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Carnival throwdown: Culinary creativity is on full display in new Cooking Channel series

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Andrew Warren / TV Media
"Carnival Kings" host Richie Farina

"Carnival Kings" host Richie Farina

Let's be honest: summer carnivals have a ton of attractions and reasons to spend a day enjoying them. There are thrilling rides, catchy live music, prize-laden games and fun-filled shows at any carnival worth its salt, and they're all very well and good. For some of us, though, they're just the icing on the proverbial cake: the real attraction at a summer carnival is the over-the-top food.

"Carnival Kings" is a new series that premieres Thursday, July 12, on Cooking Channel, and it's all about the wild and outrageous eats that can only be found at a carnival. Similar to "Carnival Eats," another Cooking Channel favorite, each episode of the new series follows Michelin-starred chef Richie Farina ("Top Chef") as he visits some of the biggest fairs he can find, where he immediately zeros in on the most outrageous food item that he can find. He isn't there just to taste the decadent dish, though -- he's there to improve on it.

It's a format that evokes memories of the defunct Food Network series "Throwdown! with Bobby Flay": the super-creative chef Farina challenges carnival chefs on their own turf and tries to make an over-the-top dish somehow even more mouthwatering and extreme.

In the premiere, the host is at the Pima County Fair in Tucson, Arizona, where he encounters a bacon-wrapped duck slider with flaming hot cheese puffs and caramel apple slaw that's served with a side of bacon fat tater tots. It's decadent, it's wildly delicious and oh-so wild, and the host has just 24 hours to break it down, figure out what makes it tick, and then create his own take on it that not only tastes just as good, but that also somehow exceeds its creativity.

Many carnival chefs love to compete, and plenty of fairs even have competitions between them to see who can come up with the most creative dish. Chef Richie Farina is definitely going up against the best in his quest to create the most over-the-top foods imaginable. "Carnival Kings" premieres Thursday, July 12, on Cooking Channel.