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. BrendaE says:

    I think that Chef Tio is wonderful. I met her at the food and wine festival at Walt Disney World Epcot this weekend and her food was great and she had a very informative and entertaining cullinary demonstration. She was very down to earth and easy to talk to. I hope she does very well in the show.

  2. Sonia says:

    Don't forget also that Chef Tsai already has been a competitor at the Iron Chef. He challenged my favorite Iron Chef Bobby Flay and won. He is the best. People don't want to admited, but he is the only one at the level of Bobby Flay, Batali, Morimoto and Cora. And he seems to be very humble too. If Chef Tsai doesn't win, it will be Food Network's loss.

    • Terry says:

      I;m in agreement. To compete and when against one the best iron chef's in his on arena. The judges give no respect for ability and creativity>

      • Jhonathan says:

        Wow I swear some people are blind… nothing the man has portrayed in the competition resembles humility. He can only ride his deconstructions for so long.

  3. dnzski says:

    Food Network did not mess around at all this year with the talent they brought in. I think there are 5-6 chefs this year that would have easily won last years Next Iron Chef. Garces is good but, like Cora, is a bit out of his league against some of the chef's they will go up against. This group though that will end up in the top five are all Iron Chef worthy I think. Good personality and very, very talented.

  4. nzkiwi says:

    I think the judges were not fair to Ming Tsia, he made very good food (Episode 4) much better than most other chefs (he got the highest votes for his dishes, but they put him to a middle position and let those mediocre food to the tops, quite strange to me. I think that woman judge is specially wierd, I thought she was fine before, but for this season she has become so unfair, don't know what wrong to her.

    • JosieL says:

      Seriously, seems like the judges are holding Chef Tsai to an unreasonable, higher standard that's completely unfair to him. Maybe they're jealous of his accomplishments.

  5. Afi says:

    Chef Canora is a good chef and i thought we were judging by how good they can cook. People watch the show for what it is and leave Canora or whoeva alone.

    • bobby_fillet says:

      Your first experience with Food Network? It isn't about who can cook best. It's all about who they think will make the biggest star. The winner has already been predetermined. Just look at Arty Party. What a scam that was. So, the biggest question is who is leaving Iron Chef? If it's Cora, then Tio wins. If it's Matsumoto(?), then Tsai wins, etc.

  6. Sandy says:

    Ming Tsai is a very spiritual man, not an egomaniac. I think anyone who has been as successful as these chefs must have the self-confidence to get that far. I do think that Chef Canora makes unjust comments about Tsai's dishes, and I'm sure it's because he considers him to be the main competition. He's right. Chef Tsai is not only a very accomplished chef and cookbook author, he is someone who gives back AND has a degree from Yale. I find Ming Tsai to be the best choice overall… a fine individual with remakable talent. And I have always loved watching "Simply Ming" on PBS. I would love to see him battle often as an Iron Chef. Go Ming!

    • Guest says:

      Glad to see your comment about Canora. I know they are editing this a lot, but it seems like he is always commenting negatively about the competition and has very little reason to compliment his own work even though he does so. That time he made the food so hot that the judges even choked shows his lack of sensitivity to his cooking.

    • Lola says:

      Chef Ming sucks – his time has come and gone! He seems super stuck up, defensive and stale – i mean, how many deconstructed dishes can you do?? Sorry, the east-west thing is played out also… For someone of his "name" (cooking show, published, restaurant and his own line of cookware), he has not delivered at all — I've never heard of the other Chefs, and they are outcooking him all day, everyday…

      My money is on "aww shucks country boy" consistent and personable Chef Caswell

      BTW – you know who else went to Yale – George W Bush! Yale degree means nothing in culinary arts or world politics apparently LOL!!!

    • Jhonathan says:

      Not an egomanic wow what show are you watching…

  7. Guest says:

    Good point about Anthony Bourdain. Talk about an undeserved ego.

  8. Dine says:

    Ming Tsai you are a superb and accomplished chef..Win or lose, you are an iron chef caliber..You belong with the likes of flay, batali and moramoto.

    • Jhonathan says:

      No he really doesn't belong with Flay much less Batalli and Morimoto he is overrated and is obviously being set up by the Food Network for the Iron Chef position. I hope he doesn't ride his deconstructed boat to victory bleh. Having been an ex employee unlike the rest of the cast there is an obvious conflict of interest! I can't wait for the judges to grow a pair and go against the network to boot his a$$.

      • Sherry says:

        What did you base your opinion on? Have you tried his foods yet? Tsai has competed against Flay and won. So I think he belongs with the likes of Flay, Morimoto and Batali. I read that his cooking shows are even shown in other countries and he has written many cookbooks. Esquire Mag honored him as the Chef of the Year and the James Beard Foundation has crowned him 2002 Best Chef Northeast. He does have the skills, talents and creativity to be an IC.

      • Part says:

        Oh I see, an ex employee…

  9. anghiari says:

    I think Ming Tsai is an extraordinary chef and I do think it is unfortunate he has a target on his back. I think Donatella and Mike Symons both are bending over backwards (too far over backwards) to seem not to give Ming preference to the tune of not seeming fair in their judging if him. From the get-go Chef Canora has seem to have a chip on his should about Chef Tsai. My favorite is Ming Tsai…I have met him and eaten in his restaurant Blue Ginger and he is a really nice guy. But I also love Chef Figone…who I think is also extraordinarily talented. Chef Canora might have been a favorite, but for his nastiness…not needed

  10. Nancy from Madison says:

    Chef Tsai is the best and he should win. He connects his ingredients more than the others. He is the only one of the contestants to have the qualifications to be an iron chef. I hope some of the stupid comments by the judges don't eliminate him. I've watched his series on another c hannel and always enjoyed him. The Iron Chef Series would greatly benefit from his joining the group.

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