Critical Moments: Next Stop, Vegas

by in Shows, November 1st, 2010
Although "his plating could use a few more contemporary touches," Chef Tsai edged Chef Canora into second place this week.

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.

There is only so far that enthusiasm, tenacity and a good spirit will get you in a competition such as The Next Iron Chef. To date, Chef Chauhan had showed those qualities in abundance. She had also shown a great deal of culinary talent. However, as we reached the midway point on the road to selecting a new incumbent for Kitchen Stadium, the gap in technical skill between her and her rivals became more apparent.

The Chairman’s challenge, to create an American menu from all four points of the compass, was the toughest yet and the stakes were raised even higher when Alton informed the surviving six that the reward for pleasing the judges was a trip to America’s new dining wonderland, Las Vegas. It was obvious, from their expressions, that no one wanted to be the one to miss out on the party.

Iron Chef Jose Garces, stepping in as a guest judge, offered a fresh new view on our competitors. But, even the valid claim that some of his plating could use a few more contemporary touches, did not dissuade me from making Chef Tsai my winner for a second time in the competition. In the end, taste won out and his outstanding array of dishes just pushed the ever-improving Chef Canora into second place.

Chef Forgione, could and possibly should have gone home for sending out a desiccated piece of halibut, that would surely never have been allowed to leave his restaurant kitchen, to the three people who could change his life. The judges were not unanimous, but Chef Chauhan’s “Luau in an Avocado Cup” convinced two out of the three of us that this ebullient chef’s journey had reached its natural conclusion.

Look inside Chef Chauhan’s Next Iron Chef journal and flip through our behind-the-scenes gallery from Episode 5.

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

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Comments (57)

  1. Dev says:

    FN, if you are reading this, please do not alienate your channel from ASIANs. Over half of the world population are in Asia . Whether in India or China or Southeast Asia, be it an Indian, Chinese, Indonesian, Thai, Philippines, Vietnamese, Malaysian …these people make up nearly 4 billion of the almost 7 billion world population, that's over 50% . You have to move out of comfort zone and expand your reach. Last season winner was IMO a "bad" investment ..what did you get out of him in one year ..nada. You have enough IC that does almost the same thing,,,,,there are only so many ways to BBQ and make Pasta… Food is a lot more to that .

    • luvcookin says:

      So are you saying that FN should pick a winner based on the race of the contestant? That's what it sounds like. That would be wrong.

      • Dev says:

        of course not, FN should never pick a winner based on race . the winner needs to be the best chef standing.. an innovative cook, big on screen presence, and bring a lot of potential to the network . Let's be honest, FN is out there to increase viewership and make more dough. I never understood why they never had an ethnic Asian chef on the network and should not resort to having a contest to justify one !! Ridiculous. I seriously do not understand why FN had to put Tsai through this . He already had a show on FN before . I salute Tsai for taking the task .

        • Amy Durham says:

          Um, isn't the whole concept based on the Japanese cooking show? Also, Chef Morimoto is one of the more talented Iron Chefs. Being Asian myself, I see no prejudice. I simply like to root for the best overall contest, no matter the race or gender.

        • Sonia says:

          What about Morimoto? He is asian. He is one of the original Iron Chefs.

  2. Nick says:

    It's ok to have the contestants judge each other's food once, but to do it every week is lame. (More creativity producers, please!) Chef Canora knows Chef Tsai is one of his main competitors so he makes a point of criticizing something about his creations every week. That says more about Chef Canora's integrity than it does about Chef Tsai's cooking. Chef Tsai is intensely competitive (not arrogant) and he does indeed have the "game" to back it up. Go Ming!!!

  3. Guest says:

    Yes, Chauhan seemed the weakest from the culinary pov.
    Character-wise, she came across as the strongest….maybe a tie between her and Caswell.
    Caswell seems a cool, take-it-easy kind of chef. I like that.

    Dislike Canora.
    Tsai is somewhat a mystery. Too smug.

    Canora + ponytail + bad attitude == Batali + ponytail + clogs
    Marimoto == Tsai OR Tio.
    Bobby Flay == Caswell OR Forgione.

    Is it a replacement for one of these chefs?

  4. OlWa says:

    Chef Canora needs to go. He is arrogant, self-centered and has an integrity problem. He is so afraid of Ming Tsai that he judges all of his dishes unfairly. Since the new Iron Chef will compete in competitions with other great chefs as competitors, kitchen stadium does not need the snippy, self-centered and self-serving attitude the Chef Canora brings. He does not understand fair play and would compromise the integrity of Kitchen Stadium. He is NOT Iron Chef worthy. Chef Tsai continually conducts himself as a gentleman and a fair comptetitor. Even though Chef Canora tried to slam him the in potato round, Chef Tsai fairly assessed each dish and chose Chef Canroa's as a favorite. WOuld Chef Cnora have done this – probably not. Again I say, Canora is NOT Iron Chef worthy.

  5. Jimbob says:

    If youre lucky enough to eat at Blue ginger, Ming Tsai's dishes are the best tasting meals you'll ever have. I've watched a few episodes here, and I'm surprised people are focused so much on personality and heart. Iron chef is about food… period, the judges don't care if you're an ass (FLAY) as long as you can cook.

    Canora is an ass obviously… but he can cook.

    Let's see how they deal with the increased pressure and competition… thats' the key

    • Matt says:

      Hmm, I liked to think they DO care if you're an ass, one of the things that separates this show from Top Chef (where asses are routinely celebrated and encouraged each season, with a couple of exceptions). After Top Chef, you don't see them again, but here, you want to route for them when they come on the real show. I figured that was part of the appeal of Michael Symon winning, and why Nate Appleman got booted last season. I also figured Bobby Flay was sort of "grandfathered" in, as opposed to actually winning the competition….

    • luvcookin says:

      While I can't say if the judges care if the chef is an ass, I would hope that FN would care. Personally, I won't watch a chef that acts like an ass. I won't watch Canora if he wins. I could watch Chef Tsai all day long. He can cook and he's humble.

  6. Ces says:

    I am a great fan of Chef Tsai. His show on PBS is simply delightful to watch. He is very much a gentleman , not arrogant at all as what the others perceive him to be. Those who think he is arrogant should wach him on PBS – Simply Ming and you will know what I mean. His crtiques are not biased. He does not give an air of a "show off". He is just quiet and works hard to get the best dish on the plate. I watch this show because of Chef Tsai and I hope he wins. I even notice that in some of the past episodes, the camera hardly ever even focuses on Chef Tsai but on the other chefs like Canora. You just see him on the sidelines hard at work. That is simply good work ethics.

  7. donna thomas says:

    Jimbob,

    You have contradicted yourself. You take issue with the comment about 'the heart of an Iron Chef', saying it does not matter…only cooking skills matter, then, you end your post with "Let's see how they deal with the increased pressure….".
    How they will deal with increased pressure depends upon how brave, and confident they are. These are matters of heart. Chef Tsai has the heart on an Iron Chef. I believe Canora will have a massive meltdown.

    Point to consider. Chauhan's demeanor at the beginning of the competition in no way reflected how she finished. In the beginning she said, "I'm not afraid of anything, if the tiger needs to come out, it will!" Yet before the last challenge, hunched, and speaking in a whisper, she said, "You need to be risky and ballsy to be an Iron Chef". She was still talkin the talk, but her demeanor was broken. The competiton had broken her.

  8. donna thomas says:

    In no way has the competiton been easy for Chef Tsai. But like a true warrior he has battled back from almost being eliminated. He has overcome the jealousy from some of the others that would have crushed a lesser competitor. It takes real guts to hang in there and compete with all your 'heart' til Alton commands them to "put it down and walk away", in the final battle in Kitchen Stadium. I hope Chef Tsai will be there.

  9. bobby_fillet says:

    Forgione will be next to go, followed by Canora and then Tsai. Caswell and Tio will be in the finals. Forgione gets no camera time. FN edits the shows to make Canora and Tsai look like jerks (even though they probably aren't in real life) so FN has already decided that they won't win. It's all predetermined and has nothing to do with food. These FN "contests" are a sham.

    • luvcookin says:

      It doesn't matter to me anymore. I don't get the network as of yesterday. The Scripps Network will not put in writing terms that had been agreed on verbally with my provider so all Scripps channels are now off of my television. According to my provider, Scripps wants to charge double to my provider what other smaller competitors are paying. The network is punishing its own viewers for leverage in programming negotiations.

      • Eli says:

        sorry to hear it had to come to this..what a bummer. personally FN is really starting to upset me with it's programming.. It probably better off if Tsai doesn't go with FN , it's the network loss not his.

        • luvcookin says:

          Yea, and FN is saying that it's AT&T that are holding viewers hostage wihile they work out the details. It's SCRIPPS that is holding its OWN VIEWERS hostage! Based on what has been on lately though, we aren't missing much!

    • jerry says:

      it looks like you are right.i don't believe any of these so called competitions are on the up and up.when
      Russel lost on survivors it was clear .i am sadden that food network as sunk to that level.Ming Tsai is not that arrogant guy they portray him.you want arrogant look at Alton

      • The JillyBean says:

        The difference with FN contest shows and something like Survivor is that FN/Scripps is 100% doing the choosing. No matter what the viewers see, TPTB are going to choose the contestants based on how well they see this person as being able to rep FN and potentially sell products. I don't blame them for protecting FN first, however, it does give us some crap show's and chefs, which leave us with less and less to watch. I can honestly say the Garces win turned me off so much I've skipped NIC and IC this season. I miss Batali and Cora. I suppose TNFNS and NIC are NF/Scripps efforts to restock their "stable" of new talent. I mean how many more show's can they do of people running around basically promoting restaurants in various guises. Guy Fieri is pretty well tapped out.

        Russell lost on "Survivor" because of the way he acted toward his fellow campers. At the end of the 39 days, that was the state his fellow campers were in, they were seeking revenge on the way he treated them. He deserved to lose.

        And with all reality/competition shows, they are heavily edited out of hundreds of hours of footage, to up the drama and essentially create characters out of the raw footage. If there wasn't all the negativity and "drama" with the contestants being made into caricatures, we probably wouldn't watch it. I mean how many of us watch documentaries?? Well that is pretty much what it would be like if the shows were not heavily edited to create characters of the contestants. No one would watch if it were in true documentary style, because it would just not be that interesting.

    • anghiari says:

      I agree that Canora's editing either demonstrates he acts like a jerk or that the editing MAKES him seem like a jerk. I disagree with your statement about Ming Tsai…he never mentions the name of another chef and he only talks about how he feels he will do or his philosophy of cooking…Thus I don't see him being the jerk, you say he is. I think because Canora started from the get-go nailing Ming Tsai, the show decided to make them competitors. I liked Figone, Lito, Caswell and Tsai as my favorites. If Canora hadn't started his snark on Tsai from the beginnng I would have like him. He is a very good chef. But something Mike Symons said about Tsai also tells me that perhaps he is being held to a higher standard than other chefs and it comes out in little aside that seem bias to me. Simon Majundar is a real diva as far as I am concerned, he is more intersted in listening to his own voice than reflecting a sophisticated palate.

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