Taking gamified elements from reality television shows and bringing them into the classroom is a wonderful way to create magical learning in your classroom. There are so many brilliant ideas that can be adapted to our learning environments to create amazing and immersive experiences for our students. One of my favorite sources of inspiration is the Food Network television show, Cutthroat Kitchen. This cooking show hosted by Alton Brown, features four chefs that compete in a 3-round elimination cooking competition. At the start of the show, each chef is given $25,000. In each round, chefs have the opportunity to bid on auction items to sabotage one another. The person left standing at the end of the competition keeps whatever money he/she has not spent in the auctions.
Inspired by this entertaining reality show, I decided that the Friday backed up to Spring Break was a great opportunity to try something new with my restless students who have been hit hard with a case of Spring Fever. With a refrigerator full of leftovers begging to be used and a shorter schedule than normal, I decided a quesadilla would be the perfect item for the challenge.
Let the games begin!
I arrange all of the available items on my counter, with a message projected on the screen that says, "Are you ready for Cutthroat Kitchen?" As students came in, I have them go directly to their kitchens with their teams to get washed up and ready.
When the final bell rings, I hand out $1,000 play money to each team and explain the rules:
Teams have 20 minutes to prepare a quesadilla using the ingredients gathered. Every 5 minutes throughout the challenge, an auction item will be up for bid that will allow you to sabotage other teams to increase the challenge to your opponents. Teams who have the best quesadilla's evaluated on taste, texture, appearance, and creativity will earn XP (experience points). Additionally, teams that had the most money left, will get bonus XP and a Chance Card that will give advantages within our gamified class structure.
After I explain the rules, teams send 1 person to gather ingredients from the supply table within 30 seconds. Staple ingredients kept in their kitchens like flour, sugar, salt, pepper, and oil could be used in the challenge, but nothing else once they returned from the supply table with their ingredients after the 30 second is up.
Auction Item #1
Before the the challenge begins, I auction off the first item up for bid; mini utensils.
The team who bids highest can choose two teams who must trade in all of their kitchen utensils for mini plastic utensils for the duration of the competition. Teams receiving this sabotage may not use any other utensils including knives and cheese graters. Any teams caught using a standard utensil, will be eliminated from the challenge. I start the auction at $100 and bidding continues until highest bidder is unchallenged. The winner of the auction item is given the Auction Item Box and hands the utensils to the team of choice.
The Race is on!
After the mini utensils have been passed out, I start the clock for 20 minutes and say GO! Teams race to prepare their quesadilla within the 20 minute window. Immediately I witness the 4 C's in action! Creativity, Communication, Critical Thinking, and Collaboration are amplified as students are challenged by time and numerous obstacles that come their way.
Auction Item #2
After 5 minutes, it's time to release auction item #2. I lift up the second box that holds oven mitts.
Teams who bid highest in this auction, will choose two teams to wear oven mitts on both hands the duration of the competition. I once again start the auction at $100 and the teams start their bidding. I hand the highest bidder the box and they decide which teams will be the lucky recipients of the oven mitts. I love listening to students strategize and communicate to decide which teams to give them to.
Auction Item #3
10 minutes into the competition, item #3 is released. This item doesn't come in a box Teams that bid highest in this auction will choose two teams that will be unable to talk for the duration of the challenge. Once again, students strategize to decide which team will lose this valuable form of communication.
Auction Item #4
The last auction item comes with 5 minutes left in the challenge. This sabotage gives highest bidder the ability to take one ingredient from any 2 teams in the room. With little time to spare, this sabotage could really put a team at a disadvantage with so little time remaining. Now teams are really jumping in and bidding to avoid this costly sabotage.
Time is UP!
When the 20 minute timer goes off, all hands go up and preparation is complete! Each team brings their dishes to the judges table to be evaluated. I invite former students or staff members to evaluate the dishes based on taste, texture, appearance, and creativity. Teams that score the highest earn 1000 XP, 2nd place 750 XP, and 3rd place 500 XP. Teams also earn chance cards as well. Teams with the largest sum of money at the end of the game will earn 500 bonus XP as well as a Chance Card that is drawn out of a box to earn special game advantages.
This incredibly fun challenge amplified creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, and communication to epic proportions and is one that I will definitely try again. The challenges and auction items that could be used, is limitless. There are so many ways that you could incorporate and reinforce skills not only in the culinary classroom, but to other content areas as well! I'd love to hear your ideas! How could you use the gamified strategies of Cutthroat Kitchen in your classroom?! Share with me on Twitter at @tishrich and follow our classroom adventures at #culinarySMHS .
Tech Integration Specialist in Southern Oregon and author of Make Learning Magical. I'm passionate about finding innovative ways to transform teaching and create unforgettable experiences in the classroom.