Kansas City chef Shanita McAfee had no idea what to expect when she was invited to compete on the Food Network show “Cutthroat Kitchen” in April.
On the culinary competition hosted by Alton Brown, four chefs face off in three cooking challenges. The twist: Each contestant has $25,000 that they can use to sabotage the other chefs with hard-to-use ingredients and tools.
The last chef standing gets to keep his or her leftover cash.
“You have no idea what they’re going to throw at you,” McAfee says, “so you just go into it like, ‘I’m going to do my damnedest.’”
McAfee, who owns Magnolia’s Contemporary Southern Bistro at 2932 Cherry St., ended up winning the “Tongue Thai-ed” episode of the show that aired on Sunday. The chef brought home $14,800 and some serious bragging rights.
On the show, McAfee made a chimichanga with imitation crab meat forced on her by a competitor and cooked Thai coconut soup while tethered to another chef and clutching a claw-like citrus fruit called a Buddha hand in her dominant hand.
“When you’re a mom,” McAfee said on the show, “You learn how to do stuff with one hand.”
McAfee also did her fair share of sabotaging other chefs. During the final challenge — a competition to see who could make the best Rice Krispies treat — McAfee paid $8,700 to make her competitor use soggy cereal.
McAfee’s final competitor, a Florida chef named Cara Thompson, plated up a gorgeous Rice Krispies dessert made with flash-fried quinoa and the soggy cereal, which she crisped up in a hot skillet.
“Her plate looked amazing,” McAfee says. “I knew I was going home.”
But it was the Kansas City chef’s simple, old-school treat, studded with marshmallow hunks and smothered with melty chocolate, that won over judge Antonia Lofaso.
McAfee says appearing on “Cutthroat Kitchen” taught her to trust her instincts.
Lately those instincts are telling her that Magnolia’s Contemporary Southern Bistro needs a bigger and better kitchen — so McAfee is in the process of securing a new Kansas City location for the restaurant.
Enterprise reporter Sarah Gish covers dining and drinks for Ink magazine. Contact her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet @sarah_gish.