Food Network’s ‘Beachside Brawl’ competition to feature Seattle-area chefs

Familiar faces (and food) will be on Food Network this week.

Two Seattle-area chefs will represent the Pacific Northwest on a West Coast team in the new series “Beachside Brawl,” premiering 10 pm June 19 on Food Network and the streaming service discovery+.

Despite that rock ’em, sock ’em title, the two chefs — Kaleena Bliss, the executive chef at Conversation in Seattle’s Thompson Hotel who in February won Food Network’s “Chopped: Casino Royale,” and Brian Madayag, owner-chef of Barkada in Edmonds—say it turned out to be a friendly competition.

“We all keep in touch on a group text thread,” Bliss said. “We’re all dying for the show to come out because we were so busy [during filming] we didn’t always get a chance to see what each other was doing.”

Bliss and Madayag are on a team headed by Brooke Williamson competing against an East Coast team captained by Tiffani Faison. Antonia Lofaso, joined each week by a rotating guest judge, hosts the series, which filmed in Redondo Beach, California, in March.

The goal? Prove which coast cooks up the best culinary creations. One team member will be crowned “Best of the Beach” and win a $25,000 beach getaway.

Madayag, a 2003 Meadowdale High School grad, was born and raised in Edmonds and found a productive outlet in the kitchen.

“I wasn’t the best kid growing up and I got in some trouble, but every time I found myself in the kitchen, I knew I was doing good,” Madayag said. “As long as I was cooking, I was staying out of trouble.”

Madayag began working in restaurants in the front of house, including as bar manager at the Pan Pacific Seattle Hotel when it opened in 2006. He worked for restaurateur Tom Douglas for 12 years — and made the move into the kitchen.

“[Douglas] didn’t take me seriously until I went to Seattle Culinary Academy at Seattle Central College, and then they took me seriously and I started my time in the kitchen,” said Madayag, who was the executive chef at the opening of Douglas’ Cantina Leña in 2014.

In 2017, Madayag struck out on his own with Filipino-Hawaiian restaurant Barkada, which started as a sit-down restaurant but evolved into a counter-service joint over the course of the pandemic.

“We had to ride this roller coaster like everybody else, doing a lot of pivots and adjusting to what people were doing,” Madayag said. “My [cooking] style is Pacific Northwest rustic and right now my focus is on dishes from my heritage.”

Although Madayag and Barkada were previously featured on the PBS program “No Passport Required” in 2019, “Beachside Brawl” marks his first appearance on a TV competition program.

“We got a random private message on Instagram from a casting director,” Madayag said of how he landed on the show. “She thought we had a great story and reached out and asked if we were interested.”

“Beachside Brawl” marks Bliss’ second Food Network series in a year. She was contacted via social media by a casting producer in February a few weeks after winning “Chopped: Casino Royale” but didn’t learn she was selected to be on “Brawl” until a week before taping began.

“Thankfully, my team here, not only my kitchen team but my hotel team, is just so supportive of all of these projects,” Bliss said of her Conversation crew.

Both heads admitted they were nervous before taping began. Madayag said he didn’t sleep for three nights before filming. Bliss had more on-camera competition show experience, but with “Chopped,” she knew the show’s format. Because “Beachside Brawl” is a new series, Bliss had no idea what to expect.

“It was almost more nerve-wracking because there are three teammates and you’re wondering, am I gonna even get along with them?” Bliss said. “How similar or how different are their cooking styles? Are there going to be egos involved? Is everyone going to be out for themselves? All these thoughts definitely went through my head. And then there’s also the element of, ‘I don’t know how this game works.’”

Ultimately, Bliss said she “ended up loving” the experience, particularly the opportunity to meet fellow competitors and get encouragement from her team’s captain via Zoom meetings before filming.

One challenge the food competition show veteran and newcomer both faced: simulating summer on the outdoor set on breezy, chilly March days.

“We’re cooking on the frickin’ Redondo [Beach] Pier, which is crazier than it sounds because you can’t control the weather, the wind,” Bliss said.

“The director told us, ‘Don’t shiver,’” Madayag said. “We’re cooking off propane stoves. We weren’t in a professional kitchen with things that we’re used to.”

Bliss and Madayag did not know one another before filming the show — once they were picked up together at LAX, they realized Madayag was seated one row in front of Bliss on the same flight from Seattle — but they’ve stayed in touch. Bliss promised to take Madayag foraging while Madayag has invited Bliss to go fishing with him.

“He and I had a special bond,” Bliss said, “because we were thinking, the other two on our team are from California, so we were representing the PNW.”

“Beachside Brawl”

“Beachside Brawl” premieres 10 p.m. June 19 on Food Network and the streaming service discovery+.

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