“I’m chef Ilan Hall, and The Gorbals is my restaurant.” After the doors close, Ilan forces chefs to battle it out for nothing but bragging rights, Mad Max-style. I suppose everybody has to do something after winning Top Chef.

Our first two contestants couldn’t be more different. There’s Adam Sappington from The Country Cat in Portland, Oregon. He works with “whole animals,” so…yum? Adam will go up against Michael Smith from Kansas City who has been known to paint with ingredients. Cooking is his sport because he sucks at actual sports.

The chefs have one hour to complete at least two dishes using three secret ingredients. The ingredients are:

  • Semolina flour. Boring.
  • A saw. That’s not actually an ingredient.
  • A beef forequarter. That’s most of a cow, if a cow were half the size.

The judges begin by poking around in the cow’s innards, judging their fat like a supermodel on a go-see. For some reason, the chefs are working together rather than competing to the death. While Adam breaks down the beef, Michael prepares the pasta. I guess that makes sense, the Midwestern Kansas man knows nothing about butchering beef while the hippie dippie Portlander is carving up a cow.

knife fight season two esquire tv

Well, it’s still a contest. Adam took the best cut of beef and is prepping a tomahawk steak which is the most tender and racist cut of beef. That leaves Michael with whatever he can hack off of the cow and ends up with a skirt steak and a rib eye. At least he’s not a vegetarian?

Michael bails on the pasta because he has zero patience left after basking elbow-deep in beef thighs. So he’s making skate wing, which…what? I don’t even know what that means. Adam is busy making a carpaccio salad with juniper and black pepper salted beef carpaccio with a citrus and vegetable salad. The judges pretty much hate it, which is funny because carpaccio on a cooking show is a cop out. Might as well call it cop-out-io. Yeah, I said it.

Fritters! Michael’s making them…with his hands? Isn’t that, like, boiling oil? I guess they grow ‘em tough in Kansas. He hates his own fritters which is a special kind of self-loathing. He goes all sorts of Mediterranean with a spiced fish fritter. Meanwhile, Adam is making semolina cakes. Snore!

Michael presents his semolina fritters with an arugula salad, because we would expect nothing less from Kansas City than an arugula salad. The judges are confused, but hungry. Adam plates his semolina cakes that he stewed with tomatoes and olives. Ooh! An olive pit, and it cut the inside of a judge’s mouth. Not good. Can I just tell you how good those tomahawk steaks look? Until Adam does the unfathomable—he debones the steak. Why? Why would you do that? Let the judges eat it Flintstone’s style. Michael’s rib eye and skirt steak is served with a carrot puree as a hat tip to the elderly. The judges are not feeling the flavors.

The winner of this knife fight is Portland’s Adam Sappington because meat wins every time.


On the next episode of Knife Fight (yeah, there were two this week)…

Okay, so everybody knows the rules—one hour, two chefs, three ingredients, and at least two dishes. Ready…octopus! Oh, what? A chef from French Laundry? Well, now you have my attention. (Semi-unrelated, but I went to Per Se about a week or so ago, and it may have been life-changing.)

The first chef is Ray Garcia, Executive Chef at Fig in Santa Monica. Yeah, I haven’t heard of that one, either. His competitor is Ricardo Zarate of Paiche in Los Angeles and the winner of a previous Knife Fight. Uh, I was promised at least one chef from French Laundry, Ilan. But whatever, these guys look like they’ve cooked a clam or two, too.

The first ingredient is Mangalitsa pork fat, which was first bred in Hungary for royals. The second ingredient is alpaca. Huh. Sounds gamey! Finally, octopus. And it’s big. If I ran into this particular octopus in an actual body of water, I would soil myself. Speaking of running into, Drew Barrymore is an executive producer of this show because Ilan is a “celebrity” chef or something. I once saw her give David Spade a lap dance while sucking on a lollipop at an SNL afterparty, and now that I’m piecing it all together from the deep, dark recesses of my mind, it was just as horrifying as that octopus. And ten times slimier.

Okay, now that we have that out of the way, it looks like we have ourselves a knife fight. The alpaca throws both chefs off of their game because who on earth cooks with alpaca? Especially these fancy California chefs. They’d be more comfortable with kale soaked in sunflower seed rinds with a sauce made from the sweat of a B-list actress.

Ricardo brings out the first dish, and it’s alpaca tartare. That’s brave, man. There’s not enough heat to cover up the flavor of the alpaca. Ray has trouble with the pressure cooker because he’s used to other people doing these things for him.

Knife Fight esquire octopus

Did I just hear something about an alpaca bagel? No? Maybe? Ray cooks lentils to go with his octopus which sounds just a wee bit disappointing because lentils are made from sadness and broken dreams. But, he put a little bit of tomatillo on it, so the judges find it delicious.

At the 25-minute mark, there’s brioche happening. It’s from Ricardo, and it’s an alpaca burger. Big hit. Huge. His Peruvian background may be at work here since alpaca meat is not entirely unheard of in his homeland. Ray plays catch-up with a spicy sauce of dates and peppers for his alpaca loin. Oh! It’s bacon wrapped! Bacon makes everything better. The judges enjoy it and think that maybe it has soul.

For a final dish, Ricardo pulls his octopus out of the pressure cooker. Ray tries to sear the pork fat like a slab of foie gras because there’s no foie in California which, no. That’s like serving someone a pork chop that turns out to be tofu. Is that puffed rice? That’s not going to save the seared pork fat. But…it works.

So who wins? Santa Monica or Los Angeles? Ray wins, taking Ricardo’s knife away.

Which I think has something to do with his manhood, right?



Linda Sue Strong is the founder of entertainment blog TerribleTelevision.com and an occasional attorney. Her life has not yet been turned into a reality television show. Follow her at @themisslinda.


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