'Knife Fight' Contestants Dish It Out Over Oxtail (Exclusive Video)

9:00 AM PST 04/22/2014 by C. Molly Smith

Renowned chefs fight for respect (and bragging rights) in the Drew Barrymore-produced cooking competition.

Get your sharpeners out, people, Knife Fight is back! Now in its second season, the cooking competition show, executive produced by Drew Barrymore, returned to Esquire Network on April 15. If its new clip is any indication, there’s plenty of heat in the kitchen.  

The Hollywood Reporter has an exclusive clip from Tuesday night's episode that shows Italian culinary master Freddy Vargas of Scarpetta and modernist chef Justin Wills of Oregon’s Restaurant Beck battling it out for bragging rights in front of a rowdy crowd at host Ilan Hall’s downtown L.A. restaurant. Guest judges Kris Morningstar — of Ray & Stark’s Bar at LACMA — and Naomi Pomeroy — owner of Beast in Portland and finalist on Top Chef Masters — preside over the contestants alongside Hall.

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In each half-hour episode, contestants are tasked with making two dishes from a group of mystery ingredients, all of which are pulled from the restaurant’s pantry, in an hour’s time. (Note: Some of the ingredients are still breathing.) In the clip, Vargas and Wills are faced with oxtail, arugula and fish. (Thankfully for the weak-stomached, none of these ingredients are alive). 

When asked by Hall, Vargas said he was thinking about breaking down the oxtail, passing it through the grinder to make little meatballs — he was still up in the air on the second dish. Wills thought he might make a braised oxtail with risotto as well as sashimi with arugula.

“The thing that makes me most excited about this competition is that I’m able to cook whatever I want to, that I have no restraints other than the ingredients that they present us,” Vargas says in the clip. Despite early enthusiasm, Vargas struggles to contain his nerves against the recent James Beard Award Nominee, while Wills is challenged by an unfamiliar pressure cooker.

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More generally, this season, viewers can look forward to myriad contenders: Sue Zemanick, Tim Love, Traci des Jardins, Chris Shepherd, Kevin Gillespie, Mark Peel, Kelly Liken and Charles Phan.

“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,” Hall quips.

Knife Fight airs at 9 p.m. Tuesdays on Esquire Network.  

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