Critical Moments: What Happens in Vegas…

by in Shows, November 8th, 2010
This week's challenge to transform a Vegas buffet into "something that would not make any sane person recoil in terror" was "close to impossible," according to Simon Majumdar.

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.

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.

Look inside Chef Caswell’s Next Iron Chef journal and flip through our behind-the-scenes gallery from Episode 6.

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

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Comments (260)

  1. Henry says:

    This is ridiculous. Ming Tsai may be a bit arrogant, but the man is an emmy award winning chef. He is in another class of his own. The man has trumped against another Iron Chef – Bobby Flay. Ming Tsai should have been an Iron Chef without the need to compete. Ridiculous. I am never watching Iron Chef nor Food Network again. Ridiculous. What were the producers thinking?

    • veronica says:

      totally agree!! They lost me as a viewer as well. Bring back Master Tsai

    • luvcookin says:

      Completely agree! They got rid of Chef Tsai and chose to go with the arrogant Canora and riding Daddy's coattails Forgione. This is yet another show I will not be watching on Food Network.

      • Zoe says:

        I truly think the judges thought they were judging fairly and had picked Canora and Forgione because they believed their dishes were the best out of the four finalists. However, as we can see on this blog, lots of posters thought the judges were not fair or qualified. At least with IC Symon, he is a professional chef. He really knows how to cook and has gone through similar competiion in the past. I just don't think Donatella and Simon were qualified to judge such an important competition as they were not chefs. Chopped has better judges than TNIC. Plus, I think there is a need for guest judges. I hope FN would take that into consideration in future series of TNIC. It's just not fair to keep having the same 3 judges who have already made up their mind a long time ago that they liked Canora's food the best. And if they are big fan of Italian food, Canora's offering would stand out the most. And if you are not a big fan of asian food, Tsai would suffer the most. Some folks say Tsai had been all over the place. I don't think so. Except for episode 2 when he obviously prepared a very complicated dish using 6 techniques (because he said he kept hearing the word "innovation" while making his dishes), he has either came in #1 or stayed in the middle of the pack. This was similar to Tio's and Forgione's performances. Tio had won twice but otherwise was somewhere in the middle. Forgione was almost eliminated in one of the episodes after winning one of the secret ingredient challenges, just like it had happened to Tsai.

  2. Ava says:

    If I didn't know better, I would think that Cat Cora and Donatella have a deal going on between them behind the scenes. I think Cat wants to be the ONLY woman Iron Chef!!! For the last couple of seasons that I have watched, Donatella just rakes all the female contestants over the coals!! Chef Tio should be the next Iron Chef in my opinion, and I agreed with her when she said she was screwed when she lost out for the drinks/snack competition tonight. And WOW! She did the best she ever did tonight, but she was eliminated because one of her dishes was undersalted by a pinch!!! How many times have I watched the Iron Chef show and the judges complain to the high and mighty Iron Chefs that they put too much salt or not enough salt on something!!!! But, since Cat wants to be the only woman on the show, I guess it will continue. Chef Tio has been the best female contestant on there in years!!!! I never thought this show was fixed until this year. What a shame.

  3. bkwj says:

    It's a joke Tsai went home. I'd watch him over the other two anyday. The judges are terrible. Simon and Donatella are ridiciculous and pretentious. Nobody who watches respects they're opinion. The FN has screwed this whole competition up. It doesn't feel like a genuine competition. Canora is unwatchable and warrants no respect. I'd like to see the FN admit its error and correct it regardless of the embarrassment it may cause.

  4. Lisa says:

    What a horrible mistake FN made. Chef Tsai anf Chef Tio should be in the finals. I personally will not watch either Chef Forgione or Chef Canora. They do not represent what an Iron Chef should be. I am so disapointed!!

    • mandy says:

      I still don't understand why Tio was booted off instead of Forgione. I would think that undercooked pasta or ravioli would be a worse offense than slightly underseasoned fish.

  5. Deborah says:

    I am outraged at this result. One judge is a diva who thinks she should insure her precious palate with Lloyds of London. And another is a pretentious person who judges by his personal likes and dislikes, rather than by the skill of the completed dish. How dare anyone put pineapple on his plate. How dare they. That chef must be an imbecile to do so and will be knocked down. Oho! Guess what! That chef was! He was knocked down! Chef Conora is thoroughly unlikeable. He is not Food Network material no matter how well he can cook. You have certain standards, and he does not meet them. Food Network, take a look at this situation. You definitely need guest judges to deflect 2 of the 3 that you have. Thank goodness for Iron Chef Simon. But 1 against 2 doesn't cut it. You need a process review here.

  6. Imwithming says:

    It's really, really sad to see them eliminate Ming Tsai. Now Iron Chef America has become a travesty. If Cat Cora is an Iron Chef and Ming Tsai can't be one, then Iron Chef America is a REAL JOKE!!

  7. Imwithming says:

    I mean, who's ever even heard of Cat Cora before she was on ICA?! I don't even care to watch next week's episode now. What a joke!

  8. Dawn says:

    I have lost all respect for the Food Network and used to be an avid watcher and fan. Chef Tsai definitely should have been in the finals or automatically made an iron chef, given his skill, celebrity appeal and experience. He has already beat Iron Chef Bobby Flay five years ago. I am not longer watching Iron Chef or any other foodnetwork programs. What a joke.

  9. Emilee says:

    I'm now a former fan of FN, also joining the boycott of your shows. Disgusting results from last night's elimination. Wow, huge mistake to have chosen Canora & Forgione over Tsai. Good luck on your ratings.

  10. JMVago says:

    I will never watch TNIC or IC again ever!!! And I never comment on stuff like this. I was so disappointed that Ming Tsai was eliminated, what are you people thinking!!!! The judges were ridiculous and Chef Symon was the worst. Chef Canora and Chef Forgione are both nasty, unprofessional jerks! I watched this from the beginning and disliked them both. I can't believe you people!!! I never thought I would ever say that I thought a show was fixed! As some of the other folks have commented, I know you won't miss me, but I have always been a big promoter of IC America….now I won't be!

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