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Ernies chef back on TV
Midgley will appear on Food Networks Cutthroat Kitchen
Ernies executive chef Michael Midgley is appearing Sunday on the Food Networks Cutthroat Kitchen. - photo by HIME ROMERO

Top Chef launched chef Michael Midgley’s star as a small-town cook with big-league potential.

Knife Fight showcased his streetwise personality and his ability to judge exotic dishes.

His next adventure will combine the best of both those shows.

Midgley will appear as a contestant on Cutthroat Kitchen on Sunday, Jan. 12, at 10 p.m. Cutthroat Kitchen is in its second season on the Food Network and hosted by Alton Brown.

“Knowing chef Michael Midgley for over 20 years and seeing his progression, passion and professionalism for what he loves to do is very exciting,” said Ernie’s general manager Bryan Soria.

“The local valley is very lucky to have such a talented, young, local chef cooking here. Hopefully after Cutthroat Kitchen airs this Sunday it will bring more food lovers to Ernie’s Food & Spirits.”

The show pits four contestants against one another, testing not only their acumen in the kitchen but their competitive spirit too.

Each contestant is given $25,000 to shop for ingredients and scheme against their opponents.

“There are these sabotages they throw at you,” said Midgley, the executive chef at Ernie’s Food and Spirits on North Main Street in Manteca.

“Basically, you cook a dish and throughout the 30 minutes you’re cooking, they spring these sabotages on you. Maybe one of the sabotages would be you can’t cook with knives. Or starting for $500 you can take somebody’s ingredients.”

The winner gets to keep what’s left of their $25,000.

Midgley isn’t allowed to discuss the specifics of his appearance or the outcome until after the show has aired, but he did say he enjoyed the experience.

All things considered, Cutthroat Kitchen was right in the fast-talking former comedian’s wheelhouse.

“Everyone’s in there talking smack while they’re cooking and trying to get inside each other’s heads,” said Midgley, who embarked on a career as a Los Angeles-based comedian before settling down in the kitchen.

The experience reminded Midgley of Knife Fight, the Esquire Network’s alternative cooking show hosted by former Top Chef Season Two winner Ilan Hall and directed by Drew Barrymore.

Midgley appeared in three episodes of Knife Fight earlier this year as a judge and personality.

“It’s kind of the same thing. On Knife Fight, there are two chefs and you get an hour with secret ingredients,” Midgley said. “You don’t have time to look up recipes. You have to use your wits and throw down on the spot.”

He said his experience in front of the cameras helped him navigate Cutthroat Kitchen’s unique challenges.

“Some people freeze under the lights. Those cameras get pointed in your face and you got Alton Brown talking smack,” he said. “I was surprised by that. I was like, ‘I thought you were just the host. Why are you talking smack to me?’

“I wasn’t scared. I figured with a show like that they’ll have three other chefs just like myself. You have no idea who your competition is, but with a show like that, you’re not going up against Susie Homemaker.”

Midgley hopes this latest foray will lead to more career opportunities. While he’s content with his kitchen job at Ernie’s, he enjoys his now-and-then relationship with Hollywood and his global audience.

“I’m trying to use every opportunity to spring into something else,” said Midgley, who hopes to release an eBook next month. The cookbook will feature simple recipes and a short story from Midgley.

“The Food Network is pretty big, so it’s kind of cool to be on the show. Here is a chef from Manteca putting Manteca on the map.  We got the whole world watching this guy from Manteca throwing it down.”

So how does Manteca’s top chef fair?

“Stay tuned,” he said.