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Host Adam Richman and chef Lorena Garcia talk season two
Behind the Screens with Joshua Maloni
Home cooks can win up to $100,000, but first they'll have to take down some of the top chefs in America when "Food Fighters" returns for a second season on NBC (8 p.m. Thursdays).
Each week, a home cook will compete in five rounds against five different professional chefs. As the rounds progress, the prize money increases ($5,000/$10,000/$15,000/$20,000). So, too, the caliber of chef rises with each battle.
Win a round, and you win the money. Whatever is earned by the fifth and final round can be doubled, for a possible total of $100,000.
While the celebrity chefs are known for their culinary prowess, that didn't stop the home cooks from acquiring large sums of money in the first season.
In season two, 10 home cooks, including two junior foodies, will test their skills in the "Food Fighters" kitchen.
Star Adam Richman (of "Man Vs. Food" fame) said what surprises him the most about this show, "I guess for me, especially considering this season, we had a 12-year-old (girl) and a 14-year-old (boy) competing against adults, is just the variety of skillsets (and) the advanced culinary techniques they're using; their understanding of ingredients; and also I have to say their resilience in the face of defeat consistently blew me away - legitimately - both as just a guy standing on stage with them and as the host."
Each contestant selects five dishes to prepare and strategically matches each one against the celebrity field. The professional chef has no idea what he or she will have to prepare until entering the kitchen and meeting the home cook.
This season's list of pros includes Antonia Lofaso, Rocco DiSpirito, Duff Goldman, Marcel Vigneron, Fabio Viviani, Nadia G. and Lorena Garcia.
"We're blessed to ... have folks like Lorena and have Duff Goldman and Rocco DiSpirito come in, and that's just to name a few," Richman said. "And Lorena was with us in season one, and she's - I mean, it's tough, because I adore her as a human being, so I'm totally biased. But you know, the thing is, she's someone that's been, like, gracious in defeat, gracious in victory.
"And the thing is, you also have to bear in mind you're making a television show. You want someone that's entertaining, and you want someone that's not just a culinary warrior, but actually can make a great show. And you know, there are those chefs that are blessed with that personality, and I think we got a great bunch."
At the end of each round, the home cook and the pro chef send their dishes to "The Dinner Party," a random sampling of everyday people asked to serve as culinary judges. The partygoers are not told whose dish is whose.
Though contestants on other unscripted shows (singing, in particular) tend to shy away from the competition aspect, chefs seem to love waging war for television audiences. That's especially true on "Food Fighters."
"It's funny, because I always thought that I wasn't competitive, and then I realized that I am very competitive," Garcia said. "You know, I think it's the nature of ... just being in the industry. I think that some people are more competitive than others and they just go with the nature of the beast.
"But, you know, I think that once you get into competing and then, you know, you just do it for the fun and you really do it for the experience. And being with my peers and just having fun ... I think that ... this work is so much about, you know, being in the restaurants and the day-to-day is just to be a little intense. So I love to get out of it and go into a competition and just have fun and enjoy my friends. ... I like it through and through."
"Food Fighters" airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. on NBC. For more information on the series, visit www.nbc.com/food-fighters.
•Follow Joshua Maloni on Twitter @joshuamaloni
"Food Fighters": Pictured, from left: Home cook Jacky Herrera will square off against professional chef Antonia Lofaso in the season two premiere. (NBC photo by Greg Gayne)