Hamptons Seafood Showdown on the Next Iron Chef — Critical Moments

by in Shows, December 12th, 2011

Next Iron Chef: The Final Four
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.

In the penultimate challenge, the four surviving chefs were given the task of showing us just what truly passionate cooks they could be. To do this they were each handed $500 by Alton Brown and given two hours to source enough ingredients to feed not only the judges but also 20 noteworthy individuals of the Hamptons dining scene.

While they were running around in search of the best fish, seafood and produce they could afford, the judges waited in the comfortable surroundings of the Montauk Yacht Club. I would like to say that we relaxed, but it simply wouldn’t be true. Just as the pressure had mounted on the chefs with each elimination, so it was weighing down on the judges each week as we looked into the eyes of the despondent chefs we had to send home.

The pressure was even greater now as we were informed that we would have to choose two chefs to compete for the title in Kitchen Stadium while crushing the dreams of the two others. Michael Symon told me that the thought of the decision ahead was making him physically ill. I could totally sympathize, as Chefs Falkner, Chiarello, Zakarian and Guarnaschelli had all proved time and again that they were each capable of going on to the show.

On returning from their quest the chefs had two hours to cook, the guests started filling up the seats on the terrace and we were led to the judging chamber.

Alex Guarnaschelli

Chef Guarnaschelli was visibly nervous as she entered to present her three seafood preparations of fluke crudo, lobster and chowder. At this stage and with these chefs we were not expecting any major flaws in execution and we certainly did not get any with this offering. There were, however, one or two comments on Chef Guarnaschelli’s use of seasoning and she knew that a simple misstep with salt could be enough to end her participation in the competition.

As you may have noticed earlier in the competition, I am a bowl licker. Chef Guarnaschelli had drawn out this unseemly behavior in me once before and now Chef Falkner had done it again with her vichyssoise. It was sensational and rates as one of the best dishes of the entire series. It would have been foolish to waste a drop. There were some negative comments about her food, however. I thought her scallop dish was lacking in the smoke she had used in the cooking process and Michael Symon thought her cioppino was slightly bland. Otherwise it was another exemplary performance from the competition’s most creative chef.

Michael Chiarello

In my opinion, Chef Zakarian did not present his most elegant plate of food of the competition and I marked him down. That being said, there was no questioning the fact that each of his dishes tastes superb. That each judge had a different favorite tells you just how good they were.

Finally, Chef Chiarello, our favorite storyteller, entered with what I think were some of his finest culinary moments in the competition. His Tuna Arrabbiata was stunning and his lightly smoked fluke was almost as good, even if accompanied by the most painful pun in living memory. However, while my scallop was cooked to perfection, Iron Chef Symon felt his was slightly overdone, a simple flaw that could prevent Chef Chiarello taking that automatic spot in the finale.

I had Chef Zakarian and Chef Chiarello in my top two spots with Chefs Falkner and Guarnaschelli at the bottom. The other judges differed slightly which made for one of the toughest decisions and heated debates so far. After much argument, we agreed that the chef to be automatically eliminated today was Chef Guarnaschelli. It was not unanimous and we all acknowledged that she would have made a superb Iron Chef, but it simply was not her day.

We were equally lacking in agreement on the top chefs, but in the end the tastes of Chef Zakarian’s food, now and throughout the competition, were enough to make us believe he had earned his place in the Kitchen Stadium showdown. If you question how much this meant to him, I can tell you that his legs literally buckled as he was given the good news by Alton Brown.

Next Iron Chef: The Final Four

We made our way back to Kitchen Stadium for the Secret Ingredient Showdown. This time it offered up the challenging prospect of preparing three perfect mouthfuls with wine and crackers. Chef Chiarello brought out my most and least enjoyed bites of the six offered. His chicken liver mousse provided intense flavors and was topped with a piece of brittle that added both texture and sweetness. It was smart and thought-out cooking. However, his goat’s cheese topped with Cabernet “caviar” was more interesting than successful and none of the judges liked it very much.

Chef Falkner’s presentation was not as good as Chef Chiarello’s to my eye and she too had ups and downs when it came to taste. Her chicken mousse was not as powerfully flavored as his, but her shrimp and grits were terrific. Best of all, however, was a highly spiced Indian-style meatball with yogurt raita that was enough to make her my winner. The other judges agreed and that meant that, sadly, Chef Chiarello was the other person to hear the words “I am sorry, but you will not be The Next Iron Chef” from Alton Brown.

He too would have made an impressive addition to the Kitchen Stadium roster. But, after seven hard weeks of judging, Judy Joo, Michael Symon and I had chosen Chef Zakarian and Chef Falkner to duke it out for the title of The Next Iron Chef.

One more battle to go.

More behind-the-scenes extras from Super Chefs, episode 7:

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Comments (241)

  1. beachinfrizzy says:

    So if GZ wins NIC, does that mean he won't have time to do "Chopped" anymore? (crosses fingers)

    • mouse says:

      Considering how much Bobby Flay, for example, does in addition to being an Iron Chef, I have to think GZ could handle filming 5 or 6 episodes of Chopped a season in addition to doing ICA. It's not as though all of the Iron Chefs are present for each episode…

      • beachinfrizzy says:

        Yeah, I guess it was just wishful thinking…the judging on Chopped has gotten so snotty, the only judges I really enjoy lately are Freitag (who isn't on that often) and Chauhan (who is so lovely in every sense of the word, it was a shame she fared poorly during her NIC stint).

        • WestCoastFan says:

          If I remember correctly it was her patties that did her in. Something about the texture or some such.

          • beachinfrizzy says:

            That's what I remember too…she kept making those damn patties and got dinged on not having enough 'range'. Which would have been OK on Next Food Network Star; after all, Aarti kept making either a rice dish or a curry over and over and got praised to high heaven.

  2. Regina says:

    I hope Faulkner doesn't win either…I will do what another poster said, "When she is on, I'll simply change the channel….." No pizzazz…..I really hoped Anne would win….and truthfully, Alex was NEVER in the bottom….they loved her food until Sunday night….something is amiss here…for sure……I do like Geoffrey and will watch him….He's classy….She's BORING!!!

  3. Tony says:

    was anyone really surprised to see a male and female in the final? If Faulkner ends up winning, my days of watching the Iron Chef are over!!

  4. WestCoastFan says:

    Product placement aside I'm thinking the use of cracker and wine that we (ordinary folk) can purchase was used as a 180 flip from the food they purchased and used in Montauk(sp).

  5. WestCoastFan says:

    Freeze framed the screen when watching the preview for the finale. I'm quite sure that I see a prime rib roast on the secret ingredient stand.

    Interesting that the Chairman is giving them "some extra help". Looks like Alex is going to help Zacharian. Could Chiarello be helping Falkner?

    In the background of the preview I can see most of the other eliminated chefs except for Irvine. He doesn't appear to be in the chef stand. If you freeze frame you can clearly see Spike, Hughes, MacMillen, Burrell and Samuelsson in the stands.

  6. Falkner Fan says:

    So I guess Chef Chiarello has to call himself a cook now. In his own words regarding the challenge with Chef Falkner "This is where we separate the chefs from the cooks. "

    Cook Chiarello – There is a huge difference between confidence and arrogance.

    • pjf says:

      I agaree. His middle name is Arrogant!

    • Viewer in Michigan says:

      Chef Chiarello's attitude alone excluded him from Iron Chef material. He seems to be a great chef, but he feels his food is always flawless. When even the slightest criticism was made of his dishes, he got that tight-lipped, narrowed-eyes look that was just short of scary. What a prima donna! Let him posture to his heart's delight in Napa; that's where the CA foodies will put up with bratty behavior. It wouldn't have played well in Kitchen Stadium.

  7. southernvegan says:

    The real questiion is whether or not FN will stay on the losing path of programs or go back to the old school formula that made them a phenomenal network to begin with? With all the programs filmed so far in advance it may take a year to see any positive changes from the suggestions the fans have put forth to them in this blog and the other blogs related to their programming. I do know the programming is so stale right now that it is starting to mold.

  8. JLF says:

    I tend to agree. The judges know the styles of the competing chefs pretty well, so true anonymity is probably not going to happen. Beyond that, if a show has to go to those lengths to provide an appearance of objectivity, then they probably don't need to be doing judging shows in the first place. There will always be those who cry "Foul" when their favorites don't win, but that doesn't mean that there has truly been corrupt judging. If that were so, all sports requiring referees or umpires would have to be banned.

  9. zanzinthebar says:

    Oh dear, they managed to pick the 2 most acerbic, annoying and least entertaining chefs. I know they're serious about winning and the food is the main event but these are not personalities I will choose to watch.

  10. Bored by it all says:

    I honestly have lost interest. The outcome is fairly obvious so no suprises there. This is like a show that has continued on past its prime. It was hot when it first came out but now this is nothing but a reality show and very lackluster. Ho Hum. If this was primetime……NIC would have been cancelled.

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