Hosted by Food Network star Alton Brown, the show gives contestants $25,000 to keep or spend on "auction items" that could put their opponents at a disadvantage — forcing a fellow competitor to prep a dish without utensils or lose time on the clock, for example.
There are three rounds, with one chef eliminated each time. The last chef standing takes the remaining money home.
The 13-episode series, premiering Sunday night on Food Network Canada, features a rotating panel of three judges, including author and TV personality Simon Majumdar who has made his mark on "Iron Chef America," "Extreme Chef and "The Next Iron Chef." The other judges are chef and cookbook author Antonia Lofaso (season 4 of "Top Chef") and chef Jet Tila ("Iron Chef America").
The judge in each episode isn't revealed until the end of the first round. Majumdar said when he came down the stairs onto the set in the first episode of the four he filmed he heard a gasp.
"I thought 'someone's fallen over,' but it turned out it was two of the chefs. I think they almost fainted because they were suddenly going to be faced with someone prodding their food who's criticized or judged some of the most famous chefs in the world," he said in an interview from his Los Angeles home.
"I think from 'Iron Chef' and 'The Next Iron Chef' I've got a bit of a reputation for being a little bit tough and maybe slightly direct."
When approached to be on the show, he jumped at the chance "to work with Alton Brown who is just one of my favourite people in the world and I'm very thrilled that I can now call him a pal."
He also liked the concept, which "takes almost like the best elements from 'Chopped' of having four chefs and whittling them down to one winner, but it also brings elements of 'The Next Iron Chef' that people really liked."
Majumdar says Brown taps into "his evilicious side," throwing twists and turns at the chefs.
As a judge, Majumdar has no idea of the sabotages or troubles the contestants must deal with. He's not allowed to ask why a hamburger may have no bun, for instance, and the chefs aren't allowed to tell him.
But he's definitely allowed to criticize what's on each plate. "I will actually say to them, 'I like this, but it's too salty,' which could be ironic because it might be that one of the challenges is that they're the only person allowed to use salt, but they've used too much of it and it's kind of come back to bite them in the backside."
Or he could say something appears messy and it could be that person wasn't allowed to use utensils.
"I think chefs with really good chops, as it were, love these kinds of challenges because they like to show off and they like to show that they can cook in odd circumstances. So I think the really good chefs, both technically and strategically, will rise to the game," says Majumdar.
A decision had not been made on a second season, but "if and when it is and if and when they decide they want me to come back, I would leave scorch marks on the carpet to make sure I'm there to do it because it's a lot of fun."
British-born Majumdar is writing a book called "Fed White and Blue," slated to be published next year about his journey to become a U.S. citizen from his current status as a green card holder. He ended up in the U.S. after writing "Eat My Globe: One Year in Search of the Most Delicious Food in the World" and is married to an American citizen. A TV show will be developed around his experiences.
His adventures have included fishing for lobster off the coast of Maine, working in a food bank in Texarkana, Tex., and a farm in Santa Cruz, Calif., making beer in Seattle and judging a kosher barbecue competition in Kansas City. He was heading to Alaska after the interview to try his hand at salmon fishing.
"Nobody ever said your work wasn't allowed to be fun. I find myself on the deck of a boat eating lobster that's come straight out of the water and thinking 'I'm getting paid to do this. This is magical.'
"So I always appreciate it. I never take it for granted."Suggest a correction