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. JMJ says:

    Not sure if anyone else has noticed the Chopped judges use of the word "unctuous/unctuousness" of late. Aaron Sanchez used it last night and one of the other judges used it a few days ago. I think they should actually look up the definition before they use a word that they think makes them sound smarter. Unfortunately, in this case, it made them sound dumber since the definition has nothing to do with food (or at the very least it would be a negative quality, rather than the more "positive" thing they were looking to express.
    Definition of "unctuous": unctuousness
    [uhngk-choo-uhs]  adjective
    1. characterized by excessive piousness or moralistic fervor, especially in an affected manner; excessively smooth, suave, or smug.
    2. of the nature of or characteristic of an unguent or ointment; oily; greasy.
    3. having an oily or soapy feel, as certain minerals.

    I certainly don't want my food to be oily, greasy or feel like soap! :)~

    • JMD says:

      Man I thought I was the only one to notice this mistake. Someone needs to give the judges a dictionary!

    • Moriaelini says:

      I agree and I have noticed more and more foodie types using it of late. It makes them all sound like pretentious morons who are just tossing off words that they have a limited understanding of.

      Another pet peeve of mine is the 'Oh-Maj' pronunciation of the word 'homage'…

  2. Scott Conanturd says:

    not only the rum thing…..but Scott Conant an insufferable prik….ALWAYS makes a point about how he HATES red onions….which I think is bull….just because you personally don't like something doesn't mean people can't use it….but he calls everyone out on it when they use them….in this case he didn't say a word….if his nose gets any browner, he'll look like an overcooked potato skin…

    • Ray says:

      I hate judges that are "supposed" to be chefs, yet we never see them cooking on TV..and Conant is the worst. Lets see him on any cooking competition and see how he feels getting his lame pasta ripped apart.

  3. rick says:

    Chris Santos is fat and a drama queen. His big butt should not be even eating that food. Obesity in America or on Chopped. Lay off the Squab!!!!!!!!

  4. Diane says:

    Enjoyed the show but agree with the other comments that it was definitely double standards to ignore the swigs from both iron chefs. I have seen episodes where judges have refused to taste the food for double dipping and this was the same issue.

    • akrock says:

      I agree with you, why should they be different than the other chefs? I hate seeing those king of things because I think of them when out dining.

    • Kym says:

      Diane – we are in total agreement! On other shows with "regular" chefs, they act disgusted and totally dress down chefs who take a "swig." Now not only one but TWO "Iron" chefs do, and it's okay? It's gross and I cannot believe the double standards. Plus, these baskets are way easier than what they normally are. For the regular chefs it's like, okay, you've got grape jelly, green olives, chicken livers and head the dessert round!

  5. Sheri says:

    I have two thoughts, the first is that the judges shouldn't know the charity as it could sway their vote if it is a close choice (the contestants are interviewed and talk about their charities during the show so they still get the word out about the charity — just not in front of the judges. Secondly, with the current economy and with all the news about children of all ethnicities in America who go to bed hungry, I wish the charities would be limited to either national (American) charities or truly global charities (such as the Red Cross) instead of specific single entity charities in other countries. Am I out of line, here?

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