Gail Simmons Gail Simmons

Crank up the heat! The new Bravo series Top Chef Duels pits 18 past winners, finalists and fan favorites from Top Chef, Top Chef Masters and Top Chef All-Stars in ferocious one-on-one competitions that will play upon each chef's weaknesses and lead — at the end of 10 weeks — to the grand champ winning $100,000. Judge Gail Simmons offers up a tasty appetizer.

TV Guide Magazien: Duels has lured the kings and queens of the franchise. Is this your Game of Thrones?
Gail Simmons: It is! [Laughs] And it does get brutal and combative. Going up against one chef is much tougher than competing against 12 or 15, like they do on Top Chef. You can't possibly keep track of that many opponents, but, when it's one-on-one, you know everything the other chef is doing — and that means much more stress.

TV Guide Magazine: How will it help to know your rival's shortcomings?
Simmons: In each episode before the main duel, both chefs get to pick a mini-duel based on the other's perceived weakness. No one's going to pull out kryptonite and render the other one powerless, but the slightest advantage can help. This isn't about one of them failing. You only have to be a tiny bit better.

TV Guide Magazine: What else is at stake here besides the big bucks? Ego? Reputation?
Simmons: None of these people faded back into oblivion after they did Top Chef. Some went on to win a James Beard Award or to be picked by Food & Wine as best new chef. Most have opened restaurants — everything from fantastic burger and pizza chains to three-star fine-dining establishments. These chefs have a lot to defend!

Top Chef Duels premieres Wednesday at 10/9c on Bravo.

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