By RHEA-FRANCES TETLEY
The new TBS TV show Rat in the Kitchen featured Crestline’s Top Town Chef Sara Gutierrez in their third episode of the series.
The dishes are made by the six chefs working together to create two meals during the show, which are then tasted by top Chef Ludo who gives a thumbs up or down on each dish. The premise of this unusual cooking show is that there are six chefs who are competing for a possible $50,000 prize, but one of them is trying to sabotage the recipes of the others and win all the money for themself.
As described by the show itself, the “rat” in this cooking show is a saboteur who tries to screw up his or her team’s dishes without getting caught. Chief Creative Officer David Eilenberg said in an interview, “The rat doesn’t know that they’re the rat until the night before shooting. The rat only has one night to figure out how they’re going to pull this off.”
Neither Chef Ludo Lefebvre nor hostess Natasha Leggero know the rat’s identity during the taping of the show. At the end of the show, the six chefs vote on whom they think the “rat” is and, if they guess correctly, the prize money is split among the chefs who were not the saboteur.
Top Town Chef Sara was contacted for the show a year ago through her social media account by a talent scout for the show. During the past few years, because of COVID limiting her ability to cook as a personal chef, she had been doing cooking demonstrations of meals for her followers on her social media page.
The first contact by the talent agent she ignored as she thought it was a scam but, upon investigation, she responded and thus began the extensive selection process for the show. “It took months and months of Zoom contacts and phone calls before I was selected,” she said, adding, “I had not had much Zoom experience before that, except for my 9-year-old son’s school classes.
“The filming was last June, but I had such a wonderful time with this exciting adventure that I’m glad I was chosen, and I had a fun time on the show.”
Chef Sara was introduced on the show as “Sara, a personal chef from Crestline, California.” Her smile was infectious on the show and she was impressed by the host Chef Ludo Lefebvre, who she was aware of previously from her chef jobs in Hollywood.
“I had the opportunity to watch Chef Ludo doing a food demonstration once during the Los Angeles Book Fair,” she said.
During the show, Chef Sara was assigned to create the side dish for the hamburger meal, but somehow her chips were lost, never getting onto the plate and never making it to the judge; however, her Bacon Jam received a compliment from Chef Ludo. She suspects the “rat” dumped the chips somewhere, but doesn’t know for sure, but it made her even more observant in the second challenge. Still, that first meal she worked on was given a thumbs up by Chef Ludo Lefebvre and hostess Natasha Leggero.
The second meal created was a group meal, where all six cooks worked on all parts of the meal. It was a seabass entrée with a pineapple beurre blanc (butter) sauce, corn succotash, with a wilted green salad on top. During this competition, the chefs were frequently exchanging places and cooking positions during the meal making process. During each exchange, the chefs had to explain to the next chef what they were doing at the time of the switch out. Some of the explanations were not too clear, leading to lost time and confusion in the cooking process, making it easier for the “rat” to do mischief.
The filming of the episode took all day, from 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., and there were some technical difficulties, which made the filming run longer than usual. Although it was the last episode to be filmed, it was exciting enough to be chosen as the third episode of the season. It was first broadcast on April 14, 2022.
Chef Sara said that, while growing up, she loved mysteries so she had learned to be observant, and her grandfather had always taught her to “keep your eyes open,” which definitely helped in this show, she said, adding, “I was tuned into my inner detective for this show.”
Her admiration for Chef Ludo is obvious: “Chef Ludo is a Michelin Star Chef, meaning he is acknowledged as being top in his field, having successfully completed many requirements and making him known worldwide. I was immediately impressed by being in the same room with him, since I knew who he was, while the other chefs on the show had no idea of his stellar reputation, so I was on cloud nine when I heard his compliment on my food item. He actually complimented my food twice during the show. I am still floating from that.”
Gutierrez’ career as a chef has experienced many upward steps to become the Top Town Chef, where she is currently available for private events. She attended the Cordon Bleu in Pasadena for formal training and had an internship in baking and pastry. She spent two years at Big Bend National Park cooking in the main lodge. Hired as the pastry chef, she also worked both on the salad cold side and the hot line of the savory side of food preparation over those years. She was a line cook at USC for five years, moving her way up, giving her a plethora of experiences and learning from a variety of excellent chefs.
She worked for several years in Hollywood at several upscale restaurants, under top chefs “learning so much from each one. I always want to learn more, and my ability to follow a recipe and consistency with excellent results has earned me praise wherever I’ve cooked.”
She met John 10 years ago and moved to the mountains. While here, she has worked for the San Manuel casino restaurants, where she realized she wanted to do cooking in a more personalized setting. She was the chef at the Skyforest Inn, while doing some sideline, personal catering when COVID arrived. She started Top Town Chef in February 2019, doing personal cooking for small groups or family events. She does elopement weddings and other small group events. She hopes to create a small container kitchen café in Top Town Crestline at some time, to be supportive of others. She calls herself the Top Town Chef because she is so proud of Crestline.
Chef Sara was honored to be able to do the two-year anniversary party for Hearth and Sage General Store, which is owned by Chamber President Michelle and Daley Hake in Top Town, earlier this year.
Sara is also a member of the board of directors of the Crestline Chamber of Commerce, contributing her time and energy to making the community better.
Rat in the Kitchen airs on TBS every Thursday at 6 p.m. local time; each episode is repeated several times throughout the season and is viewable on HULU on demand.