Everyone knows the feeling: It’s been a long, stressful day and you return home just wanting a nice, homemade meal, when you realize you have to cook your dinner while hanging on a rock wall or with your own personal storm raining right down on you.
Oh, wait. That’s insane! And it’s exactly what the contestants on Camp Cutthroat, a five-episode special series from the mad genius who brought us Cutthroat Kitchen, are doing tonight. I’m of course referring to Alton Brown. In this version of the show, contestants cook against one another in … strange … conditions. Sometimes, sabotage is involved. The contestants, all alumni of the regular version of the show, were in the wild, not an outfitted kitchen.
Things got messy.
When Brown calls me, he’s looking over the Pacific Ocean in 68 degree weather, while I hide in the air conditioning from Alabama’s 103 degree heat. That’s when he says, “I miss summer in the South.”
Of course, Brown had spent the last several weeks coming up with madly inventive ways to make cooking in the wild—already a challenge—even more difficult. And boy, did he ever.
“Several sabotages on our show found people cooking on the lake, or in boats, or in artificial rain storms, or having their food stolen by wild animals, which were counselors in bear suits,” Brown says, chuckling as he recalls it. “We had sabotages where you had to do archery for ingredients, things like that.”
One contestant even ended up on a rock wall, having to cook a meal.
Contestants had to start their own fires, but Brown says that part was easy. “Fire management, once it started,” he says, “is another story altogether.”
Not to mention the natural problems cooking in the wild presents.
“We had a rattlesnake wrangler there, because there are snakes,” Brown says.
For all the hardships experienced by the contestants, Brown may have had it the hardest. While everyone else went back home to sleep, he stayed in the woods.
“I actually camped the entire week … whenever everyone else was gone at night, I was awake listening to large animals rumbling,” he says. “I would just go to my trailer and hope to not get eaten by a cougar.”
And he assures me, before waxing nostalgic about missing summer heat, that he hasn’t told me the worst of it.
That’s enough to get me to tune in tonight. Check it out tonight on the Food Network at 9/8 central.
Travis M. Andrews is an associate editor for Southern Living. Follow him on Twitter @travismandrews.