Season 2 of Conviction Kitchen Sundays at 9pm on CityTV

While the first season began with 24 ex-cons at one of Thuet's Toronto eateries, the new season begins with just 12 ex-cons assembled at a rundown martini bar blocks from Vancouver's Stanley Park.

They include 28-year-old heroin addict Justin, 25-year-old thief Cassandra, and 54-year-old bank robber Richard, who says he's spent more years in prison than out. Less than halfway into the first episode, two convicts leave, unable to take the hard-nosed approach of Thuet and Zorich.

Thuet says the ex-cons' personal battles are laid bare throughout the series, with Justin showing up to work clearly high and Cassandra disappearing for three days only to return saying she'd been hospitalized for an overdose.

"She nearly died. But she came back and she's sober," Thuet says, noting his troubled charges seemed to remain clean after the show wrapped.

"We always have that worry (of relapse) - Are they really doing as well as they tell us? (Or are they) lying to us? Because obviously most of these guys have addiction problems so we hope they don't lie to us, we hope they do as well as they say.... At the end of any of these shows that we do you really fall in love with these guys and they really become a part of you. It's like going somewhere and leaving your kids at home."

Zorich says seven of the ex-cons make it to the end of the series (the same number as in Season 1) and three have remained to work at the restaurant. Of those who failed, relapse was the biggest reason, she says.

"It's a very tough process," says Zorich. "They have to decide to want to turn a corner."

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A Cineflix production in association with: Rogers (Canada) and Discovery Planet Green (US)