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Kansas City chef gets spooky with second time on ‘Cutthroat Kitchen’

Janet Ross, a sous chef at Cafe Sebastienne, had to prepare a dish with a “Psycho”-themed element — using a murderous knife while standing in a clawfoot bathtub — on Food Network’s “Cutthroat Kitchen: Tournament of Terror.”
Janet Ross, a sous chef at Cafe Sebastienne, had to prepare a dish with a “Psycho”-themed element — using a murderous knife while standing in a clawfoot bathtub — on Food Network’s “Cutthroat Kitchen: Tournament of Terror.” Food Network

For Janet Ross, one appearance on Food Network’s high-stakes “Cutthroat Kitchen” wasn’t enough. She had to go back for more.

But for the Halloween-themed competition, she had to take her cooking — and yelling — skills to a whole new level.

“They made us scream over and over; I was hoarse by the end,” Ross said. “I had bruises all over my body from a sabotage. I was a mess.”

Ross, a sous chef at Cafe Sebastienne at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, will be featured in the first episode of “Cutthroat Kitchen: Tournament of Terror” on Sept. 28. While she can’t say how far she made it in the show, she said she did better than her first appearance two years ago, when she was eliminated in the second round.

“Cutthroat Kitchen” isn’t your typical cooking competition. Not only do chefs have to create multiple dishes during a single episode, but they can sabotage one another with challenges (for example, cooking with kid-sized tools and oven ranges or preparing food from within a ball pit). The chefs compete for $25,000 in a typical three-round episode.

“When I went on the first time, I had only seen a couple of episodes,” she said. “I underwent a lot of sabotages (this time), and that’s actually the fun part of it: overcoming the insane challenges that they throw at you. I would hate to have skated through unscathed.”

The Halloween theme adds a terrifying twist. In Ross’ episode, chefs had to create Hannibal Lecter-style liver and fava beans and cook their garlic chicken recipes with murder weapons. For the dessert round, one chef had to get ingredients for a blood orange dessert from a possessed seance board.

But the theme didn’t scare Ross, who decorates her midtown house for the spooky holiday every year.

“I’m a huge Halloween person,” she said. “I had a couple of weeks to think about Halloween-themed dishes. I tried to think up whatever I could.”

Ross has been a sous chef at Cafe Sebastienne for 15 years and, before that, ran a catering business. She said that experience working quickly and from any location was an asset for the show.

Despite the heated competition, Ross’ favorite part was meeting chefs from around the world. She has even stayed in touch with a few of them.

She said there’s a family vibe on set, with host Alton Brown continually making contestants laugh (in this episode, he dons outrageous costumes).

So, would she do it again? Absolutely.

“Most of all, it was seeing if I had what it took,” Ross said. “I’ve never considered myself very competitive, but it turns out I might have a little of that in me.”

Kate Miller: 816-234-4077, @_Kate_Miller_

Where to watch

Chef Janet Ross of Kansas City will compete on the first episode “Cutthroat Kitchen: Tournament of Terror” at 9 p.m. Sept. 28 on the Food Network. Sixteen chefs will appear over four episodes, and each week’s winner will return for the grand finale Oct. 26.

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