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Nightmare in Flavortown

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Alton Brown stared down at his shoes, then back up at the camera.  He took a deep breath, then closed his eyes as the camera counted down from 10.  At the count of four, Alton opened his eyes and began the transformation, allowing the persona of a madman to take over.


A smirk spread across his face as the camera man held up three fingers.  Two fingers, and Alton’s eyebrows shifted down menacingly toward the bridge of his nose.  At the last finger, Alton held his hands in front of him, fingertips together, his transformation beautifully complete.


“Tonight on Cutthroat Kitchen, we’re going southern, as our four chefs battle biscuits, gravy and sabotage.”


Alton had done the spiel so many times that it was almost effortless.  As he looked across the faces of the chefs that would be competing, he could see the fake confidence, the desperation to win, but tonight, there was a tension in the air that he couldn’t quite put his finger on.


“No point in focusing on that, though,” Alton thought as he explained the rules of the game and handed out the fake cash that was used on the show.


“Chefs, tonight you’ll be cooking southern style, and what better way to start off than breakfast.  Oh, can’t you just smell it?  Biscuits baking freshly in the oven, a chicken filet in the fryer.  Ah, yes, perfect.  Make me your best chicken biscuit.”


"One more thing – for this round, you’ll be shopping first, and we’ll have auctions for sabotages while you’re preparing your dishes.”  Alton gestured from the chef stations to the area stocked with ingredients.  “You’ll have 60 seconds to do your shopping, and time starts…now!”


He watched as the chefs shuffled through the pantry, probably not realizing how helpless they were.  They grabbed flour, chicken, buttermilk, breadcrumbs, cornmeal, butter, spices…the baskets filled with whatever they could throw in there.  After all, it couldn’t hurt to have more than you needed, but having less could send you home.


One of these chefs would get their fresh chicken replaced with whatever chicken they could manage to scrounge out of frozen TV dinner.  Another of the chefs, or maybe the same chef, would have to prepare their chicken biscuit standing on their left leg only while actively cooking and their right leg only while actively prepping. 


The last sabotage was especially ridiculous and had required special preparation.  The stage crew would wheel out a large firepit, and up for auction would be the ability to make one of the winner’s opponents cook their entire dish over a campfire that they themselves would have to build.  They’d have a little lighter fluid and the wood would be prepared, but it would still take away some of their precious time.  Alton almost felt sorry for whoever got that sabotage.




“3, 2, 1!”


Alton slammed the pantry door closed as the chefs scurried back over to their stations and began preparing their dishes. 


“Now, before you get too far into preparing, chefs, we have our first item up for auction.  One of you will have the ability to replace an opponent’s chicken with whatever they can get out of one of these frozen TV, um, dinners,” he said, making air quotes at the mention of that last word, mocking the very idea that one of those abominations could pass for an actual edible dinner.


The contestants desperately bid the item up, hoping not to get stuck with the low quality, pre-cooked nightmare chicken.  $500, then $1500.  $3,000, then, $3,500.


“Going once, twice, and sold to Chef Andrea for $3,500.  Chef, bring me my money.”


Chef Andrea ran over with the money, grabbed the frozen dinners, and dropped them off at Chef Mark’s station.  “Sorry Chef,” she said, a twinkle of sarcasm in her eye.  Sometimes, Alton could tell that the saboteurs were actually sorry, but were just putting on an act for the show by acting snarky.  Chef Andrea wasn’t acting.


Chef Mark fumbled with the package, trying to pry his unfortunate, frozen ingredients from the plastic tray.  Alton watched as the chef desperately tried to salvage the situation, but most of these contestants were surprisingly good at bouncing back from sabotages.


Unlike the final edited version of the show, there was much less talking while filming this part of the show.  The interviews where the chefs explained what was going through their heads or complained about the hands they were dealt were all recorded afterward, so this part of the show was mostly just standing back and watching for Alton, at least, until it was time to hold an auction.


“Chefs, if I may have your attention again, I’ve got another sabotage up for bids.”  These types of sabotages were honestly Alton’s least favorites.  Stand on one leg, stand on the other leg.  Okay, who cares?  A good chef is so good at the whole balancing act of being in a kitchen, what was really the big issue with throwing in a little bit of actual balancing?


By the time Alton had finished his thought, he’d already auctioned off the sabotage.  It was sometimes robotic like that.  How much had it gone for?  Oh, right, $2,000.


“Chef, bring me my money.”


Chef Tom ran up and handed Alton a stack of fake cash.


“And who will be the recipient of this lovely gift?”


“Chef Mark,” he replied flatly, almost as if there were no rhyme or reason to his decision.


Alton arched an eyebrow.  It wasn’t often that a chef got ganged up on, especially in the first round.  Were the other chefs that intimidated by Chef Mark?  Was this a result of the tension Alton had noticed – that something that he couldn’t put his finger on?


He watched as Chef Mark hopped back and forth, dealing with the sabotages as best he could, barely a complaint escaping his lips.  Alton was certain from watching that Chef Mark’s biscuit batter was top-notch.  As long as it was cooked properly in an oven, the biscuit might save the frozen chicken…maybe.  After all, there was no way Chef mark would get the campfire sabotage.  No single Chef had ever gotten all three sabotages. 


“Chefs, I have up for auction the third and final sabotage of the first round.  The winner of this auction will be able to force the chef of their choice to cook their entire meal over a campfire that they must build in this firepit.” Alton gestured to his right as his crew wheeled in the firepit.  “Anything they currently have cooking will need to be immediately removed from heat and continued over the campfire.” 


Chef Mark immediately bid.  “$1,000.”


“I have $1,000 from Chef Mark.”


“$2,000!” Chef Andrea shouted.


“$3,000,” Chef Mark said calmly as hopped back and forth.


“$4,500!” Chef Tom exclaimed.


“Six-“ Chef Mark began.


“$10,000!” Chef Susan shouted.


Alton was shocked that Chef Susan’s bid jumped so high, but it wasn’t that unusual for tough sabotages to go up that much.


“Chefs, I have $10,000.  Going once…going twice…and sold to Chef Susan for $10,000.  Chef, bring me my money.”


Chef Susan ran up to Alton and handed him the money.  His eyes met hers, and hers met his, and suddenly, he realized the impossible was about to happen.


“I’m giving the sabotage to Chef Mark,” Chef Susan said.

Alton looked over at Chef Mark, his mind scrambling for something to say.  Rules were rules, and there were none that said a single chef couldn’t get all of the sabotages, but there was something about this that was wrong.


It was almost pitiful, standing there and watching Chef Mark fumble to make a fire while hopping around.  The chef was doing his best to work with what he was given, though.  He managed to get the fire going pretty quickly, then suspended a small baking pan in the middle of a large pot, which he placed his biscuit batter on and covered.


Alton thought it was a pretty decent idea, and it was impressive that he’d done it while hopping around.  Luckily for Chef Mark, he’d already deep fried his frozen TV dinner chicken, but the fact that it was such a low quality piece of meat in the first place still didn’t bode well.


At this point, Alton was barely paying attention to the other chefs.  All eyes were on Chef Mark as he hopped around, desperately hoping his biscuits cooked properly in the makeshift oven.  However, Alton couldn’t shake the feeling that he was forgetting something – something…important.


“Chefs, you have one minute left, I suggest you start plating your dish soon,” Alton said, suddenly snapping out of his daze.  The three sabotage-less chefs were already plating, but Chef Mark scrambled to get his dishes ready.  He uncovered his makeshift biscuit oven and was shocked to see that they mostly looked okay.  Excitedly, he turned around and headed back toward his station, switching his hopping leg as the sabotage required. 


Once he got there, he grabbed his plates and tried to make a plan for getting his dish plated before the deadline.  In order to save time, he put some butter and his already prepared fried chicken on the stack of plates and hopped back over toward the campfire.


“Wait a minute,” Alton whispered.  “I remember!”  It had come racing back to him, and he had to stop Chef Mark.  He went to call out, but as he did, he found the horror already unfolding.


Amidst all of the hopping around, Chef Mark had stumbled right in front of his campfire and was currently mid fall, headed right for the open biscuit oven-pot.  The stack of plates filled with butter and fried chicken patties hurtled toward the biscuits with Chef Mark right behind them.


“Nooooo!” Alton screamed, racing toward the campfire.  “The seal will be broken!” 


Yes, Alton had indeed remembered exactly why three sabotages being handed to one chef was so bad, and now it was too late to stop it.  As Chef Mark’s sabotages combined in the pot, there was a blinding yellow flash, and suddenly, Chef Mark was gone.


“Holy shit, what’s going on?!” a cameraman shouted. 


“Everyone, get out of here!” Alton yelled.  He turned to one of the stagehands and said, “Bobby Flay was our guest judge and he is in the soundproof room.  Go and get him.  Now.”  His eyes were stern, the act of the maniacal chef completely dropped.  Things had gotten serious.


“Where did Chef Mark go?!” Chef Susan shrieked. 


“I don’t know!” Chef Andrea exclaimed.  “He fell into the fire and just…disappeared!”


“I said to get out of here!” Alton screamed.


“A chef just fell into a fire and disappeared, we can’t just leave!” Chef Tom said.


“You don’t understand,” Alton said.  “You have to leave right now.  The game is over!”

“Alton, what in the world is going on?” came a voice from behind.


“Oh Bobby, we screwed up,” Alton said.


“What do you mean?” Bobby replied.


“We screwed up bad.”


A yellow-red flame in the shape of a bird arose from the pot above the campfire.


“Is that a Phoenix?” Bobby Flay asked, the color draining from his face.


“I’m afraid so,” Alton replied.


“Oh no.  Oh God no.  You let three sabotages combine, didn’t you?”


“I had forgotten,” Alton said.  “It’s been so long, I just didn’t…there was fried TV dinner chicken and butter in there too…oh man, this is going to be bad…”


Bobby shook his head.  “Alton, what have you done?  We worked so hard to seal him away, and now…now the seal is broken.”


From the smoke and the ashes, a figure arose.  It was a man with blonde hair, but it was…different, and unnatural.  He wore sunglasses, but they were twisted around on the back of his head.  He had earrings and tattoos, and he was undoubtedly…out of bounds.


“Dear God,” Alton whispered.


“Hey everybody!  I’m Guy Fieri and I’m rolling out!”


“How do we seal him again?!” Alton shouted.


“We can’t!” Bobby exclaimed.  “We need at least 4 celebrity chefs.  We had Giada and Anne Burrell last time, and even then, we barely made it out alive.


“Whoa righteous show here, Alton!  Looks like you guys are frying up some kind of winner winner chicken dinner!”


“Jesus Christ, someone make him stop!”


“I’m here with my main man Chef Tom, and it looks like we’re cooking up a southern classic, chicken biscuits!”


Chef Tom was frozen in fear, his eyes begging Alton and Bobby Flay to do something.


Guy reached down for Chef Tom’s dish and took a monstrous bite out of it.  His face contorted, eyes rolling around in their sockets as he food-gasmed, “Shut the front door!”


“Guy, let’s just calm down and get you back under the bridge where we found you,” Bobby said, holding his hands in front of him, trying desperately to calm down the psychotic, spiky haired troll-man.


Guy extended his arms, made little finger guns, and pointed them at Bobby Flay.  “Tattoo beam!”


Suddenly, a sleeve of tribal tattoos appeared on Bobby Flay’s right arm.


“Dammit Fieri!” Bobby said.


“Now that is money!”  Guy said, his mouth open unnaturally wide as he screamed in excitement.


“Watch out Alton!” Bobby exclaimed.


“Backwards sunglasses gangsta ray!”


Alton ducked just in the nick of time, thanks to Bobby’s warning.  “Bobby, we have to get out of here and get more celebrity chefs!”


Bobby nodded.  “Alton, don’t walk.  Run.”


The two chefs took off toward the exit, leaving Guy Fieri behind with the very confused contestants.  Alton had warned them, and they hadn’t listened.  Now they’d become sacrifices, just like Chef Mark had.


“Flavor-mobile, appear before me!” Guy said, snapping both thumbs twice in quick succession.  As if by magic, a red 1968 Camaro descended from the sky, crashed through the studio roof, and landed gently in front of Guy.


Guy twisted his sunglasses around from the back of his head, carefully opening the door to his prized Flavor-mobile. 


“I’ll be looking for you next time, Alton and Bobby.”