Critical Moments: A Kitchen Stadium Thanksgiving

by in Shows, November 22nd, 2010
The newly crowned Iron Chef Marc Forgione: Simon Majumdar’s "clear winner"

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.

With dozens of cameras catching every glimpse and grimace, a gallery of excited onlookers and smoke billowing across the set, I could begin to see what all the fuss had been about.

It was my first visit to Kitchen Stadium and I was nervous enough. I could only begin to imagine how Chef Canora and Chef Forgione must be feeling as they walked into the arena. They had not only to impress the three judges one more time, but also to persuade Iron Chefs Morimoto and Flay that they were ready to join the pantheon of the greats.

When given their final task, to prepare for us the finest Thanksgiving feast imaginable, the way they approached it summed up their performances in every challenge to date. Chef Forgione was cool, calm and collected as he followed his story of recreating the first turkey-free Thanksgiving. Chef Canora, on the other hand, was all drama and nervous energy as he dipped into his family cookbook to bring us a traditional Thanksgiving meal. It was not long before he was literally leaving his blood, sweat and tears on the floor.

Sixty minutes later, the cooking part of Season 3 of The Next Iron Chef was over and it was time to make the big decision. Chef Forgione was the first to present. We all felt that there were seasoning problems with his food, as there had been a number of times before, and I was not particularly taken with his main dish of venison. However, his turkey-free story hung together well and in his dish of lobster and dessert of plum cobbler he produced two dishes as good as any we had tasted in the whole competition.

Chef Canora had arguably taken the safer route, depending on soulful cooking rather than fireworks to see him to victory. Unfortunately, for me his sweet pumpkin risotto was a flop and his venison dish came close behind in the disappointment stakes. His turkey dinner, however, rocked and his pecan pie was the best I have ever tried. Which meant it was all to play for as I tallied up my scores.

On plating and presentation, I had Chef Forgione as a narrow winner. On creativity, he was farther in front. Although things were much more even when it came to the final category of taste, when I added up the points for each chef, there was one clear winner.

It would appear that the majority of other judges agreed with me and when The Chairman revealed who would join the ranks of the culinary greats, Marc Forgione (or should I now say Iron Chef Marc Forgione?) had rightfully earned his place amongst the elite.

Look inside Chef Forgione and Chef Canora’s Next Iron Chef journals and flip through our behind-the-scenes gallery from the Finale.

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

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Comments (51)

  1. BAM says:

    Chef Forgione…blah. Why did they feel the need to replace Batali with another Italian chef? Why not add a female (Tio) or a proven Iron Chef winner (Tsai). This was so blatantly rigged. Why insult your viewers, Food Network? Lots of anger on this site. I'd pay attention if I were you, Mr. Tuschman.

  2. Tom says:

    The Food Network is becoming as predictable as a clock. First we had the pre-programmed pick of Arrti as the next Food Network Star. How's that working out guys? Meanwhile they finally saw the talent in Tom Fuzzica the fan favorite, and he has a great prime time show. Could have saved yourselves a lot of trouble if you had just listened to the focus group in the first place. Now we have a pre-destined decision to crown another Italian Iron Chef to replace Batali. At least it wasn't that whining cry baby Canora. Wow, did he show he wasn't ready for prime time! How many times did he ask how much time was left?

    • Kathryn mastice says:

      I agree with Tom. It certainly looked like they were hounding Chef Tsai from the beginning, even thoughs he continued to shine. He has all the right credentials and continues to excel in his creativity and diversity of his menu. We love you Chef Tsai.

  3. nyb4la says:

    Jgarr—-I too am a Chef Tsai fan! I am also very glad Canora lost! That being said, what part of "turkey" was not served at the first Thanksgiving did you not get? Stepping out of the box (i.e. creativity) is a must to be an IC. And, as for what is healthy, I don't think that is the concern of an Iron Chef during a competition. It is obvious the fans liked Tsai and didn't like canora, but to take it out on Forgione when he saved us from having to watch canora…… ridiculous.

  4. bobby_fillet says:

    They did this to set up an Iron Chef episode between Marc Forgione and his famous father.

    • Clara Tea says:

      This is a brilliant insight. After this season's Next Iron Chef programming that we have just seen, Food Network might be perverse enough to actually do this. Following this logic, the Secret Ingredient would have to be PINEAPPLE. . .

  5. Krissy H says:

    I am such a huge fan of this show!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  6. A.L. says:

    Chef Tsai has made it to the top of the Fan Vote!!! I just submitted my 10 votes. I think FN is keeping this voting going to hope that their new Iron Chef will eventually get to 5%. ;-) Even Canora is ahead of Forgione.

    I did not watch the Finale and have no regret. I am not surprised that Forgione won. Actually, I expected it. The FN editing set up the battle between chefs Tsai and Canora. Since they won't let Chef Tsai win and are not about to commit suicide by having Canora as the next Iron Chef, there must be someone that will come to the rescue and defeat the evil Canora. FN tried to make Forgione to look humble and likable, but they way under-estimated the fans. I am sure FN did not expect their new Iron Chef getting less than 5% of the fan votes. That's the problem with a pre-determined and bogus competition.

    • Clara Tea says:

      Right. There was no true competition here. A close look at the way the editing was done reveals how "scripted" the outcome was. This became even more obvious if you caught some of the re-runs of the prior shows and could watch for this. Food Network did this same thing with their Next Food Network Star programs.

  7. Mike says:

    Myself I found the Judges to be the issue, One hates pineapple and he judges pineapple dishs, DAH! Some people love salt others don't Food is like talking religion . The man who won showed integrity, solid values, and a true sense of honor. You should look at how the Iron Chefs felt about the Chefs. I liked them both but Forgionne showed his true talent.

  8. Quincy says:

    I think FN has really gotten to the level where they've just trampled on the whole concept of "Iron Chef" in the first place. All due respect to Marc and to last year's winner, Jose Garces, but this has just turned into an annual "Let's bring another Iron Chef aboard" show anymore. I'm surprised Flay and Morimoto haven't quit by now because of this. Michael Symon's win was the first one, and he's more than earned his stripes at this point. Since then, however, I just don't see any reason to have people become Iron Chefs just by winning a reality show competition. It's a slap in the face to Morimoto, Flay, Batali and especially everyone else involved with the original Japanese program.

    If you want to add an Iron Chef, have RENOWNED chefs compete. Ming Tsai was one, still is. He should have been given a slot on Iron Chef just automatically. Stop sending out a cattle call for anyone and everyone to be in the running. Hell, Mary DuMont had no business anywhere near being the next Iron Chef. Chef Canora was the runner-up and he could barely handle cooking in Kitchen Stadium. All that yelling about needing to hear the time constantly, gimme a break. Who the hell would want to watch that every week on "Iron Chef America"?

    I have to proclaim "Iron Chef America" has not only jumped the shark, it's jumped the whole ocean.

    • Lauren says:

      I have eaten at Morimoto's restaurant, Flay's restaurant, Batali's restaurant…and they are all wonderful. A few weeks back, I had the opportunity to eat at Garces place. It ranks right up there. Garces truly wouldn't have been able to win battle after battle if he was not as gifted as he is.

  9. Grandscholar says:

    I don't understand why they keep saying that not using a turkey is taking a risk. Was there any judge actually prepared to deduct points for that? As a protein, turkey is too lean and too blend. Thus it is more of a handicap since you can't really score any high point with a turkey dish, especially when limited by only 1 hr of cooking time. The most you can get is: "Wow, it is not dry!"

    The whole "debate" about tradition vs innovation sounds scripted. .Their cooking styles are in fact quite similar, as seen in the venison dishes. And how is Canora's pumpkin risotto "traditional"? It is doubly ironic since Canora has criticized Tsai's sweet potato risotto as "not respecting the ingredient" earlier in the game,

    In the end, I feel sorry for Canora since I think he has been made a "villain" through selective editing.

  10. Megan565 says:

    Thank the FN gods Canora didn't win. I think Alton would have resigned if he had to listen to Canora whine over and over about the remaining time. I liked Forgione throughout the competition, but the best chef was Tsai.

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