Simon Majumdar’s Super Chef Premiere Recap — Critical Moments

by in Shows, October 31st, 2011

simon majumdar with next iron chefs
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.

Any concerns that the 10 chefs competing on this season of The Next Iron Chef might not feel the pressure, given their remarkable culinary achievements and already stellar careers, were dispelled the moment they came face to face with the three judges on the edge of the lakeside.

The beads of sweat running down their brows were not only caused by the blazing sun under which they had been forced to cook, but also from the stern warnings given by the judges. We made it very clear that taste would count for everything during this competition, and their reputations not at all.

Chef Spike had drawn the “lucky” straw and, while he might have thought it amusing to pair Chef Irvine with Chef Burrell and wise to pair himself with Chef Samuelsson, there was a very distinct possibility that it could all come back to take a large chunk out of his youthful posterior.

Spike Mendelsohn

The Chairman’s Challenge had been “Resourcefulness” using heat and meat, and it was obvious from the array of dishes the gusto with which the chefs had attacked the whole hogs provided. They had been tasked to prepare two dishes for the judges, and there were some genuine highs and lows as they were presented to us.

An unlikely pairing of Chef Zakarian and Chef MacMillan produced two almost flawless dishes that whisked the judges to Provence, quite a remarkable feat given the limitations of their ingredients and equipment. Chef Hughes and Chef Chiarello were a close second, although I marked them down for serving me an incinerated potato that had obviously received heat that would have been better used on a woefully undercooked pork chop.

The rest of the teams were much harder to judge. All had terrific elements to the food they offered us, but all also had some real misfires. In the end, it was the combination of ribs with less meat on them than Kate Moss and a pork stew that tasted as muddy as the lake water from which it had been made that consigned Chef Spike and Chef Samuelsson to the bottom of the pile.

That meant that Chef Spike’s original decision had come back to haunt him in considerable style and he would now have to face off against not only his teammate, but also a chef for whom he had expressed huge admiration. Their selection of scallops as the main ingredients gave both chefs the chance to shine in the Chairman’s fiendish new challenge, “The Secret Ingredient Showdown.” And shine they did, both showing why they had been included on the roster in the first place.

Chef Spike’s perfectly seared scallop and complex sofrito came topped with shavings of roe frozen in liquid nitrogen. Faced with a lesser opponent, it would have been enough to keep him in the competition. However, Chef Samuelsson’s risky choice, to present the judges with two dishes, paid off and, in his delicate miso soup made with scallops and clams, he provided one of the truly exquisite tastes of the whole competition.

Marcus Samuelsson and Spike Mendelsohn

That was enough to earn him a reprieve. As he left the judging chamber it was clear that his near demise had shaken any last vestiges of complacency he might have carried with him into the competition. Chef Spike however, was not to get a second chance and he was the first in Season 4 to hear those dreaded words from Mr. Brown: “I am sorry, but you will not be The Next Iron Chef.”

More behind-the-scenes extras from the Super Chefs premiere:

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Comments (116)

  1. LyndaS says:

    It's interesting that Spike was referred to as "Chef Spike" the entire time (including in this blog). The other chefs are addressed by their last names (i.e. Chef Samuelsson, Chef Burrell, etc.) as a form of respect. Spike never had it, maybe never will.

  2. Stefan088 says:

    I always thought that the 3 requirements for judging were CREATIVITY (or Originality), TASTE, and PRESENTATION. In the final head to head, all three judges said that Chef Spike's entry was on at all three requirements. Samuelsson's presentation was commented on by Chef Simon as being kind of gutsy since 2 dishes could work against the competitor. Judge Majumdar commented that the dishes were good BUT the presentation was kind of slopped on the plate thus not being good in Presentation. Thus, Chef Spike had 3 out of 3 requirements and Samuelsson had 2 out of 3 requirements BUT Chef Spike leaves. The judges have invalidated themselves as far as I am concerned because the basis for judging this competition is supposed to be the 3 requirements and not 2 requirements and being an inside favorite. Shame on the judges….

    • FanFare57 says:

      The decision was probably based on reputation more than end result. There was no way they could eliminate Marcus who has more titles and awards than Spike has teeth. OR – other reasons were edited out to confuse the viewers.

  3. FanFare57 says:

    I'm surprised to see Elizabeth Faulkner vying for the title. On ICA, she couldn't beat Cat Cora as a challenger. She didn't even complete all 5 dishes on time. She didn't make it very far on Top Chef Masters. She was a judge twice on Top Chef. That doesn't maker her Iron Chef ready. Maybe she should go back to S.F. and stick with pies and cakes.

  4. jr53 says:

    I really enjoyed the first episode. I'm not sure I agreed with the outcome but that's why there are 3 judges and they are the experts not me.

    I do have one observation though. This is the first show I have ever seen that had a spoiler for itself. The commercial just before the elimination results were announced showed upcoming events. Chef Samuelson was in the commercial. I couldn't believe that is what I saw but I just watched the entire segment again and saw it again. What ever were your marketing people thinking? Why would they have one of the contestants up for elimination shown in the future events? I guess we don't need to watch the entire segments all we have to do if watch the commercials to know what is going to happen.

  5. ron says:

    Here we go again!!!!!

    You call the three judges, judges. What a joke.
    They got it wrong again. If they are going to let chefs not follow the rules
    and remain it the contest. Then why have rules. What an injustice to the networks
    integrety. Just pick who you want to win. Its fixed anyway. A pasta dish from an Itilian,
    thats really creative.

    • Linda says:

      You are exactly right. If you have contest rules they should be followed. Chef Zakarian didn't follow the ballpark rules and should have been disqualified immediately as in most contests. As far as the final peanut challenge Chef Irvine used peanuts in every component of his dish and Chef Chiarello had peanuts in his pasta. Because Chef Irvine's hummus was a little thick is not a reason for being disqualification. This was to illustrate CREATIVITY and TASTE. Favoritism was obvious. I deal with chefs and contests and they do lean towards their favorite chefs. Too bad politics is in the food business too.

  6. tangtangtang says:

    you know, i've noticed that it seems like whomever Michael Symon favors seems to be the one that either wins or stays and the dish he dislikes tend to be the one going home. his opinions seem to be so forceful that other judges seem to sway towards his opinion. probably cause he got judge so often, it's pay back but i've 2 episodes of the new season and because of him, it's just not that enjoyable. that's it for me. on to other show.

  7. Scott says:

    Watched tonights show and agreed with quite a few of the comments. Two of the judges were swayed by chef Symon in the cook off, that was clear. When did one person get that much power. Why is it that the rules are not being followed, could it be favoritism. I lost alot of respect for chef Symon tonight and am not so sure that I want to watch the rest of the series. It used to be alot of fun, not so much anymore. Now it seems to be whomever chef Symon wants.

  8. Susan says:

    After last night's BallPark challenge, and the subsequent do-or-die Cook-off, I have concluded that this "Judging" process is not genuine. In fact, I believe it is FIXED. For Robert Irvine to be voted off the show second is ludicrous. He seemed to me to be one of the finalists! He outcooked the brilliant Chiarello.
    His mistake may have been being too obvious by choosing the Asian route to his dish. His opponent made a peanut salsa, but took the competition with his fresh pasta.
    If they are looking for a new female chef to replace Cat Cora, they should have been honest about it, and only chosen female chefs to compete. Of the three, my favorite is Alex, by far. She is just the most likeable.
    Chef Samuelsson is obviously extremely skilled and talented. Perhaps he should take the day.

    • JLF says:

      If Robert's Asian route was too obvious, what could be MORE obvious than an Italian chef making pasta? We can search all we want for some kind of explanation for the judges' decision – I don't think we're going to find one that is rational.

    • chiaros says:

      Alex G the most likeable? My, my. I guess we will have to agree to disagree. Alex G, the condescending nose-in-the-air sourpuss on Chopped, the almost-loosing-it-contestant on this episode… nah, not for me.

  9. mhpurplesoul55 says:

    I was amused to see a Bravo Top Chef competitor to be even considered as a contestant on the Next Iron Chef program. I was horrified to see that it was Chef Spike who has never been in the top 4 or 5 in the final rounds for any Top Chef program. I know from comments made by some of the Food Network's hosts, that they do not like or even appreciate Top Chef. Why did they ask Chef Spike to participate? They could have asked Chef Fabio and gotten the same results. I believe Food Network (FN) is afraid to ask any of the Top Chef Winners or Runner-ups to participate in Kitchen Stadium or on the Next Iron Chef as Cheftestants. They, FN, do not want to acknowledge Top Chef as a force/an amazing cooking show. Some FN hosts are not even allowed to participate on that GREAT Bravo show. Why would they not invite a Top Chef contestant and make sure through his own lack of experience, to be voted off first. It was a SET-UP. Pure and simple. Shame on you Food Network, Shame!!! In the future, please invite Tom Collichio and let's hope he brings some of the Top Chef Winners or finalists as sous chefs to the Kitchen Stadium for a true and real battle. Let's also hope that the judges are those that will let the true super chefs (Collichio and Company) WIN. I do appreciate the Next Iron Chef Battles but I am suspicious when you have a Top Chef cheftestant, who was not even in any of the finals, and you are calling him a super chef, which he in my opinion has not reached that level, to take part in battles in Kitchen Stadium or as a participant on the Next Iron Chef . Let's have a fair contest. If you are going to invite a Top Chef, make sure it is one that has earned the title. You have eight choices. Choose one, PLEASE.

  10. It’s arduous to search out knowledgeable people on this subject, however you sound like you know what you’re speaking about! Thanks

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