A Q&A with Extreme Chef Host Marsh Mokharti
Fearless chefs will be ditching their chef arms (knives and a cooking station) for a second season of Extreme Chef on the Food Network, premiering at 10 pm ET/PT Thursday, Aug. 16. Seven of America’s most daring cooks will leave their familiar spaces for some of the most exotic locations and test their culinary chops.
Over the course of five episodes, these men and women will attempt to cook in the scorching deserts of California and the exotic jungles of Thailand. They will test their physical prowess and mental toughness as they compete in grueling and seemingly impossible challenges including pulling out needles from a cactus pad to create a tasty dish, and creating a meal in 60 minutes on a floating dock, while the chefs rescue their ingredients from a capsized fishing boat in the ocean.
Hosted by TV veteran and seasoned world traveler Marsh Mokhtari, each episode features the chefs competing in challenges judged by a rotating panel of notable guest judges, with the bottom two chefs facing off in a final showdown challenge to determine which chef goes home. In the end, one chef will be named the most Extreme and take home a $50,000 grand prize.
MB: Why this show? Why now?
MM: For me, this show celebrates chefs like no other cooking show, and it’s cool – it’s extreme! It’s different, wacky, fun and entertaining; overall it’s bad- ass and not too serious.
MB: Will you be using local ingredients from the global destinations?
MM: Yes, whatever is indigenous to the area is required, even the tools the chefs use have a historical component. This is an 8,000-mile global journey and the contestants do experience the culture of each location, the ingredients of their dishes are part of those cultures.
MB: What can the home viewer take away from Extreme Chef?
MM: Think a cooking show meets Survivor. Alliances are formed. It’s Iron Chef (hardcore classic) with a lot of emotion. The audience is going to see chefs adapting to their environments, kitchens are never as well stocked as a Michelin restaurant yet they pull out restaurant quality dishes. The viewer can witness them thinking on their feet and foodies can see what it’s like to overcome adversity in the kitchen and celebrate uniqueness, passion and a crazy ride. Everyone is in for a hell of a ride.
Special guest judges this season include Simon Majumdar (Next Iron Chef judge, food journalist), Ben Sargent (host of Cooking Channel’s Hook, Line & Dinner), and Troy Johnson (host of Crave, food critic and journalist).
“Doomsday Survival” – Premieres Thursday, August 16 at 10 pm ET/PT
Seven chefs begin their culinary adventure of a lifetime when a helicopter drops them into Salton City, California, an abandoned post-apocalyptic wasteland, where they’re left to scavenge for ingredients and tools. The chefs have only 60 minutes to raid a deserted tent village for non-perishable ingredients, build their own cooking stations, and use items like steel wool, batteries and tumbleweed to start a fire. After a tough round of judging, two chefs are sent into the Final Showdown, where they must create the perfect bite – only one will survive the apocalypse and advance to the next location.
Competitors: Scott Brandolini (Mass.), Susanne Dillingham (NC), Terry French (NJ), Lance Knowling (NJ), Viet Pham (Utah), Isadora Sarto (Vt.), Tiffany Ward (Hawaii)
Judges: Simon Majumdar, Mykel Hawke (survival expert)
“Coast Guard Cook-Off” – Premieres Thursday, August 23rd at 10pm ET/PT
The remaining six chefs head to Los Angeles to join the U.S. Coast Guard for a cooking adventure in the Pacific Ocean. In the first challenge, they create a dish using military MREs (Meal, Ready to Eat) and a seafood protein that they pull up from traps in the water. Then, for the first time ever, the winner gets to assign teams for the second challenge, where the chefs have 60 minutes to not only rescue their ingredients from a capsized fishing boat in the frigid ocean, but also cook two cohesive dishes on a floating dock. After the tasting and judging, two chefs will cook for their lives in the Final Showdown, enduring rocky waves as they cook one perfect bite in the cramped galley of a Coast Guard Cutter.
Judges: Ben Sargent, Brandon Langdon (head chef of the Coast Guard “Cutter Halibut”)
“Desert Survival” – Premieres Thursday, August 30th at 10 pm ET/PT
The remaining five chefs go back in time to cook like the Native American Indians. For their first challenge, the chefs hack off spiny cactus pads from the desert, pull out all the needles and create a tasty dish for judge Graywolf of the Yoeme Indian Tribe. In the second challenge, the chefs gather local ingredients and tools from a Native American village to create a gourmet meal, all while building their own fires and constructing knives using nothing but an obsidian rock. Two chefs are then sent into the Final Showdown, where they cook indigenous desert ingredients on hot rocks to create the perfect bite to stay in the competition.
Judges: Troy Johnson, Graywolf (Curator of the Chumash Indian Museum)
“Off to Thailand” – Premieres Thursday, September 6th at 10 pm ET/PT
The final four chefs head to one of the culinary capitals of the world – Thailand. In the bustling capitol city of Bangkok, the chefs obtain ingredients from the Damneon Saduak Floating Market, negotiate with vendors, and begin cooking right on the boat. As if that’s not tough enough, the chefs also face a flash rainstorm, gusty winds and the dreaded Southeast Asian jackfruit. For the Final Showdown, two chefs face off on a coconut plantation, where they climb a tree to retrieve coconuts and cook the perfect bite using the same methods as the locals.
Judges: Simon Majumdar, Nok Chalida (Thailand TV personality, host of Living in Shape, former Miss Thailand)
“The $50,000 Bite” – Premieres Thursday, September 13th at 10 pm ET/PT
The final three chefs battle in the remote jungles of Thailand for $50,000 and the title of Extreme Chef. The chefs begin the biggest culinary adventure of their lives by cooking a vegetarian dish while standing in the middle of the flowing river in Chiang Mai. Then, for their next challenge, the chefs head to a native Thailand Hill Tribe village, where they work with villagers to source ingredients and tools from inside their huts. In just 60 minutes, the chefs create a family-style meal from a whole pig and a mystery ingredient. After an emotional elimination, the final two chefs head to one of Chiang Mai’s most important temples to create the winning bite in the $50,000 Final Showdown, but only one will survive the world’s toughest cooking competition and be crowned the Extreme Chef!
Judges: Simon Majumdar, Yui Sriyabhaya (owner of “A Lot of Thai,” Thailand’s top cooking school)