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. Genie says:

    Although I watch almost everything FN has to offer and I like all the chefs including Alex, I think that Amanda had this by a landslide. She won more rounds, had a couple of "perfect dishes" and was waayyy more creative. Alex was a "bit" more creative with her tart and it overshadowed her poor performance throughout the competition. I watch almost every Iron Chef competition and Remption show that airs and I think the judges got this one wrong especially listening to the comments of the other Iron Chefs in the final round and watching this Redemption program from the beginning. I agree that some may have had to go, but Faulker out over a bit too much saffron and Alex in with all her errors, really. I like Zakarian, but has anyone heard of conflict of interest or even nepotism.

    • Linda says:

      A: Each round was a new beginning, with everything that went before completely left behind. The rules were explained and accepted by the chefs. So that argument doesn't wash.
      B: Alex's performances were not mediocre. If you listened to the critiques, they bashed the fact that she didn't take big risks and was a tad less creative than the others. But except for one challenge her flavors were praised, and actually saved her from having to go to the secret ingredient challenge until the last one. As you will note when watching the scores on IC competition, flavor usually trumps creativity and plating.
      C: If you have used saffron you know perfectly well that the line between good and absolutely gross is very fine. At this level, Faulkner should have had that under control. She didn't and her dish tasted like perfume. Not good. It got her eliminated. Sad, but thats how it works

  2. Cream says:

    Of course, Zacharian brought his assistant to the victory. Horrible false! Amanda is a real Iron Chef. Do not watch this shameless show any more!

  3. Dalty says:

    I'd like to thank the judges for voting Alex "Grumpy-shelli" TNIC. This means I can eliminate one show from my DVR. This is probably the first time I knew from the very first moment who was going to win. It didn't matter that she was firmly in the middle of the pack throughout the competition. It didn't matter than Marcel actually out-cooked her in the showdown. It was a foregone conclusion. Now there are three rather boring Iron Chefs. Maybe I'll still watch if Morimoto is cooking.

  4. Eal says:

    I will never watch an Iron chef with Alex, I think she won not by merit, but by the voting of Zac and Dona…… She should never have passed several rounds as she failed to meet the challenge…….FN the perception of a conflict is worst than the conflict of interest itself….

    • Lin says:

      If I remember right, didn't Zak, her buddy, do the same thing – by not following the rules ? She scopped up spilled food and used it/served it AND, they both won – what message is being sent to their constituents ?

  5. donna says:

    For those of you, like Donatella, who had deemed Chef Frietag should/would be the NIC before the Kitchen Stadium final battle…I ask you, what was the point of the finale if Alex had no chance at victory? Have you never heard of a 'come from behind' win before? It happens all the time in football, and baseball etc. Is there anythhing more thrilling than a horse and rider charging from deep in the pack to win the race! When Alex, and Amanda entered kitchen stadium for the last face off….the competition reset. They both entered w/an equal chance to win. Otherwise, the competion should be decided on a point system after so many challenges, and there should be no finale. But, I love it the way it is.

  6. Chris says:

    I love reading all the Posts talking about how Alex won because of Zacharian, etc. I urge everyone to go back and watch the very first episode where the opening was an Alex Guarnaschelli montage and intro followed by Alex standing in the center of the shot by herself. Gradually the other chef-testants begin to join in the shot, surrounding her in the center. You can't blame Zacharian alone as this whole season was a vehicle to continue a successful "competition" show all the while knowing that the network's golden girl was going to be the Next Iron Chef.

    Hey, you can even go back to her first appearance in the prior season of Next Iron Chef when she made the best Sausage and Pepper sandwich any of the judges ever had. Just out of curiosity, how many other chefs in these competition shows get dinged or sent home for using pre-made sausage? (Oh that's right, just about everyone except Alex)

    By the way, if you need more proof, look who is the Executive Producer of "Alex's Day Off." If you don't want to take the time to look it up I'll go ahead and fill you in: Bobby Flay! And who also happened to be one of the final judges? Right again!

    Under normal competition rules one might think that there was a gross conflict of interest between Zaccharian (as she acted as his sous chef in multiple Iron Chef competitions) and Flay (with a huge financial interest in her success), but hey it's Food Network, and they apparently get to make up their own rules and do whatever they want. That is so disrespectful to the loyal viewers that stayed with them all these years.

    The food network stopped producing actual cooking shows long ago and instead focused on competition shows. Now they aren't even able to do that right anymore. What's next for the network that I used to adore. It's embarrassing to watch anymore! Shameful even!

    • Shannon says:

      Chris, I agree with you. Chef Z was biased, however lets not forget who his employer is…that's right FN! We should all remember that ALL of the personalities on FN are just that, employees. I agree that it was predestined for Chef A to be the winner. But not nescessarily a call made soley by Chef Z.

    • Flour Child says:

      You make valid points. Alex had a lot of help from her many friends… Good detective work, Chris. FN just keeps churning out slanted competitions, probably because they are cheaper to produce. I, for one, have not much interest in viewing these programs. The celeb battle with Ray and Fieri is a must miss tv for me.

    • Ella says:

      For all of the comments about Zakarian judging Alex, I was wondering why there hadn't been more flack for Bobby Flay as a judge. If anything, to me there seems to be more of a connection between Bobby and Alex. Watching Bobby's comments about both women's dishes in the finale just made it seem as if he was rooting for Alex all the way. It's almost like he didn't even try to hide it.

      He just seemed so nit-picky with Amanda and his comment about Alex crushing the dessert round really made it seem like he favored Alex. Especially given the fact that Simon Mujumdar said that it was a lot closer than what Bobby was making it out to be. I actually felt badly for Amanda having to be judged by him. Surely editing affects how things are presented, but the impression that this gives is off-putting. Maybe most aren't aware of the Flay connection.

  7. Debra says:

    I personally feel that everyone has way too much time on their hands to be so upset on who won. It's just a show for entertainment.

    • LISN says:

      Perhaps. If it is "just a show for entertainment" as you put it, then why isn't it very entertaining? Instead, it was a lesson in futility and frustrating to watch.

  8. Antony says:

    Alex Guarnaschelli is annoying. I will not watch Iron Chef anymore. Amanda Freitag won overall, but that was not considered. Clearly there was an agenda. F___ Food Network, I am never watching this show again. As a matter of fact, I am never watching anything with Alex Guarnaschelli in it.

  9. lisette says:

    Worst of all, FN, Alex works as Zakarian's sous chef and they are clearly friends. Bobby Flay has produced 15 of her shows for FN. How is that fair?

    Amanda's cooking was consistent and impressive. Alex did things–like shaving a little peppermint candy over salad or stealing Marcel's challenge ingredient–that she should have been penalized for…but, repeatedly, she skated by.

    Alex also brought a very unpleasant attitude to the competition and her plating was generally quite awful..A very UNworthy Iron Chef, imo.

  10. Amy Beth Schneider says:

    I looked forward to this show every week and have a lot of admiration for Chef Guarnaschelli's eloquence and knowledge and talent–but any objective viewer could see that Chef Freitag won this particular competition in terms of innovation, quick thinking, fusion, and successful risk-taking. I will not be following this show in the future.

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