Straight from the Inferno: Host Curtis Stone Shares Insider Details

Kitchen Inferno host Curtis Stone speaks out about the most-common mistake contestants make during the heated competition.
Curtis Stone

Photo by: Emile Wamsteker ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Emile Wamsteker, 2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

What with its early elimination of one contestant and the cliffhanger ending to decide the fate of another, last week's series premiere of Kitchen Inferno proved that this brand-new heated competition is far from chill. As chefs contemplate risk versus reward at the end of every round, host Curtis Stone is on hand to watch these decisions unfold and oversee the fiery battles that result; after all, no one knows the competition quite like he does. FN Dish recently caught up with Curtis to learn more about Kitchen Inferno from his perspective and find out what he considers to be the most-common mistake made during the contest.

Congratulations on the new series Kitchen Inferno! What aspect of the show are you most looking forward to?

Curtis Stone: You know what’s so exciting is that we sort of put the power back into the contestants’ hands, because we give them the opportunities to [decide] how far they think they can push themselves, or how far they can go. And I love those moments through the show where you sort of — they’ve just won, and they get money or more money, and then you ask them that question: You know, do you believe in yourself enough to keep going, to win more money? Knowing that you have real cash in your hand and you’re going to have to literally tear it up. So they’re always really fun moments.

What are some of the most-common mistakes you see chefs make in the competition?

CS: It’s funny, because the first two mistakes people make are polar opposites. One is to play it too safe, and you see some chefs just not reach quite far enough. By doing that, you’ve absolutely no guarantee of beating your opponent. And the other mistake is the opposite, which is swinging for the fence and just not leaving a single thing on the table and running out of time. Because if you don’t quite get to refine it or taste and make sure you’ve adjusted the seasoning, the smallest mistake can sink your ship .… It’s a really good examination as to how people think. [Some] people make up their mind just like that, and other people just start cooking and peeling and chopping, and you can still see them thinking “What am I making here?” It’s a work in progress. So, that ability to be able to think on your feet fast is really important.

What do you consider to be a contestant’s best strategy for success?

CS: They've got to push pretty hard. You know, we’re putting them up against some really incredible chefs who are used to cooking under intense environments .… So, you know, I think it is really important for them — confidence is important in an environment like this. You’ve got to believe in yourself; you don’t have time to second-guess yourself. You don’t have time to go back and think about what you did, right or wrong. You just have to drive forward. So confidence is really important. And not leaving much on the table is really important, too.

As the host, what would you like to see as the ultimate Kitchen Inferno challenge dish?

CS: It’s funny, because we actually do this in my restaurant: We take one ingredient and we figure out what we can do with that one ingredient. So I’m quite used to thinking about in an ingredient in an abstract sense. Can I dehydrate it? Can I turn it into a powder? Can I turn it into a juice? Can I roast it? Can I poach it? What are the applications for it? It’s more about what you can do in the amount of time allocated. So you have to be really good at guessing how long that process is going to take, or is there a way of shortening it and getting it done even faster? So, I can’t think of an ingredient — we’re just embarking on truffles at the moment. That’s probably my favorite ingredient in the world, so maybe it would be a truffle challenge, my ultimate challenge.

If you were to face off in Kitchen Inferno, which Food Network star would you choose to battle?

CS: I think it’d be Bobby for redemption, because he beat me in Iron Chef. I’d want to take him down.

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