
    • For the "The Truck Stops Here" food truck special, the rack is styled as a truck's front grille and bumper.
    • For the "Grandma-tage" grandmothers' special in Season 9, the axe is covered with a knitted cozy (but the blade is still fully exposed).
    • For the "Naughty vs. Nice" holiday episode in Season 11, the axe is decorated with Christmas lights.
    • For the "Chocotage XXL" Valentine's Day special in Season 11, the axe is made of chocolate wrapped in silver foil, and the blade is unwrapped with a bite taken out of it.
    • For the "License to Grill" grilling special in Season 12, the spoon and spatulas are replaced by a set of tongs, a barbecue fork, and a grill spatula, and the word "GRILLING" is spelled out in glowing coals above them.
    • For "The Breakfast and the Furious" special in Season 13, the title featured a roadside arrow and the word "BREAKFAST" added underneath, and one spatula and the axe are replaced with a cast-iron skillet on which bacon and eggs have been cooked.
    • For the "Valentine's Day Massacre" couples' special in Season 14, "Valentine's Day" is under the title, the axe handle is made of a reddish wood, and there are rose petals falling in the foreground.
    • In "Beam Me Up, Alton", The words Sci-Fi appear underneath the title and both the title and utensil rack are glowing blue amidst a glowing blue background.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Alton tells viewers of his after-show that you have to be crazy prepared coming out of the shopping to account for mishaps and sabotages.
    Alton Brown: [to Jet Tila, during an after-show] I don't care what you think you're making. Don't come out of the pantry without eggs. It's liquid meat and can do so many different things.
    • As Simon Majumdar — himself one of the most frequently appearing judges — found out in "Judging the Judges"; he not only forgot several important items for a taquito in the first-round challenge, but took the wrong kind of sausage from the pantry and didn't realize it until several minutes in. He got eliminated.
    • Forgetting to grab a key ingredient from the pantry during the shopping phase will force you to change your strategy in order to survive the round. For example, in the season 3 "Wheel of Misfortune" episode (also referred to below under Lottery of Doom), Chef Chris had originally intended to keep a very low profile to preserve as much of his $25,000 stake as he could. However, he forgot the stock (for French onion soup, that round's challenge), and was forced to start bidding actively and heavily at once in order to handicap the other contestants. He pulled the win out, grossing $7,200. Similarly, in episode 4 of season 5 (the first heat in Superstar Sabotage) a chef forgot to get chicken for Kung Pao chicken. He avoided elimination by making vegan Kung Pao with mushrooms in place of the meat.
    • Alton has even prepared for the possibility that a chef might get injured during the show, as shown during a episode in 2016.
  • Critical Hit: One well-placed and well-timed sabotage in the middle of the round can incapacitate the chef, sending him/her home.
  • Crossover:
    • Shed a tear, if you will, for the poor the Food Network Star contestants, as Alton subjects them to a special edition of Cutthroat Kitchen, complete with the notorious mini-kitchen! Again, like the similar example in Chopped, the rules are relaxed (2 minute shop time, everyone cooking only one simple dish, $2500 cash to spend with $100 bidding minimum.) That said, chefs were also judged on how they sold each dish in no more than 30 seconds.
    • In "When Cherry Met Salad", Ted Allen from Chopped was the guest judge. The first round was Chopped Salad, and one of the sabotages was a basket from Chopped featuring four essential ingredientsWhat?. And (to be fair) a small pantry of other things that can be used as well since that's how Chopped works.

  • Deadpan Snarker:
    • Alton. He regularly wanders around in the kitchen during the rounds, making sardonic comments to the chefs. Occasionally he'll throw a bone to someone who is truly floundering, but just as occasionally he'll just do it to see if the chef understands just how very close they are to hanging themselves.
    • Simon Majumdar plays this trope even straighter than Alton — especially during the after-shows.
    • Several of the chefs. Notable examples include Vincent from "The Breakfast and the Furious" and Kenneth from "Duck l'Orange Is The New Black Coffee."
  • Deaf Composer:
    • One of the regular sabotages features the exclusive right to taste the food. Which means the others are, metaphorically, cooking blind.
    • In the first preliminary heat of the Camp Cutthroat tournament, one sabotage forced two chefs to work together. At any given moment, one chef would be blindfolded and the other would have to guide him/her through the prep work and cooking.
    • Another possible sabotage is a nose plug, preventing a chef from smelling their cooking, which also (due to the fact the nose is involved in the process) affects their ability to taste it properly as well.
    • An interesting variation on this came in the form of a tray of powerful sauces - soy sauce, hot sauce, horseradish, etc. The unfortunate chef saddled with this was allowed to taste his food...immediately after downing one of the sauces, with it still fresh on his palate.
    • Similar to the Camp Cutthroat sabotage above, a sabotage in the Valentine's Day couples' episode left Tomas blindfolded - he had to cook the dish while being guided by his husband, Eric. The kicker was that only Tomas was allowed to touch the food.
    • In the final round of the high school episode, a young chef's prep station is taken away and he is forced to prep on top of a locker. The problem? He had to prep inside the locker, reaching out to the top of the locker while unable to see his prep work.
  • Deal with the Devil: For both Halloween specials, one of the first-round auctions is a Deal with the Devil that confers immunity from elimination in that round. (If that chef's dish is judged the worst, the judge chooses the second-worst instead.) Alton warns that the devil will take payment in the next round, in addition to the auction money. In 2014, the buyer is forbidden from bidding in any auctions for the rest of the competition; in 2015, the buyer forfeits half of their remaining cash, and it's implied that there would have been more to pay later. Both times, the auction winner ends up benefiting from it, as his dish is judged the worst of the four, but gets cut in the second round.
    • In one challenge, the dish was toast, and one of the chefs came out of the pantry with no bread. Alton offered her a ten-second trip back into the pantry in exchange for forfeiting $10,000 and the right to bid on any of that round's auctions. The chef accepted the deal. She didn't survive the round.
  • Death by Genre Savviness:
    • Sabotages often go for a song due to the other chefs wanting to save their money for later rounds — that never come thanks to the cheap sabotage dumped on them that they can't handle after all.
    • In one early episode, the challenge was burritos, and one chef-testant purposely chose not to grab tortillas in the pantry, thinking they'd be taken away in a sabotage. She used lettuce instead to wrap her burrito, and — despite having no actual sabotages assessed to her — she was eliminated that round for having such a peculiar dish (Jet Tila even said it was a really easy choice). She defended her decision to use the lettuce in her exit, though. In the aftershow, Chef Tila pointed out that it wasn't the lettuce wrap that did her in, it was the way that she wrapped her burrito (loosely, more like a taco than a burrito per se).
    • In the final challenge of "Crabs of Steel", with the upside-down pineapple cake, the first sabotage is having a roped hammock replace the prep table. Chef Alex backs off and takes the hammock, saving his money with the expectation that a worse sabotage will show up later in the round. Unfortunately for Alex, the hammock prep station turns out to be the ONLY sabotage in that round; Alton actually laughs in Alex's face for thinking he knows what's going to happen. However, Alex and his opponent present dishes that leave Jet Tila unable to decide on a clear winner. Jet awards the win to both of them, the first of only two times to date that an episode has ended in a tie, and both chefs keep their remaining money.
  • Deliberate Injury Gambit: One of the best strategies to use. The most common way this is done is to purposely lose the auction while driving up the price your opponent has to pay — so that you can use the sabotage to your advantage while taking away your opponent's cash for future sabotages.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: One sabotage for a 1950s-style American breakfast involved one chef forfeiting a basket of colorful food items for ingredients that those that were only black and white (like eggplants and cauliflower). The chef lost for her breakfast taco, an item invented in the 1980s. She had white flour, sugar, leavener, and white eggs, making it perfectly possible for her to have made pancakes.
  • Disregard That Statement: Chef Carlos from "Gno-cchi to Victory" during a final round involving making Thumbprint Cookiesnote , is hit with a the sabotage of having his thumbs bound to his hand by duct tape, limiting the flexibility of his hands, and well, having no thumbs to use properly. While Alton applies the punishment, Carlos makes the mistake of taunting about the speed his hand is getting tapped up...
    Chef Carlos: "Didn't know part of the sabotage was taking all my time, Alton. Come on Al!"
    Alton: *Gives a Death Glare and proceeds to tape much slower.*
    Carlos: "Alright, heard."
  • Distracted by the Sexy: In the first heat of the first Camp Cutthroat tournament, Alton auctioned a sabotage that required one chef to be blindfolded while the other helped them prep and cook by physically manipulating their arms and telling them what they were touching. The sabotage went to Chefs Emmanuel (handsome Frenchman) and Monterey (Statuesque Stunner former model), who proceeded to spend the entire round with their hands all over each other and eyeing each other up while the other had the blindfold on.
    Emmanuel: I've never worked blindfolded before, but I'm with a beautiful girl, and might be fun! (laughs)
    Monterey: (confessional supercut over shots of her ogling Emmanuel) I just keep looking at Chef Emmanuel. It's not my fault! He's blindfolded, I have to stare at him!
  • Ditto Fighter: Taken to an odd extreme in the Black & White Cookie challenge - one sabotage had a chef cook on a black and white prep station which was two identical mirrored stations put together - and they had to perform identical cooking with both hands simultaneously.
  • Doctor, Doctor, Doctor: The chef-contestants are introduced by Alton to the chef-judge as "chef [name]", then there is a round of "Hello chef"s, then when the judge is done tasting it usually ends with a mutual round of "Thank you, chef"s. Alton sometimes plays into it and adds even more when all the "chef"-ing gets particularly noticeable.
  • Do Not Try This at Home:
    • Cutthroat Kitchen is actually one of the more dangerous cooking shows. It's unfortunate that the producers only put this warning at the end of the credits that scroll by very quickly. For example, cooking with a Weber Grill indoors or with a heat lamp? Do NOT attempt this at home without safety precautions. (As a matter of fact, don't even attempt to use a Weber Grill indoors.)
    • It's also quite possible to very badly cut or burn yourself trying to use some of the improvised tools chefs have had to put to work, as many of the household objects are not designed for safe gripping during use as a cutting edge.
    • Played a bit more straight in the After-Show.
    • Played perfectly straight in 'Duck L'Orange Is The New Black Coffee'. Chef Kenneth had to prep duck l'orange on a cutting board floating in a pool filled with rubber ducks. He confessionaled, "If you think this is easy, go to your bathtub, fill it up, put a cutting board in there, and cook something to eat." Underneath him was a caption reading "Actually, please do not try this at home".
    • In "You Dim Some, You Lose Some," one of the chefs had to cook in glass vodka bottles. Alton Brown narrated that he definitely did not recommend anyone try this at home, but the chef could do it without them shattering if he was very careful with the heat. As it turned out, one of the bottles did break.
  • Double Entendre: Possibly not intentional, but in a Swedish meatball challenge, the losing chef was eliminated by guest judge Cat Cora with the remark "I'm sorry, but there was nothing Swedish about your balls." All three (male) competitors and Alton were taken completely off guard.
  • Dramatic Thunder: The 2014 Halloween episode makes liberal use of the Thunderous Underline during Alton's announcements and competitor eliminations.
  • The Dreaded:
    • Even though the Kiddie Kitchen prep station is a dreaded sabotage, it's not quite as dreaded as the canned whole chicken. People laugh and gawk at the Kiddie Kitchen. One chef gives up half his cooking time to avoid having to use the canned chicken because it smells so incredibly awful.
    • The sabotages in the episode "Best of the Worst" were taken from previous episodes, and were judged to be the most effective at driving chefs crazy and/or sending them home. Heat gun, canned chicken, treadmill prep station...
    • In the 'Secrets to Survival' special, Alton is quite adamant that he considers the most potentially crippling sabotage to be the mid-round station swap, which can completely disorient a chef by slamming them into the middle of a dish that they inevitably don't understand in the slightest and a ticking clock preventing them from taking the time to figure it out. Usually, he advocates not letting yourself get into a bidding war. A station swap comes up? Bid. Bid whatever you have to.
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty:
    • The persona Alton adopts for the Camp Cutthroat series.
    • "The Hunt For Bread October," the Veteran's Day 2015 episode, had retired Army chef Brad Turner (once known as the "Grill Sergeant") hit with a sabotage that prevented him from touching or tasting his food, instead having to instruct "Private Bob" to do his prep and cooking for him. It quickly turns out that Chef Brad makes an excellent one of these, and the sabotage utterly fails, as he has no problem constantly screaming very precise instructions to "Private Bob" for every single step of the cooking process. In fact, he's such a Large Ham that the volume gets to his opponents, throwing them off their cooking while he gets exactly what he wants.

  • Early-Installment Weirdness:
    • The graphics for the beginning of rounds one, two, and three in Season 1 would only show what round was occurring at the moment. From Season 2 onward, they were upgraded to show this plus photos of the contestants with their individual names and how much money each one of them had left to spend in the competition.
    • In both season 1 and 2, while the chefs were being introduced they would show a clip of some of their one-liners in the show, leading to Trailers Always Spoil. Starting in season 3, the producers cut that out.
    • The type of dish in any given episode can vary between savory-savory-sweet to savory-savory-savory, to savory-sweet-savory. In later seasons, it has mostly stuck to the Chopped structure: savory-savory-sweet (compared to Appetizer, Entree, Dessert).
    • In Season 1, there were a couple of sabotages whose minimum bid was raised to $1000. From Season 2 on, all sabotages have a minimum of $500.
      • Well, unless you're the only chef with at least $500, in which case you can go ahead and put up the piddling amount it'll take to confirm the auction as the Foregone Conclusion it so clearly is.
    • In the first two seasons, the judges only cared about one thing — "What's on your plate?" From Season 3 on, they use three criteria: taste, presentation, and whether the food reminds them of the assigned dish.
    • Season 1 also had Alton ask the judge in Round 2 which dish was their favorite, then congratulate the chef that made that dish on surviving the round before revealing who was eliminated (after cutting to commercial, of course.)
  • Easy-Mode Mockery: If you happen to be sabotage-less, especially in Round 1, there's a good chance Alton will show up at your side to not-so-subtly remind you that A) sabotages are meant to hinder the opposition, B) since other chefs have been hindered but you haven't, managing to get eliminated despite that would be quite embarrassing, and C) that by virtue of not being assigned a sabotage, the other chefs obviously don't think you're much of a threat.
  • Elimination Statement: Losing competitors usually get one, played over a shot of them walking away down a long corridor.
  • Enemy Mine:
    • Two chefs might be working together on auctions to take out another competitor. And then they will go back to sabotaging each other. This is often a better strategy than to try to "distribute" the sabotages equally because only the worst dish will be eliminated in a round.
    • One very notable instance, reinforcing that that is indeed the best strategy, is in the finale of the Evilicious tournament, the very first sabotage is that the four chefs have to team up in pairs to cook spaghetti and meatballs, one from each pair doing the pasta and sauce, and the other doing the meatballs, the weakest component overall being the one to go home. Chef Jernard wins the auction, teams up Chef Sammy and Chef Yaku, and picks Chef Matthew as his teammate to prepare the meatballs because he thinks he can do them best. It proves to be a mistake: the next auction is to confiscate your opponent's salt with no replacement. Chef Matthew spends over 60% of his money to buy it, and without a second of hesitation, gives it to Jernard, claiming that there are no teams in Cutthroat Kitchen. Yaku and Sammy take their forced teamwork in stride, working together amicably, while Matthew makes every attempt to ensure that his teammate gets the short end of the stick. In the end, Yaku and Sammy have the better plate, and Matthew is sent home first due to overly dry meatballs.
    • Also made a notable appearance in "The Hunt for Bread October"; after Chef Bella (Air Force) had sabotaged Chef Brad (Army) and Chef James (Navy) in the first round, they silently agreed to tag-team her in the second round, partly for revenge and partly because they wanted to compete head-to-head in the final. The plan worked perfectly; Bella got hit with both sabotages, one from each chef, and was eliminated.
  • Enforced Method Acting: Magnificently invoked in "Judging Judges". Alton tells the judges that they will play the same rules as the regular game, meaning that only the winner's charity gets whatever the winning chef had at the end. Except, Alton tells Antonia that he lied. He gave the losing chefs $5000 apiece and Antonia's winnings were bumped back up to the full $25,000.
  • Engaging Chevrons: Invoked as one category of sabotages, as a way of depriving one or more chefs of cooking time by forcing them to do something else. This shows up in various forms:
    • A chef loses ingredients and has to perform a time-consuming activity to get them back. (Example: replacing lost chocolate with M&M's, dispensed one at a time from a candy machine.)
    • Two chefs take part in a contest, with the loser suffering an additional time penalty. (Example: a race to grate an entire block of cheese.)
    • Overt busywork. (Example: picking all the sesame seeds off a hamburger bun with tweezers.)
      Alton: It's just busy work. It serves absolutely no culinary purpose other than to amuse me.
  • Epic Fail: Every once in a while a chef will be eliminated despite having no sabotages assigned to them. Bonus points if they're the only chef in the round without any sabotages. Grand prize points if they're eliminated despite having zero sabotages and almost all of their $25,000 war chest available, if not the whole package; that exact scenario (with the full $25,000) has happened at least once.
  • Equivalent Exchange:
    • If any chef should happen to still be in the pantry after the maximum 60 seconds, Alton will only allow the chef to leave after confiscating one of their ingredients within their shopping basket. Now, it's almost as rare for anyone to get caught in the pantry as it is for someone to win with the full $25,000, but on the first and most memorable occasion, Alton was able to trap three out of four contestants in the pantry and forced them to give him one of the bottles they had acquired in order to be able to escape.
    • During the second round of a Season 8 episode, none of the three chefs still in the game made it out of the pantry before time expired.
      • Alton has said on Twitter that chefs actually do get caught in the pantry more often than the show depicts, but that it's usually cut in editing.
    • Sabotages features these Equivalent Exchanges regularly. They are known as "swap and assign" where the winner of the auction can swap out a target ingredient for a potentially worse version of the ingredient. This usually affects the other chefs.
      • Sometimes these include trading in ALL of a chef's ingredients (including anything they're working on at the time of the auction) for what they can "harvest": Geoffrey Zakarian had to harvest ingredients for a Fruit Tart from one of the "Brown Family Farm Fruit Trees" while another had to harvest ingredients for soup and salad from a "garden" in a planter.
      • "I Can't Believe It's Not Udder" forced a chef in the "tres leches (three-milk) cake" round to trade all milk/cream ingredients for whatever they could milk from "Sally," a prop cow who had six unlabeled udders. Four of them dispensed different dairy products, while the other two gave coconut and almond milk. The chef who got hit with this sabotage took a little time to taste-test each udder and eventually got the ingredients he needed.
    • One frequent sabotage has chefs exchange their baskets (or even what they've cooked so far mid-round) with each other. This one really stung one chef during a burger challenge — she paid $12,000 for the kitchen's only meat grinder, then was forced to swap ingredients with another chef planning to make an Ahi burger.
      • "Judging Judges" had Geoffrey Zakarian and Antonia Lofaso trade their stations and had to cook what was there as their own dish. Since Geoffrey also had the mini-taquito kitchen, it was a real double-whammy for Antonia.
      • "Tos-Ta-Da!" had a new wrinkle in the "swapping stations" sabotage: you can either get two opponents to swap stations, OR you can swap your own station with one of your opponents. (This came in handy when a chef who'd been forced to cook from a station made out of a giant high-chair got to use it on the chef who was the biggest threat.)
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • While Alton almost never provides direct help to the chefs, he will step in if it looks like a chef isn't going to have anything plated within the time limit. Special mention to the chef who mishears "biscuits and gravy" as "brisket and gravy" and promptly realized he was about to be very screwed come judging time. One might expect Alton to invoke an Evil Laugh and move on with his day, but he tells him to just cook a great dish, own up to the judge, and hope for the best, since that's really all he can do in the given situation.
    • Except for the finale, any chef eliminated during a Superstar Sabotage episode will still have $2,500 donated to the charity of the chef's choice. The same goes for both of the episodes where the judges competed.
    • During a whoopee pie challenge in the second Superstar Sabotage tournament, chef Fabio Viviani was forced to wear whoopee cushions on the heels of his shoes without stepping on them. He stepped on them eleven times, losing a total of $1,100 in fines in the process. Fabio ultimately was that episode's winner, and, because this was a charity event, Alton returned the $1,100.
  • Evil Is Hammy: Alton really hams it up with his Evil Dungeon Master persona. And it only gets worse during the specials, such as Dr. Evilicious from the second Halloween special and Professor Sabotage from the superhero special.
  • Evil Phone: One appeared in the Tournament of Terror as a mid-round sabotage. Whoever got stuck with it had to answer a call from the phone and do whatever it said, which turned out for the sabotaged chef to be finishing his dish in exactly seven minutes.
  • Evil Laugh: When a sabotage is especially diabolical, Alton will give one of these. And then the Halloween Episode came and he ratcheted up the evil factor. They're bone-chilling.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: The man-cave episode titled "The One With William Shatner". Yes, that William Shatner.
  • Extreme Omnivore: The Bobs appear to be this. In one Camp Cutthroat episode, a chef was sabotaged to have their basket swapped for the Bobs' bagged lunches. While some lunches contained food, a few others contained things like rocks or bundles of sticks. Yummy.

  • Face–Heel Turn: Alton himself made one when he started to host this show. Compare him in Good Eats to here.
  • Failed a Spot Check: Happens in many rounds (though the chefs have gotten better recently about grabbing and running to avoid this) because of the short 60-second shopping segment. So the best they can hope for is for a traded ingredient via sabotage, and if an opponent happens to notice, they're not likely to get it.
    • Every so often, a chef will be so wrapped up in their cooking that they fail to notice an auction for a mid-round sabotage. If someone confessionals to this effect, you can pretty safely guess who's about to get tagged with it.
    • This is sometimes reversed whenever a "swap and assign" sabotage is in play. An example comes from a gumbo challenge in "Operation Gumbo Drop": One chef leaves the pantry with sausage but no seafood. One of the sabotages is a coin-operated gumball machine that would replace one chef's entire basket with luck-of-the-draw ingredients. Fortunately for this particular contestant, he gets the gumball machine and gets several key ingredients — including seafood — but in very small portions. He not only survives the round but ends up as the day's winner.
  • Failure Is the Only Option: If you get multiple sabotages and you make the best of it, you might still get cut. The Chocolate Cake challenge demonstrates this well.
  • Fate Drives Us Together: Vincent and Kate, the finalists of the breakfast special, both appeared in the same heat in Camp Cutthroat 2. Considering how hilarious their interactions were (Vincent being a British Deadpan Snarker and Kate being a wannabe princess Cloudcuckoolander), this was almost certainly not a coincidence.
  • Fingore: Chef Amber sliced off a fingertip in 'My So-Called Trifle' while chopping in a stuffed cabbage challenge. Amazingly, despite the Do Not Try This at Home-heavy nature of the show, this was the first major chef injury (numerous small cuts happen, as to be expected - if a chef's finger has the fingertip of a glove covering it, it's a lead pipe cinch they cut themselves and it was edited out) in Cutthroat Kitchen history... in Season 12, on the 146th episode. Amber was unable to continue; the round continued with only the three uninjured chefs (See "Time for Plan B" below).
  • Foreign Queasine: Occasionally invoked in ingredient-swap sabotages where chefs are forced to replace items from their baskets with things like haggis and century eggs.note 
  • Flawless Victory:
    • Leaving Cutthroat Kitchen with the full $25,000. However, given the nature of this game, it's Harder Than Hard. This requires the contestant to take all sabotages that may come their way while also not committing any fouls that would result in fines.
      • Until the end of 2014, Eric Greenspan had come closest, winning $24,600 in "Superstar Sabotage". Going into round 3, he still had all his money while his opponent was down to $100. He didn't even wait for Alton's explanations of the two sabotages before bidding "$200". He explained to the Confession Cam that, "whereas I wanted to save all that money for charity ... I'm not an idiot."
      • Played with on "Judging The Judges"; Antonia Lofaso kept all her money in reserve and let the other chefs duke it out, then in the final round zapped Geoffrey Zakarian — who was down to his last $2,900 — with a sabotage for which she paid $3,000, which required GZ to harvest all the ingredients he needed for his dish off a fruit tree. She won with $22,000, which would have ordinarily been the single largest payout to date, but as noted above, since this was a charity episode, she got the full $25,000 to give to her charity. However, under regular rules, this doesn't count since she technically did not finish round 3 with $25,000.
      • In the Food Network Star version, where the maximum prize for winning their heat was $2500, Chef Christopher managed the feat by refraining from bidding until the last auction (leading to Alton cracking "And Chef Christopher finally wakes up!" when that happened; as it turned out, Christopher didn't win that auction anyway).
      • In the 2014 Christmas episode, Chef Keith makes it through to the end of the episode with all of his $25,000, but has to give it all back after he narrowly loses the final challenge as a result of all the sabotages his less-frugal opponent heaps on him.
      • A few weeks later, it FINALLY happens with Kyle, a chef determined to win the full amount - he never bid on a single item. He prevailed in the final round when his opponent made chalky ice cream. Alton even repeatedly warned him that he wasn't likely to pull it off, only to cheerfully eat his words and congratulate Kyle on his feat at the end.
    • "50 Shades of Sorbet" ended with a different form of flawless victory: Hawaiian chef Kaimana Chee became the first chef to not only make it through the show without receiving any sabotages, but he also wound up winning.
  • Food Slap: Obliquely speaking, hitting someone with a sabotage of undesirable food. Especially after they have wronged you once.
  • Four Is Death:
    • One sabotage in "I Like My Peppers Pulverized" forced a chef to use a glass jar instead of a basket for shopping in the pantry. The chef who was stuck with this was only able to get four ingredients out of the pantry. He was eliminated thanks to this sabotage and another that forced him to share a stuffed cooking area with another chef.
    • Another involves the "Wheel of Heat". This wheel determines what heat source the chef who is forced to spin it is restricted to. Each source of heat has one or two spaces except for the microwave, which has four spaces in the four corners of the wheel and are colored black. The dish that first came with this sabotage was blackened fish, which really can't be cooked in the microwave.
  • Free Prize at the Bottom: In "The Breakfast and the Furious," all of the challenges were breakfast-themed, and the final challenge was to make cereal (with milk, though they didn't have to make the milk.) The first sabotage of the round was to make your opponent forfeit all their tools and vessels and use only what they could find at the bottom of cereal boxes provided by Alton Brown, such as toy dinosaurs, a toy truck, and, yes, a little toy pan.
  • Friend or Foe?:
    • The infamous spaghetti and meatballs challenge from the first Evilicious Tournament.
    • Any sabotage that involves two (or more) contestants forming a team can end up this way.
  • Funny Background Event: Whenever a judge tastes a chef's dish, Alton stands behind the judge and more or less provides a second layer of commentary using solely facial expressions and gestures. Said commentary is, of course, informed by the fact that he knows what sabotages the chefs went through and what they may have done to sabotage themselves and the judges don't.
  • Furniture Assembly Gag: The series was fond of forcing chefs to build their own prep-table. This typically involved giving the chefs poor equipment and tools to use. A recurring sabotage was making an entire prep/cook station out of a shopping cart.
    • In a Take That! to IKEA, a pair of chefs were given a mystery box of parts to build a pre-table with - and they had to share the result. Much to their dismay, the box contained two mismatched surfaces, a few hinges, 3 legs of different lengths and an assortment of screws. They ended up building an incredibly rickety table, and had to resort to using an overturned pot to make one of the legs the same length of the other two. Half-way through the round, it tipped over and fell apart, forcing them to rebuild it.
    • During a challenge to cook pizza, a chef had to build their prep table out of pizza boxes, which came in their flat, unfolded state. Luckily for the victim, she had worked at a pizza restaurant, so she could fold pizza boxes very quickly.
    • During the man-cave episode, a chef had to build a table from leftovers of a party. He ended up shoving a bunch of beer cans into trash bags and just using that.

  • Gambit Pileup The most common example is when one or more players are bidding on an item, not because they want to win it, but simply because they're all just trying to build up the price. Turns hilarious when everyone in the Confession Cam is cackling maniacally when they think they've got everyone else right where they want them.
  • Genki Girl: Chef Emily, whose first episode shows off her perky and energetic side, which doesn't diminish in her return. A few other chefs also qualify, like Chef Robyn.
  • Genre Blind: Alton does provide tips for chefs who come into Cutthroat Kitchen to avoid this trope (they're viewable in a clip titled "Surviving Cutthroat Kitchen"):
    • Spending too much money at once is a great way to screw yourself over later on. The RPG variant of the Auction does not work in this show since $25,000 is all you have for the day. Meaning, if you try to make a Whammy Bid, people may not back down, and in fact, could cause you to spend more than you need to. Or you lose the bid and the winner decides to inflict the sabotage on you in retaliation for the bidding war. In fact, Alton tells viewers to never bid in more than $100 increments. A great number of chefs fell because they pissed their money in round 1, virtually giving them no defense in the next rounds.
    • Also, indiscriminately sabotaging everyone. On a similar token, not considering the opponent's background can backfire on you, such as giving a cheftendernote  the sabotage of making a frozen cocktail to go along with the dish, or switching out a Filipina chef's fish for bait for a Fish Fry round. Since it's standard procedure for any cooking competition to meet your competition backstage, it's no excuse to not use their background to your advantage.
    • There is inevitably a mid-round sabotage in round 1 (and possibly in round 2 as well), and there's a curious tendency from the chef who wins it to assign it to the chef who won one or more pre-round auctions as a way of "getting back" at them or "leveling the playing field." The far better strategy, as Alton has noted on his sticky-note Twitter account, would be to pile such a sabotage on a chef who is already under difficult conditions. After all, in rounds 1 and 2, you don't have to have the best dish — you just have to not have the worst dish.
    • A lot of contestants fail to grab the main ingredients first when going into the pantry. This could lead to them forgetting a key component of their dish: for instance, both the kung pao chicken challenge and the chicken Caesar salad challenge had chefs who forgot to grab any chicken. (One successfully sold a substitute to the judge, the other didn't.)
    • Not picking up essentials such as eggs, flour, a source of salt (if not necessarily salt) and sugar (to counteract said salt) from the pantry can lead to disaster. In general, forgetting ingredients in this show hurts more than in Chopped since the chefs can't go back to the pantry. They often grab extra ingredients as a potential backup against sabotages, and they're not required to use everything they take.
    • Unlike Chopped or Sweet Genius, using premade ingredients is not a bad thing at all and may actually work better than expected. For an ice cream sandwich challenge, one sabotage was to replace all ice cream flavoring with ice cream pops. One chef thought it would ruin her dish, but the one who got the sabotage used it to his advantage, knowing who the judge was: Antonia Lofaso, who historically has both a sweet tooth and a stronger appreciation for premade foods than other regular judges.
    • It's amazing how many chefs go into the pantry and go get their stuff, not thinking that a sabotage will affect one or more of the components needed to make the dish. While some sabotages can't be planned for (completely wiping out a basket is a common sabotage), chefs really need to at least think of a plan while in the pantry for what happens if their main ingredient gets taken away. This quote sums it up (from the Steak Dinner round):
    Alton: You didn't actually think I was gonna let you keep all that steak, did ya? I mean, come on! I got a reputation to uphold here.
    • Don't add in extraneous stuff to the dish because the judge has to factor that into the dish. This has felled quite a number of chefs due to their stupidity. Hell, Alton even warned Chef Skylar of "SaBOOOtage" not to add in the Ice Cream. She did it anyway. Hell, the judges and Alton find this a really annoying habit of contestants that they have told people in the After-Show to just do the challenge and do it well. It's not that hard.
    • The number one example of this trope is Chef Jourdan, from the episode "The Full Monte Cristo". She gets caught in the pantry, gets her bread swapped for the soggy croutons in a bowl of French Onion soup, and then finds out too late that what she thought was cheese (one of the key ingredients in a Monte Cristo) was butter. She was the first to go.
  • Genre Savvy: In both of the special judge episodes, Antonia Lofaso doesn't bid much in the first two rounds, if at all. In both cases, she goes to the final round with all her money, outbids her opponent on a sabotage, and wins.
  • The Glomp: Winning chefs will occasionally get so excited about their victory that they glomp Alton, the other chef, and even the judge. Most notable was Chef Robyn in Season 8, who nearly knocked Alton and Jet off their feet upon being declared the victor. They wound up handing Robyn her winnings and running for it.
  • Golden Snitch: The final round. You don't have to win the first two rounds; you just have to make sure you don't lose. But in the final round? Go for the win. And if the judge declares the dish the perfect dish, it's game over for the opponent.
    • The series has had only two exceptions: in "Crabs of Steel", the final round was pineapple upside-down cake, and while one chef was perfect technically, the other was perfect in flavor. Likewise, in "Domo Arigato, Mr. Gelato", the final round was gelato and pizzelle; one chef made a perfect gelato and the other made a perfect pizzelle. In both cases, the judge could not pick a winner, so both chefs won.
  • Gone Swimming, Clothes Stolen: Judge Richard Blaise dressed like this in "Camp Cutthroat 2: Alton's Revenge: Finale, The Great Out S'mores" as the eliminated contestants stole all his stuff while he was bathing outdoors.
  • Graceful Loser: Most chefs take it reasonably well when they're eliminated, wishing the other chefs luck and shaking hands or hugging it out with everyone. A few, however, do not, instead complaining to the Confession Cam about the perceived inferiority of their opponents or disagreeing with the judge's decision.
  • Gratuitous Japanese: "Sabotachi" from the finale of the second Superstar Sabotage tournament.
  • Gratuitous Spanish: Chef Kori in "Steak Out" named her steak and fries dish "Carnes y Papas" Translation
  • Guide Dang It!: If you are forced to switch ingredients with the sabotage, the sabotage may contain an odd ingredient that you must use. Some chefs are outright stumped on what to do with them. Since every sabotage featured on the show has been researched and tested by food stylists, you are expected to use that odd ingredient to your advantage. Alton explains this in some of the After-Show clips, and sometimes the camera will come to him during the round so he can explain to the audience how he would deal with the sabotage. Some examples include:
    • Switching out ripe bananas with unripe bananas and banana peels. Yes, you can roast unripe bananas to hopefully coax out enough of the fructose. However, unripe bananas will not have enough banana flavor. The banana peels have the banana flavor in them, and you need to extract the flavor via alcohol.
    • Switching out your meat for a beef heart and crickets for a stew challenge. You can't use the crickets whole, especially since it's really out of place with the stew. They were expecting you to pulverize it and either use it as salt or as a garnish.
    • There's also a bit of an inverted example in one of the Superstar Sabotage heats. Justin Warner gets stuck doing all his cooking in a pan full of oatmeal. He pushes all the oatmeal to one side, then makes a pancake and uses it as a sort of wall to separate the oatmeal so that he can have a clean place to cook. When Alton sees this, he admits that he probably wouldn't have thought of doing that.

  • Hates Being Touched: Downplayed, but Alton consistently seems disconcerted and uncomfortable whenever a winning chef hugs him, which happens frequently.
  • High-Class Gloves: "Aunt Mabel's Gloves" is a recurring sabotage. A chef must wear white gloves and is penalized if they touch their food with anything other than tools.
    Chef Huda: Aunt Mabel's gloves are the devil! They have turned chefs into children!
  • His Own Worst Enemy: Alton himself has noted that more chefs have been sent home from self-sabotage then the sabotages he hands out.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: A common ending to some of the more cocky and conceited chefs.
    • A memorable one was when a chef won the bid for the sole right to taste her food. During the entire round, she kept rubbing it in the faces of her competitors...only to have her sauce mixture explode in the blender because she didn't put the cover on. Said blender fell into the trash can, taking her sauce with it.
    Jet Tila: "It looks like you're wearing more tomato sauce than what made it to the dish."
    • Unlike other Food Network shows like Chopped or Iron Chef, this series does not overtly judge participants on originality. Many contestants have been eliminated without sabotage simply by choosing to do some sort of original spin on a fairly simple dish, and there have also been some called out for keeping the dish too simple and not putting any of their own style into it. This does, however, depend on the judge. Antonia Lofaso, in particular, is kind to these sorts of twists, while Simon Majumdar is more likely to disparage a contestant for creating something that veers too far from the goal, particularly when it detracts from important traits of the theme dish.
    • Some contestants will drop a large sum of money for a certain sabotage, only for that other contestant to not only still dish out something good, but the sabotage actually works out in their favor. So not only was the sabotage ineffective (or even counterproductive) but now they're also low on funds.
    • A major pitfall for contestants is poor bidding strategy. Quite a few contestants have lost because they threw so much of their money into buying a sabotage, that they had nothing left to bid with in later rounds. In an extreme example, one chef had only 500 dollars left when he reached the last round, allowing his competitor to buy both sabotages for a song and send him home while walking away with nearly all her money.
  • Homemade Sweater from Hell: The Christmas episode gave Chef Kelly in the first round one that wasn't just an ugly Christmas sweater, it was an ugly Christmas sweater with a motley of tools and utensils strung to it. She got sent home, but due in no part whatsoever to the sweater. She wound up accidentally sticking her ham on a live grill that she thought was off earlier, and accidentally tips over her pot of sauce and spills the majority of it. Sure enough, she gets called out for dry ham and a lack of sauce, and is sent off. Majumdar also wore one for the duration of the episode.
  • Hurricane of Puns: Clearly, the writers are having too much fun with the themes, as if the episode titles themselves were bad enough.
    • In the Split Pea round, you had one sabotage which forced one chef to split half the basket with another chef and you had a split apron which chained two chefs together.
    • In the Club Sandwich round, the first sabotage was to replace all implements with whatever was in the golf club bag. To drive that pun home, the second sabotage forced the chef to wear what were essentially golf club gloves while being forbidden to touch food with them.
    • The first challenge in the same episode (that gave the episode its title: "Big Trouble In Little Chinese Chicken Salad") had a running theme as well. The first sabotage was replacing all kitchen implements with tools chained to the "Great Wall Of Tools", the second was replacing all bowls and pots with strainers — specifically, "China Caps", the third sabotage was replacing all of one chef's ingredients with whatever was inside a huge batch of dim sum dumplings, and the mid-round sabotage was forcing one chef to wear a Chinese Finger Trap for the rest of the round.
    • One notable aversion: for the Chocolate Mousse round, one of the proposed sabotages was to replace a whisk with a moose's antlers. To make mousse, you need to be able to incorporate air into the cream. Since the moose's antlers can't do that, it was scrapped.
    • For the Halloween special, the first dish was deviled eggs, and the final dish Devil's Food cake. The second Halloween special's second round dish was "ghoul"-ash.
    • Especially in later seasons, it's simply a given that many of the sabotages will be pun-based. For example: having to hold hands with the other chefs and sometimes take a bow while making bao (steamed buns) or having to jump double dutch every time "Double dutch baby!" is called during a challenge to make dutch baby pancakes.
  • Hypocritical Humor: The "humor" part may vary, but any chef who calls an opponent mean or too aggressive, while saddling them with a sabotage.

  • I Always Wanted to Say That: Twice now, Alton has bade the chefs welcome to "Fantasy Kitchen", and then invoked this trope.
  • I Ate WHAT?!: This is a common reaction on the webisodes.
    • The near-shriek Giada de Laurentiis produced when Alton showed her the highly-unpleasant canned chicken that had gone into one of the dishes she tasted was so memorable that it became a regular clip on the show's promotions. The reaction she had when she saw that she ate old oatmeal was more subdued but equally appalled
    • Another judge reacted with a Flat "What" when shown the base of the spaghetti sauce he had praised as "slightly odd" but delicious: packets of ketchup, and some very, very skillful doctoring by a talented chef. During the judging of that round, Alton was clearly struggling not to laugh while the judge tried to figure out why the sauce tasted so sweet...
  • Iconic Item:
    • Items representing the sabotages are lowered into the kitchen on a dumbwaiter.
    • For the Camp Cutthroat tournaments, the items are handed out to Alton by a person hidden inside a pup tent.
  • Identically Named Group: Alton addresses all the kitchen hands (male and female) as "Bob".
    "Bring on the next sabotage, Bobs!"
  • I Lied: In "Judging Judges", Alton told the judges that there will be no charity for the wicked, saying that if you lose, your charity loses. Unlike Chopped, the losers still got money for charity, to the tune of $5,000.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: When Alton asks Simon how he feels about gyro.
    Simon: Am I allowed to say I've been holding out for a gyro?
    *Beat, music stops*
    Alton: No.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink:
    • Redemption Episode, Round 1: Hot Dog. Chef Pink was hit with two sabotages of "convenience store hot dog cooker" as the only heat source and got her buns replaced by soggy buns. After a nearly disastrous round, she made some bourbon to go along with the dish. Subverted as it was not for her: it was for the judge.
    • Said, almost word-for-word, by Geoffrey Zakarian after the last round of the "Judging the Judges" episode.
  • Interservice Rivalry: Invoked in "The Hunt for Bread October". The four chefs in the episode each came from a branch of the US armed forces: Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force. This naturally led to some good-natured (and not so good-natured) sniping from all four chefs. The Army and Navy chefs especially got into it, given the traditional rivalry between them. They even teamed up to eliminate the Air Force chef specifically so they could go head-to-head in the final round. The Army chef won.
  • Ironic Echo Cut:
    • During the corn muffin challenge:
      Chef Joel (to the Confession Cam): Chef Dean is grabbing a lot of savory items. I don't think he's made a corn muffin in his entire life.
      Chef Dean (to the Confession Cam): I've never made a corn muffin in my entire life.
    • During the cupcake challenge:
      Alton: Everybody loves cupcakes!
      Chef Neal (to the Confession Cam): I hate cupcakes.
  • I Warned You: In the final round of "SaBOOOOtage", Alton advised Chef Skylar against including an ice cream with the devil's food cake, the actual challenge, as it will have to be judged along with the dish and could take away from the whole thing. She included it... And was cut. He almost said those exact same words when she had to return the money.
  • Impossibly Delicious Food: After all the sabotages one has to endure, this is probably the best way to get revenge.
  • In Another Man's Shoes: "Judging Judges" has four of the Judges play the game. See Celebrity Edition.

  • Just a Kid: Averted with the high school episode featuring teenage chefs. Though the sabotages were all school-themed, they were about the level of difficulty one would find in a standard Cutthroat Kitchen episode. Alton also once said to guest judge Valerie Bertinelli that he'd like to host an episode with child competitors so he could make them cry. He was probably joking...

  • Kindness Button: One of the main buttons for judge Antonia Lofaso is the creative use of premade ingredients. Or using premade ingredients to invoke her childhood memories.

  • Lame Pun Reaction: In the aftershow for the 2014 Christmas episode, judge Simon Majumdar is introduced to a tiny snowman made out of butter used in one of the sabotages, and suggests that it might be named "Pat". Alton's beleaguered reaction prompts him to apologize for the terrible pun.
  • Large Ham:
    • Alton. He clearly relishes being a sort of Dungeon Master for this show. Alton's always had a sense of humor. His early show Good Eats and his time on Iron Chef America showed how versatile he could be with his humor, particularly in regards to mishaps. He has to play nice on The Next Iron Chef and Food Network Star, but here he's able to use that humor to emphasize the Comedic Sociopathy element. He cranks it up to eleven in the Season 5 Halloween special, dressing as Count Dracula and letting loose with a malevolent, chilling laugh every couple of minutes. Then in the following Halloween special, he hams it up even more with a Dr. Evil persona complete with a plush white cat. In "Camp Cutthroat," especially the second go-round, he takes on a persona that is a cross between Drill Sergeant Nasty and Go Mad from the Isolation. And in "The Breakfast and the Furious," he shows up in his robe as if he just got out of bed with a serious case of Not a Morning Person.
    • In "The Hunt For Bread October," the 2015 Veteran's Day special, Chef Brad Turner, a former Army sergeant, does a network-safe version of Drill Sergeant Nasty when a sabotage keeps him from touching anything, and he must instruct "Private Bob" on how to prep and cook the dish. He gleefully hams it up to the point where his volume also distracts his opponents.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Pissing off everyone early sets you up as the villain for the day. They usually get what's coming to them later, especially if they lack the money to auction. It's also not uncommon for the one person in the round who has no sabotages to be the one who gets the ax, which Alton always lampshades.
    • A typical example can be found in "Whatchoo Taco'ing About, Alton?". Chef Jack sabotaged Chef Emily's and Rob's deli sandwiches by forcing them to harvest ingredients from a vending machine, then proceeded to sabotage Chef Ventura by forcing him to prepare his sandwich on a sandwiched prep station. Everyone's confessional camera reaction? Karma is coming for you, Jack.
      • Ventura got his revenge by forcing Jack and Emily to stack a deli sandwich, wasting their cooking time.
      • Emily got her due in round 2 by replacing Jack's tortillas with chocolate waffle tacos for a taco challenge.
      • Jack blew almost all of his money in round 2 on forcing Emily and Ventura to cook each other's tacos. Sure enough, by the time he and Emily made it into the final round, we get this golden moment when Alton auctions off a mobility scooter as a chef's sole method of transportation. Keep in mind, Jack is down to $3500 while Emily is at $21,400.
    Chef Emily: Oh, my gosh! (Confessional supercut) Someone spent all his money, and now (sighs) a sweet revenge.
    Emily: Oh! I think I'll do $3600!
    Alton: Do I have a $3600 bid?
    Emily: Yes!
    Alton: Do I have a—- ohhh... I'm sorry. (Jack smiles and shrugs) Going once, going twice, sold to Chef Emily.
    • One chef was near sexually-harassing an attractive competitor so blatantly that one of the other contestants sarcastically told him to just ask her out, and he spent the first two rounds obviously trying to eliminate her. Come the final round, it's down to those two. Cue the Oh, Crap! look on his face when it was announced the meal was to be cake. And the woman he'd been harassing the entire show was a pastry chef. No prizes for guessing how that one turned out.
    • Chef Penny Davidi, the resident Food Network villain from Food Network Star, suffered from this magnificently. She was just as rude as she was on FNS and Chopped. But the long-awaited comeuppance came during the Spaghetti and Meatballs round when she started to taunt her competitors for not being able to taste their food, an advantageous sabotage she won. Not long after, she was so busy trading barbs with a competitor that she forgot to put a lid on her blender, turned it on, splattered scalding sauce all over her, and the whole mess, blender and all, fell and landed directly in the trash bin. She survived the round, but lost the episode. Bye-bye, Penny. This just so happened to occur in the very first round of the very first episode ever taped (it eventually aired as the sixth episode), and Food Network has run with the clip ever since.
    • From the show's first military episode: Chef Bella, representing the U.S. Air Force, forces chefs James (U.S. Navy), Brad (U.S. Army), and Matt (U.S. Marine Corps) to work in separate stations in the first round, a steak-and-egg breakfast challenge. After Matt is eliminated, chefs Brad and James decide to double-team Bella in the second round, a submarine sandwich challenge. Brad wins the first auction, forcing Bella to spend the entire round prepping, cooking, and moving about the kitchen in a tiny tank; James wins the second auction, confiscating Bella's basket, forcing her to use ingredients that had been in a basket that was blown up. Their strategy works. Judge Antonia Lofaso eliminated Bella for presenting a sandwich that's much too small to constitute a sub.
    • In "Two Chefs, One Toga", Chef Miranda and Chef Kristina team up against Chef Tom for the second round after what he did to them in first round. Poor dude ended up with all three sabotages for the round and got eliminated for it.
  • Laser Hallway: One sabotage required the unlucky chef to navigate one of these (really just plastic tubes attached to an alarm) any time they went between the prep area and the cooking area, as well as work around them while doing their prep work. Every time the alarm went off, the victim lost $500.
  • Less Embarrassing Term: Sometimes, if the chefs are sabotaged to the point where they couldn't quite make the dish described, they may try using a fancy term to describe it, such as a "deconstructed omelet."
    Judge: Let's call them what they are, your scrambled eggs.
  • Lethal Chef: So far, averted. However, judge Simon Majumdar did call out a chef who put out a fishing lure as "decoration" on the plate. In the Webisode, he explains that if you serve that at the restaurant, somebody might choke on it and he has the right to call out things like that. Other chefs have inadvertently left inedible items on the plate (such as plastic wrap from cheese or a rubber band from a bunch of asparagus) and promptly been sent home.
  • Let's See YOU Do Better!: One of the chefs came to Cutthroat Kitchen because his wife was complaining about how he says he can do better... except it got the better of him when he decided to use a home grilling machine to cook burgers... and had overcooked burgers and untoasted buns. (This caused a Funny Background Event, by the way, with a quick glimpse of Alton looking on incredulously as the chef gave away the best grill, a classic-style Weber charcoal unit, to an opponent.) He was the first to get cut, and he noted that his wife was never going to let him hear the end of it.
  • The Load:
    • In the middle of a lobster roll challenge, Alton auctions off an anchor and chain that one chef has to chain to their waist. The chef stuck with this initially downplays it, as she's 'used to cooking with children on my hip', but moving it around starts to become more and more of a liability. So much so that she forgets to take her bread off the grill while messing with the anchor, burning her bread and getting her sent home.
    • The Christmas episode had Alton auctioning off Santa's sack mid-Round 1. This involved the victim being forced to carry a large and heavy sack of toys in a single hand for the remainder of the round (though the "dominant hand" rule doesn't apply, thankfully).
    • Another episode saw a chef being forced to carry a large stuffed monkey on her back, without being allowed to use her hands to keep it in position. When the inevitable occurred, Alton accused her of killing the monkey and levied a $500 fine.
  • Loophole Abuse:
    • Two official loopholes. The rest fall under Not the Intended Use.
      • Chefs are not allowed to tell the judge what sabotage they were given. However, there is no rule saying you can't embellish a dish with an ingredient that was a sabotage. For example, while you can't complain about getting your clams replaced with geoduck, you can say that you made "Geoducks Rockefeller". However, the "embellishing" can go a bit too far, causing the chef to hit one of the judges' main Berserk Buttons: You Keep Using That Word. Also, there's no rule saying that you can't claim something that was done to you as a sabotage was actually your own idea. For example, a chef that is sabotaged by being made to make a Cobb salad using only hot ingredients claimed it was own idea.
      • While Alton Brown is not allowed to tell the chef how to use certain sabotages or what to do with a sabotage ingredient, he can hint it out, and generally uses this to throw a bone to someone who otherwise may not even have a dish to present (see Mercy Mode below). Of course, it goes both ways; when directly asked for help, he has smugly pointed out that he knows exactly what he would do with that sabotage... while walking away.
    • In one of the sabotages for the donut round, a chef had all their ingredients taken away and had to throw donut holes into coffee mugs to get them back — each time they sunk a hole, they got one ingredient back. Chef Frank did fairly well, taking about 2½ minutes to get 12 of his 13 ingredients back. However, when Alton demonstrated this sabotage during the aftershow, he just grabbed a double fistful of donut holes and lobbed them all into the mugs.
    • In the Cubano/Cuban Sandwich round, one sabotage was to have his cutting utensils replaced with a cigar cutter. While you had to use the cutter, Alton didn't say you couldn't lop half of it off to make it easier to cut, which is precisely what the chef did.
    • The pantry has a limited amount of ingredients to be shared by all of the chefs. A few contestants have made a point to grab all of a particular ingredient to try and cripple their opponents, but this strategy is rare since it paints a huge target on your back when it comes time to bid. Plus, if necessary, the producers have shown the ability to arrange specific sabotages to give everyone a fighting chance.
    • In the patty melt challenge, a chef had his cheese swapped out for the cheese from a nacho plate. This chef also forgot to grab any bread in the pantry, so he cleverly devised to use the nacho chips as his bread, which Alton rightly pointed out he wasn't forbidden from doing. Didn't help him any, though. He went home that round.
    • Of course, as the episodes wore on, Alton would add on stipulations that would effectively close those loopholes. For example, for the perforated bread pan sabotage, chefs were not allowed to use foil on that vessel. You can only use food to close up the holes.
  • Lottery of Doom:
    • One sabotage is the "Wheel Of Heat," which a chef must spin every 15 minutes to determine the only heat source they can use. One unlucky chef spun "Microwave." Twice. And was eliminated due to their meal not being cooked properly. note 
    • Two chefs had to give up their proteins and play the "Meatball Lottery" to decide the replacements: vegetarian ingredients like tofu and mushrooms, animal parts like sweetbreads and chicken hearts, or leftovers.
    • A Funnel Cake challenge had a Cutthroat Kitchen Carnival sabotage, which took away all the chef's ingredients and forced them to toss ping-pong balls into fishbowls to get them back. Each time they sank a shot, they could pick their prize (a tablespoon of sugar, a tablespoon of flour, or one egg.) And if they threw a ball into the red one in the middle, they'd win the jackpot — enough ingredients to finish the challenge! Like the pantry, though, once the chef decided to stop playing, they couldn't come back.
    • The Doughnut challenge had a variant of the above. You play coffee pong with Munchkins as your ball. Unlike the above example, there is no "jackpot" target. You had to sink it one at a time to get it all back. (Well, not so much. See Loophole Abuse above, although the chef didn't think of it.)
    • The Deviled Egg challenge had a bobbing-for-eggs competition for the three chefs that didn't buy the sabotage. Each chef had to exchange their eggs for what prize they won — first prize was a normal bunch of eggs, second prize was some pre-cracked (the shells were removed) eggs, and third prize was a mass of crushed eggs that had bits of eggshell mixed with broken yolks.
    • The first heat of "Superstar Sabotage" had a Kung Pao Chicken challenge with a sabotage consisting of a carnival "high striker" game - hitting the end of a lever with a mallet to drive a weight up a scale and ring a bell at the top. The victim of this sabotage lost their chicken and had one swing to determine what replacement they had to use; the farther up the scale the weight rose, the better the replacement. In order from best to worst, these were: chicken thighs, chicken nuggets, chicken noodle soup, and the dreaded canned whole chicken. One chef in the episode, Chef Michael Psilakis, tried to win the auction so he could play, as he forgot chicken from the pantry, but relented when rival chef Jeff Mauro took the bid up to $16,000. Jeff forced chef Aarti Sequeira to play, and she won the canned chicken.
    • In the first preliminary heat of "Superstar Sabotage," one sabotage for the Seven Layer Dip was to take away a different category of ingredients from each of three chefs, who then spun a slot machine to determine what replacement they would get.
    • During a meatball challenge in the "Superstar Sabotage" finale, three chefs lost their original proteins and had to play Skee-Ball to determine their replacements. The bottom two rings were the "Worst" replacements, the middle two were "Bad," the top center ring was "Good," and the two tiny rings in the top corners would allow a chef to "Keep" their original protein. All three chefs ended up with the "Worst" replacements - canned meat, canned soup, and seafood.
    • The Chicken Caesar Salad challenge had a mid-round sabotage that sent two opponents to fight in gladiatorial combat against each other! Well, metaphorically. Both were given a block of Parmesan cheese and a grater; the first to grate their block down to the rind could resume cooking immediately, while the loser had to sit out for an additional five minutes.
    • The Curry challenge had a Curry Flurry sabotage, which was a money booth (a phone booth-sized device with a big fan at the bottom that constantly blows money upwards.) Alton confiscated all of one chef's spices and threw a bunch of paper-thin plastic packages filled with various spices into the booth, giving the chef 30 seconds to grab all the spices for their dish. Unfortunately, there was a bunch of worthless play money already in the booth before Alton threw the spices in.
    • A Deli Sandwich sabotage had a sandwich-stacking sabotage mid-round. Two chefs had to quickly stack a sandwich alternating adding each layer (bread, meat, cheese, bread, meat, cheese...) until the sandwich collapsed - and the last chef to add a layer has to sit out an additional 5 minutes.
    • "The One With William Shatner" had a couple of challenges in the final round of the man-cave centric episode. The first had the sabotaged chef shoot pool, sinking balls into labeled pockets if they wanted to move to the corresponding location in the kitchen. Unfortunately for them, there were three penalty pockets - "No Tasting", "Lose $1K", and "Give $2K to opponent". The sabotaged chef hit the Give $2k to opponent pocket once.
    • The second sabotage in the episode and an opponents' ingredients taken away and replaced with what they could save from going into a net - by a Bob shooting ingredients like hockey pucks!
    • "Chocotage XXL" had one where a player had to win ingredients for a chocolate chip cookie dessert from a roulette wheel. And this was a wheel with two green spots. Hitting one of them resulted in a $500 fine.note 
  • Lovely Assistant: "Tos-Ta-Da!" had the second round (tostadas, of course) have a toy miniature two-person "lumberjack saw" (often used in the "big-box" versions of the Saw a Woman in Half illusion) as the start. Alton's assistant wheels in a box for the illusion to come, and he puts the toy saw inside it. Covering the open part of the box, he says "Abracadabra! Lickedy-Split!" and uncovers the box to show the toy is replaced with a real lumberjack saw, and says that two chefs must give up their knives and use the saw as their only way to chop or cut (meaning they need to work together for this one).
  • Low-Speed Chase: One final-round sabotage was forcing a chef to ride a Zimmer scooter for the entire challenge (including the pantry time), locked into a top speed of about one mile per hour. When Alton gave the word "Go", it took him 15 seconds to get into the pantry, with the other chef gleefully out-walking him. The chef rider even tried to push the cart forward faster by leaning into stoppies, until Alton let him know that it wouldn't actually make him go any faster.

  • MacGyvering:
    • What some chefs resort to when sabotaged. Have all your tool replaced by foil? No problem, just make the tools out of it. Most sabotages that fall under "replace cooking utensils" have this in mind. Indeed, some of the chefs do mention this trope by name when discussing what they have to do next. In fact, the producers and chefs have been keen on coming up with ways to use non-culinary tools for culinary purposes.
    • This occasionally applies to food as well. Case in point: A tortellini challenge in the third heat of Superstar Sabotage tournament #2. After shopping, Chef Rocco DiSpirito realizes that he had no pasta sheets, nor does he have any flour with which to make the shells. However, Rocco uses a protein — scallops — as the main ingredient for his pasta. The gamble pays off beautifully; Rocco survives to the next round.
  • Made of Iron: Got hit with a lot of sabotages and still made those dishes taste good? You deserve that title.
  • Magikarp Power:
    • Like in Chopped, surviving to the final round can give a big advantage to pastry chefs, as the final dish is usually a dessert. It's even more of an advantage in this show as judges don't consider the previous dishes when making the final decision.
    • As well, having a lot of cash by enduring sabotages instead of bidding on them is a huge advantage in the final round - having more than twice what your opponent has can shackle them with two sabotages with no possible recourse.
  • Malt Shop: From the 1950s Time Warp Tournament episode is a challenge to make a milkshake with french fries. One sabotage required moving around the kitchen on checkerboard tiles that emulate the floors of diners from this era.
  • Marilyn Maneuver: The inspiration for final-round sabotage in the 1950s episode of round of Time Warp Tournament — complete with a replica of Marilyn Monroe's dress.
  • Matryoshka Object: Dolls, fun. A three-gallon, a one-gallon, and a twelve-ounce set of stock pots, and moving all your food into the next-smallest pot every ten minutes? Not so much. The chef stuck with this one couldn't even get water boiling in the first ten minutes due to the giant pot's large surface area. He did fairly well with the middle-sized pot but underestimated how much time he needed to transfer his ingredients and ended up losing about half his meat. Using the tiny pot also made him spill his sauce. With such poor planning and all those mishaps, it's a miracle that he survived the round.
  • The Mean Brit: Invoked but defied with Simon Majumdar, who's British but is explicitly a soft-spoken and fair judge.
    "They say I'm one of the Food Network's harshest judges. I think it's my accent. I'm nice!"
  • Mercy Mode: If it's starting to look like you're having so much trouble that you might not even get a dish plated, Alton will generally give you a nudge in the right direction. Don't count on anything past that, though. The show wants you to be able to at least present a dish (and all sabotages are tested beforehand (individually and in all possible combinations) to ensure that they can, in fact, be overcome). Whether the dish is any good, well, that's not their problem.
    • In episode 3 of season 4, Chef Enzo, who is Italian, misunderstood what Alton told the contestants to cook and got a brisket out of the pantry instead of biscuit fixings (the challenge being biscuits and gravy). Alton took pity on the poor fellow and advised him to 'fess up to the judge that he had misunderstood. Said judge turned out to be Englishman Simon Majumdar, who cracked to the chef that since Europeans don't have accents and Americans do, it's easy to misunderstand what Yanks are saying. (Cue shot of Alton mouthing silently behind Simon's back, "But I don't have an accent!") While Enzo didn't make biscuits and gravy, his brisket and gravy turned out to be so well-cooked and delicious that he survived the round. That showcases an important point about the judging criteria, by the way — if it excels on two of the three criteria (taste, presentation, and resemblance to the challenge dish), the judge will sometimes let a contestant off if their dish doesn't hit the third.
    • When one chef runs so low on cash that they're rendered impotent in the final-round auctions, they will naturally get socked the very next auction with whatever it is Alton's brought out. However, in early seasons, that usually turned out to be the last auction of the day. Losing two in a row would happen when you still have enough money to try and resist, but it wasn't until Season 4 that a chef first got poorhoused into two in a row, as he had only $6,500 to defend against someone who still had the full $25,000 to work with. These days, though, this particular bit of mercy is off the table.
    • When Alton confiscates an ingredient from chefs who get caught in the pantry, he tends to choose things that don't really belong in the assigned dish: lettuce in a Philly cheesesteak challenge, broccoli in a Monte Cristo challenge, and so on. He likes to joke that he's saving them from themselves.
    • Alton definitely had the kid gloves on for the 2016 Mother's Day special. Only two sabotages per round (three or four being typical in the first two rounds) and no mid-round sabotage except the two in the final round.
  • Molotov Cocktail:
    • Used as a heat source in one sabotage — the sabotaged chef had to use some 151 rum and a blowtorch as their only heat source. (That said, the chef could pour the rum onto a tray first.)
    • Used in a more metaphorical sense in the Drunken Noodles challenge: One chef had to cook with a set of three flaming martinis, and another had to cook with a tiny torch fed by a beer keg.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Antonia Lofaso favors rather low necklines, which give the camera a great view of her cleavage when she leans forward to sample a dish. Many male contestants (and several females) don't exactly seem to object.
  • Mundane Ghost Story: In "Camp Cutthroat: If It Bleeds, We Can Skillet," one of the sabotages was to force another of the chefs to stop cooking and sit and listen to Alton telling a lengthy one of these.
    Alton: They say you can hear him, scouring his non-stick pan.
  • My God, What Have I Done?:
    • In "Alton and the Chocolate Factory", one chef became the first person in the show's history to spend their entire $25,000 stake. In fact, she made the attempt twice: the first time she tried, she got stuck with the sabotage anyway because her opponent had more money remaining; the second time, she was... ahem... "successful". This was her reaction in the confessionals. It didn't work; she still lost.
    • Chef Cory has this reaction in "SaBOOOtage" when he learns the true price of his Deal with the Devil. (See that trope entry for details.)
  • Mythology Gag: In "Mo'lasses, Mo' Problems," one of the sabotages was to swap out the chef's tools for cheese knives, leading to a crack by Mr. Brown about how he despises unitaskers in his kitchen.

  • Needle in a Stack of Needles: Occasionally used as a sabotage.
    • Sometimes, a chef has to look for a needed ingredient (herbs for pesto sauce in a bag full of lawn clippings, or ingredients in a pot full of food scraps.)
    • Other times, the sabotage is designed to eat up time (searching through a large bowl of rice kernels for a specifically marked grain of rice, looking for a key that will unlock a cage with their plates on a giant keychain filled with keys.)
  • Never Mess with Granny: Alton had a special "Grandmatage" episode with four grandmother chefs. He pulled no punches, and neither did they. The winner had two sabotages in the final round, essentially having to start their dish over with Alton's ingredients. She got her dish cooked in time by using the microwave in an inspired way.
  • Nice Guy: Jet Tila is probably the least harsh judge on the show. Alton likes to exploit this by making him judge episodes where he's going to feel awful about cutting people, such as the aforementioned Grandmatage.
    Alton: ... and now it's time for you to break the heart of some sweet little lady. All you, buddy!
    Jet: Aw, man, Alton Brown!
    Alton: (after Jet has cut Grandma Doris) What is wrong with you??
    Jet: I feel so bad...
    Alton: (darkly) You should.
  • Nice Mean And In Between: All of the core judges (Jet, Antonia, and Simon) are nice overall, but their judging styles are reminiscent of this: Jet is easily the least critical and the one most likely to find the best in every dish (Nice), Simon is the most critical and willing to point out where a dish misses the mark (Mean), and Antonia is less forgiving than Jet but still critical where she needs to be (In-Between).
  • No Animals Were Harmed:
    • One of the sabotages in the "box of chocolates" challenge was of the kind where a chef is made to surrender their ingredients and use only what they can dig out from under something unpleasant; the sabotaged chef remarks that she wouldn't be surprised to turn up human body parts, and a notice appears at the bottom of the screen: "No human beings were harmed in the making of this sabotage."
    • Played straight for one of the After-Show versions of Camp Cutthroat. They explained that the reels were modified so as to not harm the fish.
  • No-Damage Run: Chef Kaimana in '50 Shades Of Sorbet' became the first chef in show history to get through all three rounds without being sabotaged. Not only that, Alton noted that he did well at keeping from sabotaging himself. Not only THAT, he bought four of his own. NOT ONLY THAT, Kaimana's opponents dropped out at low dollar amounts in all four auctions, allowing him to hit them over and over for a song. Which all led to a $17,600 victory in the single most charmed life Cutthroat Kitchen is ever likely to see.
  • No Fair Cheating: If you try to get out of your sabotage, not only will Alton get mad and force you to start over... he's going to take away $500. Some sabotages carry implicit fines that are not spelled out until after the crime is committed.
    • For example, in a season 3 challenge featuring ramen, one of the chefs had a sabotage requiring her to use ramen bowls to do all her cooking in. She attempted to boil an egg in a regular pot, but Alton swooped down on her and made his displeasure known by taking a spoon, scooping the egg out of the pot and throwing it clear across the room, then docking her $500.
    • Another chef was forced to wear "Auntie Mabel's" gloves while being warned specifically NOT to touch food with it. Inadvertently, that chef did get those white gloves soiled... and was docked $100.
    • Not too long after the ramen episode, the fine started to be weaponized, forcing a chef to concentrate on a certain task while they cook — balancing an egg on a spoon, for instance, or keeping off of the floor by standing/walking on cake boxes — and docking them $500 every time they fail at it. So far, the most forked over in this fashion is $2,000, for allowing four eggs to fall off the spoon. However, it is entirely possible to make it out unscathed.
    • While it never happened, Alton warns the receiver of Santa's sack that if it touches the floor for any reason, he'll dock the guy $1000 per instance.
    • Sometimes, after a mid-round auction has been announced which a chef figures they'll likely lose, they'll start immediately making use of whatever ingredient the auction stands to cost them, hoping that having it already in the dish will allow them to hang on to whatever they manage to get used before the auction ends. Most of the time, this backfires: Alton- who is already noticing them because, well, he's conducting an auction- will simply haul off the entire pile of food upon their getting shackled, and in fact, he very well might actively draw attention to it, in the form of telling them it's going to be going away if they lose, thereby making it more likely that whoever wins the sabotage winds up choosing to hit them with it over someone else.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: In SaBOOOtage 2: Electric Boogaloo, Chef Adia helped Chef Kelli up when her mummy costume sabotage (pinned her arms to her sides) caused her to fall over. Alton Dr. Evilicious fined Chef Adia $100.
  • Non-Gameplay Elimination: Chef Amber in "My So-Called Trifle" had to withdraw on the first round because she sliced off her fingertip, the first ever injury out in the show's history. She later returned in "Fry Hard" (a special fried food-only episode) and won with $11,800 and her fingertips intact!
    Chef Amber: "I just won Cutthroat Kitchen...and I left a piece of me here!
  • Not the Intended Use:
    • Have you seen some of the tools in these sabotages? Things like paint peelers, flood lamps, and ironing boards were not meant to be used in the kitchen. On the more mundane side, you have muffin tins being used as mixing vessels, ladles for cooking AND mixing, and gravy boats for mixing AND cooking biscuits & gravy. As long as the producers and food stylists can find a (feasible) culinary use for an item, it gets the stamp of approval as a potential sabotage.
    • Chefs often get hit with replacement ingredients that fall into this category, such as using pizza crusts in an apple pie or pretzels in German apple pancakes. (However, every potential sabotage is tested beforehand to ensure that it can be used in some plausible way.)

  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: The infamous episode where Chef Amber accidentally slices a tip of her finger off. The moment that Alton sees it, he drops his character, calls for a medic, and a producer comes in and asks everyone to stop what they're doing, with all of the other chefs showing concern for Amber. Later, Alton sincerely tells the other chefs that Amber will be fine and asks them to cook safely.
    • In general, if Alton sees that a chef is injured, he immediately drops everything to make sure they're all right before continuing. In one episode, one chef gets accidentally tripped by another one coming out of the pantry, and Alton immediately stops to check on the chef and ensure that the tripping wasn't on purpose.
  • Obligatory Joke:
    • If the Hurricane of Puns don't tip you off...
    • In one case, one of the chefs works for a traveling circus. When he was sabotaged, he was forced to switch out his peanut sauce... for circus peanuts.
  • Obvious Rule Patch: In a crab cake challenge, one chef won a sabotage intended to force the opponent to use imitation crab instead of real crab; the chef instead used it himself to avoid having to mess with preparing a live crab from scratch. After this episode, a new rule specifically forbade chefs from doing this and stipulated that you can't keep won sabotages for yourself; you have to give them to an opponent.
    • One exception to the above rule patch was alluded to in one of the Superstar Sabotage tournaments. Chef Psilakis forgot a key ingredient for the challenge, saw a sabotage that could give him a replacement, and asked Alton if he could buy the sabotage to use for himself. Alton replied that normally he would say no, but since the chefs are playing for charity he would be willing to waive the rule this one time.
    • After the infamous episode in which a chef mishears "biscuits and gravy" as "brisket and gravy", Alton (not in every episode, but relatively often) makes it a point to explain the components of the challenge dish before the chefs enter the pantry.
    • While not necessarily a rule, after Alton had to grab plates for a chef who had to do everything while on a bed, all future chefs with a sabotage that takes the form of "chef is confined to a single space for the entire round" had plates automatically provided for them.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Think you've screwed your competition over? Wait until they get their revenge on you and there's nothing you can do about it since you pissed all your money earlier.
    • Think you're good to go after the shopping time? Wait until you look in your own basket and realize you've forgotten a key ingredient.
    • Commonly spoken (or variants thereof) by chefs when the Bobs bring in the larger sabotages.
  • Old-Fashioned Fruit Stomping: One sabotage requires a chef to stop cooking their dish and stomp enough grapes to fill a wine bottle.
  • Ominous Pipe Organ: Featured in the incidental music for the 2014 Halloween episode, including the Bach Toccata Standard Snippet at one point.
  • Our Lawyers Advised This Trope: The first auction in "Tiki Torch-Ure" was an insurance policy, sponsored by Farmers Insurance, that would allow the winner of it protection against one attempted sabotage of their choice. (It was immediately cashed in on the very next auction.) At the end of the episode, alongside the normal legal notes about Do Not Try This at Home and editing out things that didn't affect the outcome and how contestants must meet eligibility requirements to receive announced prizes, there was the phrase "The depicted product and scenario is fictional and for entertainment purposes only. Farmers does not insure against reality show sabotage."
  • Outside-Context Problem: Those sabotages can be downright evil especially if you don't know how to use them.
    • One of those outside-context sabotages was the "convenience store hotdog cooker". While you can easily make hotdogs and toast the buns on it (which was the point of the round), good luck trying to cook anything else on it since that is your only heat source.
    • How about a full-kitchen equivalent of the "Easy Bake Oven" from "Cutthroat Kiddie Kitchen"? To elaborate, it's a fully-functional kitchen setup made for children. It has a toaster-convection oven, an induction stove, and other small tools. The chef who got this had to do all of the cooking there.
      • This sabotage is one of Alton's all-time favorites, and was on proud display in "Judging The Judges". Not one but two chefs got zapped by this one. First, Geoffrey Zakarian was "awarded" the sabotage by Jet Tila. Then in a later auction, Zakarian swapped the gizmo with Antonia Lofaso, who not only had to cook on the mini-me kitchen but was confronted by a dish that she didn't know what to do with. It's been used thrice more since that episode.
    • And then there's the mini breakfast sandwich maker. Alton admits he saw this on "As Seen on TV" commercials.
    • Another sabotage had a chef's prep table replaced by a TV tray. (Since it was mid-round, the chef wasn't too concerned with their already-finished prep work, but was worried about the tray being unbalanced and prone to tipping over, taking their dish with it.)
    • There have been a few auctions held before the chefs can go into the pantry — for replacing someone's basket with something else. Examples include Chinese take-out containers and a glass jar (the chef stuck with the jar only got four ingredients out of the pantry.) A similar example had one chef being restricted on what kind of food the chef can shop for before the shopping round starts, such as being forced to shop from the bottom shelf only, which had snack items and jarred food. (the well, as they call it in liquor). One particularly evil variant had the chef being blindfolded before going into the pantry. Those are true Outside Context Problems because you can't see that kind of sabotage coming from anywhere.
  • Out-Gambitted: Everywhere. Think you have a chef right where you want them or you hit them with a sabotage them have no way of beating? Watch as they either screw you over or turn the sabotage into an Unishment.
    • Best example was during the second judges episode, where Antonia Lofaso wins a brutal sabotage to force Simon Majumdar to sit in the judges' soundproof chamber while she was briefed on the final dish. Simon thinks he's outsmarted her by copying her as she made her fruit tart...except the actual dish was a brownie sundae, which she had been working on in secret. By the time Simon realizes she tricked him, it's too late. Antonia wins the episode.
  • Oven Logic: Frequently invoked, since some of the sabotages have chefs guessing how long or how to cook the food.

  • Pacifist Run: Going for the full $25,000 requires this. In order for this trope to count, you can bid but you must lose all the auctions. While plenty of chefs have had to hand back their full allotment after being ousted in rounds 1 and 2, it took until Season 6 for anyone to even try to make it out of Round 3 with all $25,000, that being Chef Keith in "Sabotage Is Comin' To Town". Keith came up short, faltering in a holiday cookie challenge. Finally achieved by Chef Kyle in "The Cone Ranger". Alton was quite surprised. The only other person to achieve this feat was the winner of "The Chefshank Redemption".
  • Personal Raincloud: Invoked by Alton for a sabotage in "Camp Cutthroat" — the sabotaged chef is followed everywhere by a small localized rain storm (i.e. a Bob carrying a hose with a sprinkler attachment). At the end of the episode, the winning chef, who did not get the raincloud, gets sprayed while celebrating just for giggles.
    • This was brought back with a vengeance in the Piña Colada challenge.
  • Pet the Dog: Although Alton is a Jerkass on this show, he did assist a chef in closing a pressure cooker. He also occasionally offers hints to contestants if it looks like a sabotage is completely overwhelming them, if only because a prolonged struggle makes better television.
    • The Superstar Sabotage episodes' losers still receive $2,500 for their charities (⅒ the initial seed money for their round).
    • Likewise, in the first judges-as-competitors episode, Antonia got the full $25,000 back to donate to her charity, and Simon, Jet, and Geoffrey Zakarian each got $5000 for theirs.
    • In the second round of "Anything But a Cake Walk", one of the chefs mishears Alton when he says "biscuits and gravy", and ends up getting ingredients for brisket and gravy. Alton sympathetically tells the guy to admit what happened to the judge, and also tells him that he still has as good a shot as anyone else if he makes a good enough dish. And in fact he does make a good enough dish and survives the round.
    • Whenever Alton has "the Best Day Ever" (read: when someone gets stuck in the pantry), the penalty is for him to take one of the ingredients they've grabbed. He almost always aims to confiscate things that won't completely destroy a chef's dish (IE: rather than taking bread during a Philly Cheesesteak challenge, he instead confiscates chickpea powder, lettuce, and habanero peppers from each of the three stuck chefs - none of these ingredients are vital to a good cheesesteak).
    • In "Breakfast in Bed", Alton fetches plates for a chef who was confined to a bed for the entire round. In future episodes, chefs hit with similar sabotages are automatically provided with plates.
  • Plagiarism in Fiction:
    • One common mid-round auction forces two competitors to stop cooking, trade stations and sabotages, and cook their opponent's dish as their own. Alton does not tell Simon Majumdar about this sabotage the first time this was used. However, some of the judges do catch on to this in the After-Show.
    • Again in "Judging Judges" with the taquitos dish. Chef Zakarian got hit with the "Kiddie Kitchen" sabotage, then had to swap with Chef Lofaso in a later sabotage that dish. Since she originally had to use fish sticks, he tries to use black beans with them for fish taquitos.
    • The second judges' special almost enforces this in the final round, wherein the sabotage is being sent away while Alton reads the dish to the opposing chef...meaning that whoever gets stuck with the sabotage has no idea what they're supposed to be cooking. Simon Majumdar ends up stuck with it, and the only way he can hope to get anything made is to buy all of the same ingredients Antonia does and then copy her dish as best he can. He puts up a valiant effort, but Antonia ultimately ends up winning.
    • A serious no-no for the judges is using pre-made items from the pantry without prepping them in some way. In the Mother's Day challenge, a better-presented dish lost out to a dish with two sabotages because the 'better' dish used pre-made pound cake and vanilla wafers from the pantry. Jet Tila is especially harsh on chefs who try this.
    Jet Tila: Two-thirds of this dish isn't yours.
  • Playing with Fire: Some sabotages replace a chef's heat sources with open flame — sometimes reasonable (a campfire, a camp stove, Sterno cans) and sometimes insane (a box of matches, fuel tabs, a Molotov Cocktail, a model city on fire).
  • Poor Communication Kills:
    • For the Biscuits and Gravy challenge, the Italian-born Chef Enzo thought he heard Brisket and Gravy, running afoul of You Keep Using That Word. Fortunately, Alton threw him a bone and told him he could still pass if his dish was good and he just admitted to mishearing. He proceeded to survive the round for two reasons: he made excellent gravy, and the other opponent made a horribly nonsensical "al pastor" biscuit.
    • In "Whatchoo Taco'ing About, Alton?," Chef Emily and Chef Ventura were forced to make each others' tacos while separated by a brick wall and having to shout directions to each other through it. At one point, Emily misheard Ventura telling her to fry one habanero pepper and put it in the pickled shallots, and instead put four. When Emily went to try the pickled shallots, it led to this:
      Chef Emily: (Confessional supercut: Ay caramba chef!) Holy hot! It needs to be more mild.
      Chef Ventura: What?
      Emily: It's very hot!
      Ventura: I told you to put just one chili. One!
      Emily: I asked! You said four! (Confessional supercut: What?!? You... four!)
      Ventura: Okay, but don't put a lot of sauce. Put the sauce on the side in a ramekin so they make it hot, okay?
      Emily: I'm sorry.
      Ventura: (Confessional supercut) Chef Emily, this dish better taste good. If not, I'm gonna be your new hairdresser.
      • When it came time for judge Anne Burrell to taste Ventura's tacos (that were prepared by Emily), Anne dipped a pinky in the habanero-marinated shallots before sticking her tongue out and coughing from the heat.
        Ventura: If you want, you can add a little bit.
        Anne Burrell: That is SPI-CY!
        Emily: (Confessional supercut) Surprise! Of course it's hot. Four habaneros will do that.
      • Surprise! Chef Ventura gets eliminated for that sauce.
  • Precision F-Strike: In "The Rice Stuff", Chef Sammy, in the midst of a heated bidding war with Chef Jenn over a bowl of matzo soup, gets hot under the collar because his opponent is driving the bid up and bids "10,000 fucking dollars!", much to the shock/amusement of Alton and the other chefs. (He eventually wins the matzos for $12,000.)
    • In the first Superstar Sabotage finale, when Alton announces the dish of the final round, we get this.
      Alton: I'm going to give you 45 minutes to make... Candy.
      Fabio Viviani: Candy?
      Alton: Candy.
      Eric Greenspan: Candy. (Confessional supercut: Candy?)
      Alton: Candy.
      Fabio: Candy.
      Alton: Candy.
      Eric: Candy.
      Fabio: (Confessional supercut) Candy.
      Alton: You've heard of candy before, haven't you, chef? You looked stunned. Candy.
      Eric: (Confessional supercut) Candy. Fuck!
  • Product Placement:
    • Quite a bit of sabotages on this show that Alton picks out are from "As Seen on TV" commercials. It's funny how none of the chefs seem to know what they are. And there's always one shot of the "Capital" logo on the stoves, and the Boos Block cutting boards always have their logos pointed to the camera - even in sabotages where the board itself is cut into pieces (such as for the balance beam prep table.)
    • There's also been some more blatant product placement from Season 6 on - one auction item was a Farmers Insurance policy against one sabotage, and Kia sponsors Cutthroat Kitchen Confidential (which displays some facts about the show in the middle of the action.)
    • It also tends to be averted with the ingredients and items employed in sabotages, as noted in Brand X above; labels and brand names are usually turned away from the camera or covered over with generic labels, and they skate around actually using product names (witness everyone saying "marshmallow crispy treats" instead of "Rice Krispie treats" in one episode, or the repeated use of "spiced ham" instead of Spam).
  • Punch-Clock Villain: Well, Alton tries to pass himself off as one, but who's buying it?
  • Pungeon Master: Alton has no problem dishing out puns related to the show's sabotages.
  • Punny Name: Episode titles almost always are a food-related play on words, including "Tikka-Me Alton", "You Wanna Pizza This?", "A Few Good Ramen", and "The Cone Ranger".
  • Pyrrhic Victory:
    • Winning Cutthroat Kitchen with very little money. So far, the smallest payout given has been $300.note 
    • Inverted in the Superstar Sabotage Round 3: After bidding a ludicrous amount in round 2, Chef Johnny had only $100 left against chef Eric, who still the full $25,000. Eating two sabotages in the final round, Johnny lost handily and was forced to give back his $100. However, he and Alton noted that instead of winning the $100 for his charity if he had won, he would receive the consolation $2,500 for his charity since he lost.

  • Reality Show: Although they've been clear that this is a Game Show.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Particularly poor gameplay may result in one of these from Alton while you're trying to deal with whatever it is you've done to yourself or permitted to have done to you.
    • For instance, one season 3 challenge revolved around donuts. After spending $12,000 in the final round to make his opponent toss donut holes into cups of coffee to get his ingredients back, one chef left himself with only $700. There was another auction that round, and $800 from said opponent later (who himself had $18,700 to spare), he was doing all his mixing and cooking in donut pans. Plus he forgot leavening for the donuts; he lost as a result of both leaving the leavening in the pantry and having to mix and cook in donut pans only when he didn't have enough money left to bid with or win.
    Alton: This is what happens when you spend too much money in Cutthroat Kitchen. You didn't count on your skills. You counted on your cash. So you spent a lot of money on sabotages. You cooked your way to the last round, and now this is what you're having to do. Life. Lessons.
    • In "A Dingo Ate My Dutch Baby", Chef Ranada shops poorly during the first round (Dutch Baby Pancake) and comes out of the pantry with no eggs. Alton proceeds to read her the riot act:
    Alton: So, uh, um, remind me, chef, what sabotages are you enduring right now?
    Chef Ranada: None.
    Alton:So there wasn't a mysterious sabotage I missed where they took away your eggs?
    Chef Ranada: No, but—
    Alton: Who goes into the pantry on Cutthroat Kitchen and doesn't get eggs!? So how do you think you're going to actually make a dutch baby without eggs?
    Chef Ranada: I think I'm okay.
    Alton: No! You're not okay, you're in the crap! Odds are you're going to go home unless these guys — well, these guys COULD make it a whole lot worse, but... eggs!
    • In "Pressed or Steamed", Chef Bryan, holding a competitive-in-context $16,600 going into a quiche challenge, gets hit with two sabotages which, end result, have him cooking with a bucket of scraps inside of an apple pie. Alton is not impressed.
    Alton: Why did you let this happen to you? You had enough money to not have this happen to you and now it's happened to you. Because you let it happen to you.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: In "Evilicious: Canoe Jack City", during the opening, returning Chef Morgan, who did not win the last time she came, says that she is going to be very evil this time. She gives an evil laugh, and her eyes start glowing red in the last few frames before the scene cuts away. She goes home in the first round.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Chef Boots, who decided that he was going to flaunt his love of bacon, and propriety be damned. In all three rounds, he busted out the bacon - even on a Cherries Jubilee. Brown scratched his head and even Majumdar had to comment that the man certainly had chutzpah to keep serving him bacon every round.
  • Repurposed Pop Song: "One Way Or Another" by Blondie is used in their commercials as of Season 5.
  • Reset Button:
    • One sabotage required a chef to throw out everything they got from the pantry and had cooked halfway through the challenge, forcing them to go back to the pantry, shop again, and make the dish in half the time. The chef who got forced to redo the dish in the Huevos Rancheros round in "A Crepe-y Situation" did not survive the round when the reduced time led him to not cook his tortilla.
    • Another reset button was invoked twelve minutes into the first round of "My So-Called Trifle". One of the chefs had to withdraw as a result of cutting part of a finger off. In this case, rather than having any of the three remaining chefs facing elimination, the chef with the best dish gained an advantage heading into the second round. The winner of this rare challenge wound up being reset to the chef's original $25,000 bankroll.
  • Retail Riot: Invoked in the first auction of the Thanksgiving special: Black Friday. Three chefs had all their equipment and kitchens taken away, having to make do with whatever they could grab on the Black Friday shelves. And like Black Friday, the round started with chefs making a mad dash for whatever they could grab, pushing and shoving all the way.
  • Right-Hand Cat:
    • In "A Crêpe-y Situation", Alton does a brief Bond-villain-stroking-his-cat impersonation with a lobster confiscated from one of the competitors.
    • Taken literally in "SaBOOtage 2", in which Dr. Evilicious has a stuffed cat named Mr. Pusspuss.
  • Rule of Three:
    • Three rounds with each round having elimination, like Chopped and many other cooking game shows of this era.
    • Each episode's judge (except "Judging the Judges," which used judges who were known for each dish being judged) uses three questions for each dish:
    How does it look (presentation)?
    How does it taste (taste)?
    How much does your dish remind me of what you're supposed to be cooking this round (integrity instead of the creativity of Chopped)?
  • Running Gag:
    • The "kiddie kitchen" has been used at least five times so far: Two normal episodes (the second of which had a twins theme), the "Judging Judges" episode for the "taquitos" round, a crossover with Food Network Star when they must play the game (and one chef spends his entire cash to avoid it), and the finale of Superstar Sabotage for the absolute final challenge.
    • Also, the canned chicken, which has also seen several appearances on the show.
    • Another sabotage is whenever crepes of some sort are the dish, a badly-mangled crepe pan is one of the sabotages.
    • One of the early recurring sabotages was a small campfire stove that became the only heat source available for the chef who got stuck with it. It has burned up the victories of a few chefs.
    • Another recurring sabotage is replacing all of someone's utensils with aluminum foil, forcing the chef to make new tools out of it.
    • Whenever Alton presents Antonia Lofaso with an Italian dish to judge, he always asks "Lofaso... That's Italian, isn't it?"
    • When Jet Tila is judging an episode, he will be introduced as the "culinary ambassador to Thailand", and Alton will sometimes mention the sash he was supposedly awarded to go with the title. This finally paid off in an episode where Jet showed up sporting the sash in question.
    • In the Halloween episodes, the judges wear different costumes every round. Probably the most memorable is Simon Majumdar dressing up as Princess Leia.
    • For the special "Thanks, But No Thanksgiving", every time the chalkboard backdrop dropped behind the title card, there was a gobble and a spray of turkey feathers as if it had just squashed a turkey.
    • Alton Brown's "home-shopping addiction"
    • Whenever a sabotage comes along wiping out someone's basket and making them harvest their new ingredients from a source completely obscuring the contents... if it can fit a whole pineapple inside, by God there's going to be a pineapple in there.
      • Hell, there's another Running Gag involving a pineapple, more specifically the Pineapple O'Doom. In other words, if a contestant attempts to use pineapple in a certain way or in a certain dish that does NOT usually involve pineapple, they will go home. Alton has pointed this out at least once.

  • Sadistic Choice: One category of sabotages.
    • "Cutthroat Kiddie Kitchen", Round 1: Chicken Parmesan. In the sabotage called "Are You Chicken?", the winner of the sabotage forced one chef to make a Sadistic Choice: either use a canned whole chicken or give up 15 minutes of cooking time. He went for the 15 minute wait period.
    • In another episode for the Lamb Chop challenge, the winner of the auction can force a chef to choose one of three unmarked jars whose contents must be incorporated into their dish. The jars in question had Lime Jell-O, mint jelly or jalapeño jelly. The losing chef ended up getting Lime Jell-O, which was actually not a bad guess. The sauce she made with it pleased the judge, and she ended up winning the episode.
    • A Slider challenge had three chefs exchange their proteins for one of three packages wrapped in butcher paper — giving the chefs Halibut sliders, Bison sliders, and Spam...erm...Spiced Ham sliders.
    • In one sadistic mid-round auction, the sabotaged chef had to give up all their cooking implements, including heat sources, and pick three to finish their dish with. One chef decided on a mixing bowl, a saute pan, and the stove top. Since she didn't have anything else to work with, she put on gloves and mixed the ingredients with her (metaphorical) bare hands.
    • If the chef is cunning in the final round, this can come into play. For example, your opponent is missing a vital ingredient needed to make the dish and the sabotage was to replace basket ingredients with whatever is in this sabotage (which would normally be undesirable ingredients.) Do you...
      1. Bid on this item to not deal with it but risk giving your opponent ingredients he was missing? Or
      2. Let him win the auction but you eat the punishment and deny him missing ingredients?
    In most situations, chefs choose the first option, but it has ended up costing them the win. The trend seems to be that you are better off eating the punishment and relying on your skills to make a dish out of the sabotage, rather than winning the auction, pissing your money and putting victory straight on his cutting board.
  • Sadist Show: Gleefully and unashamedly.
  • Scratch Damage: Fines stemming from fouls committed while sabotaged. One foul is enough to lock a chef out of a Flawless Victory, if they were on that path.
  • Schmuck Bait:
    • Bidding wars. It's up for debate who the bigger schmuck is in these wars — the chef who unapologetically raises the bidding price by thousands at a time (a strategy that can monetarily backfire if they inadvertently win the auction), or the chef who increases an already high bid by a mere $100 (for falling into the aggressor's trap, even if it means avoiding something nasty).
    • The first auction of the day can often fall into this category. Much of the time, the day's first auction is something that the winner will be using to target all three opponents. While this is in fact sometimes enough to cause the downfall of one of the victims, worse sabotages are typically immediately afterward, and the winner not only has a target freshly painted on their back for the remainder of the day (often outright painted by Alton), but because they just bought the first auction, they now also have the least money to defend themselves from getting hit with that worse second auction. And they only need to take down one chef anyway, not all three.
    • Pineapple in a challenge that does NOT involve pineapple.
  • Self-Imposed Challenge: Season 4 contestant Chef Kristina, styling herself as the "Vegan Temptress", made an attempt to get through the entire show cooking vegan dishes. For this to happen, not only would she have to win, she'd also have to avoid getting stuck with any sabotages forcing her to use meat... which put her on edge when a cone of assorted pressed meats was presented as a sabotage in a gyro challenge, and everybody including Alton knew it, to the point where he made extra-explicitly clear that whoever got hit with it would have to use it. Luckily for Kristina, she and one of her opponents knew by looking at each other that they both intended to hand it to someone else, and she managed to win the pressed-meat cone for only $2,400. And she not only won the show while staying vegan, given that she spent the day saving her money so she could avoid meat sabotages, but she also walked off with $18,500.
    • This also occurs with the chefs who decide to try and walk away with the entire $25,000, meaning that they will be taking sabotages without being able to respond. By the end of the show, this had only happened twice, first in "The Cone Ranger" and then in "The Chefshank Redemption".
  • Serial Escalation: Those sabotages seem to get wilder and more diabolical with each passing episode. Given, however, that some of the early sabotages only drew the minimum $500 bid as the other competitors weren't even scared off by, say, being forced to stuff their chicken wings, this is very likely a Justified Trope.
  • Shaped Like Itself: As guest judge David Alan Grier prepares to judge a cheesecake round:
    David Alan Grier: When I think "cheesecake", I think: cheesecake.
    (bemused pause)
    Alton Brown: And don't we all?
  • Shout-Out:
  • Situational Hand Switch: A dominant-hand sabotage will force its victim to change the usage of hands for the entirety of a challenge by...:
    • Restricting movement of the fingers and/or thumb on the dominant hand (such as having to wear an oven mitt).
    • Disallowing of the use of the dominant hand entirely (either being tied behind the chef or tucked away).
    • The Black and White table, which requires both of the victim's hands to do the same thing at the same time.
  • Sore Loser: While a good amount of the chefs take their losses in stride, a few can be quite immature when eliminated. One particularly notable example was Nate Romo in Season 4, who entered as a cocky jackass who claimed that other chefs "couldn't afford [him]" (he was a private chef for celebrities) and was eliminated in the first round. He proceeded to throw his cash into the case and storm out in a tantrum when Alton asked him to return it.
    Alton: "Please return the cash to the case... Or, you could do that."
  • Sound Proof Booth:
    • Alton says that the judges are placed in one during the rounds so they can't hear or see what sabotages the chefs have to deal with.
    • Used as a ridiculously evil sabotage in the 2016 judges' episode. Before the final round began, there was an auction; whoever won got to send their opponent to the soundproof chamber during the announcement of the dish, meaning that the chef being sabotaged wouldn't know what they were making unless they watched their opponent's shopping and cooking. Unfortunately for Simon Majumdar, he was up against Antonia Lofaso, who still had her full $25,000 and she immediately bid more than what he had left to ensure that she won. It also ended up winning her the game.
  • Spaghetti Kiss: Used as a sabotage in "Frankly Alton, I Don't Give a Clam" to bind two chefs together while cooking clams and linguine.
  • Special Guest Judge:
    • Double Dare host Marc Summers for the finale of the Time Warp Tournament.
    • William Shatner for the Man Cave episode.
    • Duff Goldman for the High School episode.
    • David Alan Grier for "Taco Dirty to Me"
    • Anne Burrelli for "Whatch Taco'ing About, Alton?" and the finale of the Tournament of Terror.
    • Iron Chef Geoffrey Zakarian for "Well, Hot Clam!"
    • Iron Chef Cat Cora for "All In a Day's Jerk"
    • Chopped host Ted Allen for "When Cherry Met Salad"
    • Former NFL pro Chad Johnson for the second big game episode.
    • Superstar Sabotage Tournament winner Eric Greenspan for the second Judges episodes.
    • Country music star Clay Walker for the cowboy episode.
  • Squee: Alton does this. Whether it was genuine or he was just doing it as a joke is unclear, but in the Chopped crossover, after pushing guest judge Ted Allen to "say it"...
    Ted: The contestant, who will be chopped—
    Alton: *Squee*
  • Stage Money: One behind-the-scenes video on Food Network's web site shows that the money has Alton's face on it.
  • Summer Campy: The "Camp Cutthroat" episodes are set in the titular "camp".

  • Tank Goodness: Played for Laughs in "The Hunt For Bread October," as one sabotage had one chef forced to spend the whole cooking period having to be in a tank made from a scooter and could only use that as their way of moving about the Kitchen. Needless to say, the retired Army chef gave it to the retired Air Force chef (who also got her basket swapped with what she could get from a basket that got blown up).
  • A Taste of Their Own Medicine: Throwing a sabotage to a chef who has sabotaged you.
  • Tastes Like Chicken: Invoked in a barbecue chicken challenge, where one of the chefs has his chicken confiscated, and then has to choose his replacement ingredient in a blind taste test that includes chicken but also alligator and frog's legs. He chooses what turns out to be alligator, after declaring that it has a more chicken-like texture than the actual chicken. Faced with the decision whether to admit to the judge that his barbecued chicken dish contains no actual chicken, he decides to bluff it out — and succeeds.
  • Technician vs. Performer:
    • The Final Round features most of these. One chef proceeds to make a technically correct version of the dish while the other chef (one that is likely to have been sabotaged) makes a "deconstruction" of said dish. The winner is generally decided either by the correct version having significant flaws or the "deconstructed" version veering too far away from the round's theme.
    • A unique variation in "Crabs of Steel": The final round is pineapple upside-down cake, and Chef Alexis nails the flavors in his dessert although he had to use a giant hammock as his sabotage, while Chef Eric gets all the technical points on his. Even with Jet Tila eating all of BOTH desserts, he can't call a definitive winner—so it's a tie for the first time in the history of the show.
  • Tempting Fate:
    • The frequency with which contestants say something along the lines of "How bad could it be?" in regards to a sabotage is disturbing. It's almost equally common, if they get stuck with the sabotage, for them to later say something like "This is harder than I thought it would be."
    • In the first round of the second Superstar Sabotage Tournament, the challenge is an "English Breakfast". When things start going wrong, one chef comments that he hopes their judge isn't the British Simon Majumdar. Sure enough…
      • The finale of the same has one chef prepping in a rainstorm with an item swap, and the other chefs start teasing him by faking takeout orders. He replies "It could always get worse!" When another chef responds with "How could it possibly get worse?" Alton appears with the mid-round sabotage.
  • That Came Out Wrong: In this After Show clip, from the Evilicious tournament Finals, Alton shows Judge Simon the Ball Pit Prep Station sabotage they brought back again (and one that was used previously on an episode that Simon judged), but doubled it's size for two chefs to sit in. The result of Alton's slip of the tongue causes a member of the production staff to crack up laughing off-screen.
    Alton: Come on in, the balls are warm!
    Simon: Please don't ever tell me that your balls are warm again.
    • There was also the time Cat Cora eliminated a chef in a Swedish meatball challenge by telling him "I'm sorry, but there was nothing Swedish about your balls." All three (male) competitors, and Alton, were caught completely off guard.
    Alton: I...don't even know what to say.
  • This Is Gonna Suck: The usual reaction chefs give when they see a sabotage they do not want to get.
  • Time for Plan B:
    • Or Plan C or even Plan D. You're going to need it.
    • Alton needed one of his own in 'My So-Called Trifle' after Chef Amber sliced off a fingertip and was unable to continue in Round 1. As the first injury out in the show's history, the protocol had to be explained for the first time: the remaining three chefs all automatically advanced, but the person who made the best dish would gain an advantage in the next round, as described in an envelope Alton produced labeled 'IN CASE OF EMERGENCY'. The advantage turned out to be restoring the winning chef to a full war chest, which in that case was quite helpful, as said chef had already gone down to $14,400. Notably, the two chefs that did not win both still had their $25,000. It's not's explained what they would have gotten if they won, but presumably they would have received some other advantage.

  • Unexpected Gameplay Change: In the final round of the Camp Cutthroat 2 finale, Alton declared that, for the first time ever, there would be no auctions. Instead, both remaining chefs were given the same sabotages and told to make s'mores, with the winner getting whatever money they had going into the round.
  • Unishment: Sometimes a disadvantage ends up being an advantage for the opponent if the chef doesn't play the auction correctly. This is often the result of the chefs being Genre Blind. And sometimes, the chefs don't care if they get the sabotage since they can handle it (forcing to stuff your chicken wings, making a hot Cobb salad, etc.).
    • For example, one chef was missing sugar for his brownies. The sabotage was to replace his nonexistent sugar with cotton candy sugar. He ended up "losing" the auction but got a free ingredient.
    • In the corn muffin challenge, Chef Dean got confused in the shopping scramble and came out with very little in the way of useful corn ingredients. He then deliberately lost an ingredient-swap auction because as bad as the substitute ingredients were, they were a clear improvement on what he had.
    • In a turkey dinner challenge in one of the Thanksgiving episodes, one sabotage included an ingredient swap that would notably leave you with venison instead of turkey. Chef Vitor wasn't too bothered with it; as an avid hunter, he was very familiar with venison and made a successful dish.
    • In the fondue challenge, Chef Tom deliberately lost an auction that left him having to swap out his entire basket of ingredients for ingredients soaked in cheese after realizing that he'd failed to grab some key ingredients during the shopping.
    • Chef Jon wasn't especially familiar with desserts, so during the baklava challenge (which he had never cooked and knew little about) he deliberately lost an ingredient swap auction to ensure he had all the ingredients required.
    • Chef Derek was more than happy to lose an auction that required him to continuously dribble a soccer ball. It helped that Chef Derek was an avid soccer player, and he had no trouble.
    • In one final round, the objective was a crab cake. A chef won a bid for California Rolls, intended to make the opponent use the imitation crab in it instead of real crab. The chef used it himself instead — he considered it an Unishment for himself, saving him the unfamiliar hassle of preparing a live crab from scratch, and he knew it would also be an Unishment for his opponent, who could use it to partly counteract another sabotage he'd already sent her way. He won. After this episode, subsequent ingredient substitution sabotages contained the stipulation that it must be used against an opponent rather than as a way to give yourself an ingredient.
    • In Season 3, episode 11, one of the sabotages involved a charcoal grill (which was the ideal implement for the challenge, involving grilling) and three less-than-ideal instruments for grilling. The auction winner gave the charcoal grill to one of his opponents and kept a countertop electric grill for himself because he was very familiar with those. The opponent produced a good dish from the charcoal grill, but the auction winner messed up with the electric grill and got eliminated.
    • Two good examples from "Soupsy Daisy", both from the Final Round: Fish Fry. Chef Eric gamed the auction to nullify the sabotage by keeping the auction running until he finished cutting his vegetables. That sabotage was to replace his utensils with a tackle box. Then the other sabotage was to switch one chef's fish with "bait" (it was mackerel and sardines). Chef Leah was all too pleased to have it since she knew how to prepare it. Chef Eric made the unwise decision to add a fishing lure as "decoration". Coupled with the fact that Chef Leah's fishing lure Fish Fry really pleased the judge, and you can see why Simon Majumdar awarded the win to Leah.
    • Chefs who've managed to forget a key item in the pantry — bread for a sandwich, say — have been tempted to invoke this by winning an auction to replace that item with something else, but in most cases are stopped by a rule saying they still have to hand it to someone else.
      • In Superstar Sabotage's first heat, Chef Psilakis somehow forgot to pick up chicken for Kung Pao Chicken — so he asked Alton if he could invoke a "ring the bell and win a prize" sabotage on himself. Alton replied that normally he'd say no, but he'd make an exception this once because the chefs were playing for charity. He failed to win the bell game when rival Chef Mauro increased the bid up to $16,000, however, and Chef Sequeira got stuck with using a canned whole chicken. Psilakis still avoided losing by making a creative vegan dish with mushrooms. Chef Mauro got eliminated instead when he couldn't overcome the sabotage Chef Sequeira gave him.
    • In the final round of the Evilicious tournament, the first sabotage (swapping out the prep table for a hammock) went to a relatively small chef who had little trouble managing the limited height and unstable surface. The second sabotage of harvesting fresh coconuts from a fake palm tree went to the other chef (an incredibly tall and strong man) who just plucked them from the tree and smashed them open with his bare hands, barely wasting any time.
    • "Meanwhile, Back on the Huevos Rancheros" contains another good example of a chef deliberately losing an ingredient swap auction because he needed the ingredient, in this case, pasta for pasta primavera. Chef Bobby starts out trying to win the auction, in hope of keeping the pasta for himself, then puts on a convincing act of not wanting to be stuck with the sabotage. Result: Chef Stew pays over $11,000 to give Chef Bobby exactly what he needs to survive the round.
    • "Operation Gumbo Drop", Chef Gary gets stuck with having to harvest his gumbo ingredients from a gumball machine. He considers it a blessing though, since his initial basket didn't have any seafood. And while the finished dish didn't look like a gumbo, it was tasty enough for the judge to let him pass and the only non-sabotaged chef gets eliminated that round.
    • Inverted in the first "Camp Cutthroat" episode, where Chef Monterey notices that her opponent has an inferior set of ingredients and decides to prevent him from deliberately losing an ingredient swap auction by deliberately losing it herself. (She's also confident that she'll be able to overcome the barrier to getting good replacement ingredients, making it a more traditional Unishment as well.) It turns out she was overconfident about that, and she gets stuck with all the worst replacement ingredients — but she turns them into a dish the judge likes and wins the episode anyway.
    • During the "Grandma-tage" episode, during the final round to make a pie, Grandma Nancy got stuck with both sabotages, forcing her to spend all of the round (including the ingredient shopping period) in a mobility scooter. On top of that, all of her ingredients were confiscated for a "Pie eating contest to harvest new ingredients" that left little time for her to make her custard pie. She chose to make use of the microwave, normally the cooking device of last resort for the professional chefs or even a sabotage itself. However, she gets around this, by repeatedly heating it for a little bit, then whisking it, and repeated until it was ready, letting her get caught up and make a presentable dish. She ended up winning.
      • It ended up impressing both Alton and judge Jet Tila in the after-show upon learning about Nancy's technique. Alton reasons that restaurant-trained chefs are not taught (or flat out warned to avoid) the use of a microwave in cooking; for a home cooking grandmother who probably regularly uses it in their house for both reheating and cooking, it is a perfectly viable tool.
    • In the "English Breakfast" round of the second Superstar Sabotage Tournament's first round, one of the sabotages was having to wear a full suit of armor for the duration. Although the handicap it offered was obvious, two of the chefs expressed a desire to have it simply to have an excuse to walk around in a suit of armor.
    • The Veteran's Day Special had Army Chef Brad saddled with a sabotage where he could not touch the food himself, but had to relay all cooking instructions to "Private Bob". He goes hamming it up with the loudest, most obnoxious impersonation of a Drill Sergeant Nasty that would still pass FCC regulations. His loud tirade/cooking lesson to "Private Bob" was a first-rate distraction to the other opponents.
    • Episode 6.02 had a chef realize that he had a very weak basket, so he deliberately lost an ingredient swap to get a treasure chest full of ingredients superior to his own. He lost thanks to getting too creative with weak side dishes.
    • In "A River Runs Canoe It," Round 2 - chili - ended up with one chef being forced to do all his work while riding a mechanical horse. Chef Michael ends up with it because he sicced the previous sabotage on the winner, but he then quips, "You know, I'm originally from Oklahoma?" He was familiar with horses and wasn't afraid of this one. And he handled it pretty well, exploiting the motion to help with his prepping; even with the Self-Imposed Challenge of making a vegetarian chili, he survived the round and would go on to win.
    • In episode 4 of the Evilicious Tournament, a sabotage came up that forced two chefs to dress up and walk down a fashion runaway while the Bobs threw them ingredients. Much like the suit of armor sabotage above, while the drawbacks were pretty clear, the two chefs hit with it were having a blast doing it. One even refused to bid because she wanted to do it.
    • In the first heat of the first Camp Cutthroat tournament, Alton auctioned a sabotage that required one chef to be blindfolded while the other helped them prep and cook by physically manipulating their arms and telling them what they were touching. The two people who got were both very attractive people (see Distracted by the Sexy above) and, as such, had no problems feeling up their partner or having the other person's hands all over them.
  • Unwinnable by Design: All sabotages are tested first to see that there's some possibility of winning. However, that doesn't mean that the player will think to use that one particular solution... or that other circumstances, including other sabotages, won't directly conflict with that solution.
  • Unwitting Pawn: You see those auctions go ridiculously high? About half the time, one chef is doing it deliberately to drain the other chef's bank account so that the other chef will be vulnerable to future auctions.

  • Variations on a Theme Song: The "Camp Cutthroat" episodes use a backwoods banjo version of the theme tune.
  • Vertigo Effect: Used in the 2014 Halloween episode when Alton announces the first challenge.
  • Victory by Endurance: If you get hit with all the sabotages your opponents overspent on, and still survive the round or even win the game despite or because (as you made them work for you instead of against you) of them, then you've done this. (Almost the show's version of "Rope-a-dope.") Chef Jessica Entzel might be the best example of the trope; she tanked multiple sabotages in her first episode, including both final-round sabotages, and emerged victorious, then repeated her performance in the first Camp Cutthroat tournament and again walked away with the victory. There's also Chef Jake from the first Thanksgiving special, who was hammered with multiple sabotages in each round and still won the episode.

  • Wacky Cravings: In "Duck, Duck, Gnocchi" a chef adds cottage cheese to her chocolate ice cream sauce because she was given savory ingredients as a sabotage. Alton quips, "Cottage cheese and chocolate? Sounds good and I'm not even pregnant!"
  • Webisode:
    • Alton's After-Show. Alton reveals what sabotages the chefs went through to the day's judge and discuses what they might have done if they had been placed in the same situation as the chefs. In most cases, it boils down to "Don't leave the pantry without essential building block ingredients like eggs and flour," though when he was shown the kid-size "Easy-Bake" kitchen Majumdar remarked that he might well have just walked off the set at that point.
    • The "Judging the Judges" webisode had Majumdar admit they ALL wanted to see Geoffrey Zakarian, Iron Chef, use the kid-size "poquito kitchen". Majumdar even goes far enough to tell Geoffrey, "Welcome to the real world." Geoffrey, though, grabs a tall pot to use as a stool and cooks with it, saying in the Webisode, "I was fine with it." It shows this was actually an Unishment as he knew sushi restaurants who'd used a similar setup.
    • A second series of Webisodes, called "Testing the Sabotages", feature food stylists testing the sabotages before the episode goes into production.
  • We Win, Because You Didn't: A legitimate strategy is to simply bury one poor chef in sabotages that, unless you screw up really badly, hamstrings them so much you're guaranteed to cruise on to the next round. Unlike Chopped, where you're judged on all three dishes at the end, here you don't have to be the best; you just need to avoid being the worst.
  • Whammy: Most sabotages. Common types seen:
    • Swap, where the victim gets an ingredient or piece of equipment switched out for something much less desirable. Referred to as a "swap and assign" when it affects two or more opponents; the auction winner decides who gets what. There are two other variants of the swap. One swaps ingredients or implements for subpar substitutes provided for the occasion (ex. a leftover breakfast buffet or a Black Friday shelf full of "As Seen on TV" products), another forces victims to play a game to obtain their replacements.
    • Confiscation, where the winner can take an ingredient or equipment item from one or more opponents without a replacement being offered. Sometimes the winner is allowed to add the confiscated ingredient(s) to their own basket.
    • Forcing an opponent to use a strange item as their only cutting tool, mixing/cooking vessel, or heat source.
    • Lockdowns, where a chef can be restricted to a certain part of the kitchen for their cooking. Some of these auctions deny the victim access to, say, the oven or stove top. Others force opponents into weird prep stations that generally limit the chefs' mobility and/or raise the risk of spills. One last type, frequently reserved for final rounds, forces chefs to move from place to place in some cumbersome manner (such as using a dolly dressed as a raft or being forced to step only on designated places as they travel or face a penalty).
    • Forcing one or more opponents to wear cumbersome or restrictive clothing or gear during their cooking (such as mitts that prevent the use of fingers, a strap that ties down one arm, or an ungainly costume that is difficult to move around).
    • Distractions and diversions, where a chef must do something else, either in addition to their cooking or before they can return to their cooking. The latter is referred to as a "time suck." A variant of this is forcing an opponent to prepare dishes in a certain way (ex. two sabotages in "Wing It" were this: being forced to stuff their chicken wings and being required to prepare two separate dishes).
    • Station swapping, in which two chefs must immediately trade prep stations, ingredients, and any work in progress. Sometimes the auction winner is allowed to include him/herself in the swap.
    • Although, as the Testing the Sabotages videos prove, no sabotage is meant to be insurmountable. Even using a loaf of bread as the sole cooking vessel for meatloaf is perfectly possible if the chef knows what s/he is doing.
  • Whammy Bid: In the special "Surviving Cutthroat Kitchen", Alton advises heavily against doing this. If you don't mind spoilers, you'll find out why.
    • From "Tac'o the Town" in Season 1: In a taco challenge — the very first round of this episode — DJ Chef bids $16,000 to steal all of one type of ingredient from a competitor. Rather than major taco component like tortillas, meat, or possibly cheese, DJ Chef takes a small can of chipotle peppers from competitor Chef Sevan. This works out. DJ Chef not only survives the round, he ultimately wins — with only $2,000 left.
      Chef Sevan: "He's very insane for doing that!"
    • In the chicken soup challenge in "Soupsy Daisy", Chef Brooke offers five thousand dollars as an opening bid (the usual opening bid is five hundred) to avoid an ingredient sabotage. It works; nobody tries to top it. It doesn't pay off, though; she loses the challenge after being hit by a different sabotage.
      Alton: Who'll give me five hundred dollars for the basket?
      Chef Brooke: I'll give you five thousand.
      Alton: You'll give me five hundred—sorry?
      Chef Brooke: Five thousand, sir.
      Alton: You'll give me five grand? You're just going to jump right on up to five large?
    • In the second round of "Grill or Be Grilled", Chef Mick opens the bidding at $7,000 to avoid a dominant-hand sabotage. For once, it pays off; he survives the round and goes on to win the episode.
    Alton: Who'll give me five hundred dollars? Looking for a five hundred dollar bid.
    Chef Mick: Start with seven thousand.
    Alton: Se— what's that?
    Chef Mick: Seven thousand.
    • One chef once bid $10,000 right off the bat to trade her opponent's utensils with foil wrap. This totally backfired and got that chef sent home for other reasons.
    • Another did the same to avoid an ingredient swap-and-assign, with the same result.
    • Another did likewise to replace his opponent's heat source with a clothes iron.
    • In the third preliminary heat of the first "Superstar Sabotage", Chef Izzuni pays 17 grand to make his opponents hold hands. He makes it to the final round...where his opponent, Eric Greenspan, still has his full 25,000 left. The curbstomping was real - Greenspan bid $200 on both sabotages... BEFORE THEY WERE EVEN DESCRIBED.
    First sabotage of the round comes out
    Greenspan: "I may be playing for charity...but I'm not an idiot."
    Greenspan raises his hand. "$200."
    Alton: "...that's just mean, isn't it."
    • Chef Matthew set an insane record of $31,500 to take away someone's salt in a spaghetti and meatballs round. This was only possible because it occurred in the finals of the Evilicious Tournament, when chefs were given $50,000 to work with; in a regular episode, this is considerably more than a chef would even have available to them. It didn't work. The round was a team challenge, with one person per team making the spaghetti/sauce, and the other making the meatballs, and whoever had the worse component of the inferior dish would be eliminated. Chef Matthew bought the sabotage and gave it to his teammate, figuring this would guarantee his team had the worse dish, but also that his meatballs would be better than his teammate's pasta/sauce. He was half right. Their dish was worse, but so were his meatballs.
    • Chef Sherry Yard in "Superstar Sabotage Finale: It's Raining Ramen" breaks the above record with a $32,000 winning bid, sabotaging Richaid Blais by replacing his whole basket with any five items he chooses off a menu board written in Japanese. He survives because, while his broth is salty, his ramen reminds Simon of a quirky ramen he ordered in Japan once. She didn't because, while her noodles was perfect, the broth-to-noodle ratio was off.
    • These are also invoked in the final round—especially whenever one chef has at least twice as much cash in reserve over the other. The crowning glory here was laid down by Antonia Lofaso in 'Judge's Dread': carrying her full $25,000 war chest against Simon Majumdar's $15,600, she heard Alton introduce a sabotage to send the opponent to the judge's soundproof chamber so they couldn't hear what the target dish was. Lofaso, figuring she knew how this was going to end anyway, immediately bid $15,700. Majumdar promptly flung his shopping basket to the floor in despair.
    Alton: I'm not a bad person. I simply enabled Antonia to be a bad person.
  • What Were You Thinking?: The default reaction Alton gives to a chef who has an advantage or no sabotages…and fails to use it to their advantage.
    • In the French Fries round of "A Penny for Your Chocolates", Alton gave this reaction to Chef Emily who had exclusive right to salt the fries…and ended up as the only chef of the round with under-seasoned fries. She was immediately eliminated.
    • Alton gave another one to a chef in the American Breakfast challenge. Chef Adam had the sabotage of a commercial toaster…and had untoasted bread.
    • In a Season 3 episode, one of the challenges was pea soup. The only challenger who ended up with fresh peas (having sabotaged the others by giving them wasabi peas, candy peas, etc.) produced a soup that really didn't have much of a pea taste. Alton gave him a pricelessly incredulous look and the remark, "Dude. You had all the peas!" Believe it or not, that chef survived the round.
  • Who Writes This Crap?!: Or "Who Comes Up With These Sabotages?!"
    • The judges upon seeing the sabotages in the After-Show. Majumdar, a regular on the show, has repeatedly commented that Alton is "a very bad man." Even fellow Food Network personalities have this reaction when confronted with a hypothetical Cutthroat Kitchen scenario.
    • The commercial that appeared for Season 5 showed Alton getting the weird items for the sabotages. It's followed up with a bit where Alton sees a guy on a scooter and goes with glee, "Oh, I have GOT to get me one of those!" (In the version on the Food Network website, we later see Alton ride off in it, towing his purchases behind him, while the previous rider is amazed at how much he got for it from Alton. The version for TV broadcast had Alton ride into the studio on the scooter, made into a cooking station.)
    Salesperson: New season?
    Alton: Ohhhhh, yeah.
    • In a Season 1 episode ("Wing It"), during the spaghetti and meatball challenge, Chef Glick gained the right to take all of one ingredient away from another contestant. He took away Penny's…garlic. Both she and Alton are flabbergasted as to why he simply didn't take away all her pasta.
  • Why Didn't I Think of That?: At least once, Alton frequently gets surprised at how chefs — and even judges — manage to work around sabotages that he hadn't thought of when they were designed.
  • Why We Can't Have Nice Things: Invoked by Alton on the January 25, 2015, episode when one chef grabbed an item from the pantry at the last second and allowed several of the same thing to spill onto the floor.
  • With My Hands Tied: Common sabotages involve removing a chef's use of one or both of their hands — be it by duct taping a hand to a potato masher, forcing them to wear a pirate costume with a hook hand, making them hold hands with another chef for the whole round…
  • With This Herring: Typically invoked several times per round.
  • Worthy Opponent:
    • Inverted. When he judged the final challenge (Chocolate Cake) between two chefs, Simon Majumdar noted that, while both chefs' cakes tasted delicious, Chef Tim's cake was just slightly better than Chef Whitney's due to a better chocolate flavor. During the after show, Simon is amazed that the losing chef got hit with two sabotages (having to use chocolate-covered sardines, onions, and other unpleasant combinations for his sole chocolate source, and replacing his mixer with a kid's toy mixer) and still ended up neck-and-neck with the winner, complimenting his excellent cooking skills.
    • Played straight for the "Red, White and Blue dessert" final round for "The Hunt for Bread October". The two chefs had been wanting to compete head to head, since they were Army and Navy veterans, and were in agreement that if they were going to lose, they wanted it to be to the other guy. They even agreed that they were each going to be sabotaged in that round.

  • Xanatos Speed Chess: Yeah, you're going to have to change plans on the fly. Excellent players have used this to their advantage to win the game.
  • You Cook Like A Cow: Frequent taunting encouraged by the producers.
  • You Have GOT to Be Kidding Me!: Many, many sabotages provoke this response, to the point where this line comes up almost Once an Episode.
  • You Just Had to Say It: In "Evilicious: Canoe Jack City", round two is pasta carbonara. The first sabotage is to replace one chef's eggs with a plate of salsa-covered huevos rancheros. Chef Matthew, eyeing the plate, asks Alton if the yolks are runny. Alton proceeds to tear up the eggs and says yes, they're runny. Another chef puts it nicely on the Confession Cam:
    Chef Robert: Genius boy has to open his big mouth.
  • You Keep Using That Word: In the Surviving Cutthroat Kitchen webisode, Alton has three suggestions for how the chef should sell their dish. First, never use adjectives like "delicious" — because that will easily set up judges to say, "No, it's not." Second, never use the word "rustic" to describe their dish — because it's chef-talk for "sloppy". And finally, never, ever, use the word "deconstructed" — or else you just lost. Although a few people did use the word "deconstructed"…and won.
    • A few. Not many. In 'You're Bacon Me Crazy', judge Antonia Lofaso gasped as soon as the word 'deconstructed' left one chef's mouth, as it's been abused so much on the show, usually as code for 'I got sabotaged to hell and back, everything went wrong, and here is a pile of unconnected ingredients that were supposed to combine into the target dish at a happier point in my life', that she can hardly take it seriously anymore. It was not a particularly surprising boot.
    • One of the only chefs to survive the D-word was a pastry chef who did a very credible deconstructed birthday cake. In this case, every part of her dish was very well-constructed and the deconstruction, though a last-minute improvisation, impressed the judge more than the lacking presentation of the other chef (a savory chef).
    • In general, calling your dish that is a little "out there" in terms of what the actual dish is. For example, if the target dish is lamb chop dinner and you have lamb patties, don't try to sell it as "lamb chops". The judges will call you out on it.
    • Alton gave this unspoken reaction to Chef Skylar who claimed she was making a "Californian Ice Cream" for her dish.
    • Similarly, selling your dish to the chef as an "inspired or done in the way my *Insert Family member here* would make this dish". Again, at this point, you're telling the judges "Well, it's what they would've made, if they got stuck in my position, and sabotaged like I did."

Well, it looks like you're going to be able to navigate away from this page with whatever cash you have remaining.


Video Example(s):


Chef Dean's corn muffins

Chef Joel makes an improbably precise observation!

How well does it match the trope?

5 (8 votes)

Example of:

Main / IronicEchoCut

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