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. Wannabe says:

    YIKES!!! I am REALLY suprised about Anne getting cut!!! I am starting to lean towards Zakarian as next IC. Don't think Alex has the chops or Chiarello has the personality. Faulkner is turning into a real B***h. Sorry Anne…..you will be missed.

    • Gale says:

      Turning into???? Way I see it she started the whole competition with a big A– chip on her shoulder.

      • Wannabe says:

        Your right…..she was a B***h from the start. She acts as if everyone is against her because she is "just" a pastry chef and plays victim. I would not and could not watch her. I say Anne was right……when is she going to make some real food??

  2. peprmt66 says:

    OK im totally disgusted with this show that they knocked Anne burrel off, she deserved to go be able to go on.. this show is so fixed.. i wont be watching this again.. Anne we love you.. you deserved to win… you rock..

  3. Alberta Dugo says:

    I can't believe Ann Burrelli was eliminated tonight..I am very disappointed , I think she is iron chief material over most of the other chiefs. I think Michael S. favors Zakarian. I am surprised that Alex is still in the running, she has offered nothing great .

    • FanFare57 says:

      i agree with you completely. Geoffrey made a souffle in his Chopped Champ bid too. He 's an old dog with no new tricks. Judge Simon M. favored Anne's dessert. Once again, Michael Symon over ruled him. I'm not surprised by this result. I'm also not pleased with it. As for Alex G: she slipped through the crack by the hair of her chinny, chin chin. Then she mocked Anne with her "falling on her own sword" comment. What an ass. I truly can't wait for her to get the hook.

    • Ivy Lucas says:

      This is the last Sunday night I will waste watching the show….Anne B. has most votes…31 o/o …. the judges are in someone pocket… I will watch the blogs because people like me care. The sponsor's should be aware that people are displeased, It is clear that Alex, will be the winner…so be it …but if she is ICA I will never watch that program if she is on…She is rude & arrogant and can not work under pressure. I am sooooo disappointed, I could cry IFL

  4. drednm says:

    Zakarian had 2 negative comments. Burrell had no negative comments and lost. GIMME A BREAK

  5. littleg says:

    Ohhh no, Hated how this all shook out, Chef Falkner is a real arrogant pain, if she wins I will have to find a way to cure my addiction to Iron Chef

  6. debabramczyk says:

    Sad that they let him stay with the same type of dish he made on Chopped… so old fashioned…

  7. hashem97 says:

    What is sad to me is that I actually sit and watch these ridiculous competitions! My husband refuses to watch since way back on one of the orginal Iron Chefs one of the judges said, Yes, I can taste the energy of the earth where this was grown." He was talking about cabbage. Good grief, give me a break. Who says that?

  8. Mondan75 says:

    Zakarian, Alex, and Chiarello…….MUST GO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Why is Chef Zakarian still in this competition when he continues to receive negative comments, and then don't follow rules. Maybe he and Alex will think twice when judging on Chopped….not. The Arrogant's and Attitudes must go!!!!!!!! It was fun, but with Irvine, Beau, Anne, and Sam gone, it is no longer interesting. Hope Faulkner beats them all!!!!

    • Gale says:

      Are we watching the same program?
      In my humble opinion when it comes to attitude and arrogance, Falkner seems to think something of her's don't stink.
      She made a comment in tonight's promo that "Nobody wants to see her really mad" I'm just hoping to see her totally P—– when she gets eliminated. May the force be with the other 3

      • JLF says:

        I had never considered Elizabeth especially arrogant until tonite when she stated that she IS the next Iron Chef – "written in stone". That kind of statement sets you up for a big fall. My hopes are now on either Alex or Geoffery.

  9. Simple1234 says:

    I thought Iron Chef Burrelli (in my opinion) was more creative with her dish than Chef Zakarian. How creative was Zakarian's dish???????? FUrthermore, if we grade them on this episode alone there wasn't any negative remarks about Chef Burrelli's dish and only a slight negative remark on Zakarian dish. If the difference between the judges is slight than it seemsto me that Chef Zakarian should have lost. RIGHT? I do believe that the Panel Judges favor Chef Zakarian. Hell who are we kidding Iron Chef is dominated by Men.

  10. Cheryl says:

    It appears thtat they are all rude or arrogant in some way – though i did not pick up on that vibe with samuelsson or mcmillan.

    so it comes down to real talent – and i bet on zakarian – if this show is not rigged. honestly, falkner should have been voted off a long time ago – especially last week with samuelsson. maybe they keep doing sweet things to play to her strength. don't know how one can be an iron chef and only make sweets. so it is zakarian for me. alex is talented – but seemingly not consistent enough. the lady judge – joo – needs to get over her infatuation with falkner. tonight she said falkner was "hot" and "on fire". so embarassing – sigh

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