Colorado restaurants have had their fair share of interest from the ever-popular Food Network in recent years, and more than one of our chefs have competed head-to-head with other chefs on deathless competition shows like Top Chef. Now our state can crown another TV champ: Dakota Soifer of Boulder's Cafe Aion, who dodged rivalries and double-crosses to win on Food Network's Cutthroat Kitchen.
For those unfamiliar with the show, Cutthroat Kitchen, hosted by foodie god Alton Brown, makes four chefs from across the country compete to make the best dishes in a short amount of time, a la Chopped. The twist is, the contestants can spend money to sabotage each other's efforts. For example, one poor guy facing off against Soifer had to cook his bruschetta on a Vespa scooter.
Throughout the episode, which aired last Sunday, Soifer ducks the rivalries brewing between the contestants and maintains a cool head, ultimately cooking some tasty dishes and walking home with $13,400 in prize money. "I watched a bunch of the past episodes, I got an idea of what to to expect," Soifer says. "But once you get there, they don't tell you very much at all... It's kept in the dark, which I think adds to the element of surprise."
The biggest indignity Soifer suffered was when hot-sauce magnate Chef Johnny forced him to travel back and forth from the prep station to the cooking station in a maze of red velvet ropes during the final round -- a battle over red velvet cake. For Soifer, the challenge exercised a very different set of muscles than his normal gig. "It's totally different than running a successful restaurant. Even having run my own restaurant, it doesn't necessarily mean you're the most imaginative or proficient chef."
Soifer won a fat stack of cash, but the trial wasn't over: "Immediately after, they make you practice the victory dance. It's really awkward, it's forty people, all the cast and crew, just quietly watching you celebrate for the camera," Soifer says, laughing. "You can't tell anyone you won, you can't even say you're on the show. In a way, it's a lot of personal excitement, but beyond that, not a lot to do until it airs."
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It may not have changed Soifer's entire life, but he now has a healthy appreciation for the demented art of TV cooking shows. "Initially, a few years ago, I kind of pooh-poohed them. Now, honestly, I feel they're a lot of fun, they're good entertainment. It's something different you're able to do after working as a chef for so many years," he says.