Chef Alex to the Rescue — The Next Iron Chef: Super Chefs Finale

by in Shows, December 19th, 2011

I have to say, if you’re not going to win a competition show, being recruited to help cook by the last two standing is a pretty decent consolation prize. As was true for the entire duration of this series, I learned a lot on that day. Elizabeth and Geoffrey have very different styles of cooking and very different work methods. The hardest part? Going out to sit in the audience with my fellow competitors and knowing that I was soon going to have to join each team for 15 minutes. Wow. That’s like joining Gene Kelly in the middle of one of his tap-dancing routines without rehearsal. That Chairman doesn’t know when to quit, does he?

I started out on Team Geoffrey. After years of working together on Chopped, I know that we share a great love of French food and impulsive cooking. Geoffrey seemed as if he hadn’t completely decided what he was making and in his shoes, I would have been in the same position. “Take the cranberries the Chairman just gave us, the rice and sake and make me risotto as one of the dishes,” he shouted above the din of the kitchen noise. Make an entire dish? For him to serve to the Iron Chefs? I cooked some onions and butter in some sake and added the arborio rice. I stirred the rice, added some more sake, a sprinkle of sugar and a pat of butter and let the mixture simmer. Separately, I cooked the cranberries until tender with some spices (not too heavy) and set them aside for Team Geoffrey to reheat to their liking. The key to cooking food in a context like this is to get everything close to how you want it and perfect it at the last minute. The pressure was unreal. What if that ended up being the one dish the Iron Chefs didn’t like?

Just then the Chairman appeared again to open another gift and add more complexity to the situation. An ice cream machine my nemesis. Geoffrey turned to me and said, “Can you whip up an ice cream base?” Just then the buzzer rang. Time to head over to Team Falkner.

Team Falkner was more intense, more frenzied. I loved that the team was all women and the determination on their faces was so amazing to experience firsthand. I stood in the periphery while Elizabeth frantically read me a list of little items to prep for her. Make whipped cream, ganache, chop herbs, section citrus and shave fennel. I wasn’t assembling any one dish like I did for Geoffrey, but I helped her clean up some of the details of her dishes. I grabbed everything I needed and just blindly tried to plow through the list. I felt like her menu was so ambitious, who knew if she would finish in time? And, to be honest, if I were in her shoes, I would have been in the same position. I heard Beau Mac cheering and Chuck laughing and the rest was a blur. I finished the tasks just as the buzzer rang again and returned to my seat in the audience. I was breathless and invigorated.



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Comments (52)

  1. LyndaS says:

    Dear Alex, You saved the day! It seemed like a compliment that both chefs thought of recruiting you. I liked how Geoffrey gave you ownership of an entire dish. He seemed to have great faith in your abilities. The risotto was his star dish. Conversely, Falkner treated you as if you were a culinary student (chop this, prep that). Her commands were dictatorial, not recognizing that you probably know what you're doing… You the jobs done, without fanfare. You can feel proud of that accomplishment.

  2. WestCoastFan says:

    Hey, even a sous chef is important in an IC kitchen. If a component isn't prepared and read for the final dish/plating the IC is up *hit creek! It might have seen minor to you but whatever Alex did for Chef Falkner was much appreciated. We only saw the herbs and ganache on the screen being made. We didn't see the cream being whipped or the sectioning of the clementines. Alex's own words stated that she loved the fact that it was an all woman team and that she thought the menu was ambitious. Whether that means she thought GZ wasn't is up to speculation.

  3. JimmyTkirk says:

    Alex, you handled it all with grace and style. I was hoping you would be the Next Iron Chef but the ball bounces funny sometimes.

  4. Chi Chi says:

    This was a great season of "The Next Iron Chef." All of the contestants were great. Previous seasons featured way too many chefs that had no talent an no name recognition. I thought from the outset that chef Alex or chef Zakarian would win because they are talented, but also because so many people from the New York City restaurant scene know them. Michael Symon was in a tough position because some many of the contestants were better chefs than he is. Alton Brown was egotistical and abrasive for the first two shows of the season but then righted himself for the rest of the season. The production values were high and the sets, on-scene challenges and kitchens were all well done.

  5. LindaS says:

    Alex, You, Chiarello and Zakarian were my favorites. I'm glad Zakarian won last night. and glad you did such a great job on the risotto. it speaks volumes that he trusted you with the entire dish.

  6. TellTailHeart says:

    Wow! What a surprise you got picked to help out the two NIC contestants. Is that why McMillan was rubbing your shoulders like you were a fighter ready to go into the ring? As to your attitude, shape up Alex, stop being a sycophant – a whiner – and act like the chef you can be so maybe they'll invite you back to compete again. This year, at least, I'm glad you lost – no one wants an Iron Chef crying into their beer batter – the tears make it too salty.

    • JM12 says:

      Since when does sycophant mean a whiner? I felt like Alex has been very real all throughout, and I appreciated her participation a lot. Would've been happy if she made it the whole way.

    • suki33 says:

      I agree that she was whiny. My opinion of her has diminished on the personal side. Yes, she can cook, but Iron Chefs need to take what is thrown at them and rise to a new level in meeting those challenges. I've never seen an Iron Chef growl "Get out of my way" the way that Alex did on more than one occasion in the challenges. I guess that's the difference in an Iron Chef and a sous chef.

    • FanFare57 says:

      TTH – Alex may have freaked out during the competition as a competitor, but she certainly was a professional when she was called upon to be a sous chef in the finale. She deserves credit for grace under pressure and being of great assistance when called upon, despite her crushing disappointment for being eliminated in the previous challenge.

    • emm says:

      Yikes, how mean spirited. I thought Alex brought humanity to the competition, as she does to Chopped

  7. JM12 says:

    WestCoastFan is right. If Alex herself isn't complaining about the tasks, why is anyone else? Alex joined Falkner's team much later in the hour, when Falkner presumably had her dishes mostly made. So it makes sense that her tasks would be different. I didn't see anything wrong w/how Falkner acted.

  8. Rebekah says:

    I don't like at all that Zakarian had Alex create an entire dish for 'him' to present to the judges as 'his own'. She said, "Suppose that had ended up being the dish they liked the least." The opposite of that is 'Suppose they had ended up liking that dish that the most'. The bottom line is no Iron Chef ever asks a sous-chef to prepare an entire dish. ..The sous-chefs assist with all of the prep. The Iron Chef composes, completes, and checks for seasoning of All of the dishes. If he or she doesn't, it's not 'their' dish. A show of support is nice ..but I don’t think that ever needs to happen again.

    • jeri says:

      That's the way is, the chef gets credit for all dishes. At the same time he also takes the blame. And, if you watch IC enough you'll find the sous chefs do make entire dishes, the chef puts on finishing touches and garnishes and presents "his" dish!

  9. JustCurious says:

    Was it just me or did any one else see falkner still garnishing two plates after the buzzer went off? I know she lost, but on any other show it would be an instant illmination. I'm just glad the right person won.

    • JLF says:

      Yes, she continued zesting an orange after the time was up. It was not commented on one way or the other.

    • Donna says:

      Yep. We thought she cheated.

    • Donna says:

      Also, isn't it interesting that FN showed her zesting after time was called.

    • angele says:

      yeah,thats true im glad chef jeff zakarian won it he is a great chef. what happened to chef cat cora??

    • AKFAN says:

      I saw her……I would have rather have seen Alex or Robert win but am glad they chose GZ over Faulkner. Something about her really gets on my nerves

    • WestCoastFan says:

      She could zest to her hearts content afterwards. If you notice the chefs only have to plate 5 dishes at the sound of the buzzer but they serve 4 people during judging. That's an extra 20 plates. It's obvious that they plate those dishes afterwards. Even in the behind the scenes video for Chiarello's departure you can see them plating up their 3 one bite dishes for the judges. It would be way different if they had to do it like the original IC Japan. They had to plate "ALL" the dishes at once. So that would mean 6 plates per dish the IC created. 1 for the camera shot, 1 for the chairman, 4 for the judges. If you can catch an ep of the original japanese version of IC just watch when they plate. You'll see what I mean. Unless of course it's an earlier ICJ then they only had to plate 5 – they used to only have 3 judges in the earlier seasons.

    • DebAnt says:

      Ha Ha, yep, I noticed it too.

    • JMR says:

      I'm sure they did shine a light on her. illumination at its best.

  10. Mary Stortz says:

    You are definitely a class act. I don't get these morons that think you're a whiner…I don't think so! If someone is in the way and might cause a train wreck, telling them to get out of the way is prudent. Those people have obviously not been in a busy kitchen. I thought you were amazing in the finale. Your dish outshined the other dishes. That proves that you should have been elevated to kitchen stadium!

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