Prepping dinner without any knives and making dessert with only an Easy-Bake oven for heat are challenges that a professional chef might find daunting. But, these are just a couple of the twists the creators of Food Network's "Cutthroat Kitchen" have been known to throw into the mix for culinary competitors on the popular television show.
Chef Melissa Fordham, of Blue Bistro in Westminster, is scheduled to appear on the show June 8. Alton Brown hosts the program featuring sabotage as its main ingredient.
"It's really crazy," Fordham said. "You have to strategize from the beginning."
Contestants start with $25,000 and along the way they are allowed to buy sabotages for fellow chefs to put themselves ahead of the competition through several elimination rounds.
Fordham is not allowed to reveal any spoilers for the episode she is part of but said part of the show was taking away other chefs' tools or crucial ingredients during challenges. Whatever amount the last contestant has at the end of the show, that person gets to keep.
The chefs at her taping all got along at the start of the show, Fordham said.
"But at the end of the day, we realized it was a competition and did what we had to do to survive, which is what this show is about," she said. "You are all friends in the green room. Then the first sabotage comes out and you realize no one is friends here."
The worst part of the show, Fordham said, was not being able to tell the judges how she was handicapped during the cooking. She said judges might criticize the food for something the chef had no control over because they can't know anything about the sabotages used.
Despite the show's challenges, Fordham said she had the time of her life. She said her dream is to host her own cooking show and she hopes her appearance on "Cutthroat Kitchen" pushes her a little closer to that goal.
In the meantime, she is keeping busy as part-owner of Blue Bistro and working as executive head chef at Gourmet Again in Pikesville. Blue Bistro features deli cuisine for lunch Monday through Saturday. On Friday and Saturday nights, she prepares a special BYOB Bistro Night three-course menu that changes each week.
"We basically try to do fun and exciting things each weekend," she said. "And we try to use local stuff as much as we can."
Tempura Cod Fish & Mac, Duck Confit Tartlet and Fried Eggplant Napoleon are some of the entrees that might appear on the Bistro Night menu. Fordham said she also received a great deal of attention over a dish that won first place at a culinary event fundraiser for the Rape Crisis Intervention Service of Carroll County. The mussel dish was crusted with sour cream and onion potato chips and included a potato and bacon foam.
Fordham has worked as a chef for more than a decade. She began her culinary arts training at the Carroll County Career & Technology Center and then Anne Arundel Community College. She has taught culinary classes to children and adults at Carroll Community College.