Antonia Lofaso breaks down the competition on Beachside Brawl Season 2, interview

Beachside Brawl Season 2 with Antonia Lofaso, Brian Malarkey , and Chef Eric Adjepong, photo provided by Food Network
Beachside Brawl Season 2 with Antonia Lofaso, Brian Malarkey , and Chef Eric Adjepong, photo provided by Food Network /

Food Network fans watch Chef Antonia Lofaso on numerous food television shows. While many people long to dine at Scopa, others live vicariously through her those tempting dishes presented on Tournament of Champions. Returning this summer, Beachside Brawl Season 2 has Chef Antonia overseeing the spirited competition between the East and West Coast teams. During a recent interview, the celebrated chef shares her insight on the competition, some of her favorite challenges, and her idea of a perfect beach day.

In Beachside Brawl Season 1, Chef Antonia was joined by team captains Brooke Williamson and Tiffani Faison. For the second season, the team captains have changed, which brings a very different dynamic.

Food television veterans and successful chefs Brian Malarkey and Eric Adjepong head up their respective teams. Anyone who has watched the Food Network or Top Chef appreciates that these two chefs have very different personalities.

When asked about the team captain changes and how it has impacted the competition, Chef Antonia said:

“Their personalities represent the East Coast and West Coast so deeply. You know, Brian Malarkey is in yellow and pink and ready for the San Diego peers. He’s like quintessential LA and then you got Eric Adjepong who came to set every single day in a trench coat and would not let the East Coast go!”

“I think their styles are so, so different. You have Eric who’s a little bit more undercover when it comes to his delivery. It’s usually very direct, straightforward, and quiet. And then you have Brian whose sort of standing on a soapbox screaming at the top of his lungs. Both have the same response from their teammates, but they’re two very, very different styles.”

“But both chefs have been competitors for the last, I don’t know, 10 years or so, even longer, I think. And so, what they bring is just like this vast knowledge of competition.”

“In these kinds of competitions, which is always really hard, especially when you’re dealing with elements like being outside and the oceans right there, we’re on a pier and there’s like a live audience staring at them and cheering for them.”

“Brian and Eric are able to really give them some support, so they feel like they’re not just out on a pier alone trying to cook food. It’s like they’ve got the support of competitors that have been doing this professionally for a long time.”

While one team and one chef will be the ultimate winner, it is a battle between the East versus the West Coast. Although there is a regional component, it is not necessarily that delineated.

When asked about whether there is crossover between the coasts or if there is a commonality between them, Chef Antonia commented:

“It’s interesting because I actually don’t think that the ingredients really vary. It’s not like avocados are solely for the West Coast use only, you know, even though that’s like a running joke, you know, or that you can only do a ceviche if you’re from the West Coast.”

“I think that, you know, there’s, there’s the crossover that happens when you talk about pier foods. You talk about the corn dog, the pizza, all of those things are kind of universal to the East Coast and West Coast, so then it really just depends on the style, right?”

“So, when you think of New England versus, you know, the Pacific Northwest, it’s just the way the style of cooking is different. And that is the same for the summer.”

Although many Food Network competitions film in a studio, Beachside Brawl Season 2 films outside. The local makes for engaging food television, but is not the easiest scenario.

As Chef Antonia said:

“Yeah. I mean, this is, this is something that I talk about in competition all the time. It’s nice when we get to compete in a studio, right, where the air and lighting is controlled, but now we’re dealing with the elements. So, whether it’s windy, very sunny, a little bit chilly in the morning, or blazing hot in the middle of the day, the elements of cooking in the sand and dealing with the challenges of it kicking up and getting on the food, equipment, etc. This just proves the elements play a huge role and it makes it much, much harder than your average competition that’s done in a studio.”

Even though the elements can be a factor, it is more than fighting the wind when grilling. The locale almost becomes part of the excitement.

Chef Antonia believes, “I think it raises the stakes even higher. I mean, you know, every single day the chefs are dealing with what’s the weather going to be like and where exactly are we cooking?”

Through Beachside Brawl Season 2, the challenges are creative. While the regular beachgoer might not be recreating these ideas on their next beach day, the basis of the competition highlights the premise in the best ways.

When asked about some of her favorite challenges from Beachside Brawl Season 2, Chef Antonia commented:

“I love the like open flame fire built right in the sand. I think that that was like quintessential like beach summer cooking, right? And it’s like, kind of what we all romanticize about the summer. We don’t always do it, but this idea of being by the ocean, on the beach, and grilling outside.”

“So, what we did was build this huge grill with all these different grates and different heights for the wood that we had on there. And so, to me that would have been the most fun and quintessential summer.”

Although Beachside Brawl Season 2 is meant to be fun, there have been some moments that were more difficult for the chefs. When asked which one she believed was most challenging, Chef Antonia said:

“I think one of the hardest challenges that they had was when both mentors were out fishing on a boat and their teams had to collect ingredients from the refrigerators and bring them down into the sand and get them to the beach. And so, the competitors had to get the station set up without knowing what kind of fish the team captains were going to bring back. This left the teams to select and bring all the ingredients down to the beach, but they only had small backpacks and a little cooler. They were limited on what they could really carry and that included their equipment, so it was interesting seeing them work together and try to figure out what kind of fish the chefs would be coming back with so that they could actually create dishes.”

Since the food television concept had a successful season 1, Beachside Brawl Season 2 brought back a challenge. The Side Bet.

Speaking to this challenge, Chef Antonia shared:

“Tiffany and Brooke last year had a little side bet for the East Coast versus West Coast. And we did bring it back this year. And let me just say this, the guys brought back a side bet that you will not even believe what happened.”

With all this talk about the local, food, and fun, those sentiments seem to make everyone hungry. Although might sound cliché, but some people find that being by a beach makes them hungry. Chef Antonia agreed with that idea. She said, “You know, that’s so funny. I agree that the fresh air and the salt air, like a hundred percent make you hungrier for whatever reason.” And, she mentioned, that she might be enjoying a lobster roll when that feeling hits.

Still, Chef Antonia can change her menu depending on her locale. She shared:

“What I want coming from like a big beach day and it depends on which coast I’m on. As soon as I land on the East Coast, I’m like, where’s my lobster roll and fried clams?! And then when I’m on the West Coast, I’ll eat ceviche and tacos, like all day long. It just depends on which coast I’m hanging out on.”

“Although some people might not be breaking out the white table cloth and china for a beach day, there does not have to be a black and white do or don’t list.”

Chef Antonia said:

“I mean, I would venture to say like should never be part of a beach. That’s, you know, it’s so definitive. Um, let’s see. I don’t know. I feel like you can make it. I mean, especially like being in Venice, you know, on the boardwalk, it’s like you see so many things that as long as you can eat it in the sun, it’s beach food as far as I’m concerned.”

“And why shouldn’t you enjoy what you want? At first, I was like, maybe there’s no pasta and then I thought about it and actually I see cold noodle salad all the time, and who doesn’t love a cold noodle salad?!”

Since Beachside Brawl Season 2 has many people longing to enjoy their own beach day, where will you find Chef Antonia and what might she be doing. Her choice might be just like a lot of people.

“I am a shoreline sitter, for sure! I like to be right by the water, like it’s questionable whether or not the waves are going get me every single time they break.”

“However, I’m a minimalist when I’m at the beach and bring as few things as possible. I wear a Turkish towel around my waist, and then that becomes the towel I lay on and am a minimalist in snacks. I’m not one of those people who bring all the things as if I’m going to live on the beach for four days.”

“I don’t bring a tent. I like to be in the sun. I will bring a hat if need be, and always will be in sunglasses. And I’m in the water as much as possible….as long as there’s no sharks.”

My primary beach activity is paddleball. Like, I’m a big paddleball player! Love it. Big, big fan of the paddleball.

“While no one wants any sharks in the water and longs for the perfect beach day weather, Beachside Brawl Season 2 has been serving some hot competition on Food Network. Chef Antonia Lofaso has been at the center of it all. Will there be a Beachside Brawl Season 3? Based on viewers response and the universal appeal of this concept, it could be a good bet to put that show on the calendar.”

Beachside Brawl Season 2 airs on Food Network Sunday nights at 9 p.m. ET. The season finale airs on July 30. Episodes from both Season 1 and 2 can be streamed on MAX.

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