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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.
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
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.
What 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.