It All Came Down to a Cherry Tart — Critical Moments

by in Shows, December 24th, 2012

Chefs Freitag and GuarnaschelliIt was clear from the very first taste of Chef Freitag’s Lusty Lemon Chicken that she was going to be the first rival chef to reach Kitchen Stadium. It really was that good. But deciding who would be joining her would prove to be much more difficult.

I very much liked Chef Appleman’s use of haddock (chosen by me because of my love for fish and chips) in his chowder, but agreed with my colleagues that it lacked the advertised smoked element. Similarly, while we all thought that Chef Guarnaschelli’s dish of sea urchin was elegant, it definitely lacked the acidity that it needed to bring out the depth of flavor of the seafood. It was close, but in the end Chef Guarnaschelli took the second spot in Kitchen Stadium.

Both these chefs deserved their places in the finale, and to make sure that the long-standing Iron Chefs had their say in the final decision, Bobby Flay, Michael Symon and Masaharu Morimoto helped swell the ranks at the judges’ table. In honor of the Iron Chefs, the Chairman revealed the Secret Ingredients on the altar, which represented each of them and the cuisines they specialize in.

Chef Guarnaschelli's Cherry Pasilla Chile TartWith only three dishes with which to shine, there was no room for complacency, and the final two combatants brought some of their very best work to the tasting table. Chef Freitag’s feta burrata was creamy and delicious, while her puree of eggplant beneath perfectly cooked lamb was one of the highlights of the day. Chef Guarnaschelli’s starter of scallops showed real respect for the ingredients chosen by Iron Chef Morimoto and her cherry tart with pasilla chiles, with its crumbly almond crust, was considered by many the very best bite of the finale.

My vote went to Chef Guarnaschelli by a whisker. Although I know that it was not by any means unanimous, the majority of the judges agreed that it was her name that would be called out by the Chairman as he announced the winner.

Iron Chef Guarnaschelli, as she will now always be known, has definitely earned her place among the pantheon of the culinary greats, and I look forward to judging her in Kitchen Stadium.

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

Relive the final episode (click the play button):

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Comments (184)

  1. Flour Child says:

    I find it funny (& frustrating) that Alex got to the finale by being less worse rather than being much better than the competitors. Her win seems flawed based on the many passes she received for creating uncreative dishes. If she made outstanding food most of the time, her grouchiness could be overlooked. Unfortunately, she lacks a winning personality as well. Her first battle is a "grudge" match against "Judge Judy" from her previous NIC contest. So, revenge is Alex's impetus, right out of the gate. Good luck with that image.

  2. Sheila says:

    you people sound like the losing football team playing against a SEC opponent. Green is not a very pretty color on you. Roll Alex Roll!!

  3. Julie says:

    You all have to remember this is television. None of this is real! Compare this show to any other "reality" show on television. Scripted, edited to the max and pre-determined winners. This is how the networks keep their ratings. I for one am done with FN.

  4. mimi says:

    What a bunch of haters! It's just a show! geez

    • Brett says:

      When it's presented as an honest competition it's not "just a show"
      It's about integrity Mini.
      Or perhaps that's not important to you.

    • Shannon says:

      Mimi, not a bunch of haters. A bunch of VIEWERS (including you and me) would be a more accurate representation of the folks commenting on here. You are correct that this is in fact a television show, and television shows and television networks as a whole are driven by their viewers.

      That being said, I would be willing to wager the FN execs are kicking themselves at this point for their unethical competition and their ultimate decision to make AG the NIC. She is apparently not well received by the majority (myself included).

      So all you commentors (like myself) out there,lets keep on expressing ourselves FN needs the feedback. After all WE are what drives their programming.

      • Sarah says:

        Alex was leading in the fan poll the ENTIRE competition. By a lot. It seems that she is indeed well received by the majority, but maybe the majority isn't posting on all these threads.

    • jode7 says:

      Mimi, you may say it's just a show, and yes it is, but many viewers have invested in the NIC thinking they are watching a ( show ) with a little more integrity- honesty then the average network has to offer.
      Some of us have taken the recipes-tips into our own kitchens- so that makes it personal. We give away a little trust – we expect the same trust back. Trust is gone, home cooks feel punked. We have 83 channels we can easily tune into to. The Food Network Channel has dumbed down matching the others regarding integrity – scripted falsifed BS we can find on any other network. We bring some of this show into our homes; Are we haters, hell ya, for me it's not business, it's personal.

  5. Gail Wing says:

    I have read all the negatve reviews, and I think it is so ridiculous. Just because your choice did not win, you try to find some ulterior motive for Iron Chef G winning. Go back and watch all of the episodes, she did win this competition fairly. You would have complained no matter who won. Congratulations, Iron Chef G.

    • trinibeens says:

      ummm Gail…there r glaring issues this year. 1. Alex is Zakarian' s sous chef in kitchen stadium so how can he judge her. 2. this final battle shld be a culmination of all battles leadg to it, not just a cherry tart! 3. even Alex was surprised she won bc she knew her own history! I love FN and usually support their decisions …but this time, they got it wrong.

  6. SoniaBarbados says:

    I used to like watching these shows, however, they are now meaningless crap, as you can determine the winner from the start. Both Freitag and Faulkner were cheated and FN should be ashamed of themselves. I will no longer watch this station like I did before.

  7. Jules in WA State says:

    Yet again….epic fail Food Network. The only honest show would be blind tasting. We the viewer knows who made what, but not the judges. The losing DISH goes home and the winning DISH takes the day. Last season and this season were so predictable that it has now become boring….like four thousand episodes of Triple D to the point that one says "of course" when previewing the nights schedule. *yawn* Let me calculate…NIC: Seriously? And the winner is? Giada Delaurentes or Rachael Ray. There are some seriously talented Chefs out there, why can't you seem to find them Food Network? Or is it they just say no when you come knocking? Peace out.

  8. Guest says:

    Won't watch this show again. Alex certainly did not win. Chef Freitag was clearly the better cook throughout the competition, and also a very pleasant person. Can't get away from politics in any environment – shame on this decision – not even close. Good bye.

  9. Guest says:

    Freitag was robbed.

  10. @Franticc says:

    Being petty and pointing fingers the way that some of you do is ridiculous and childish. For starters, the whole point of these competitions is that one dish will send you home. That's how every chef gets sent home. It shouldn't be any different in this final round. More to the point this is how ALL cooking competition shows are run. Even if Chef Zakarian were biased, there are two other judges who vote as well throughout the show, and of course five in this last round. Alex won the first challenge, won within her group for the second challenge, and ultimately survived through out-cooking the other chefs. Not necessarily winning each challenge but cooking with consistency. Alex did earn her spot at the top.

    • LISN1 says:

      I thought the whole point of the THIS competition was to find a truly remarkable and unbeatable chef to join the illustrious panel of Iron Chefs. Thanks for explaining that it's just a turn of the roulette wheel, with Las Vegas odds. That makes watching the entire season a total waste of time when the winner is determined only by the last challenge. The judges could have simply flipped a coin (with 2 heads) to get Alex on "bored".

      • joe says:

        I totally agree, to base it on a single event at the finale and not what happened throughout the season is ridiculous. Alex was not innovative whatsoever, and it is something i would definitely expect from an Iron chef, which Amanda was. To be able to cook good dishes with no innovation is booooooring and should not be called an iron chef, if that's the case pretty much anyone can do it duh!!!! Also it's not how ALL competition are done, look at Chopped, prime example of picking the best chef based on all 3 dishes….duh. Also, Amanda did cook w/consistency, so consistent that she WON 4 challenges, yes 4 with innovative dishes.

    • Brett says:

      You obviously don't understand how networks run their corporations dear

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