Kevin Nashan is one of the most renowned chefs in town -- James Beard Award nominee, executive chef at Sidney Street Cafe and the Peacemaker -- but can he stand up to a Knife Fight? It's a cooking competition series on the Esquire Network which challenges two chefs against each other to create multiple dishes in just an hour with surprise ingredients.
It's hosted by Top Chef winner Ilan Hall after hours in his Los Angeles restaurant the Gorbals. Earlier this year, Nashan took on New York City chef Harold Moore. The episode airs Tuesday, September 2, so we talked to Nashan about working under pressure, the inevitable knife mishap and getting out of your comfort zone.
"Any time you get to compete it's fun. I love being out of my comfort zone because it makes me a better cook and a better person," Nashan tells us. We won't give away the whole episode, but Nashan and Moore have to break down an entire baby lamb and use several different kinds of mint.
Nashan impresses everyone by breaking down the animal in a matter of minutes, but he hits a speed bump when he cuts himself. Things get a little dramatic (in a reality-TV way), but the show must go on.
"I literally broke that sucker down in seconds. I should have taken a little more time because it bit me in the butt obviously later," Nashan says. "It was a humbling experience and definitely tough. You gotta do three items and break down a lamb in an hour? I mean, come on."
Nashan says there's not much you can do to prepare for something like Knife Fight besides thinking of items like vinaigrettes that you'll be able to pull out of your arsenal in many situations. Of course, the time limit is what really makes it difficult.
His opponent, Harold Moore, is the owner and executive chef at Commerce in the West Village in New York. Nashan had never met him before the competition.
"We both respected each other, and he was a solid dude, and I have nothing to say but good things. It was definitely a fun episode," he says.
Nashan's episode of Knife Fight airs this Tuesday, September 2, at 9 p.m., but he'll be hard at work at his new restaurant, Peacemaker Lobster & Crab Co. (1831 Sidney Street; 314-772-8858).
"It's a brand-new baby, so I'm here 24/7. I think people have enjoyed it. We have a lot to work on and hone down, but I think the food's yummy," he says. "With Sidney Street even, I've been around ten and half years, and we're not even close to where we need to be. It's just a constant working and improving game."
Nashan says he's nervous about the episode, but it was a good experience overall. Well, maybe except for the whole cutting himself part.
"They were milking that. They loved it. I was getting so irritated because [Hall] kept being like, 'And what are you thinking right now?'" he laughs. "And I'm like, 'Well, I just fucking cut myself, what do you think I'm thinking?'"
Here's a clip from the episode:
Gut Check is always hungry for tips and feedback. E-mail the author at Nancy.Stiles@RiverfrontTimes.com.
Follow Nancy Stiles on Twitter: