Despite some extremely tough battles, it was Iron Chef Michael Symon who finally emerged victorious from the first-ever Iron Chef America: Tournament of Champions. He defeated Iron Chef Garces in a classic confrontation, claiming the title, as well as the bragging rights over his fellow members of the Kitchen Stadium club.
Before he went out to celebrate, I caught up with him and asked for his thoughts on the tournament and his victory.
Since you won, I’m assuming you think that the Tournament of Champions was a good idea. Would you still have felt the same if you had lost?
MS: I definitely still would have thought it was a great idea to have the Tournament of Champions, even if I hadn’t won it. But I’m not going to lie to you, I would have enjoyed it a whole lot less!
Bobby Flay didn’t take part in the tournament. Do you think that cheapens the title, and how do you think you would get on against Iron Chef Flay if you did battle him?
MS: You only have to look at some of the tough battles between the other Iron Chefs to know that Bobby’s absence did not weaken the tournament at all. Iron Chef Flay and I have known each other for so long and are such good friends that we have promised that we will never compete against each other. I know it’s a cop-out, but if we were forced to battle, I think it would probably result in a tie.
Is it more difficult to battle another Iron Chef than an outsider chef?
MS: It’s much, much more difficult to compete against a fellow Iron Chef, no matter how good the other challengers are, the main reason being that familiarity with the setup in Kitchen Stadium is such a great advantage in terms of time. You do not have that benefit when you are facing someone who also calls it home.
Which was your toughest battle of the tournament?
MS: Both battles were very tough, for different reasons. But if I was forced to pick one, it would be my first battle with Iron Chef Zakarian. He is such a great chef and we have known each other for over 15 years. I think we both could have guessed the sort of menu the other was going to prepare, which made it even more difficult to come up with something to blow the judges away.
Did you have any dodgy moments in the tournament?
MS: My biggest issue was time, particularly in my final battle against Iron Chef Garces. I really struggled to keep on the clock and for one moment, genuinely wondered if I was ever going finish all the dishes on time. Thankfully I just made it and took the win.
I particularly enjoyed Battle Peanut Butter and Jelly between Iron Chef Forgione and Iron Chef Garces. Which of the other battles did you enjoy the most?
MS: I loved watching the battle between Iron Chef Garces and Iron Chef Morimoto. They are two of the most-creative chefs in Kitchen Stadium and were both at the top of their game. It was a classic.
Which ranks higher in your career: becoming an Iron Chef or winning the Tournament of Champions?
MS: Wow, that’s a really tough question. I think that winning The Next Iron Chef was probably more important for my public profile, but winning this tournament is just as important for me personally and for my professional profile. I’m definitely pleased that both happened.
Will you defend your title next year if they ask you to?
MS: Simon, buddy, you know me better than to even ask that question. Of course I’ll defend my title if they ask me to next year. I’ll accept any culinary challenge anytime. You line ‘em up, I’ll knock ‘em down.