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. rob says:

    Wow Italian chef makes pasta and replaces pine nuts with peanuts. And Michael Symon thinks this is bold????? I'll put in language that even someone from Cleveland can understand, F U!
    You really dropped in my eyes, I shall not watch another episode of Iron Chef America which features you!

    • 1Dishy says:

      Thank you rob. I agree with you. I'm far from being an Iron Chef, but I know how to make pesto. And if I don't have pine nuts, I would substitute whatever I have in my pantry–like peanuts.

  2. CLFord says:

    Wow. I saw the last two episodes online and after seeing episode 2, I thought I was going to cry. Then I thought I would write a comment about how the judging was clearly biased and just awful. However, now that I am here, it seems that there are many others who feel equally about the episode. After having watched episode 3, I feel even more validated about Iron Chef Symon's desire to have Chef Chiarello stay in the competition. It may be a flaw in the editing, but it has definitely turned alot of loyal viewers from the program which is not something the Food Network would be interested in seeing. It will be interesting to see how the Food Network handles all of these comments. If they choose to do nothing, then it shows that Food Network has little to no loyalty to its fan base.

  3. kobalet says:

    I truly miss Chef Irving! It would be awesome to see him back
    I hope he does Worst Cooks in America

  4. Sarah Putnam says:

    I thought Irvine was the best choice for NIC because he can work under the pressure of Kitchen Stadium. Someone should sabotage Chef Chiarello's next dish to show the negative effects of biased judging and peanut-lacking dishes!

  5. janine says:

    Food Network – you lost me as a regular viewer when you chose to allow Bobbly Flay's grumbling over Chef Wolgang Puck taking a competitor (for next food network star), back inside to show her how to make risotto. When he uttered "Jesus Christ", and you chose to let it play over the air, instead of bleeping it out, I realized thatyou could care less if it offended any of your Catholic or Christian viewers.
    Now, Food Network, it appears you have lost all credibility with many of your viewers for what was done to Chef Irvine. Why don't you really read the comments, and act accordingly, if you have the courage to do so. But I don't think you really care. Even though, it appears now that many others, will no longer watch your network. This series is completely and ridiculously biased. What you allowed to be done to Chef Irvine is a travesty.

  6. ginny says:

    Thought it was very strange and unusual that Alton Brown would make such a strong statement "If you don't know how to cook an egg……" . Is there some bad blood between them?

  7. guest says:

    Went there last week. My house salad was greens a cherry tomato cut in half and one cucumber slice. The beer was warm and had to wait forever for refills. Dinner was ok, they seemed to be out of a lot, including scallop dinner and some desserts. In the end, I dont think I will be going back.

    • Lizzieslusciousbite says:

      I was also shock to see Irvine cut….he was the clear winner…that other chef did not stretch himself but he will not become the next iron chef because i am sure that this will come down to the battles between the girls only because needs a new female iron chef. Period!…so hold ur head up high guys..ur just there for show.

  8. Pete LaMaster says:

    FWIW, I was there and there were plenty of bugs stuck to all of the walls. It was not a frame job. I cleaned the light fixtures for over an hour – with solvent.

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