Tuna Jerky Soufflé and Sardine Bread Pudding on The Next Iron Chef – Critical Moments

by in Shows, December 5th, 2011

chef burrell vs chef zakarian
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.

Our next adventure told the tale of two unlikely dishes. One chef transformed a rather nasty ingredient into a dish that completely blew the panel of judges away. The other transformed a decent ingredient into one that I have to hold up as my worst bite of the entire competition.

But, let us not get ahead of ourselves.

There are those who believe that the Chairman has his own special corner of Hades awaiting him for the challenges, twists and turns he throws in the way of The Next Iron Chef contestants. After experiencing the emotions of this latest adventure, I am tempted to join them in that conviction.

This time, the Chairman’s challenge to the chefs was to prove that they could take risks, and the five remaining combatants were led into the rarified environs of a high-end auction house. There, Alton Brown informed them that they were not going to bid on priceless art, but priceless minutes of cooking time in which to prepare a single dish using the ingredients he revealed from beneath shining silver domes.

Chef Falkner

Some, like live Maine lobster and Wagyu beef, brought whoops of pleasure from the chefs. Others, like Chef Burrell’s choice of canned sardines, brought less admiring noises. But one, tuna jerky, brought whelps of terror, even from Chef Falkner, who raised her paddle to claim she could prepare it with a scant 30 minutes of cooking time.

Back in the Judging Chamber, we were informed that the three of us were only required to choose one contestant for this week’s Secret Ingredient Showdown. In yet another fiendish maneuver, the Chairman had decided that Chef Burrell’s “reward” for winning the previous challenge was to act as a fourth judge.

After tasting the dishes of her competitors she could relegate one of them to the bottom two. It was a double-edged sword. On the one hand, she had the chance to remove one of her main rivals. On the other, if she found herself in the unfortunate position of taking the other spot at the bottom of the pile, she would be pitted against the chef she feared most.

Chef Zakarian’s dish of Wagyu Salad Nicoise may have appeared to be the least risky choice of all, but any chef will tell you that the richly marbled steaks from this fatty animal are very unforgiving. One slip-up in timing would have meant an inedible dish and valuable points lost. Chef Zakarian is too good a chef to let that happen and, along with an excellent rillettes made from rendered fat, it was enough for us all to mark him highly.

Chef Guarnaschelli

That Chef Guarnaschelli chose to produce a sausage from her whole leg of lamb, rather than make a raw preparation, certainly showed risk. That said, the fact that the sausage was moist and full of flavor showed that she still had the chops to remain in the competition. I had her squarely in the middle of the pack alongside Chef Chiarello.

I was less convinced with Chef Chiarello’s Lobster Risotto than my fellow judges. To make this classic rice dish in such a short time was definitely the choice of a risk-taking chef. However, while it was certainly perfectly prepared and delicious, I was hoping, perhaps unfairly given the time he had allotted to him, to see more use of the lobster.

That left us to consider Chefs Burrell and Falkner in the tale of the two unlikely dishes. The look on Iron Chef Symon’s face as he heard the words “tuna jerky soufflé” was worth the entrance money on its own. But the moment he took one bite of the dish and its accompanying tuna dashi sauce, his fabulous eyebrows shot skyward and his eyes rolled back in pleasure. He liked it a lot and Judy Joo and I concurred. We had our winner for the day.

That brings us to Chef Burrell, who had more time than anyone else to cook and canned sardines as her main ingredient. She chose the very risky route of presenting three dishes and, as it had with other chefs before, it left her open to three times the criticism. Two dishes were good. In fact, one of them, the deep-fried sardine spines, was fantastic. Unfortunately, her third choice has to go down as my least-favorite taste of the whole season of The Next Iron Chef.

If “tuna jerky” and “soufflé” were not words we ever expected to hear together, at least the outcome of their combination was a pleasant surprise. The final combination of the words “sardine” and “bread pudding” proved as unhappy in the mouth as they sounded in the ear. It was enough for me to mark Chef Burrell down for the Secret Ingredient Showdown.

Chef Burrell and Chef Zakarian

Although she stood firmly by her decision to name Chef Zakarian as one of the final two, her choice had now come back to haunt her and you could tell by the look on her face that she knew she was up against it if she wanted to stay in the competition. She certainly gave it her best shot, turning panko and ponzu into a delicious and unusual take on the cannoli.

However, she came up against a chef who has been making soufflés for more than 30 years and managed to pull off the feat of preparing a superb example in only 30 minutes. I may not have approved of his rather “home dinner party” approach to the use of powdered sugar, but once we tallied our scores his dish was the very narrow winner.

Chef Burrell looked more crestfallen than shocked as she was told, “I am sorry, but you will not be The Next Iron Chef.” The Chairman had struck again.

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Comments (633)

  1. WestCoastFan says:

    I wonder how many more NIC they'll be doing.

    This is the breakdown for the NIC: 1st NIC – 2007 (Symon), 2nd NIC – 2009 (Garces), 3rd NIC – 2010 (Forgione), 4th NIC -2011 (TBD).

    FN really shouldn't do anymore or at least do a year break between contests. IMHO If they do one every year it'll ruin the cache of being an Iron Chef.

    • FanFare57 says:

      I completely agree with you. IC will be as meaningless as The "Next Food Network Sta" title. Other than Guy, the rest of the winners' shows are barely promoted or very good. Then there are losers who got their own show anyway (ex.Kelsey Somebody).

    • luvcookin says:

      FN has already ruined it by preselecting a winner! They do the same thing on Next FN Star. In my opinion, it is much better for a chef to win Top Chef Masters.

      • WestCoastFan says:

        Top Chef Masers (TCM) could go on for years (ratings willing) because besides vying for the TCM title they are also competing to win money for their favorite charities. Not to shabby having the tile and also handing over a check for $100,000 (or more) to the charity you support.

        They've changde the format in S3 of TCM so that it is exactly like regular Top Chef. I'm guessing that the change was because they couldn't get enough chefs to participate like they had in the previous seasons. S1 had 24 chefs to which they had qualify rounds of 4 chefs per round to get a final 6 to compete for the title. S2 had 22 chefs, they had 4 rounds (6 chefs in 2 rounds, 5 chefs in 2) and had a final 8 to compete for the title. S3 had 12 chefs and of course like regular TC a chef was eliminated each week.

        Of the final 3 in each season quite a few have been contestants on ICA.
        *S1 – Rick Bayless (TCM winner, ICA-lost vs Flay)
        S2 – Marcus Samuelsson (TCM winner, ICA-lost vs Flay), Susar Lee (ICA-draw vs Flay)
        S3 – Floyd Cardoz (TCM winner, ICA-lost vs Flay), Traci des Jardin (ICA-win vs Batali), Mary Sue Milliken (ICA-draw vs Flay, she was a team with business partner & Chef Susan Feniger for this battle)

        *Special note: Michael Chiarello was a finalist in the 1st season of TCM and of course is now vying for the title of IC.

  2. LadyPei says:

    Until this episode I really was enjoying this competition. Obviously it is a set up, and contrived. Anne, was robbed. It is plain that the winner of this so called competition has already been chosen.
    What a sham.

  3. Wanda says:

    Why is Cat Cora leaving IC???

  4. Mar says:

    Anne was, and is, my favorite chef to watch no matter what she appears in on Food Networkt. Since when do you "win" and the prize is "screw yourself"one way or the other"? Why the ridiculous ingredients?
    I agree with another review" 30 yrs experience doing a dish no longer qualifies as risk taking!

  5. WestCoastFan says:

    Clues, speculations or red herring. I'm sure that besides myself that when the previews of NIC came out one tried to guess how far each chef got or if there were clues on to who might be the winner. For sure during the clip of the candy challenge in the preview you knew that Spike and Irvine were already eliminated. It's hard not to miss when you see 8 chefs going after the candy and you don't see those 2 as part of the pack.

    I'm going to go out on a limb here and predict that Falkner makes it to the final. I know that there is alot of editing but one big clue shot (at least to me) is that there is silhouette shot near the end of the preview that looks an awful lot like Falkner. It's too tall and slim for Alex. The hair doesn't appear right for Zakarian. I was torn between Falkner and Chiarello and finally decided upon Falkner because the silhouette appears a trifle to slim to be Chiarello.

    I hope that that silhouette shot wasn't a big red herring.

  6. nick says:

    I also am glad that Anne Burrell is out. Beside unprofessional behavior, she was obviously safeguarded through the competition by judges. She was kept safe for a while but finally her personality and quality of cooking has been exposed. Not a material for Iron Chef at all – IN YOUR DREAMS BURRELL


    • Bridget says:

      I hate that you can't look over her personality…if you could you might see what a great chef she is! By the way, I'm not a huge fan of the way she talks, and some of her arrogance. But I do appreciate her skills! Try some of her recipes and you will see what I'm talking about!

  7. Jana says:

    Whether or not Anne is the best cook may be debatable but how was she given an advantage from her win? I think she was screwed. The advantage should be toward cooking the next best meal, not toward alienating your peers, and by picking the person to compete in the cook-off you are giving that person the mental avdvantage if you end up there.

  8. Bridget Baxley says:

    I really believe that Burrell should still be here. Look over the "rude, outspoken" part of her. (btw, I really like her attitude), she is an awesome chef. Alex is also, I love the way she describes her food. They both inspire me. As for the men, well, I've never been a fan of MC's cooking….to fancied up. Zakarian, I love. He keeps it simple but so luxurious. The 3 judges I like, I like because I have recreated some of their dishes at home and with great results. I wish them all the best. I still am tied up between Zakarian and Alex….

  9. Vass says:

    Bring back Burrell. She's cool. I'm sure she knows that a souffle sauce goes IN the souffle. Hello!

  10. Edward Korson says:

    It's rather difficult for me, who has been a religious viewer of the Food Channel and it's programs for well over a decade. Why do you bother setting up a public opion poll and then basically sabatage the the clear leader of the pack, Anne Burrell. You obviously don't pay attention to what the public says but are only interested in your drama based competition which couldn't be more farther from the truth of a true competition than the man in the moon.

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