Top Chef season two winner Ilan Hall, of The Gorbals, in Los Angeles, is returning to the airwaves this April in the premiere of his show Knife Fight, debuting on the newly christened Esquire network.
Hall has been spending the last season splitting his time between the show and the restaurant (not to mention his 2-year-old son), but of course, we had to ask if he has any other plans ahead. He'll be staying put in Los Angeles for another year or so, Hall says, but "we’re planning on moving back to New York; I want to open a restaurant there," Hall told The Daily Meal. "I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I’ve always wanted to; it’s my home. I’ll do it a little different [from The Gorbals] with similar ideals." Unfortunately for us East Coasters, there aren't any definite plans, but "we’re going to do it at some point, hopefully sooner than later," Hall said. "I have full plans of keeping The Gorbals, I just need to figure out how to do it all." Mario Batali, give a bro a hand?
In any case, we picked Hall's brain about his upcoming Knife Fight debut (reportedly April 23), the cooking competition show scene, and why reality television is a worthy pastime (honestly!). Read on for our Q&A.
The Daily Meal: So how did the show come about?
Ilan Hall: We’ve been doing it for a while, not doing a TV show, and at one point a friend of mine wanted to film it. It was something I was doing in New York, and it came to be just chefs talking sh*t and just hanging out late at night and using leftover ingredients to make stuff and have fun with it. It's one of those ideas that come out that just stems from us not having anybody telling us what to do.
TDM: Wait, so you just had random cooking competitions in your kitchen?
IH: This was something we were doing for a really, really long time. I’m sure a lot of comparisons are going to say we were copying and doing this, but the point of it was never for it to be a TV show. Top Chef, people take it so seriously. I have nothing negative to say about Top Chef in terms of how it’s helped my career, but I feel like you’re at extremes. You have Top Chef, which is more of an intense serious competition, and you’ve got Chopped which is trying to emulate that feeling and doing something a bit more slapstick, even though I enjoy Chopped a lot.
TDM: Would you say this show is more casual and laid-back?
IH: It's just like, it’s my restaurant, it’s a real place, it’s late at night, it’s chefs that I respect and I admire and some people I didn’t know much about. And it’s about being able to eat good food and enjoy yourself, rather than it being so serious, always so serious. Like, relax, it’s just food. You give them an hour, I get them some different ingredients, and you get to see what really talented people can do. It’s not an elimination challenge. There are four fresh people every single night that we show. And it’s just cool.
TDM: So you have one more show to shoot and you're done?
IH: Yeah; so far we’ve had 36 chefs compete. They all know it’s one hour and the prize is nothing, the prize is like a $5 knife, piece of crap knife, so it’s just fun. It’s just a party. It’s how we feel The Gorbals to be.
TDM: How do you feel about being the first show on the Esquire network?
IH: I don't know, it just happened. Having cameras around is a little bit weird in the actual restaurant, but it’s fun. The network is great, they’re super cool. [It's] Flower Films, which is Drew Barrymore’s company, and Authentic Entertainment, who do amazing amazing reality television. Authentic did Ludo’s show and all seasons of Ace of Cakes. They produced the unbelievable hits Toddlers &Tiaras and Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. Amazing. There’s something weird about that show, how I kind of love it because I do love sh*tty reality television, and I just think that it’s made so well, it's not forcing the situation. The whole very unhealthy family, in terms of what they eat, they all have respect and love for each other and there’s something sweet about that.
The first episode of Knife Fight airs April 23; Esquire network launches April 22.