Rachael Ray won the first contest, but she's ready for a rematch.
The television cooking star engaged in friendly battle with another -- Guy Fieri -- last year on "Rachael vs. Guy: Celebrity Cook-Off," which saw each of them coach a team of celebrity amateur chefs competing for charities. The Food Network series switches coasts as Season 2 launches Sunday, Jan. 6, with new episodes taped in California.
"I told Guy if my team won the first season, we'd go to his turf for the next one," Ray tells Zap2it. "Every day was a separate location, so it was like making a movie per day. We worked these guys and ladies even harder than the first group, and it was incredible."
Among the new contenders: Chilli of music's TLC, comedian Gilbert Gottfried, designer-author Cornelia Guest, actor (and Tori Spelling spouse) Dean McDermott, actress Kathy Najimy, football veteran and Season 12 "Dancing With the Stars" winner Hines Ward, singer Carnie Wilson, and Olympic medalist figure skater Johnny Weir.
"There are no people behind the scenes making the food for them," Ray stresses, "or helping them out in any special way, and it's grueling. You think, 'Cornelia Guest, socialite,' but she worked like an animal in the kitchen. It's very humbling to see these people working so hard."
In a way, Ray isn't surprised by such dedication: "We're only dealing with people who want to learn more about cooking. It's lovely to meet with all of them, but Hines Ward is the one I was so excited about. I'm a big 'Dancing With the Stars' fan and a big football fan, and here's this guy who loves to cook for his son. I found it so warm and sweet."
Whatever the outcome of the second "Celebrity Cook-Off," Ray knows there won't be any permanent bruising between her and Fieri. "We've always said this is the most intense, exciting project we've ever been a part of," she says. "We were nervous to go back, because we can't physically show [the contestants] how to do things. We can only coach them, so it's nerve-racking."
Photo/Video credit: Food Network