The current food scene in LA has two parts – one that you the diner participate in and get to see. But the other is more mysterious and happens for the most part behind closed doors. This is the world of chefs kicking back after a night on the line. A world where friendships are made, where people talk shit, and every once in a while bravado leads to a throw down. For years some of that unseen kitchen drama would coalesce at Ilan Hall’s restaurant The Gorbals, where chefs have challenged each other after hours on the tv show Knife Fight.
The Gorbals is the perfect setting for such fights. With its grown up kids clubhouse stripped down vibe, The Gorbals has absolutely no pretense. Tables, benches and a few chairs share space with a bar, long open kitchen counter and good food. That’s it. The fights evolved into a template: Two chefs, whatever is in The Gorbals’ pantry, plus the obligatory secret ingredients, a timing clock, lots of beer and whatever friends happened to drop by. Sounds perfect for a TV show, right?
The new EsquireTV channel made Knife Fight it’s first buy. The great thing about the show is that nothing really changed. There are no retakes, no strategizing, backstabbing or “penalties.” Each “bout” is a straightforward fight with a couple secret ingredients. The chefs also get to use any ingredient in The Gorbals’ kitchen. Expect the unexpected when some of the well-used equipment found in most restaurants that aren’t capitalized to the nines starts to break down.
I, along with most other food writers, restaurateurs, and journalists in the city, was asked to judge a couple of fights for the show. Drew Barrymore is the executive producer so many of her actor friends end up judging too, which I love. It really feels like an LA clubhouse when you’re there. My co-judge was Stephane Bombet co-owner with Chef Ricardo Zarate of Mo-Chica, Picca and Paiche. We judged two bouts. The first airs tonight on EsquireTV at 9pm. The match up was fascinating. The formally trained Phillip Lee of Scratch Bar is up against self-taught Natalia Pereira of WoodSpoon. The secret ingredients: radishes and foie gras.
Our second bout is Jason Travi of Littlefork vs. John-Carlos Kuramoto of Michael’s. It airs on November 12th where the secret ingredient (Ilan was really pushing it this time) was wild clover along with trout roe and berkshire pork loin.