Although Chef Guarnaschelli’s splendid lobster dish made her the deserved winner of a return trip to the beach, for me this first challenge was all about Chefs Greenspan and Love.
A chef with less talent and confidence than Chef Greenspan could have easily crumbled at the thought of having to cook with grasshoppers again. His critter fritters, however, were one of the surprise hits of the day, as indeed was his grilled cheese grasshopper sandwich — although maybe less surprising as he is known for making one of the best grilled cheese sandwiches on the planet. Either way, it was definitely enough to keep him safe for another week. If it weren’t for a succulent morsel of Chef Guarnaschelli’s perfectly prepared lobster, I would have made him my winner.
On the other hand, Chef Love’s confidence was misplaced. If you are going to serve a salad on The Next Iron Chef, it had better be the best salad you’ve made. Chef Love’s kale salad wasn’t — and all three judges felt it scarcely warranted the hour-long cooking time. Insult was added to injury when Chef Love told us that he had also found time to make a juicy steak for himself while he was cooking. Perhaps if he had served us some of that as well, he might not have found himself in the Secret Ingredient Showdown battling Chef Mendelsohn, whose own dish was, quite frankly, just a confused mess.
This week’s secret ingredient was pineapple. I liked the sharpness of the pickled fruit Chef Love served with his quail in his final dish. I was turned off by the appearance of deep-fried kale on the plate, however, a definite “up yours” to the judges who had put him in the bottom two. Even if I had not been so irritated by this, Chef Mendelsohn’s dish was for me the winner anyway, bringing the perfect balance of salt, sweet, sour and heat that I look for in any Southeast Asian-inspired dish.
It was certainly good enough to ensure that Chef Love was the first to hear Alton say those dreaded words, “I’m sorry, but you will not be The Next Iron Chef.”