By Scott Thompson, Arts & Entertainment ||

On Tuesday, April 15th, at 9 p.m., Knife Fight will return to Esquire Network with its second season. Despite being the most exciting cooking show on television, Knife Fight maintained relative obscurity until a few weeks ago when host, Ilan Hall, was on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. Hall, who gained fame when winning Season 2 of Top Chef, discussed the show with Fallon, who called it his “favorite show on TV,” while drinking and cooking a meal.

This is a fitting way to pitch the show. It is simply described as a cooking contest with bite. The competition is fierce, the ingredients are always surprising, and the audience is raucous.

Hall hosts this show in his restaurant, The Gorbals, in downtown Los Angeles. As a result, celebrities (Elijah Wood, Jason Lee, Drew Barrymore, etc.) often show up as guest judges, along with world-renowned chefs and restaurant critics. Because Hall waits until his restaurant closes to host these competitions, it has a very exclusive feel, sort of like a Food Fight Club.

Every episode starts with Hall presenting each of the competitors through a quick profile, in which he describes their cooking style and mentions their accolades, before they walk into the competition. Hall then reveals the hidden ingredients, around which the chefs have to base their dishes. The ingredients could be anything from a goat to quail to monkfish liver. Usually there are a few required ingredients, but in the case of a whole goat or live catfish, the challenge is mostly in cutting it up and deciding which parts to use.

After Hall presents the challenge to his contestants, they have an hour to cook a minimum of two meals and present them to the judges, who kill time by drinking, discussing tactics, and interacting with the audience. Chaos ensues as the chefs try to come up with a plan for dishes on the spot, scrambling through the kitchen to find various ingredients, piecing together a dish from scratch, and finishing with an end product that is as beautiful as it is (apparently) delicious. The product always looks like it took much more time and planning to create, showing the skill of the chefs and garnering well-deserved respect from the audience and judges.

Knife Fight has all of the elements of a great television show: excitement, competition, tension, and even education. At the moment, it is easily the best cooking competition on television, and with other food programs on Travel Channel, such as Bizarre Foods, there is a noticeable trend for quality food programming away from Food Network, perhaps signaling the downfall of the channel as others look to take over after building upon its previously successful formula.


Sophomore Scott Thompson is the Arts & Entertainment Editor. His email is