Critical Moments: On The Next Iron Chef, Tio Shines and Estes Serves One Bad Apple

by in Shows, October 25th, 2010
Chef Tio wowed Judge Majumdar with “stunning” fish tacos and a funnel cake that changed his opinion of this deep-fried fair fave.

Next Iron Chef judge Simon Majumdar joins us on the FN Dish each week to share his insider’s take on what went down Sunday night.

I am sure my heart sank as fast as those of the chefs when we were told that the next elimination challenge would take place at the San Diego State Fair. Fairs can be fun, but they are hardly renowned for providing memorable culinary moments, unless you are intrigued by what the food stands can possibly find to deep fry next. The thought of trying seven assorted plates of fair fare had me rummaging in the bathroom cabinet for the extra-strength antacid as I packed to head South.

That the chefs managed to produce anything worth eating was remarkable; that some of them managed to create delicious dishes was truly astonishing. Among the highlights were Chef Forgione‘s deep fried root beer, Chef Caswell‘s frogs legs and Chef Chauhan‘s “who knew?” avocado and chocolate beignet.

For once, it was Chef Tio who came out of her favorite hiding place, in the middle of the pack, to produce the three dishes that really met the Chairman’s challenge head on. Particular mention should go to her stunning fish taco and to a funnel cake which removed all the bad memories of my previous ghastly experience of the fryer’s art. If she keeps up this level of cooking, she is still very much in the game to be the Next Iron Chef.

The game was well and truly up for quirky Chef Estes, however. It was apt that a state fair was the location for her last stand, as her performances so far had been up and down like a roller coaster. When she was good, the judges admired her spirit. When she was bad, however, all the shouting in the world about “seasonal” and “local” produce was unlikely to save her. One bad apple, in this case one that resembled The Creature From the Black Lagoon, was enough for the judges to decide to send her scurrying back to Sonoma.

Look inside Chef Estes’ Next Iron Chef journal and flip through our behind-the-scenes gallery from Episode 4.

More about Simon Majumdar:
Simon’s Website
Simon’s book, Eat My Globe
Follow @SimonMajumdar on Twitter

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Comments (49)

  1. Guest says:

    Thank goodness Tio won the top prize this week. I don't think I could stand that egomaniac Canora winning it again. Talk about a very good week for Tio. Let's hope she keeps going.

    • tbcabbitt says:

      I know what you mean about Canora. He'd throw his mother under a bus if it would make him look good.You can give honest criticism without being snarky about it. He's a total ass and comes across as one especially if he thinks someone else has done something better than he has. . If he wins it will be a sad, sad day for Iron Chef America,

      • Sherry says:

        And nof forgetting when Chef Tio won last week (which I was very happy for her), Canora said there were other dishes better than hers! I smelled sour grapes!

  2. tony g says:

    if u think chef canora is an egomaniac, then ur not watching chef tsao very closely, he is the most obnoxious individual i have ever seen…..if there is a god, simon, symon & donatella will can his sorry ass

    • beachinfrizzy says:

      I think Tsai (not Tsao – if you're going to criticize somebody by name, at least get the name right!) comes across that way because he has the most to lose…he's already had his own TV shows, has multiple restaurants and has put out best selling cookbooks, so he comes in as not only an 'insider' but also the front runner that the wannabes – never heard of any of these people except Forgione, and that's only because I've heard of his father – are gunning for. So of course he's going to be edited in a certain way to heighten the tension. Most of these people come across as extremely full of themselves with the exception of chefs Tio and Chauhan. And that includes Miss "Local and Sustainable" who couldn't produce a decent pork dish a couple weeks ago despite having her own pig farm and that clueless woman who was eliminated last week. Good riddance to both.

      • Schniffle says:

        Added to the fact that Chef Tsai can probably out judge most of the judges at any Ion Chef events. I mean…some of these people had a few restaurants or a book. Ming Tsai has them all.

        However, I think he will lose. It's set up this way as he is by far the biggest star they have on the show. Then he might a show on FN of his own like Chef Vs. City (which I enjoy enormously).

    • anghiari says:

      And exactly how has Chef Tsai been obnoxious?…he hardly says anything…Tony g…do you and Canora have something in common? I agree with Chef Tsai maybe he had better be more strategic with Chef Canora's offerings…watching the show tonight…where Canora again is making judgments based on his strategy to win rather than being honest about who is preparing the best dishes…More and more Chef Canora proves he is not a very nice guy…Karma is aB…this behavior may come back to bite him in his posterior.

  3. amy says:

    I actually feel a bit sorry for Chef Tsao. He walked in there with a gigantic target on his back sure in the knowledge that almost everyone would be gunning for him. He seems to be an extremely knowledgeable chef – his main issue seems to be doing too much. I don't believe him to be cocky, just overly-defensive in his work, as they all can have a tendency to be.

    I'm extremely enjoying this season, partly due to the fair attitude of the chefs themselves and their obvious camaraderie.

    • Guest says:

      Let's see how long the camaraderie lasts when it gets closer to the end. Canora and others have already shown some signs of less than altruistic actions against their fellow chefs. It's easy to hug and seem sympathethic, but when the claws come out, it could turn nasty. I think that's what FN is hoping for in the early part of the show when the chefs critique each other – – makes for good ratings.

  4. John King says:

    Best season yet – not just because of the contestants, but the quality of judging is superb. I'd like to see more of the judges' discussions.

    • John King says:

      My early guess for the winner – Bryan Caswell. This guy rocks!

    • Jhonathan says:

      Really the judging has been superb…so having a racist British critic is superb. That man is an embarrassment to the human race. The way he didn't even want to try chef Pagan's food is beyond me not to mention how rude he has been with most if not all the contestants at some point. In my opinion all these chefs are good enough to deserve to be judged by their peers. They shouldn't be subjected to the whims of "food critics" who are mostly known for being egotistical and have no real clue as to what being a chef is. These chefs are the best of the best and need to be judged by the best. Food Network should be ashamed to have such a negative and unprofessional judge but apparently having a douche as a judge increases ratings a la Simon Cowell shame on you!

  5. John King says:

    I think Jeffrey had a stroke. He was getting very sad toward the end of last season on this and the other shows he was on.

  6. Guest says:

    I am hoping to see Chef Caswell for the win…or Chef Tio.
    Chef Chauhan has a great personality too…always smiling, friendly with other team members and taking defeat easily. Not sure if the food she offers is consistently good. I mean, iron-chef quality?
    Judges are awesome, despite Donatella's funny goof-ups like eating a hot pepper or banana peel! lol…
    Chef Symon and Chef Simon seem to have conflicting opinions – and often too! :)
    It is fun to watch Donatella flanked by two cherubic baldies….the trio is awesome.

  7. MJ Henderson says:

    I'm glad Chef Estes got the boot. IMO, she should have been kicked off week 1…

  8. ernie says:

    i too am glad that estes was pulled out. i just started watching a few weeks ago, but was glad when that other chick was kicked out last week, and now estes. i felt that both their attitudes were just too annoying (trying too hard and unable to take criticism). although i do agree w/ other commentors that the show’s editing highlights a lot of defensiveness and other emotions that might not be related to their actual responses.

    i think the decision-making process is going to be tough with the remaining batch of contestants. it’ll be exciting to see their culinary skill take them through to the next few rounds!

  9. westwingpotus says:

    I think Donnatella's crack about the 80's food garnish was just to try to cover up her painfully embarrassing moment of eating a banana peel that was (1) Obviously a banana peel, and (2) It was obviously not a garnish, but a vessel. I've seen sea urchin served many times on Iron Chef. Not one of the judges (even donnatella) has made the mistake of trying to eat the shell. Why? Because it's obviously a vessel, not a garnish. I've seen food items served in Orange peels skins. No one eats the skins. Again, it's a vessal, not a garnish. I've seen items served on coconut shelll….yadda, yadda.

    Neither of the other judges tried to eat the banana peel. Donatella just made a fool of herself and is trying to cover; she's done this before. It was another of her, "I'm an moron, but it's your fault" moments.

    • Schniffle says:

      Amen brother. I thought it odd as well since more than a few times Iron Chef served inedible items on a vessel, and you really had to be an idiot to pick up a sea urchin and take a bite.

  10. Guest says:

    Chef Caswell should win. He has been one of their favorites every week. To be an Iron Chef, you have to be consistent. He's great!

    I ate at two of his restaurants while on business in Houston (yes, two, I know), and the food was amazing!

    • Lola says:

      Totally agree — my money is on Chef Caswell also! I think it will be a battle between him & Forgione

      There isnt anyone on FN like Chef Caswell– just like one of the judges said: "He looks like a linebacker, but cooks like a ballerina"

      • Sherry says:

        Caswell did okay this week, not great. He came in #4 out of 6 contestants in the "Respect" challenge. Actually, he also did just okay last week in the Transformation challenge. I don't understand why the judges put him in the top 4 spot when his snow cone didn't taste good at all. In that episode, Tsai should have come in #3 or 4 because the judges enjoyed his dishes and I thought his dishes were creative and fun – they fit the county fair theme perfectly! Those 2 judges were dumb enough to eat the banana peel garnish! *eyes rolling* Donatella didn't impress me at all as a judge. She even ate a red pepper in the first episode and then complained her mouth was on fire!

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