‘Next Level Chef’ season 2 episode 1 recap: Who went home after ‘A Next Level Welcome’? [LIVE BLOG]

The epic one-of-a-kind culinary gauntlet returns to its iconic stage. Over three stories high, each floor contains a stunningly different kitchen. From the glistening top floor to the challenging bottom of the basement, the ingredients match the environment, because Gordon Ramsay believes the true test of great chefs is not only what they can do in the best of circumstances, but what kind of magic they can create in the worst!

Joined by two elite names in the food world, chefs Nyesha Arrington and Richard Blais, Ramsay and his co-mentors leave no stone unturned, as they’ve scoured the country and hand-picked the best home cooks, social media chefs and professional chefs who will be on each of their teams. With a one-year mentorship and $250,000 on the line, the steaks are high as the cooks look to make their first impressions in their respective teams.

Who will make the most impressive next level dish and who will not make the cut in the all-new “A Next Level Welcome” episode of “Next Level Chef” airing Sunday, Feb. 12 after Super Bowl LVII on FOX. Read our live blog recap below.

SEE Everything to know about Gordan Ramsay’s ‘Next Level Chef 2’: Meet the 18 chef-testants competing

10:35 p.m. — Gordon welcomes us to the world’s toughest culinary competition and explains his three-level culinary proving ground. Each week chefs will battle to “level up” and the only way to move to the top is to cook your way up. Those cooking at the top level will get first pick at ingredients. If you’re in the bottom, you’ll have to take whatever is left. With $250, 000 on the line, the journey to the top starts now!

10:42 p.m. — 18 home cooks, social media chefs and professional chefs have entered the studio. They have already been divided into teams are are ecstatic to learn who their mentors will be this season. Nyesha’s team randomly draws the basement for the first challenge, but she promises them they can still cook their way to the top. Gordon’s team will being on level two, and he explains they have 45 minutes to cook a “next level dish” and he doesn’t like losing. On level three is Richard’s team and he tells them not to waste this opportunity to use the best equipment and ingredients in their first challenge.

10:48 p.m. — All 18 chefs have acquired their ingredients and begin preparing their best dishes. Things are sparse on the bottom level, but they must use what they have. Mark (Team Ramsay) is a former NFL player and “very competitive.” His new passion is cooking. He’s just a home cook, but he wants to show people “anything is possible.” Omi (Team Arrington) is excited chicken oysters made it all the way to the basement and she plans on infusing her Puerto Rican background into her dish. April (Team Arrington) isn’t totally comfortable with her grits and imitation crab, so watch out for her to struggle early. Kamahlai (Team Blais) chooses ground turkey to make meatballs, which surprises her mentor. He doesn’t necessarily see that as an ingredient he would choose from the top floor. Preston (Team Ramsay) also perplexes his coach, choosing canned meat. Who is worse off? Vinny (Team Ramsay) who cuts his finger and needs a medic 10 minutes into the challenge.

11:00 p.m. Nuri (Team Arrington) is just 22 years old but he’s already a private, professional chef. He’s also expecting his first child and wants to be a role model and inspiration for his daughter. Pilar (Team Arrington) is a professional chef who has cooked at the Oscars and Emmys, so she’s more than disappointed with being at the bottom level. She describes them as “good will” ingredients. Tucker (Team Ramsay) is a social media chef who is a teacher online. She hopes to be an inspiration to young, gay girls in the culinary industry. Richard’s first impressions of his team? Lots of great ideas but questionable execution. He seems a little worried for his contestants.

11:07 p.m. — Mark sets his station on fire on level two. Gordon puts it out and commands the chef to get another pan on the stove. Yikes! April (Team Arrington) is a single mom from Alabama. She began hustling casseroles out of her vehicle in the school parking lot. Now she has a catering business. She says, “Everything I’ve ever wanted I’ve had to fight for. That’s what I’m bringing into this competition.” Kamahlai (Team Blais) is a home cook from Pittsburgh. She learned to cook from her grandma and she loves feeding people. She often cooks for the homeless and she describes her cooking as “authentic, delicious and soul-so-licious.”

SEE Alex Belew (‘Hell’s Kitchen 21’ winner): ‘I didn’t think my door handle was going to open’ [Exclusive Video Interview]

11:15 p.m. — Time has expired and all the chefs have put their best dish forward. As Mark rushes to throw is plate onto the moving platform, it spills everywhere. He’s furious and fully expecting to go home. Now that it’s judgement time, Gordon explains that the best dish from each team will earn a Next Level immunity pin. If recipients are ever nominated for elimination, they can turn their pin in and avoid the cook-off. The judging begins with the top floor – Team Blais. Gordon calls Kamahlai’s meatballs “a bit of a disaster.” Tineke‘s beef filet “tastes really good.” Christopher‘s pork tenderloin is “under-seasoned.” Darryl‘s lamb chop is “cooked beautifully,” but let down with raw vegetables. Mehreen‘s trout is “absolutely delicious.” Matt‘s veal chop is “cohesive” and “delicious.”

11:18 p.m. — It’s now time to taste Team Ramsay’s middle-level dishes. Tucker’s scallops are an “amazing” transformation and “beautiful.” Cassie‘s dumplings are complex and “lovely.” It’s beautifully plated with “a lot of soul.” Michelle‘s chicken thigh is “simple, but it has depth of flavor.” Vinny’s crusted loin of tuna “makes sense.” Preston’s canned beef has an elegant presentation, but lacks flavor. Mark’s dish “looks terrible” visually and the shrimp are undercooked.

11:21 p.m. — Next up are the basement dishes for Team Arrington. Nuri’s black cod dish is “beautifully plated” and “tastes like it’s cooked by a pro.” Omi’s chicken oyster is a “great choice of ingredients” and “so tasty.” Alex‘s prosciutto and clams over rice is a “strange combination” but the flavor is “spot on.” Pilar’s squid dish is “flat” and “tastes like it has come from the basement.” Shay’s rigatoni with a breakfast sausage is not executed well. April’s crab cake with grits tastes “strange” and Richard doesn’t taste any crab.

11:30 p.m. — The three judges take some time to decide who has the best and worst dishes of the night. The winners of immunity pins are Nuri (Team Arrington), Tucker (Team Ramsay) and Matt (Team Blais). The very best dish of the night was Tucker’s, which saves Gordon’s entire team from elimination. Nobody is more grateful than Mark, whose dish was a complete mess. Gordon’s team will also begin the next challenge on the top level. Nyesha and Richard must now choose one team member to face off in the elimination.

11:46 p.m. — Facing off in tonight’s elimination are April (Team Arrington) and Kamahlai (Team Blais). They’ll have to pull off “the perfect steak.” Richard and Nyesha will help decide the winner without knowing which chef cooked which dish. The winning chef will earn their team a spot on the middle floor for the next challenge. The eliminated chef’s team will be on the bottom level. April looks completely rattled in this cook-off. Kamahlai doesn’t look too confident herself. After 30 minutes, it’s time for Nyesha and Richard to judge. April’s steak is “cooked beautifully” and has “great sear.” A little finishing salt could have elevated it. Kamahlai’s is “visually simple” and “appetizing.” The steak is a little chewy, but the sauce provides great contrast. Without knowing who cooked what, Nyesha chooses to eliminate Kamahlai. Richard chooses Kamahlai as well.

11:47 p.m. — The first chef eliminated from “Next Level Chef” season 2 is Kamahlai. She is grateful for the opportunity to work with three amazing mentors and doesn’t go home with sour grapes. In the next episode, Gordon’s team will be on the top level, Nyesha’s in the middle and Richard’s in the basement.

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