All The Details About Food Network's Ultimate Recipe Showdown

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Television cooking competitions have become quite popular over the last several years. If you're like many people, you just love watching amateur chefs take on challenges where they're timed and given specific and seemingly impossible parameters for creating better eats than their competitors. If you aren't in that majority, you're missing out. The banter between contestants and judges, high stress levels, and epic recipe fails will no doubt entertain you and keep you glued to your seat.

One of the first on the scene in this genre was Food Network's "Ultimate Recipe Showdown." After participating in a nationwide recipe contest, nine finalists prepared dishes from six food categories before a live audience for a chance to win $25,000. Although this show only ran for three seasons — 2008 to 2010 — it helped launch celebrity chef Guy Fieri as one of the network's biggest stars. As if that's not significant enough, there was a lot of other fallout — good and bad — that occurred surrounding this show.

Host Guy Fieri went on to become one of the network's biggest celebrities

You probably know him best for his hit Food Network show "Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives," which premiered in 2006, but Guy Fieri is one celebrity chef who has not rested on his laurels. "Ultimate Recipe Showdown" was his second show and first foray into cooking competitions. This is one chef who was destined to become a food fixture; he started his career at the young age of 10 with a pretzel cart. Yet it was winning "The Next Food Network Star" in 2006 that launched his stellar career.

Only 10 years earlier, he opened Johnny Garlic's, his first restaurant, in Santa Rosa, California. Today, not only is he a fixture on the Food Network, but you can find his food all over the U.S. and in Mexico at more than a dozen restaurants, on Carnival Cruise Lines, and at more than a dozen amphitheaters run by entertainment giant Live Nation.

This show inspired dishes, desserts, and drinks at T.G.I. Fridays restaurants

Not only could you watch contestants compete on "Ultimate Recipe Showdown," but there was a time during its three-year run that you could sample the show's winning recipes. That's right, some of the creations were so notable and appealing that these became the inspiration for a variety of entrees, desserts, and beverages at T.G.I. Fridays restaurants.

These Ultimate menu items included Gourmet Mac n' Five Cheese with penne pasta mixed with fontina, bleu, gruyere, white cheddar, and Parmesan, then topped with bacon, blue cheese crumbles, and a Parmesan crust. The menu's Triple Stacked Burger was made with red pepper pimento, cheddar, Monterey jack, ham, bacon, and pickles. Spicy Southern Shrimp with andouille sausage was served in cayenne and chipotle sauce, and Spiced Up Cupcakes featured pumpkin applesauce spice cupcakes topped with cream cheese frosting and pecans. The menu also included a Vanilla Lemon Ice made with vodka, triple sec, lemonade, and Sprite.

Unfortunately, you won't find these dishes on its menu today; T.G.I. Fridays rebranded in 2020, simplifying both its name (now Fridays) and its menu, which now includes more classic offerings such as pasta, wings, and burgers, along with its well-known whiskey-glazed meats.

Being an army wife prepared one of the show's winners for competing

Think you have what it takes to compete on a show like "Ultimate Recipe Showdown"? It requires pretty big kahunas not to cave to the pressure while cooking in front of a live audience, discerning judges and alongside other equally competitive contestants. Sounds like an atmosphere someone from the armed forces, or their spouse, would thrive in.

Lisa Roman, the wife of Captain Joe Roman, who served as strategic plans officer for the 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command, was watching way too much television after her husband's deployment. She decided to submit a recipe after seeing "Ultimate Recipe Showdown" like 10,000 other hopeful contestants. Only she was chosen to compete. As her husband watched from the audience, he no doubt was happy to relinquish the pressure to his wife, who ended up as a victor in the series' second season.

In interviews with a U.S. Army publication, Lisa noted that the pressure of competing on the show paled in comparison to the many challenges military wives face, bringing well-deserved recognition to families of those in the armed forces.

Although the show was discontinued 13 years ago, it is still streaming

Although Food Network discontinued "Ultimate Recipe Showdown" in 2010 after a three-year run, you'll be happy to know that it still lives on. While you're probably not going to find it airing on Food Network during primetime, or even at 3 a.m., you can find those old episodes on a streaming service. 

If you have a Discovery+ subscription, you can check out all three seasons for free. There are five episodes in Season 1, six you can watch in Season 2 and six in Season 3, each are 42 minutes in length. If you want to check it out without the subscription commitment, at the time of this writing Discovery+ offers a seven-day free trial. After this period, you can add it to your streaming services and subscribe for $4.99 a month with ads included or $6.99 a month ad free. Students can get a discounted subscription that is $2.99 a month.

Ultimate Recipe Showdown had two hosts in its first season

There are many times that television shows change things up in order to streamline the format, attract more viewership or just capitalize on a name. You'll see this is quite common in competition shows. Did you know Ryan Seacrest had a co-host, Brian Dunkelman, for "American Idol's" first season? And yes, he quit and is no doubt kicking himself over it. In a similar scenario, "Ultimate Recipe Showdown" premiered its first season with two hosts — Guy Fieri and Marc Summers.

It is no doubt easier to share the co-hosting duties rather than take center stage, but it could also cause chaos with personality clashes and an unwelcome competition if there are big egos involved. This may or may not have been the case with "Ultimate Recipe Showdown's" hosts, but nevertheless, Marc Summers' competition cooking show co-MC duties were short lived, lasting for just the first season of the show's five episodes. You won't find any details on the circumstances of his departure, so only those associated with the show know exactly what went down.

There was a format change for the show in Season 2

It's not unusual for shows to revamp and update along the way, focusing on what works and ditching what doesn't. That was the case for Food Network's "Ultimate Recipe Showdown" when it was renewed for a second season.

In Season 1, there were three different amateur cooks for each competition. Each round had a specific theme, and those competing earned up to 100 points. The three judges — Katherine Alford, Kerry Simon and Russ Parsons — scored on the food, but were not present to watch contestants as they cooked. This season also was shorter, with five episodes instead of six, and as mentioned it had two co-hosts.

In Season 2, instead of three contestants per themed competition, there were four home cooks that competed for the entire episode. In the Signature round, contestants had to create a dish in two hours. Following this, the four competed in a Speed Round and were given just 30 minutes to come up with a dish. Instead of blind judging, the three judges — Alford, Michael Psilakis, and Linda Fears — were able to watch contestants as they cooked.

Co-host Marc Summers has had bad luck since the show aired

We've all had things thrown at us, as life is a rollercoaster of highs and lows. However, some people have been faced with more than their share of challenges, and unfortunately that has been the case for "Ultimate Recipe Showdown's" Season 1 co-host Marc Summers. And it all happened right after his gig on the show ended.

In 2010, Summers was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia and had to undergo chemotherapy for two years. As if that wasn't bad enough, in 2012, he was in a serious car accident in Philadelphia and had to undergo extensive emergency plastic surgery on his face due to multiple broken bones.

Up until that period, Summers led what many would consider an idyllic life. He first found fame on the popular Nickelodeon show "Double Dare" in the '80s and '90s, before joining the Food Network as host of "Unwrapped" in 2001 and "Ultimate Recipe Showdown" in 2008. Fortunately, his cancer has been in remission since 2015, and Summers currently runs his production company, Marc Summers Productions, out of Los Angeles and Philadelphia.

A former cop was one of the most popular winners of the show

Have you ever found yourself rooting for one particular contestant on a competition show? You're not alone. Whether it's charisma, someone who's hard on their luck or a person who is obviously deserving due to their altruism, it seems there always is a standout we want to root for.

In Season 2 of "Ultimate Recipe Showdown" that person was Rick Massa, a retired Simi Valley, California policeman. In his 35 years with the Los Angeles Police Department, he spent 25 years as part of the SWAT team that handled notable crimes, including the infamous 1997 North Hollywood shootout between officers and bank robbers using AK-47 rifles. Although Massa didn't see any symmetry between his former job and the cooking competition, host Guy Fieri noted "watching him, you can envision what it takes to be a SWAT officer."

In the show's Comfort Food category, his Cheese Lover's 5 Cheese Mac & Cheese wowed the judges, winning the top prize, while Massa easily won the hearts of viewers.

The Food Network makes big money with its competition shows

Ever wonder why competition shows have been a staple on television networks and now streaming services? It turns out these types of shows are aces in the hole and big money makers! And Food Network's "Ultimate Recipe Showdown" no doubt played a part in upping the network's revenue, despite the fact that this show only lasted three seasons.

It all started when "Iron Chef" beat out Emeril Lagasse's show in 1999. This led to the creation of "The Next Food Network Star" in 2005, of which "Ultimate Recipe Showdown" host Guy Fieri was the winner and which launched his career as a celebrity chef. One of the most popular and longest running cooking competitions, "Chopped," was created just one year after Ultimate Recipe Showdown's first season and led to a number of other shows in this genre.

The Food Network reaped the rewards, as its operating revenues substantially increased with each new show. Between 2000 and 2014, its viewership increased from 255,000 viewers per episode to 1.1 million, Nielsen reported, while operating revenues rose from about $600 million to $900 million between 2009 and 2013, according to Scripps Networks, its production company. Now owned by Television Food Network, G.P., a partnership between Warner Bros. Discovery Networks and Nexstar Media Group, its shows are in almost 100 million households, according to the network.

A Season 1 winner won more than 40 cooking competitions and wrote a cookbook

As if winning a cooking competition isn't impressive enough, one "Ultimate Recipe Showdown" champ came out on top in 40! There are definitely skills there that we all can benefit from, and you can test your skills with this champ's cookbook.

Camilla Saulsbury from Nacogdoches, Texas, competed in the show's Cookie Competition in Season 1, but prior to that she won hundreds of thousands of dollars winning more than 40 other cooking contests. For the Food Network's show, it was her Exotic Spice Cookies that took the top prize and also were the inspiration for Saulsbury's "The Ultimate Shortcut Cookie Book".

It appears her education paid off. In 2005, she received a Ph.D. in sociology, writing her dissertation on American home cooking, something she has obviously since mastered.

Since her many victories, Saulsbury has served as Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry's national spokesperson, and her recipes have been highlighted on and Good Morning America Health, and in a number of publications, including Runner's World, The New York Times, Southern Liveing, Woman's World, and Food Network Magazine, among others. She wrote a second book in 2013, "Power Hungry: The Ultimate Energy Bar Cookbook", and appeared on a number of television shows.

A retired plastic surgeon donated all his winnings to an educational scholarship

Have you ever considered what you'd do if you won money on a cooking competition show? Would you buy a new car? Invest it? Take a much-deserved vacation? Well, one "Ultimate Recipe Showdown" winner was much more altruistic with his $25,000 windfall.

After winning the Burger Competition of the second season with his pimiento burger, Harold Cohen of Hollywood, Florida decided to donate his winnings to educational scholarships. This retired plastic surgeon, was no stranger to coming out on top. He placed third in a Sutter Home burger competition.

Although he may have had the upper hand handling the pressure, as a surgeon undoubtedly would, Cohen did have an obstacle to overcome — he is legally blind. Luckily, the contestants were assigned assistants and his helped ensure the oven was at the proper temperature for his award-winning burger. Cohen not only could celebrate his philanthropy but also was able to enjoy his unique creation when it was on the menu at T.G.I. Friday's. In this case, the bragging rights were enough of a reward.