The Chairman had asked the remaining five chefs to transform a traditional Las Vegas buffet into something that would not make any sane person recoil in terror. It was a close to impossible task. To my mind this is one of the low points of American cuisine and I felt as much trepidation as I did anticipation as I took my place on the judging plinth.
Despite the fact that he constantly looked on the verge of a fatal aneurysm, it was Chef Canora who came closest to meeting The Chairman’s challenge with a variety of dishes that were both packed with flavor, but also showed off his exemplary technique. He was our clear winner, although his cardiologist may disagree.
If anyone ever doubted just how seriously the judges took their task of selecting The Next Iron Chef, they only needed to be a fly on wall as Iron Chef Symon, Donatella and I discussed which two of the remaining four chefs were to be eliminated. The debate became as heated, down and dirty as I am sure it had been in the kitchen.
Our first choice was the easy one. That Chef Caswell is a chef of extraordinary ability had been made clear during previous rounds, but there were enough low points in his cooking, during this challenge for all of us to decide it was time to holler “bye-bye Ballerina Boy.” He may have left with an unwanted new nickname, but he could also leave with his head held very high.
For the second time in two challenges, Chef Forgione sent out an inedible piece of protein which would never be allowed to leave his restaurant kitchen and that was enough for me to suggest hailing him a taxi from The Strip to the airport. Donatella found it hard to forgive Chef Tio for presenting three plates of pure white and Iron Chef Symon selected Chef Tsai for unusual flaws in his technique.
We would still be arguing now if The Chairman had not generously decided that all three should survive to cook at least once more. Next time, however, there would be no reprieve and only two chefs would make their way to Kitchen Stadium.