Chopped All-Stars Begins: One Iron Chef Moves On, Three Say Goodbye

by in Food Network Chef, Shows, April 9th, 2012

chopped all-stars iron chefs
What can you expect when you put 16 star chefs you know and love on the Chopping Block for charity? Inventive dishes, out-of-this-world ingredients, smack talk, laughs, sweat and a grand prize of $50,000 for the winner’s charity — you can expect it all on the newest season of Chopped All-Stars.

Here’s the breakdown. Each Sunday, a new group of All-Stars will compete for a spot in the finale. Last night, four Iron Chefs battled it out. In the coming weeks, you’ll see gourmet globetrotters, former Food Network Star contestants and Chopped judges. That’s right — the judges are coming out from behind their judges’ table to show the world they’ve got the chops to win the grand prize, too.

Last night, Michael Symon, Jose Garces, Cat Cora and Marc Forgione stepped out of the comfort zone of Kitchen Stadium to compete against each other. If you missed the show and recorded it, don’t read any further — we’re about to break down the episode, divulge the winner and chat with the runner-up.

The baskets:
Appetizer: crawfish, lemon cucumber, purple wax beans and precooked beef tendon
Entrée: octopus, dandelion greens, aged Gouda and sour trahana
Dessert: plums, coconut rum, black beans and queso fresco

Elimination details:
First round: Jose Garces
Second round: Cat Cora
Final round: Marc Forgione
Winner: Michael Symon

I caught up with Chef Marc Forgione, who fought to the finish but lost to Michael in the last round. Here’s what he had to say:

How was it competing against your fellow Iron Chefs, especially Michael Symon?
MF: It was weird to be backstage with Michael Symon, waiting to go against each other when usually we’re battling other people.

marc forgioneWhat was it like being judged by friends of yours and now the newest Iron Chef?
MF: Sometimes you have to put friendship aside, especially in competition. I watch Chopped, so I knew that the judges were going to be critical. It’s their job, so I wasn’t expecting anything less.

I have to be honest, after watching numerous Chopped episodes, I don’t feel that the ingredients were really “out there,” or maybe it’s just because you guys are pros. Were you worried that you’d get something really odd?
MF: There are actually a couple of ingredients I had never heard of or used before. There was also one ingredient, octopus, that traditionally takes hours to cook, so given that we only get 20 minutes, I thought it was actually a challenging basket.

What’s the hardest secret ingredient you’ve ever dealt with?
MF: Tilapia — it’s a pretty flavorless fish and definitely not a favorite with chefs.

Which basket did you have the most trouble with?
MF: The entrée basket because of the octopus. I wanted everything to be cooked perfectly, but to know that it could possibly be undercooked was really difficult. The big difference between doing Chopped and Iron Chef America is that you are confident with the dishes you’re putting out for ICA, but with Chopped there’s more of an uncertainty.

What’s next for you? Is there anything new up your sleeve?
MF: I’m opening up a new restaurant later this month in Atlantic City called American Cut. I’m really excited about this menu. It’s going to have the ultimate version of Surf ‘n’ Turf: a 28-day aged, 48-ounce Tomahawk Rib-Eye Chop served with Chili Lobster.

Tune in next Sunday at 9pm/8c when four gourmet globetrotters — Keegan Gerhard, Marcela Valladolid, Jeffrey Saad and Aarti Sequeira — take their place on the Chopping Block.

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Comments (46)

  1. Mary Perez says:

    What really pist me off last night was the way both Iron Chefs in the desert round took a swig out of the coconut rum bottle and then used it!!!! Any other time the judges call people out on it!! I don't care if they are iron chefs, that was disgusting, and they should have been called out!

    • MJD says:

      You could not be more RIGHT!!!! I was so aggravated that no one called them out on that. I have seen it happen twice with regular contestants and they had their heads chewed off!!! Incredibly unprofessional!!!

  2. Karen says:

    In agreement, come on ' Iron Chefs' set a better standard please. Appreciate your expertise, but just asking for a bit of a change. Yes others have been called out for it.

  3. Carlos says:

    Why are you calling Marc Forgione the "newest" Iron Chef when Jeffery Z just became one? And I agree about the "taking a swig" double standard…..

  4. Pinto says:

    I just sent the Food Network my comments about the "swig" from both Iron Chefs. Colleague or not, germs are germs and it does not excuse the fact that it was done. Ted Allen didn't even say anything. Makes you wonder about just how fair they are in judging the other chefs that are not on their "level".

  5. CJBC says:

    For all anyone knows, they could have been called on it and it might have ended up on the editing room floor. That seems more likely to me than that it was just ignored. If they are going to nitpick about plating, I can't see them letting a sanitation issue go. But you would think also if they were going to cut it out, they would have cut out the shots of them doing it in the first place. Tough call.

  6. jess says:

    Sadly, it is another Old Boy's Club. They have different rules. Any did anyone think for one minute that they would pick anyone else but Symon? It wouldn't matter what he made. His boasting after his win was disrespectful to his fellow competitors, but you expect that kind of thing from him.

    • jeri says:

      Just watched rerun. MS was not boastful in front of the other chefs. He simply stated that he would bet on himself to win, as I'm sure the other ICs would if they had won. In my opinion, which doesn't count for much, MS was a gracious winner and MF a gracious looser! I believe all the ICs have a great respect for each other and this competition showed.

  7. jess says:

    It is another Old Boy's Club.They have different rules. Did anyone think for a minute they wouldn't pick Symon? He could have cooked anything and they would have moved him on. Another insufferable ego that we have to put up with in the finals.

    • jeri says:

      The Iron Chefs that competed are all good friends, and they know each others personalities. I thought the judging pretty fair, save for no criticism about drinking from the bottle of coconut rum. Why are you such a Michael Symon hater??? Over all he had the best.

    • JMJ says:

      Of all the Iron Chefs, I think Michael Symon has the LEAST ego! He is a down to earth, nice guy from what people who have actually met him say (including my daughter -a chef – and her chef friends). He is not above making fun of himself (unlike IC Zakarian – now THERE'S an insufferable egomaniac) or learning something from someone else. He even admitted in the first round that his presentation basically sucked – how is that insufferable?? To me, that's more humble than anything.I haven't seen too many other chefs on any show simply own up to a mistake without trying to make some excuse for it.
      Besides, even IC Morimoto – as incredibly talented as he is – has said he thinks Michael Symon is currently the strongest Iron Chef.

  8. Bob C says:

    I wonder if Marc Summers didn't make a point of the swigs in the editing. It was pretty glaring, but could have been left out of the final cut. We're meant to be shocked at the double standard at work.

    I liked Penny. I didn't like very much that shrill lady who was more a foodie than a chef — the one the FN marketing lady loved so much. I cheered when she was cut — about 6 weeks later than she ought have been. With her gone, Penny might have shown a better side of herself. I'm looking forward to seeing her again. Jeffrey Saab was a favorite of mine, though I'm pleased Melissa won and is still something of a FNS, with her appearance on the Thanksgiving live show, among other things. I'll be rooting for him, though Aarti is another favorite of mine. Jeff, the Sandwich guy too. I pretty much like all the NFNS winners except Guy. And he's alright — just too bling for my taste.

    • jeri says:

      I pretty much agree. I've had all the DDD I can stand, it's all that is on on Mon and Fri…episode after episode…too much. I'm reserving my judgement of Penny. Melissa is on doing her $10 dinners, but if new episodes are coming it will be hard to do dinner for 4 for that price!!! I like Jeffrey's show, he is personable and seems to enjoy what he's doing. The comments about drinking from the bottle might have been edited out but I think the Chefs should have been reprimanded on air, as all the other contestants have been on Chopped, its just something you don't do!!!

  9. rootsmusic says:

    When did Chef Symon beat the other Iron Chefs before? How about an ICA finale every season in which the IC with the most losses that season faces off against that season's NIC winner and the losing chef is "chopped" from ICA?

    • Coreen says:

      Good idea,, but that wouldn't be fair to the new NIC. He/She would need to get more time in by competing and if they get chopped right off the bat, then all that hard work would be down the drain.

  10. DeeJay says:

    I didn't see Symon take a swig, but Forgione took a big gulp. They've busted people out for that in the past and wouldn't even eat the dish. I don't care who's mouth is on the bottle, he should know better.

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