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Central Standard

Kansas City Chef Janet Ross Places Second In 'Cutthroat Kitchen' Finale


As a contestant on the Food Network's “Cutthroat Kitchen: Tournament of Terror,” local chef Janet Ross had to cook with tools that wouldn’t be out of place in a horror movie.

“The dishes themselves you think, ‘Well, no problem.’ But it’s a problem if you’re wearing claws that are barely sharp enough to cut and totally curved to where you are just ripping at food,” she told host Gina Kaufmann on KCUR’s Central Standard.

“So yeah, to come out with a really pretty dish with some of the situations they put you in is pretty difficult.”

Ross, a longtime sous chef at Café Sebastienne, recently started a new position as the executive chef at Ragazza.

The October 30 finale of "Cutthroat Kitchen" pitted 16 chefs against each other in a series of Halloween-themed challenges, in which contestants had to bid on sabotages to make their opponents go down.

Ross, a self-taught chef, said the ability to strategize was important.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re a really great chef or not,” she said. “It’s really funny to see some of the more arrogant chefs who think they’re going to come in and take it all be voted out … because they got a little cocky and didn’t spend their money wisely.”

Ross said her love of cooking started when she was a server. Over 18 years, she worked at some of Kansas City’s most beloved restaurants: The Prospect, Westport’s Classic Cup, then Venue.

“I watched my chefs very closely at all of those places, and it turned out that I was really interested myself,” she said. “I was always wanting to stir something or get in there and be with the food.”

Ross then started a catering company. After 11 years of catering, she was needing a change when her friend Jennifer Maloney, the executive chef at Café Sebastienne, asked Ross to join her.

Along the way, she performed as a Chiefs Cheerleader in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

“I am a huge Chiefs fan, always have been and always will be. It was great fun,” she said.

She cared about the game and knew about the game, she said, unlike some other cheerleaders who didn’t know much about the game, including, sometimes, the quarterback’s name.

“I’d like to think that I was there to literally cheer for the sport and for our guys on our team. So I wasn’t that kind of cheerleader,” she said.

She went to the other end of the spectrum in professional kitchens, which can be a male-dominated world.

“There is kind of a boys show here in town; we do have a lot of great male chefs,” she said. “They don’t scare us. We work our tails off and we’re not afraid.”

At Ragazza, Ross said she’ll be cooking in an open kitchen.

“I’m very excited about this,” she said. “I’m looking forward to getting back into the world.”

Jen Chen is associate producer for KCUR's Central Standard. Reach out to her at jen@kcur.org.