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. Anna says:

    Hello!!!

    How in the world alex won. Shame on judges. Between the two Freitag is a much bettert cook.. As she does thes Iron chef episode they certainly will make her win so their decison are not ambarasing to them. I hope she does not do well.!!Will not watch her where ever she is doing a show.

  2. luv2cook says:

    I watached every episode and truly believed that Amanda would take the prize. She was so much more impressive and creative that the last competition last season; she really took her passion to the next level. While I like Alex's creativity and talent … I .. like all the other viewers .. gasped when Alex won over Amanda. It's true that sometimes the best dish of the night just seems to win, without consideration to other nights, but on the overall … it was really Amanda's turn based on the overall stellar performance she exhibited. … Gotta admit, .. Amanda was robbed, as was Chef Faulkner over a single overdose of a single spice deemed to be inexcusable and cause for elmination .. while those failing in bigger issues like technique, passion, creativity, and execution took the remaining slots.
    Something just doesn't smell right in the Food Network kitchen on this one …

  3. Brett Larsen says:

    What a CROCK! (And I don't mean Mario's shoes)
    Ever since Chef Falkner was eliminated it was obvious that you intended for Chef Guanoschelli to win.
    Let's recap shall we?
    The judges proclaim that Chef Falkner should cook in EVERY elimination challenge because her cooking is so transcendent, but the following week she uses slightly too much saffron and is gone.
    Chef Guano presents a dish with a week custard & is unanimously too light on lemon juice but miraculously survives because Chef Appleman thoughtlessly put scallops in a fish dish.
    I will continue to watch shows on the network that are worth watching but you have seriously diminished your credibility in my eyes & I don't think it's worth watching Iron Chef when the outcome is pre-determined.

  4. Isaiah says:

    I am so sad for Amanda Freitag that she did not win. She was the winner of the whole entire show, she really should have won. I am sorry to Alex in her stand, Alex is mean and all fool of herself. She has an attitude problem and think to much of herself. Where you can see that Amanda is a down to earth person, and carries herself from the heart. The judges are blind and I agree with the comment that Iron Chef Z only carried Alex all the way to the finish line of winning.

  5. Bev says:

    I was rooting for chef Freitag from the beginning, so of course I thought she should win.It seemed like she got better reviews for her dishes throughout the competition. But I didn't taste the food, so have to rely on the judges to do their job. Too bad they both couldn't become Iron Chefs.

  6. Ella says:

    I'm very disappointed in the result. Amanda had an impressive string of wins throughout the competition and more than proved herself. The winner has been crowned, but a system that doesn't recognize all of that fantastic previous work is in my opinion, fundamentally flawed. Furthermore, why make it a season long series if the winner will be crowned based on one meal – or one tart?

    In addition, if one little mistake can hurt you, why was Alex given a pass for the overdone scallop on Simon's appetizer plate? This was my first and last time watching “Next Iron Chef” so to be honest, I'm over it. For me, it seems pointless to invest my time in something that seems off.

    If I were Amanda, I would decline competing in any future Next Iron Chef or Iron Chef America competitions. Falling short twice after making excellent cases for victories on both occasions has to be hard. Amanda more than proved her worth and doesn’t need to put her heart & soul into it again only to be disappointed.

    Lastly, there just seemed to be bias going on. The fawning over Alex was a bit much throughout the competition. Also, one of the judges brought in for the finale just seemed completely Anti-Amanda.

    I wish Amanda the best and she should be proud of the way that she carried herself throughout the competition. Completely classy all the way as opposed to uptight, dramatic & fake.

  7. John says:

    There were many chefs on this show that could easily be the next iron chef. Early on I favored Alex and later I favored Amanda. In the end I believe that Amanda should have one but that counts the whole season and not just the meal that is served. The whole notion of a single mistake nullifying all previous results bothers me. I wish Alex well and she will be a great Iron chef I am sure. I just wish that Amanda had one at this point.

    • Linda says:

      I love Amanda and would have been perfectly happy if she HAD won.. But the thing is, the rules of this competition, unlike those on chopped, mean that ONLY the food you prepare THAT day counts in the judging.
      Consider that Chopped eliminates half of the contestants, then at the end of the dessert round, evaluates the meal presented THAT DAY. These contestants appear on a single episode.
      In the NIC finale, Appelman was elimiated in the first round. Then Alex and Amanda presented a meal each. The entire meal presented THAT DAY was judged to determine the winner. Each of them got kudos for some particular part and each was given criticism for some particular part or parts. So, in the end, it wasn't fo far off from the way Chopped does things.
      In the whole series, Zakarian was one of 3 judges. Then in the finale, Zakarian was only one of 6 judges. I don't think that is enough to throw the whole competition.

  8. Art chef says:

    Kikkoman shouod stop sponsoring the next Iron Chef program it is a fix up program
    Shame on you … ill never watch your channel anymore.

  9. Linda says:

    I am trying to figure out what shoes have to do with anything. I don't think it was Batali's Crocs that made him such an outstanding chef or so entertaining to watch. So, how do Sketchers affect a chef's performance?

    • MoHub says:

      On the other hand, the very first Top Chef Quickfire ever saw Cynthia tossed out of Hubert Keller's kitchen for wearing inappropriate shoes. So it does matter in some culinary circles.

      And speaking of Top Chef, how cool was it seeing two TC alumnae as Freitag's sous chefs? I'd have given her the win for that alone.

    • Flour Child says:

      Shoes are part of the chef's uniform. Obviously, open sandals would be unhygienic in any professional kitchen. As mentioned by MoHub, chef Hubert Keller tossed out a chef for wearing the wrong color chef shoes. Therefore, it does matter. I also feel a chef's hair should be completely secured (rather than flying in the breeze). Alex recently competed with her mother with her hair completely down. Gross.

  10. Quaquanikua says:

    This show is fixed. Zacharian first, then Guano. Not watching again. Strayed too much into the Japanese version of the fix. Chefs Freitag and Faulkner were cheated.

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