Anyone who has watched a culinary competition TV show has seen a highly talented chef turn out an unbelievably amazing dish with the clock ticking, ticking, ticking.
With "All-Star Academy," the new series debuting Sunday on Food Network, you'll see some talented home cooks at work, as well as get a peek into the minds of top food experts, including "Iron Chefs" Bobby Flay, Alex Guarnaschelli, Michael Symon and "Kitchen Inferno" host Curtis Stone.
"What I think makes this especially unique, is when you watch Bobby or Alex compete in a regular setting where they're on their own, you don't get to hear the strategy, or see their strategies unfold as you do in this show," explains host Ted Allen, who also hosts "Chopped" on Food Network. "Here they're telling people what they think would work in this incredibly tight time frame with all this pressure."
"All-Star Academy" features 10 skilled home cooks who are mentored by these top chefs through a series of culinary competitions, with the last person standing winning a cash prize.
"One of the trickiest things about these competitions is finding the right personnel," Allen says. "We have casting people who are getting better and better at finding people who have interesting stories and who really have some chops, if you'll pardon the expression."
While these competitors are no doubt talented, they're still home cooks and, as Allen says, "there's a big difference between home cooks and chefs, and another between chefs and competitive chefs.
"So you get to watch Alex ... feel triumphant when she's about to pass her incredible skills on to a mere mortal," he says. "So there are a lot of layers to that that I find really, really fun."
But it's not always about triumphs and smiles. These are accomplished chefs' egos working with home cooks.
"Alex, who, of course, I know very well [from her frequent role as a judge on 'Chopped'], gets a talented competitor, but one who is a little rebellious and doesn't seem to want to do what she wants that person to do. And that, to someone who knows Alex as well as I do, is intensely amusing. And drama ensues."