Baseball and Peanuts on the Next Iron Chef — Critical Moments

by in Shows, November 7th, 2011

baseball challenge next iron chef
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.

I have only been to a handful of ballgames during my short time living in the U.S. So, I was pretty certain, as we strolled into Petco Park, home of the San Diego Padres, that I would be the person present who knew the least about ballpark food.

I was wrong.

The Chairman’s Challenge for the nine remaining super chefs was one of transformation. He asked each of them to take classic ballpark dishes and re-create them in a Kitchen Stadium-worthy manner. It was no easy task, and the fact that each chef approached the challenge in very different ways showed that some of them, thankfully, knew even less about ballpark food than their British judge.

I may be from the wrong side of the pond, but even I can recognize ballpark perfection when I see it. Chef Guarnaschelli was first up, and her duo of a sausage and peppers sandwich followed by lemon sherbet had each of the three judges and Alton Brown making noises that should normally be heard coming from the honeymoon suite . As she returned to her place, I muttered to the other judges, “They are going to have to work hard to beat that,” and it definitely proved to be the case.

Some chefs fared better than others. Chef Samuelsson came closest in my estimation, and his bite-sized pork sandwich was breathtakingly tasty. However, he once again took the risk of producing more dishes than he had been asked. Although his skill saw him through this time, he was warned in no uncertain terms that this trend of oversupplying food would begin to annoy the judges sooner rather than later.

In the middle of the pack were Chefs Falkner, MacMillan, Hughes and Burrell. All of them produced one dish that wowed us, as well as one that underwhelmed. They would all survive to cook another day, but would certainly need to up their game if they wanted to progress in the competition.

charimans challenge group shot

That left Chefs Chiarello, Zakarian and Irvine staring into the abyss of the Secret Ingredient Showdown. I marked Chef Zakarian down for simply ignoring the Chairman’s Challenge. But, I had to agree with my two colleagues that ballpark food or not, his dishes tasted astonishingly good. He definitely needed admonishing, but we could not send him home just yet.

So it was that Chef Chiarello and Chef Irvine stood in front of Alton Brown waiting to hear what ingredient stood between them and elimination. I am pretty certain that I could hear some choice Italian swear words when Mr. B announced that they would have to prepare one dish with peanuts to stay in the competition.

As Chef Chiarello declared, both chefs “went at it like warriors” and, as the judges suspected, both prepared dishes that showed their immense creativity and skill to full effect. Chef Irvine definitely used peanuts imaginatively in his dish and also served up a perfectly cooked piece of halibut. He was, however, marked down for presenting his fish on top of a slightly sludgy peanut hummus. Chef Chiarello stayed true to his Italian heritage, replacing pine nuts with peanuts in the terrific pesto that topped his fettuccini.

Robert IrvineIt was a brave move, as indeed was attempting to make pasta in 30 minutes. The skill of the two combined was just enough to push him over the edge to safety, which meant that Robert Irvine was the second chef this season to hear the dreaded words of elimination from Alton.

Chef Irvine is a great guy and a great chef, but as he found out, once the Chairman gets involved, some tasks really are impossible. Even for him.

More behind-the-scenes extras from Super Chefs, episode 2:

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Comments (344)

  1. former iron chef fan says:

    FN had NO BUSINESS putting Symon on as a judge. It's obvious from the starting gate that Symon was headiIng towards throwing Chef Irvine out of the competition. Then Geoffry made a "brunch" ballpark meal instead of ballpark fare? And Symone gave him a WARNING? He should have been fired for not following the rules. Then Chef Robert loses to a guy who makes pasta for a lving, and makes one dish of pasta sprinkled with peanuts, and Robert makes THREE peanut dishes?

    Thanks to you producers I now officially CAN'T STAND Symon. He is low class, bald, and a crass sweathog.

    Please give Chef Irvine an invitation as a wild card. And GET SYMON OUT OF THERE! If you keep Symon as judge, you may as well get two monkeys and give them BIG BUTTONS TO PUSH. THEN SYMON CAN PUT A BANANA ON THE BUTTON HE WANTS THEM TO PUSH TO VOTE FOR THE NEXT IRON CHEF.

    • AndreaF says:

      We know there is at least one monkey up there… Whichever judge let Simple Symon sway their vote! Idiots, both. Especially Simple Symon.

  2. former Iron Chef fan says:

    This goes to show me that even you idiots that produce Food Network Shows can't kill the Golden Goose YET!. But don't worry, there are other cooking channels coming, and I HOPE CHEF IRVINE GOES OFF TO ONE OF THEM WHERE HE'LL BE TREATED WITH RESPECT. Then you can have your bald sweaty Symon to host some show on Iron Chef Biker America and who can make the best Oscar Mayer Weiners, for all the WEINERS RUNNING FOOD NETWORK.

  3. Tom says:

    More and more, I am coming to believe that this show is scripted by the producers to have who they want to win, do so.

    Two seasons ago, I picked Nate Appleman to win the competition. While we the viewers can't taste the food, we can still judge the factors of originality in the use of the secret ingredient, and plating. In addition it is not difficult to recognize superior technique. Yet Appleman was suddenly eliminated over an Indian dish, after leading the rest of that episode.I absolutely couldn't understand it. My opinion of him was vindicated he won the Chop Celebrity Grand Championship.

    This whole concept of how Iron Chefs are chosen is ridiculous to me. It should be full Kitchen Stadium Battles, where the winner of a first round then moves on and so on. The judges should be the most experienced from the past Iron Chef seasons.

  4. jeri says:

    I posted on another blog about how to find a poll I somehow came across. It was about RI being unfairly being ousted and if he deserved another cook off. I don't know where this poll is or how to find it again. Can anyone out there help? Thanks.

  5. Renee says:

    Seems like I'm in good company. I was stunned to see Chef Robert go for the same reasons listed in so many other posts. I think a review is in order – Chef Robert followed the rules to the letter while others did not. Chef Robert is classy, talented and should return to cook another day. Probably won't watch Iron Chef any more – Chopped is alot more fun and fair and Restaurant: Impossible has CHEF ROBERT!

  6. vote_on_judges says:

    I really appreciate the consistently fair judging on "Chopped" even if I don't always agree with their outcome. Those judges seem open and fair and willing to listen to each other's input for decision-making. However, on the "New Iron Chef" competition, Episode Two, like many others I was suprised, then cynical, about the outcome. The Iron Chef judges did not perform at the level of the Chopped judges' professionalism. Perhaps the three judges should go back and simply watch their performances on the episode again, listen to what they themselves said (pro and con) for every contestent, in light of what they say they want from the chefs. What the audience was shown was loaded with inconsistencies on the judges' part–ie, at least one chef at the stadium received more negative and virtually no positive comments yet was not even forced to the cook-off, and one judge threw his weight around in the cook-off judging to bring an undeserved victory to the pasta-making chef.

    • vote_on_judges says:

      And….how inappropriate, with the pasta chef standing there, when another judge questions something about it, the chef doesn't even have to answer his question, but the other judge defends him immediately. Oh, please. All the hoopla of advertising claims the Iron Chefs have to prove themselves more than any other competition. Apparently the judging is biased and political, like everything else these days. It's pretty clear that the majority of the audience have voted on the judges and made their own different decision. Now, the competition is tainted and if I were one of the remaining contestants might feel that this competition is not really a true test, unless a remedy is undertaken. I doubt I'll watch the rest of it. Chopped is better than Iron Chef.

  7. vote_on_judges says:

    How inappropriate, with the pasta chef standing there, when another judge questions something about it, the chef doesn't even have to answer his question, but the other judge defends him immediately. Oh, please. All the hoopla of advertising claims the Iron Chefs have to prove themselves more than any other competition. Apparently the judging is biased and political, like everything else these days. It's pretty clear that the majority of the audience have voted on the judges and made their own different decision. Now, the competition is tainted and if I were one of the remaining contestants might feel that this competition is not really a true test, unless a remedy is undertaken. I doubt I'll watch the rest of it. Chopped is better than Iron Chef.

  8. esanderson says:

    If any contestant is not going to follow the rules of the competition, that contestant should not be allowed to continue to compete in the competition. The two chefs who should have been competing in the secret ingredient cook-off should have been Chef Zakarian and Chef Samuelsson. Chef Zakarian did not follow the rules of the Chairman's competition, and Chef Samuelsson was told not to make more than one dish the first week when he was in the bottom two. Chef Irvine got cheated because he infused peanuts throughout his dish; whereas, Chef Chiarello dish only had peanuts on top of a pasta dish.

  9. Food Lover says:

    I watched the show and it was obvious that chef Symon had a problem with Robert Irvine. The judging is also inconsistent and bias. How can one chef who totally ignored and broke the rules remain? Very dissapointed! Why do a show if its going to be bias and based on personal preference instead of skill?
    Chef Symon learn to put ur persnal feelings aside and remember you ar not perfect.

    Can't watch this show if it continues this way.

    • Guest says:

      Agree completely with your post and esanderson's !…Can not believe that Chef Geoffry can completely break the rules and can continue. Same for Chef Samuelsson. They should have beent the bottom two. So yes, Chef Chiarello did his "peanut pesto", but really Chef Irvine used his ingredient in such a clever and creative way in his dishes. Very dissapointed in seeing people get cheated!!

  10. AndreaF says:

    Regarding Alton Brown and his "bad" or "smug" attitude, I think that maybe he was reacting to the bad judging done by the relatively simple-minded swaying whomever decided to judge the way Symon wanted: For Chiarello. He did emphasize the fact that it was not unanimous and did mention how close it was, quite often. To me, it seemed like he was being sarcastic in reaction to what he thought was a stupid decision made by the "judges".

    When he gave his speech at the end of the show, *I* took it to mean that he disagreed with the cutting of Irvine and was mocking the fact that a great chef had been cut because of "slightly thick" hummus, as if he couldn't believe it. I may be way off base, but that is how I read the situation… because it WAS ridiculous and asinine.

    • JLF says:

      Well before the judges table Alton was disrepectfully rude and scolding to Michael Ciaarello. I know the whole raw egg issue has people divided, but for the Robert fans in the group, what if Alton had scolded him in the same way he scolded Michael. Would you still think Alton's behavior was appropriate? When a competitor makes a mistake, the JUDGES need to call him out on it and let the scoring reflect the consequences. But professional to professional, you don't scold the chef like a mere student in front of his peers. In my line of work, I would be appalled to see a colleague taken down in public even if there had been a mistake made.

      • AndreaF says:

        Or, maybe through the editing we weren't able to see whether Chiarello was being a pompous ass (as he is clearly capable of being) before hand, and Alton was taking him down a peg. My Egg Opinion is: if you're going to serve it, do so correctly or get cut. I understand what you're saying, but I think that this show elevates the roles of Alton and the judges into a position "over" the contestants instead of them being colleagues for the sake of authenticity. Or whatever… I do NOT agree with that aspect of the show either. If that were the case, they should have had Puck, Batali, or people of that caliber as judges.

        Really, though, like I said, my comment was based purely on how I took Alton's reaction to Irvine being cut. :)

    • AndreaF says:

      Or, maybe through the editing we weren't able to see whether Chiarello was being a pompous ass (as he is clearly capable of being) before hand, and Alton was taking him down a peg. My Egg Opinion is: if you're going to serve it, do so correctly or get cut. I understand what you're saying, but I think that this show elevates the roles of Alton and the judges into a position "over" the contestants instead of them being colleagues for the sake of authenticity. Or whatever… I do NOT agree with that aspect of the show either. If that were the case, they should have had Puck, Batali, or people of that caliber as judges.

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