Chatting With The Next Iron Chef: Redemption Winner

by in Shows, December 23rd, 2012

The fifth season of The Next Iron Chef: Redemption was full of ups and downs, but one thing is for sure: All eight chefs redeemed themselves in one way or another.

Sunday night’s final episode brought three of the most talented chefs together for two final battles. The first battle would eliminate one chef (read the exclusive interview from that chef); the two remaining chefs were then sent to Kitchen Stadium for the ultimate battle that celebrated three long-standing Iron Chefs and would determine The Next Iron Chef. And the winner is …

Iron Chef Alex GuarnaschelliSince Season 4 on The Next Iron Chef: Super Chefs, Chef Alex Guarnaschelli has had a yearning for the title that slipped away from her just one episode prior to the finale last year. But on Sunday night’s final episode she captured it with a much-loved Pasilla Chile Cherry Tart, and now she can truly say that she has redeemed herself.

Iron Chef Alex GuarnaschelliWe watched Chef Guarnaschelli win in the first episode — which challenged the chefs to be resourceful — with a lobster dish that had all the judges wanting more. That win catapulted her confidence and drive to win throughout the season — she would go on to make it through six episodes without meeting the stresses of the Secret Ingredient Showdown. Three episodes before the finale, she found herself experiencing the wrath of the Showdown for a failed Vegas buffet. But she showed the finesse of her cookery and attention to detail, while going head-to-head with Marcel Vigneron, to take the win and secure the final spot in the finale. Chef Guarnaschelli now joins the prestigious ranks of Bobby Flay, Masaharu Morimoto, Jose Garces, Michael Symon, Marc Forgione and Geoffrey Zakarian.

On the first page of your Redemption Journal, you quoted Mickey Mantle, “It’s amazing how little we know about a game we’ve been playing our whole lives.” What did this contest and the fact that you’ve competed in it twice teach you about cooking and your approach to food?

AG: I feel as if a competition teaches you that no matter how long you’ve been doing something or how much you practice, you still have so much more to learn. Some of the lessons are very painful. You make the same mistake you’ve made before; you avoid a mistake from the past and discover a new one. Cooking is a constant lesson in humility. It’s also, to me, one of the most exciting professions. I love when a dish comes together. Competing twice means you’ve felt all the feelings before and put yourself through this “meat grinder” already, only you feel more driven. You are aware you have a 10 percent chance of winning, but the fire to become an Iron Chef still burns brightly.

leg of lambYou wore a claw necklace in more than one episode of the competition. Does it hold special significance to you or do you consider it lucky?

AG: I bought this turquoise necklace years ago at a green market, of all places. I bought it off the jewelry-maker’s neck and as soon as I put it on, the weight of the stone on my chest served as a great source of comfort.

The first challenge in the final episode was Passion and you had to create the judges’ last meal. What would your last supper be and why?

AG: My last supper would be a giant scoop of caviar followed by a grilled cheese sandwich. I like a meal of extremes.

On the last page of your Redemption Journal, you wrote, “How will they fit my whole last name on a chef’s jacket?” Have you seen your Iron Chef jacket yet? Does “Guarnaschelli” fit?

AG: I could never fit my name in those boxes for tests at school and it takes up two lines on my credit card. I’m expecting an abbreviation on my chef’s jacket. Honestly, if this was my biggest problem, I’d say I have no complaints!

What’s next for you as an Iron Chef?

AG: I honestly think this milestone entails two things: First, I must hunker down and continue to learn and “grow” my cooking style. To me, being an Iron Chef means you should be in a constant state of evolution and experimentation. Second, I feel a responsibility to help others. I love Share Our Strength and am very passionate about Alex’s Lemonade Stand. To me, Alex’s Lemonade is the ultimate story of how children can inspire parents to be better people than they ever imagined.

Stay tuned for the recipe for my winning Pasilla Chile Cherry Tart!

Relive Chef Guarnaschelli’s winning moment (click the play button):

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Comments (669)

  1. guest says:

    Just removed the food network from my favorites list. Now I won't accidentally land on it when I just go through the favorites looking for something to watch.

  2. Shannon says:

    I don't debate the fact that Guarneschelli can cook good food, but so can Chef Freitag! Freitag is better in my opinion.

    Here is how I feel, I like Amanda Freitag's personality, she is fun to watch. I enjoy Chef Symons personality, he is fun to watch. Morimoto, fun! Batalli was fun too! This is a television program, meant for entertainment value. I am very, very sorry that Guarneschelli won.I will not be watching ICA when she is cooking, she is as much fun to watch as Zacharian or Forgionne. (not at all)

    This is an epic fail for Food Network, too bad. Sunday nights used to be exciting for me and also entertaining..not recently…. Big mistake.I know they were trying to bring their ratings back up, this was not the way.

  3. Kim says:

    What a let down this year's Next Iron Chef competition was! I felt the finale last year between Zakerian and Faulkner was a REAL competition with a whole episode devoted to the finale. I feel like the blending of the last two competitions into one program was odd and made the show feel very small.

    I really thought that the finale should have been between Freitag and Faulkner. There is no way that any of these final three chefs are better than Elizabeth Faulkner, plus she was very exciting to watch. The finale ended up being a yawner!

    • Zach says:

      I could not agree more! I thnk that they should have had 2 different epiodes it was like 10 minutes of them cooking in kitchen stadium. Ithink falkner is the best there and sould have won it all. I think it was rigged for Alex G. Starting with zakarian favoring her. Im glad someone exactly agrees with me!

  4. Jenni says:

    This win is absolute bullshit. And that's all Im gonna say on it.

  5. TRex says:

    I feel like the FANS have finally had a redemption. After the last three Nexts, with winners with all of the personality of a wet rag, I never watch Iron Chef unless Simon or Flay are cooking. I watch Chopped all the time. It is Freitag that has the attitude, not Alex. I am so happy she won and now we have another FUN Iron Chef to watch instead of the boring and/or arrogant chefs from the last three Next shows. Thank you, Food Network.

  6. Darlene -- Maryland says:

    I've been an avid fan of the Food Network's Iron Chef for several years. I felt compelled to write this email to register my disappointment in how the Next Iron Chef Redemption competition was conducted. While watching the segments, it became quite obvious to me that the judges were going to select Chef Guarnaschelli — and for the simplest of dishes even. If I could see it, the chefs and other viewers could see what was going on too. This was made particularly clear when Chef Faulkner was eliminated. She was practically hyperventillating when she left the competition.

    Chef Freitag cooked her heart out the entire time and received accolades for her outstanding dishes time and again. She's got tremendous grace too.

    The judges and TV executives blatant disregard for fairness, honesty, and excellence of workmanship has disappointed me. I am sorry to say that I will not be watching the Iron Chef again.

  7. Jean says:

    I wrote to FN at the beginning of the NICR, quoting thoughts of Zakarian being a judge, and said wouldn't it be interesting if Alex won. Well she did. Imagine that. Integrity of show is a question in my mind. Watched the whole show and can't understand how Alex lasted as long as she did. FN is now banned in this household. I will miss Restaurant Impossible, Hotel Impossible and had begun to like Sweet Genius. Alex has no imagination in her dishes, is condescending, arrogant, and has no TV presence or personality.

    • Ashersgate says:

      CYA ALL. TOTALLY DISGUSTED…………………………………………

    • steve says:

      Banning FN just because you don't like the winner of a reality show? Kind of a odd and stupid reason not to watch a channel?

    • pee says:

      I agree, it is ridiculous that she won when clearly she only has good tasting food…whoopie she can season and put together ingredients, but does that make her an Iron Chef, I think Not. Chef Faulkner should have won followed by Chef Marcel. I want a rematch!

    • Joseph says:

      Done with FN. Moving on to Cooking Channel and Bravo as well as Fox for MasterChef where the home cooks have more talent than Alex.

      I heard Bourdain has a new show on a network where they will not know who cooked the dish.

      • Stupid says:

        Your a sad person… , just because of her win your gonna quit watching the show. Tisk Tisk

      • Passing thru says:

        Bourdain is on CNN. I personally am glad other TV networks are taking on the Lifestyles type of programs. FN, GAC, TRAVEL CHAN, HGTV & DIY are all owned by Scripps & since they have no real competition they just pretty much do whatever they feel like. So much heated drama on some the other channels too. Ahmed Hassan the Yard Crashers host left because he was disgusted with some of the things the ways they wanted to promote products & Design Star is a complete mess. Not sure it will be able to bounce back from the last couple of seasons. Scripps has lost touch with their core viewers imo.

    • MHO says:

      Are you an idiot Jean? Chef Alex rocked the competition and totally deserved to win. Chef Amanda was amazing too and it was great to have two female chefs in the finale. You don't deserve to watch FN good riddance.

      • LISN says:

        Geez. When did Alex rock this competition past the first challenge? Not at all. She remained middling status from challenge 2 until the finale. In every talking head interview, she pissed and moaned how nervous she was to go home. That's hardly 'rocking' anything. Her win was with a little help from her little friend, who kept her in the game as long as he did.

    • melinda says:

      I agree with Jean. She can see through Zakarian's false narrative that he is an "impartial" judge.

      This is so so wrong. Every time I passed thru the Food Network I got angry, so now it is off the Favorite List.

      Bad FN!

    • GUEST says:

      I just did!!!! It takes about 2 minutes to vote 10 times!

      • LISN1 says:

        Do you know what the end result of being fan favorite will get a particular chef? Last season, Anne won that lovely title. Nothing came of it. It was a hollow victory.

    • NY_Coffee says:

      God bless you! Well said.

  8. Jen321 says:

    I'm ok w/Alex winning but wish it had been Faulker. STILL think she got robbed!

  9. Russ says:

    I don't watch a lot of TV but the FN is the one channel I have watched faithfully for the past 10 years. I figured it was time for the FN to have another female IC and hopefully one that had the charisma and talent of Cat Cora. All appearances from the beginning of this seasons Next IC showed a bias towards Alex G. (Zakarian as a judge, not eiminating Alex when her dishes were substandard to others, etc.) but I continued to watch hoping that FN had better integrity than that. Alex's win might have been more acceptable otherwise. One of the things the FN is known for is their abilty to provide us with Chefs that have a personality that makes us want to watch their shows. Alex is sorely lacking in that department. Thanks FN for a great ten years. Tonight was my last viewing of your network. I'll truly miss real Chefs like IC Simon, IC Morimoto, Robert Irvine, Ina Garten.

    • Tiffani says:

      Seriously??? All these comments about people being done with watching FN who have been viewers for years on end because their pick for NIC didn't win? You all sound like a bunch of whiney teenagers that didn't get your way. It's ridiculous! I wish Chef Faulkner had won, but oh well. I will continue to watch all my other favorite chefs on the FN, regardless of this one show.

      • Tara says:

        It's not about being "whiney". I mean who really wants to watch a competition that is obviously rigged from the start! If you watched this competition from start to finish, you would have noticed how lacking in ability Alex was, compared to the other chefs. Yes she is a good cook, like someone in my family might be,( she makes nice homely dishes) but a "True" iron chef, no way! …. and they had the audacity to send Chef Faulkner home.

        • Flour Child says:

          ITA! Alex also lacked in composure, resourcefulness, creativity, & charm. Her desperation to win consumed her every thought, action and interview. I am already sick of hearing her opine how much she wanted the title that I will most likely never watch her battles. In short: she's a battle-axe.

        • emily says:

          well if you think the show was rigged then just dont watch this show you can still watch the others shows

      • Lisa says:

        I wanted chef Faulkner to win too since last season which I think she was robbed the title of Iron chef. But this season was any better chef Amanda won many of the challenges and the judges said her two dishes were far creative and tasty than chef Alex. So I can believed Alex won by a dessert, plus Bobby Flay seemed a bit bias during the judging.

    • patricia says:

      Russ is correct. My family gasped at this decision and we will now be spending our time watching more legitimate competitions on other stations and networks. Too bad, because we do love foodie oriented programming but we have watched the open bias by Iron Chef Zakarian all season and the way this competition was handled there is no doubt in our minds that this is a corrupt process.

      Thanks to all the other chefs in the competition who went for it and really stretched the bounds of their food horizons. Something is wrong at FN, but it is not for me to fix or for my family to view.

      • Suzie says:

        I agree. My husband calmly just shook his head at the outcome as I expressed my frustration. Open bias of Zakarian was too hard to miss. I'm surprised that anyone could watch the Iron Chef series going forward with sincere interest.

    • MHO says:

      Too bad, FN will not miss you.

      • LISN says:

        How do you know? They might miss loyal viewers when the ratings slump…

      • Shannon says:

        MHO, unfortunately you are dead wrong. FN will miss their viewers, after all we are what keeps the company going. We are not just talking about one or two viewers here, read the comments people have posted. This was a big mistake on their part.

    • patricia says:

      FN straight to the bottom. FN hates women. They destroy talented women like Falkner and Freitag, and give Alex a pass. Alex is why women suffer – because they choose the most incompetent woman to win and Alex will be seen as the token woman.

      If Falkner or Freitag would've won, their talent and culinary vision could transcend gender bias, but now we have to watch Simple Alex fumble around the kitchen hoping for intervention from the judges to save her…

  10. Guest says:

    I applaud all who have the courage,the drive, the heart and ability to compete in the Iron Chef competition It definitely is not an easy task for any of the chefs. There is always a Cinderella or an underdog who fights and claws their way to the top. Tonight, as it was all season, it was Alex. To those of you whose comments are less than noteworthy, maybe you should compete in an in your face,high stakes, pressure cooker style competition centering on creativity and imagination. Yeah, good luck on that one! Congratulations,Iron Chef Alex! You deserve it!

    • guest says:

      Cinderella ??? More like the Bigggggggggg bad wolf.

      What show were you watching all season? Creative with imagination??? Compared to the other chefs, Alex barely registered a blip on that radar. She certainly had the worst full-season showing of accomplishments compared to the other two final chefs.

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