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. nick prodab says:

    the judges chopped the wrong chef last sunday. and i only one i respect. and care what altom drown and simon and afew chef on the show lot of the iron. chef

  2. AndreaF says:

    I agree with the thought that there will be a female IC, but I'm now wondering about the show itself and have two ideas:
    1) They already knew who they wanted to be the next IC and asked chefs to participate who would be happy to help that chef win -or-
    2) Most of the chefs are already FN moneymakers, so they needed to create a new "star" by doing this "super chef" competition, and will eliminate the current stars methodically. Clearly the newest Iron Chef is not contributing well enough and they need someone to pick up the slack.

    The above is just speculation, but I DO believe that Food Network is a corporation interested in ratings and the almighty dollar, and that every show is designed to make the highest ratings and dollars possible.

  3. fallon says:

    When the Next Iron Chef competition started, it appeared that the network was looking to hire a female. The female selected seem to be Alex Guarnaschelli, but after watching the outdoor Whole Succulent Pig Episode, she did not outshine her competitors enough to warrant being the next Iron chief a Cat Cora she is not. After stating what seemed obvious, Symon used his influence as a judge to settle a personal score he has with Irving in the cook off competition. As so many stated Geoffrey Zakarian did not follow the rules for that reason, he should have been in the cook off with Chiarello. Irving received a complimented by not playing it safe, which someone stated he could have made fish and chips. However, it was ok for Chiarello to play it safe by making pasta, and Symon saying you would have to go to Italy to get pasta this good was foolish, Chiarello is an Italian chief making pasta in thirty minutes is his specialty. The network should remove Symon as a judge he lost all creditability by letting his personal feelings for Irving to sway the other judges opinions in the cook off competition.

  4. Saddened says:

    I've watched Food Network devotedly for years and I've never, ever witnessed a travesty like this one. These should not even have been a cook off.

    Chiarello's second competition was a half-effort. Pesto and a regular italian salad. He didn't even plate it well: a dish of slop compared to Robert Irvine's carefully and beautifully plated effort, exquisite flavors, and so much more elan. Either this was a complete fix in from the beginning, or it was vindictive. Either way, something has changed for me. Charello's effort simply and completely did not match up. Slop on a plate vs. an exquisitely wrought dish.

    This has damaged Food Network as a brand for me. After years and years of enjoying the shows. Who agreed with Symon? Who did he strong arm? Or was it just a fix all along?. Frankly, I can't wait to go try Chef Irvine's food (along with most of the others). But Chef Chiarello? If that was what he produced for Iron Chef judges, I will never visit his restaurant. It was embarassing. Food Network's saddest day.

    • Patti says:

      I so-o-o agree with you. It appears to be "fixed". Robert Irvine is a huge star that can most likely cook circles around most of the rest of contestants. I was so terribly disappointed by the judges that I don't think I can watch any more of it. Still, Chef Irvine is a winner in my book. Now he can focus on what he does best – helping real people around the country to get a second chance at making their restaurants successful. He touches lives in a far more amazing way than just a great, tasteful dish!

    • ChefDanO says:

      Well stated I could not agree more with your post. I used to like Iron Chef show but with the disgraceful removal of a Chef Irvine the shows ratings will also go down . Maybe than they will get judges that really no cooking. Michael Symon is not that good and it was quite evident that he had it in for Irvine. He was out numbered but bullied the other 2 judges. I hope food network reads this posts.

    • NVDJ says:

      You took the words out of my mouth "Something has changed in the way I view Food Network any longer" Very Sad . Where are the REAL Judges like Bobby Flay, Masaharu Morimoto,& Mario Batali.These are the REAL Iron Chefs and they should be judging this competition ! I have never considered Michael Symon,or Marc Forgione to be real Iron Chefs .Kinda funny no one at Food Network has responded to any of these comments .I would have loved to have watched Robert Irvine compete in Kitchen Stadium as the Next Iron Chef .It has lost some appeal for me unless one of the REAL Iron Chefs are on it.I just tune to something else when they aren't .Robert would have added to the show and made it worth watching again !

  5. vans346 says:

    Chef Irvine got shafted once again. He does what a true Iron chef would do and uses peanuts 3 different ways. Zakarian should have been out or in the bottom 2 for NOT following directions. I don't know what Symons problem whith Chef Irvine is but it's obvious he has one. Bring in Cat and drop Symon.

    • ChefDanO says:

      Yes the Judges got it wrong and especially Symon who bullied the other judges to remove Irvine . The other Chef made paste & peanuts what a joke! Symon should be removed from judging any further competitons.

  6. Robbin says:

    Just really disappointed that Chef Robert was eliminated. Obviously couldn't taste the food, but it didn't seem quite right. It should not have been one of the first two to be eliminated. Also, the judges that were chosed for this competition do not stand up to the caliber of chefs these are… I will continue to watch because I like the other chefs too, but it was sad to see this occur – inconsistencies in judging.

  7. ChefDanO says:

    I have read the comments and what else is there to say other than Robert Irvine should be the next Iron Chef but when you have a biased judge as Michael Symon twisting the arms of the other weak judges and controlling the outcome of the competition it is time to shut off the TV. I have 2 brothers that graduated CIA and we all know that Irvine should have advanced in the competition. Absolutely disgusting.

  8. msanch says:

    Chef Irvine won regardless of the judges poor decision and the Next Iron Chef show lost! Robert Irvine rocked with his grace and humility! I don't think I'll be watching this show again….What a poor decision.

  9. kari says:

    Wow….what a shocker. First, Chef Zakarian should have been in the cookoff. He negated the rules completely. Why was he not in the cookoff????? Because he's been a dedicated chopped judge??? Politics, you think? Second, Chiarello used the secret ingredient in only 1 of his 2 dishes….Chef Irvine used it 3 ways in 3 dishes. Irvine loses because his PEANUT hummus is " A LITTLE" thick????? At least he used the freaken peanuts, you guys and gal???!!!! Clearly the show already has chosen their Iron Chef so I won't be watching any more episodes.

    In summary of this episode: If you don't follow the rules, you're ok. If you don't use the ingredient in all the courses, you're ok.

    YET, in the IRON CHEF series, you MUST FOLLOW THE RULES AND USE THE SECRET INGREDIENT IN ALL COURSES….. THIS IS B.S….. Chef Irvine, you may not be the next Iron Chef, but your sure are a PLATINUM CHEF!!!

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