- Chef Mario Pagan on the meatloaf that sent him home: "I felt that having been given the most labor-intensive dish, I did a good job."
FN Dish: What did you take away from the experience of competing on The Next Iron Chef?
Mario Pagan: Competing in The Next Iron Chef has been the most amazing and exciting highlight of my career! It’s an honor to have been picked as one of the ten best chefs in the United States. Being amongst so many talented chefs is an opportunity that is hard to come by.
Dish: How did you feel about the meatloaf and potatoes dish that sent you home when you presented it?
M.P.: I felt that having been given the most labor-intensive dish, I did a good job.
Dish: If you could have a do-over, what would you change about that fateful dish?
M.P.: If I had to do it all over again, I have to say that I should have used arrowroot instead of cornstarch to thicken my sauce.
Dish: What advice would you give future Next Iron Chef contestants?
M.P.: The best advice that I can give is to make sure to pick your proteins first and then set up your “mise en place” for your planned dish. Ask for the remaining time in the battle at all times. But, until you’re there, you’ll never understand the overwhelming feeling of being in that kitchen. What an amazing ride! Stay and cook strong!
Look inside Chef Pagan’s Next Iron Chef journal and flip through our behind-the-scenes gallery from Episode 2.
- Chef Andrew Kirschner's advice to future Next Iron Chef rivals: "Have fun; you’re on television."
I have to admit that doing The Next Iron Chef was nerve-racking, but I took away great friendships and an experience I’ll always remember. Cooking can be so subjective and culinary arts have never been a competitive sport for me; this was different from anything I’d ever done.
I felt confident about my dish, Grilled Duck Breast with Green Papaya and Mango. It was familiar and comfortable, and represented one aspect of my cooking style. In retrospect, I could have made something more intricate, with a higher level of skill to impress, but my strategy for the first challenge was to rely more on technique and stay within my comfort zone.
We cooked on a grill out on the beach. Too bad, because I was pleased overall with the dish, and think it would have been a total success if I had more control over my equipment.
I would tell any chef wanting to get into this that they will benefit from the challenge of the show, but at the same time I would warn them to not take themselves too seriously. Enjoy the wonderful relationships you’ll make with other chefs from around the country. And have fun; you’re on television. I just wish I’d been able to compete longer so people could have really gotten to know me, both personally and professionally. Having said that, I hope people will come to Wilshire Restaurant and sample my goods!
–Chef Andrew Kirschner
Look inside Chef Kirschner’s Next Iron Chef journal and flip through our behind-the-scenes gallery from Episode 1.
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