Culinary Odd Couple Ups and Downs — Critical Moments

by in Shows, December 10th, 2012

Chef Marcel Vigneron and Alton Brown - Culinary Odd Couple Ups and DownsCreating coherent dishes out of unlikely ingredients can be one of the biggest tests of any chef’s skill. Asking them to do so with the marriage-made-in-hell offerings paired by Alton Brown was the perfect challenge to determine which of the five remaining competitors really did have what it takes to become the Next Iron Chef.

Chef Freitag’s ability to combine calamari and marshmallows so splendidly was as brilliant as it was unlikely and meant she unanimously earned her second win of the competition. Chef Vigneron’s creation of blue cheese ice cream with peanut butter brittle was a close second and proved beyond a doubt that he had become a very serious challenger for the title.

Chef Guarnaschelli’s insistence on playing it safe could have seen her relegated to her first Secret Ingredient Showdown. She was saved by Chef Appleman’s undercooked pasta in an oil-slick sauce, however, and Chef Mehta’s preparation of bone marrow did little to hide his contempt for the candy element of his pairing.

Although I am certain both chefs were delighted to see such a beautiful array of shrimp for the Showdown, neither produced a dish that will linger in my memory. I did not experience the issues with spicing that Iron Chef Zakarian found on Chef Mehta’s plate, but I did think that it was a very disjointed dish.

The fact that Chef Appleman’s pancake was dense and chewy would have made our final decision a much closer call, but he was saved by a last-minute inclusion of a grilled shrimp head that delivered a final burst of flavor. He will have to do better if he wants to progress to Kitchen Stadium, but it was enough to keep him safe for now, and that meant that Chef Mehta was the latest chef to hear the words, “I’m sorry, but you will not be The Next Iron Chef.”

What did you think of the episode? Tell me in the comments below.

Relive the episode and take a look at an extended preview of next week’s episode below (click the play button):

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Comments (135)

  1. Doug says:

    Unfortunately foodnetwork, a beloved station by my wife and I, will no longer watched due to unfair judging throughout the competition of The Next Iron Chef. It seems that there is a discontinuity in judging the use of the ingredient in the show. To us it appears that as long as the food tastes good, it will win regardless as to how well incorporated the food was into the actual dish. I am not speaking out because a person I wanted to win lost, but only because the competition seems unfair. Chef Alex Guarnaschelli in the last episode merely scraped her ingredient onto her dish as opposed to transforming it into a centerpiece of the dish. The judges then said that her food tasted better, thus ensuring her safety.

    As a fan of the show, watching a chef overcome an obstacle and transforming an ingredient into something magical is what is fun. When Guarnaschelli scraped on her ingredient while the other contestants innovated, Chef Guarnaschelli was rewarded. That was so sad to witness when every week a judge comments on her consistent lack of following the competition.

    I wish the show picked a set of ideals and rewarded those who did not deviate and punished those who did. The purpose of the show is not to cook good food, but rather to cook good food with the ingredients.

    • FanFare59 says:

      I agree. Alex's dish looked like it came from the garbage bin. It was gross looking. IF plating and lack of creativity didn't send her to the bottom, nothing will. I've had it with her being passed on through based on meritless dishes. Meanwhile, Marcel has to work 3 times as hard just to keep pace with the lackluster cooks around him. Part of Amanda's dish was a big miss, yet she surpassed him for the win (even though his was "adored"). The judges have a ridiculous and changing set of standards in place.

    • philly7475 says:

      I agree, I thought Chef Guarnaschelli should have been in the showdown with Chef Mehta. All she did was make a salad..AGAIN.. she cops out & makes simple dishes when she is really challenged. She didn't create any fusion @ all. She has mental melt downs when overly stressed. I think Chef Appleman has the most technique & flavor palette. I wanted Chef Falkner to win. She is amazing.

    • freelancer69 says:

      Can't agree with you more. Alex absolutely doesn't have the talent, creativity, finesse or grit to be an Iron Chef. No way should she have made it this far based on what she's shown us so far.

      It makes me shudder to think of her standing up there with Bobby Flay or Masaharu Morimoto.

      Additionally, I don't trust the fan "vote" numbers. Overzealous fans are known to recruit voters for these online polls and don't really represent true numbers.

      I'm pretty sure that when judge Arpaia hung her head when Falkner was booted – it was in shame.

    • downnotout says:

      Absolutely agree. I watch the show and now totally disregard Alex's arcane fussing and her useless commentary that they try to force down our throats. My focus is on the other competitors who know they are cooking for their Kitchen Stadium lives. That is the only way I can get through these episodes.

  2. john says:

    As the show progresses I find things to like about all the remaining chefs. Mehta was just beginning to show some happiness and personality. Oh well. However I will root for Alex or Amanda over them all. Now which of those two would I prefer to see? Alex is more entertaining in side commentary but Amanda is more interesting during the cooking. So….. I pick Amanda.

  3. P & BC says:

    I'd like try a blue cheese & peanutbutter sandwich.

    • amandafan says:

      Judge Simon is my favorite – he provided some comedic relief about his affinity for the BC&PB sandwich. He also made sure that Zakarian knew that Simon disagreed with him on several occasions.

    • downnotout says:

      Tough crowd – you got 3 thumbs down for making a good comment. (I gave you a thumbs up)

  4. FanFare59 says:

    Simon – thanks for your breakdown of this challenge. First off: The challenge was not strange for 2 of the cooks: both Amanda & Alex have seen these kind of pairings on "Chopped" (since they both are judges). Alex's dish was most disappointing because she played it safe. On Chopped, she would have been chopped for that simple solution. Next: When Amanda narrowly beat Marcel because he chose those ingredients for her, it seemed unfair. Not one of you said you adored her dish (as Z said of Marcel's). Why would he take ingredients for himself that he didn't want to work with? That would be shooting himself in the foot. Next: As for the 2 baldies, I didn't really care which one went home. I have been equally unimpressed by them (in spite of their large egos and sinister ways…). However, by rewarding Appleperson for a clunky offering (shrimp juice or not), you give him a free pass to serve more mediocrity on a plate. Finally: I think he was spared by Zakarian to pave the way for his gal Friday, Alex..

  5. Lynn says:

    Not sure what happened to my other post – apologize if this is a duplicate. But I am totally rooting for Chef Vigneron! I love Marcel's mind, his approach to food is so creative. He would be an absolute breath of fresh air on a program that can be stale at times (Michael Symon and Morimoto are the exceptions). Plus I am sick of listening to Appleman's vendetta against Vigneron – yeah, he didn't share an ingredient, AFTER you shoved him around at the refrigerators. Get over yourself. Focus on the food, not petty playground BS. As for the odd couple challenge – Marcel didn't do anything that any of you wouldn't do. He is playing the game – quit crying about it, and focus on your food. Go Marcel! Also, Alex is hardly a subpar chef – when she's on her game, she is unbeatable. I have immense respect for all of the chefs – except I would like to see Appleman go for the reasons stated above, and I was happy when Tim Love left (for the disrespect he showed to the challenge).

    • Linda says:

      It wasn't that Vigneron did anything wrong in assigning the ingredients. Of course he chose the pairing he thought he could work with best. What irked me was his response when the judges awarded the win to Frietag. They praised both dishes highly but said she faced the bigger challenge and produced a superb dish despite a minor flaw. He sounded like a spoiled child who resented someone besides himself being rewarded for achieving something. This is so typical of his whole attitude. It's at least part of what got him so disliked by viewers and contestants alike on Top Chef. If he wins, I will have the fun of cheering his opponents.
      As for the others, I agree, it would be a great thing to have a female in the pantheon and would be happy with either Alex or Amanda. Chef Appelman would also be a fine addition. He's is an excellent chef and a truly nice person
      Let's let Vigneron go for now and let him try again when he grows up

      • Lynn says:

        No, sorry, I completely disagree with you. As a fan of Top Chef, I remember his season very well. I do believe that he has matured a great deal. Sure, he was bitter about losing to Freitag, but who hasn't said something snarky on NIC? Seriously? Show me one of these cheftestants who has been completely pure, and then I might see your point. But I have seen him root on the others from the sidelines, even cheering on Appleman. They all sound resentful when they stumble or someone else wins. Especially Appleman. He would be a terrible addition to NIC – if he was cooking, I would change the station. But I do like Alex and Amanda. So no, I hope NIC doesn't let Marcel go – unless his food is truly the worst in the challenge. If he wins, based on his skill, then he deserves it. If he doesn't, then he doesn't. If Appleman wins, good for him. I just have no desire to watch an established chef like Appleman who relishes in some stupid vendetta against a younger chef because he won't be walked over. Go Marcel!

    • FanFare59 says:

      I agree with you for the most part. Marcel has been the object of bullying in Top Chef and to a lesser degree here (by Appleperson). When Marcel was forced to choose the pairings to his peers, they all took it as a personal insult. Ridiculous. He was tasked to give his competitor ingredients. He made his decisions quickly to get the challenge rolling. It wasn't personal. It was part of the contest. Nate's threatening ways make him unwatchable for me. I hope he gets his pink slip next time.

    • borntolose says:

      Do you know what a paragraph is?

  6. Anthony says:

    The judges got it right week one when they eliminated Tim Love. The dude was grilling a steak for himself during the competition. If you're going to show disregard and disrespect you should be eliminated. Also, since Vignette Vigneron and Spike disrespected the judges and the chairman (vocally so) both of them should have been eliminated. The judges got it wrong here, this is a competition for a lot of money and respect as Iron Chef, you have to give respect to earn it.

    I don't think the fix is in but if Marcel wins I will stop watching both ICA and the NIC. I don't see the redemption aspect of his story even though he lost in Top Chef, he still did not endure the culinary battles the chefs on the real road to redemption did. And, how many weeks can you make ice cream before it gets old and boring?

  7. @StevenL57 says:

    I cannot even begin to imagine if Mehta had made it through this, if he was on Iron Chef, it would be like having a bad guy wrestler on. Everyone would root against him. Chef Freitag is the only one left who has the chops and personality to be a positive presence on the show.

  8. kaidancer says:

    I just this very moment finished watching this episode. After the loss of Chef Faulkner last week, the show has become more intellectual and less visceral for me; some of the dynamic tension of having a favorite compete has gone, but I still find it interesting and really enjoy hearing the judges' comments. Like Pat, I would like very much to have another woman on the Iron Chef team with the loss of Cat Cora (who was a hoot and I enjoyed watching her very much), but I don't know that either Chef Guarnaschelli or Chef Freitag are ready to step in to Chef Cora's shoes. Chef Appleman puts me in mind of Chef Forgione: a fierce and focused competitor who is tough to like. Chef Vigneron remains a question mark to me, I can't tell if I like him or if he's kind of an ass. I was sorry to see Chef Mehta go – he's another really fiercely focused competitor – but in the end, I don't believe that a chef can have contempt for any of their ingredients no matter how amazing a chef they are and I think that's what killed Chef Mehta's chances in this episode.
    If I had to choose… I think I'd like to see Chef Freitag win. She's proven that she has the ability to think like an Iron Chef and doesn't shrink from taking risks.
    However it turns out, I wish them all well.

    • amandafan says:

      Chef Vigneron is a quick and imaginative chef who seems to understand the science and art of putting his dishes together. He is kind of a nerd like Alton but with a bold counterculture flair like Chef Falkner. He has sharpened his focus and I hope that Chef Freitag battles against him in the finale.

  9. I was happy to see Chef Mehta go.. He was an obviously great chef and he had some phenomenal dishes in the competition but he also happen so be a pompous as(piring iron chef)…Chef Appleman is also very talented but always angry and mad…. I think I have seen more smirks than smiles…but this does happen to be a competition and these are all incredibly talented chefs and no one likes to have their efforts critiqued competition or not… I was def Team Falkner and I was very upset to see her go, but Chef Guarnachelli and Chef Freitag are my next favs… I however, do not believe that Chef Zakarian has favored either one of them in the competition. Even though they judge Chopped together. There are 3 judges. Chef Vigneron is also talented and is able to create great dishes… do I believe he should still be there after the double plating stunt… No..but I also think he has worked at trying to prove himself since then..

  10. WestCoastFan says:

    Predictions & Speculations. I'm wondering if the Next Iron Chef Redemption cast photo gives any clues of who may be the NIC or be in the finals. If I were to speculate I'm thinking that it could possibly be Freitag making it to the end. Wouldn't that be wonderful? The first female Next Iron Chef winner.

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