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Where did you get the idea for your TV show, "Knife Fight?"

We were already doing cooking competitions in LA just for fun, starting out with line cooks, and then local chefs hanging out, having drinks saying, “I bet you can’t cook something awesome with that” — it was something like a bareknuckled Iron Chef. A friend of a friend came into the restaurant and was looking for new ideas for a show. I said, “Well, we do this thing. Maybe you could film some of it.”

So it started from something that you guys were actually doing anyway?

Yes. It just happened, and Esquire network picked up the idea which started as 10 episodes and turned into 18 episodes and then was turned it into another 24 episodes. They liked the actual reality of it in a reality show.

Jacques Pépin recently wrote a blog entry about the disconnect between the confrontational nature of cooking competition shows and the collaborative nature necessary to run a professional kitchen. How do you reconcile the difference between them?

I don’t agree with Mr. Pépin completely. I think there are competitive aspects to working in a kitchen and I think that drives some cooks to improve. I would try to outdo the person next to me in the kitchen. If someone’s slicing something, I think, I have to slice it better, and if someone’s station is cleaner I think I have to make my station cleaner.

So you think there’s that competitive quality in a lot of cooks?

Yes. I’m not a sports person, but I’m a very competitive person by nature. The concept [of Knife Fight] started when I was working at Casa Mono and we had mis en place leftover that wouldn’t last for the next day. So instead of throwing it out, we would throw it down.

So you’ve been competing in kitchens for a long time?

Yeah, sometimes just competing with yourself. Of course in a kitchen it’s a team effort, but healthy competition is just that: healthy.

Contact Bret Thorn at bret.thorn@penton.com.
Follow him on Twitter: @foodwriterdiary