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Esquire TV's Knife Fight Renewed with Epic Chef Lineup

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Photo: Esquire Network

The Esquire Network's underground, after-hours culinary competition Knife Fight gets a renewal for its second season, and its competing chef line-up gets a major upgrade for season two, premiering Tuesday, April 15. Like last season, each episode pits two chefs in a head-to-head cooking battle at host Ilan Hall's Los Angeles restaurant The Gorbals.

But as Hall tells Eater, season two's contenders — including Sue Zemanick, Tim Love, Traci des Jardins, Chris Shepherd, Kevin Gillespie, Mark Peel, and Charles Phan — bring "a lot of chef power" that allows the show to stretch beyond familiar Los Angeles faces. "I feel like the industry has embraced the show — they connect with it because it's in a restaurant, and taking away the prize really brings things down, like an exhibition fight or skating match," Hall says. "There's nothing to prove, so people just let down their guard and go for the gusto. Chefs that I know, they love it because it's more their speed."

While celebrities like Drew Barrymore and Elijah Wood made appearances in season one, the rotating line-up of judges — episode one's battle between Tim Love and Mike Isabella will be judged by Kris Morningstar and Naomi Pomeroy — features more chef faces this time around. "The fights that came out best were when chefs were judging other chefs, because there's a mutual respect there that you can't really replicate," Hall says. Also new for season two: Friendly wagers (including some "disgusting ones") between competing chefs, which Hall swears were "completely not driven by production. The chefs that are really close with each other, they want to up the stakes. They're all very competitive, so even though they're good friends, they're there for fun, they still want to win."

What does remain the same, however, is the show's use of legitimate ingredients — "no strawberry milk powder, no Skittles" — and the fact that it's all for fun (and bragging rights). Says Hall: "We have a combination of Michelin star [owners], James Beard Award-winners, Food & Wine Best New Chefs, and still the only prize is a shitty knife." The complete line-up, below:

Knife Fight Season 2 Chefs

· Anthony Strong, Locanda Osteria, San Francisco vs. Charles Phan, The Slanted Door, San Francisco
· Benjamin Bettinger, Imperial, Portland, OR vs. Patrick McKee, Paley's Place Bistro & Bar, Portland, OR
· Brian Huskey, Paiche, LA vs. Mei Lin, Ink, LA
· Chris Shepherd, Underbelly, Houston vs. Brooke Williamson, Tripel/Hudson House, LA
· Edi Frauneder, Edi and the Wolf, NYC vs. Wolfgang Ban, Edi and the Wolf, NYC
· Eric Park, Black Hogg, LA vs. Kevin Gillespie, Gunshow, Atlanta
· Freddy Vargas, Scarpetta, Beverly Hills, CA vs. Justin Wills, Restaurant Beck, Depoe Bay, OR
· Greg Denton, Ox, Portland, OR vs. Jason Wilson, Crush, Seattle
· Jason Paluska, The Lark, Santa Barbara vs. Kyle Itani, Hopscotch, SF
· Jessica Christensen, City Tavern, LA vs. Kevin Luzande, Acabar, LA
· John Gorham & Kasey Mills, Toro Bravo/Tasty & Sons, Portland vs. David Lentz & Kris Longley, Hungry Cat, LA
· Justin Devillier, La Petite Grocery, New Orleans vs. Michael Bryant, Churchill, LA
· Kevin Nashan, Sidney St. Café, St. Louis vs. Harold Moore, Commerce, NYC
· Mark Peel, Campanile, LA vs. Salvatore "Sal" Marino, Il Grano, LA
· Michael Smith, Michael Smith/Extra Virgin, Kansas City vs. Adam Sappington, The Country Cat, Portland, OR
· Michael Teich, The Wallace, LA vs. Johnny Zone, La Poubelle, LA
· Ricardo Diaz & Tony Alcazar, Bizarra Capital, Whittier, CA vs. Gilberto Cetina Jr. & Daniel Elkins, Chichen Itza, LA
· Ricardo Zarate, Picca/Mo-chica/Paiche, LA vs. Ray Garcia, FIG, LA
· Steve Redzikowski, Acorn/Oak at Fourteenth, Denver vs. Kelly Liken, Kelly Liken, Vail, CO
· Sue Zemanick, Gautreau's, New Orleans vs. Tory McPhail, Commander's Palace, New Orleans
· Tandy Wilson, City House, Nashville
 vs. Kelly English, Iris, Memphis
· Tim Love, Love Shack, Lonesome Dove, Woodshed, Fort Worth, TX vs. Mike Isabella, Graffiato, Washington, DC
· Tin Vuong, Abigaile, LA vs. Perry Cheung, Phorage, LA
· Traci des Jardins, Jardiniere, San Francisco vs. Mary Sue Milliken, Border Grill, LA

· All Knife Fight Coverage on Eater [-E-]
· All Food TV Coverage on Eater [-E-]

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