New York State of Mind on The Next Iron Chef — Critical Moments

by in Shows, November 28th, 2011

Anne Burrell and the judges

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.

There was a tangible change in atmosphere as we entered the second half of the competition.

In part, it was because our location moved from laid-back Los Angeles to the electrifying buzz of New York City. Four of the remaining chefs call this amazing city home, while the two others were obviously determined to represent their West Coast towns. Where once there had been jollity and camaraderie, now there was tension and nerves set on edge. One mistake, one poor dish or one unwise choice in presentation, and the chance of a lifetime could be over.

If you are going to prove you can cook on a grand scale, where better to do so than in Grand Central Station, one of the most beautiful buildings in New York? This time, the three regular judges were joined by restaurateur Charlie Palmer and the winner of NIC Season Three, Iron Chef Marc Forgione. Their role was to add sage words to our own comments about the dishes presented by each chef in response to the Chairman’s request to prove themselves as great storytellers. It may seem like an odd task for a cook, but the current Iron Chefs will tell you that many battles have been won or lost based on how the dishes have been presented to judges in Kitchen Stadium.

In case any of you are wondering, “bloody gorgeous” is a technical term used in the UK for something so good you want to marry it and take it home to meet your mother. Chef Burrell’s dish was just that, “bloody gorgeous.” She was really coming out of her shell as the competition progressed and, while some judges questioned the fact that she did not use squab rather than Cornish game hens to tell her tale of Central Park, she told it with such gusto that she definitely earned her first win of the competition.

Chef Chiarello

Chef Chiarello also tells a great story. This time he wove a swirling yarn that took us from Ancient Rome, via Britain, to New York City. It gave him all the excuses he needed to include rabbit and barley in an unlikely story about the Statue of Liberty. If we had not cut him off mid-flow, Chef Chiarello would probably still be talking. Fortunately for him, his dish was good enough that he survived to cook another day.

Chef Zakarian had been challenged earlier in the competition for not playing by the rules. It had almost cost him dearly then, and it almost did now as he offered up a tenuous link between French-style scrambled eggs and Times Square. It would have been easy to cast him in the Secret Ingredient Showdown if it had not been for one indisputable fact: his cooking was, quite simply, breathtaking.

Chef Guarnaschelli produced a dish that was, to me at least, easily her worst of the competition to date. Her main ingredient of pork was chewy, her potatoes lacked texture and, while the scents emanating from a bag of bread and roasted peanut shells were certainly evocative of New York City, they detracted from rather than enhanced the dish as a whole.

Chef Samuelsson and Chef Falkner

There was little argument that Chef Samuelsson should take one of the places in the bottom two. His dish was as confused as his story and while both smoked salmon and Wagyu beef were perfectly executed, we all felt that they did not belong on the same plate.

It was interesting to find out that Chef Falkner was down in the mix as well. I really liked her German-inspired dish and had fewer problems than my colleagues did with her linear plating. Their argument, that her story and the way she told it was the weakest of the lot, was a strong one, however, and proved just enough to subject her to a battle that, by the look on her face, she had clearly never expected to be fighting.

Few foods sum up New York City more than the bagel, so the judges were not terribly surprised when we found out that it was the ingredient of choice for the final showdown. Nonetheless, we were hoping that two such creative chefs could take the humble item to some new and unexpected levels. Although there was heated debate once more on whose use of the single ingredient was most effective, we were not disappointed.

I have to hold my hand up and say that my days of being impressed by “funny” flavored ice cream ended about the same time as did my 20s, and I felt this counted against Chef Falkner’s otherwise impressive dish. Chef Samuelsson’s effort was, to my mind, technically far more accomplished than that of his rival and easily his most focused dish of the competition. There were, however, arguments that his use of the main ingredient was less creative than Chef Falkner’s. We could have argued all day, but we had to make a decision. We marked our ballots and passed them back to Alton Brown.

The shell-shocked look on Chef Samuelsson’s face as Alton announced, “I am sorry, but you will not be The Next Iron Chef,” tells you just how close a decision this was.

And then there were five.

More behind-the-scenes extras from Super Chefs, episode 5:

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Comments (408)

  1. Entitled 2 myopinion says:

    I hope to see the two snarkey boys start to get eliminated tonight. They both act like spoiled brats that are too good to be on the show. Disappear already!!!

  2. BabyDaddy says:

    Chiarello has got to go!! Rude! Arrogant!

  3. Jackie W says:

    Sadly, the female judge Judy Joo seems to be heavily swayed by Michael Symon. It was obvious in the Robert Irvine elimination episode that she changed her vote. Onscreen she loved his dish… suddenly there was a 2 out of 3 vote ("not unanimous") against him. Too bad that the only woman is so OBVIOUSLY influenced by this jerk, Michael Symon. He has an agenda…

    Is anybody at Feood Network actually reading these blogs? So many people have commented on Symon's bullying, unfairness, partiality, hidden agenda, etc. Evidently no one at the Food Network is bothering to take note. They are doing nothing to make the judging more fair.

    And Geoffrey Z should be spanked.

    • sherry says:

      That female judge is a little dense and she seems to have a huge crush on Chef Faulkner…well everything she prepares give her(Judy) a food orgasm ( her own words, said more than once)hummm.

      • AllAboutFacts says:

        Your comment seems a bit dense, on what basis do you make your comment about Chef Judy Joo, who is most likely than not, more intelligent, educated and cultured than you'll ever be in your entire life? Your idea of haute cuisine (if you know what that means) is probably The Sizzler or Chevy's. Go pick on someone in your own league, like the person on the street corner, with a sign, picking their nose.

        And "hummmm", wth is that supposed to represent, a ponderous moment, as in hmmm?

        • Food4U says:

          Wow! You certainly have your shorts in a bunch. Your comments to this poster are rather disgusting. You could make you point better by tempering your disdain for those with whom you disagree. It's time to take a Chill Pill.

  4. jeri says:

    Hey JLF, do you have your chocolate ready to pass out? I do, sure would be nice if nobody needed any!

    • sherry says:

      Please… KEEP YOUR Chocolate, nobody wants or needs it. People are dying very day with real life problems, this is just a stupid RIGGED game, not REAL life as potrayed. Besides if we partake in chocolate…we may become to DULL to read thro your line.

      • JLF says:

        Sherry, it was an attempt at a light hearted joke towards another posting almost a week ago. Things seemed to be getting too heavy so a touch of levity seemed in order. If it missed the mark with you, so be it. Is there anything that will disarm this war of words where being angry and mean is the norm?

        • jeri says:

          SORRY to Sherry. Wasn't ment to cause hate, seems to be enough out there already! Thanks for sticking up for me JLF. Maybe it's the seasonal thing, you know less daylight, holidays? If we had an answer we'd by rich. Thanks!

  5. Cheryl says:

    watching episode 6 – chef burrel already got an advantage to judge the others – since she won last week! amazing (sigh), will see how it goes

  6. Cheryl says:

    She is gone!!! SHE IS GONE!! fellow bloggers – let us keep bloggng. Burrell did not win!

    • jeri says:

      Now the score is 2 males, 2 females!

    • Denise says:

      NO SURPRISE THERE. PLEASE IT IS SO OBVISIOUS AND HAVE BEEN FOR A WHILE THAT CHEF SYMON IS NOT GOING TO LET CHEF ZAK GO,

    • sherry says:

      Well i dont see the others that are left as ANY better than Chef Burrell. In fact the one in particular is Chef Guarnaschelle, and she's so rude. She said Ann Burrell pulled out her sword and then she fell on it. She didn't even want to do that job, but she did and told the truth, which is what was asked of her.But to each his own, right…right.

    • hashem97 says:

      She was the most "real" of all of them. Sad she'brenda.eldredge97@gmail.coms gone!

    • Lendrixson says:

      THANK THE HEAVENS SHE IS GONE!!!!

    • Gale says:

      Quit gloating. She did it to herself by picking Geoffrey to go to the show down.
      Had she picked Falkner, I predict things would have gone differently and we wouldn't have to put up
      with stone face any longer.
      Anne, keep smiling. You're still numero uno in our books.
      Hope that sometime in the very near future the chairman comes up with some challenge that will prevent Flakner from making some form of pastry. That's the only thing been saving her. They need to bring Robert Irvine back so he can do like he does on Resturant Impossible, grab her and throw her out the door.

  7. devi says:

    I'm done. Couldn't say anything about it? Didn't they say why didn't he give them something that allowed them to pour the sauce in instead of family size serving bowls? Anne, you are the greatest. I haven't really been watching Iron Chef since they booted Mario, since he and Morimoto were the best, and now I'm done with NIC and Iron Chef. I hope they all sleep well, and if I ever get any money, I'll buy your book, Anne.

    • Lendrixson says:

      Anne is gone for good reason. She is a less talented chef than the others. In addition to that, she is a rude, arrogant person. I really dislike the way she talks down to the other chefs. Like her quote about Faulkner tonight. "When is she going to make some real food?" Come on. Faulkner has been outstanding since the beginning, while Anne has fluctuated and been very inconsistent. I am thrilled that she is gone!!

  8. mi Cucina says:

    I am really surpised that Alex G is still n the show. It bogles the mind that Irvine and Samuelson are gone and she is still there especially after serving a warm bag and french fries. Like the other posters here, every week I believe that this is fixed.

    • FanFare57 says:

      Alex continues to suck and stay. It was SO obvious that Michael Symon wanted Geoffrey to win. Judge Judy fawns over Elizabeth so much that I expect her to send mash notes. Poor Judge Simon M. states his opinion eloquently and then is ignored. What a pitiful position to see week after week. I'll miss Anne and her vibrant personality.

    • Kathy3427 says:

      yes, I believe the show to be "fixed" ever since they got rid of Robert Irvine against Zakarian when Zakarien did not even follow the rules. I love how they made a joke about it! Now Jeffery, you are a bad boy…

    • simple1234 says:

      I like her but she gets to easily frazzled.

      Why do you have to add you name and email address to every comment?

  9. jeri says:

    Sorry I have to miss the mad post rush, but I have to go to work. Hope to catch up when I get off. Happy posting to all ! See me or JLF for chocolate (lol)!!!!!!

  10. allegrachandler says:

    Why don't they just stop this farce of a competition and crown Zakarian the Iron Chef? It's clear that he's the chosen one since week after week, in spite of his being in the bottom, they find a reason to save him. It's laughable at this point. The two chefs that had the talent and personality to add a spark to Iron Chef…Irvine and Burrell are gone and the 4 left are varying degrees of insufferable. So..crown Zakarian stop wasting our time on this BS and I'll stop wasting my time with this competition and the show as a whole.

    • Lendrixson says:

      Thanks to the Judges for making the right choice! I think that Zakarian has consistently offered quality dishes from week to week. Anne was all over the place. Not to mention the fact that she is arrogant, and rude to her fellow competitors. Chef Faulkner, for example has been outstanding, and Anne had the arrogance to say "When is she going to make some real food?" If Anne had won tonight I would have stopped watching food network. It is about skill and Anne has less skill than Zakarian or any of the remaining 4. I'm so thrilled she is GONE!!!
      I think that the two chefs who have been cheated in this competition are Hughes and Irvine. The weeks they were eliminated it should have been Samuelson who lost. He was in the bottom 3 every week it seemed until he was finally eliminated. CONSISTENCY SHOULD MATTER! They should be judged on their overall performance since the beginning, because that is what an Iron Chef is all about. The total package.

      • FanFare57 says:

        Meanwhile, Alex has been consistently bad each week. Yet, she's allowed to play another day.
        Geoffrey would be the worst choice because he just cranks out the same time of food and has zero innovation.

      • Ivy Lucas says:

        Lendixson, are you living on another planet ? Hey, Faukner is a good chef.. they got rid of another chef to make room for Alex… Do you think GZ will beat out Alex ? they are 2 of the worst in this competition… Whats the point of watching, I will watch something else on Sunday go to sleep with Wish I did n't have so much anticipation to be home to watch…I feel like crying … I've been duped again……..IFL

    • Dee says:

      This assessment is spot on… Chefs Burrell and Irvine were clear favorites from the beginning, not because of their personalities, but because of their natural inclinations toward the demands of an Iron Chef. When Chef Irvine was dismissed, we were able to cope because one comparable chef remained… tonight was a completely inexcuseable mis-step by the judges. NO ONE deserved the title "Iron Chef" more than Chef Burrell, considering her talent and creativity as a chef, and more importantly, her unmatched experience in Iron Chef competitions. As a straight A student of the immortal Mario Batali, Chef Burrell's track record and her performance in The Next Iron Chef Super Chefs competition made her the only logical choice for such a prestigious position among Food Network echelon. I say shame on a panel of judges who knew who the real talent in front of them was, but who made the wrong decision for the sake of FN politics.

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