Whenever people stop to chat with me at airports, in restaurants or on the street, they usually have the same two questions.
The first is about how I managed to land one of the best gigs imaginable, eating dishes prepared for me by the finest chefs in the United States. The second is how my fellow judges and I go about the seemingly impossible task of deciding who will emerge victorious from Kitchen Stadium.
To answer the first question, you will have to ask Food Network. As long as they keep asking me, I’ll keep showing up. Heck, I’ll probably keep showing up even if they stop asking me.
I can, however, offer a slightly more detailed response for the second question.
While I suspect I shall never be accused of being on the fence about the dishes presented in Kitchen Stadium and The Next Iron Chef set, I also think that it’s important to be able to articulate to both the chefs and the audience watching at home why I think that a dish was successful or otherwise. During my appearances on Iron Chef America and The Next Iron Chef, I have developed a series of criteria that I hope help me do just that.
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Whether you’re a fan of Food Network, Cooking Channel or both, have you ever wondered what it would be like if the two networks fought for supremacy? Here’s your chance to see it for real on Iron Chef America. Food Network and Cooking Channel will battle it out in Kitchen Stadium, not only for the win, but for long-lasting bragging rights. You won’t want to miss this episode, which will surely go down in food television history.
Representing Food Network are Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto, Robert Irvine and Ted Allen. Representing Cooking Channel are Iron Chef Michael Symon, Nadia G and Ben Sargent. Tune in to find out which team will win glory for their network.
Tune in: Sunday, December 2 at 10pm/9c
Vote for the network you want to win
Can’t wait to start the holidays? This weekend, Food Network has all new episodes including exciting holiday specials to get you in the spirit — you won’t want to walk away from your television set.
Paula, Trisha and Jeff have new episodes showing their individual take on the holidays. Giada teams up with HGTV’s Sabrina Soto to renovate a deserving family’s kitchen and family room. In a special episode of Barefoot Contessa, Ina and her husband Jeffrey take a trip back to Brooklyn. On The Best Thing I Ever Made, watch Food Network chefs create holiday treats that are perfect for gift-giving. Plus there are new episodes of Rachael Ray’s Week in a Day, Sandra’s Restaurant Remakes and Guy’s Big Bite.
Paula’s Best Dishes: A Very Chatty Christmas
When Paula and her longtime friends, sisters Amy and Suzette, get together in the kitchen, it’s a fun-filled day of cooking and catching up on old times. Paula makes Crawfish, Bacon and Mushroom Stuffed Beef Tenderloin. Amy and Suzette make an Eggplant Rice Dressing. For dessert, Paula reinvents the classic fruitcake as a bread pudding and serves it up with whiskey sauce. It’s a Southern meal worthy of the holiday, all wrapped up in love and memories.
Tune in: Saturday, December 1 at 9:30am/8:30c
More holiday specials after the jump
With the upcoming holiday, it’s all about getting the family gathered around a Thanksgiving table full of food. With that in mind, there are two new shows to watch this Sunday that check off both those boxes.
Guy’s Big Bite: Guy’s Family Reunion
What happens when Guy Fieri and his extended family get together for a reunion in Nag’s Head, N.C.? A week-long, no-holds-barred gathering that’s filled with food cooked up by Guy himself. Beyond the food, there are games on the beach, deep sea fishing and crabbing. Get to know Guy on a personal level from his family’s perspective.
Tune in: Sunday, November 11 at 12pm/11am c
Iron Chef America: Thanksgiving Showdown
If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like if the Chopped judges battled it out in Kitchen Stadium, here’s your chance. Three Iron Chefs (Michael Symon, Marc Forgione and Geoffrey Zakarian) will join sides for the first time to battle it out against Chopped judges Aarón Sanchez, Scott Conant and Marc Murphy in a Thanksgiving showdown to determine which team’s Thanksgiving dishes will reign supreme.
Tune in: Sunday, November 11 at 10pm/9c
Get ready for the newest season of The Next Iron Chef by experiencing some of the most drool-worthy moments from seasons past at the Iron Chef’s restaurants. From the deliciously spicy dishes at Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill to Michael Symon’s modern American food at Lola and the phenomenal Asian-fusion at Morimoto, you’re bound to find a secret ingredient to your liking. We’ve compiled the ultimate Food Network fan restaurant guide with the help of the On the Road app and website.
It’s hard not to be in a festive mood at Mesa Grill. There are so many margarita flavors and so much color in the food and decor that you can’t help but smile. But there’s serious cooking going on, too, with Bobby Flay’s love and mastery of all things Southwest coming through in every dish.
Keep reading for more restaurants
Everybody has their favorite memory of a perfect pasta dish. My own came during a visit to a small restaurant in Rome where I was presented with a plate of Bucatini All’Amatricana, made with the tubular pasta and a spicy sauce containing guanciale (cured pig jowls). As I travel the globe eating the weird and the wonderful, it is often this comforting bowl of pasta that I recall and crave the most.
Pasta is such a familiar ingredient in the United States that it is often all too easy to take it for granted. There are few people who don’t have at least one type of pasta in their store cupboard and if you were to walk down the aisles of any supermarket, you would have to take off your shoes and socks to help you count the fresh and dried varieties now offered.
Despite its ubiquity, however, there is something about a beautifully prepared pasta dish that is very hard to beat and I hope you were as excited as I was by the way that the Iron Chef and their challenger brought a new spin to such a classic ingredient last night.
Given that pasta is, I suspect, so familiar to everyone who will read this, I thought I would stray from the normal format for these features and instead give you 10 interesting things you may not know about pasta.
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It would be hard to disagree with anyone who argued that the spiritual home for a dollop of cream cheese is on a toasted bagel, in my case accompanied by an equally large spoonful of crunchy peanut butter.
As I hope the Iron Chef and his challenger proved during their exciting battle, however, this fresh, tangy cheese is far more versatile than some people might imagine and is definitely worth keeping on hand as a refrigerator basic.
What is cream cheese?
Cream cheese is a soft, fresh unripened cheese that is made from a combination of milk and heavy cream and by definition must contain at least 33 percent milk fats and less than 55 percent moisture.
It is one of the most popular cheeses in the United States and the most recent research I could find from 2008 reports that the average American consumes a little over 2.5 pounds of cream cheese every year.
On a recent visit to Jamaica, just about every meal my wife and I sampled came with a side order of beautiful golden plantain strips, shallow-fried and served with a sprinkling of salt and nutmeg. They were the perfect accompaniment to grilled local fish or large plates of tear-inducing jerk chicken, and were so delicious a memory that they have now become a regular staple in the Majumdar pantry.
Watching the Iron Chef and his challenger has definitely given me some new ideas for how to use plantains in my own kitchen, and I hope to persuade those of you who have not yet tried them to give the banana’s less well-known cousin a try yourself.
What are plantains?
Plantains, or “cooking banana” as they are sometimes known, are part of the same family as the banana and are often mistaken for them. However, plantains and bananas differ in a number of important areas, both in how they look and in how they are prepared.
In this week’s Kitchen Stadium battle, the Chairman provided not one but a whole cornucopia of ingredients. He challenged the Iron Chef and his challenger to create an inspired tropical meal.
Some of the ingredients on the altar, such as coconuts, pineapples, mangos and green papaya are reasonably well known to regular viewers of Food Network. So, with your permission, I am going to put those to one side and concentrate on one ingredient with which people might not be quite so familiar: hearts of palm.
What are hearts of palm?
Hearts of palm are a crunchy and slightly sweet vegetable similar in taste to an artichoke heart. They are the bud or inner core taken from a range of palm trees including coconut, acai, jucara and pejibayes. They are also known by a number of other names including palmitos and palm hearts. In Florida, they were once known as swamp cabbage and are harvested from the Sabal or “cabbage” palmetto tree, which is the official tree of the Sunshine State.
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One of the greatest food memories of my travels around the globe has to be an early-morning visit to the legendary Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo. While dodging the porters and fishermen, I saw hundreds of varieties of fish and seafood being auctioned off for sale all over Japan.
Amongst all the amazing noises, sights and smells of the market, my eyes were drawn to a number of huge glass tanks containing live octopi, many of whom were attempting to escape by climbing over the sides using the suckers on their tentacles. Unfortunately for them they were soon recaptured and dispatched off to feed hungry locals and tourists including myself.
Watching the Iron Chef and his challenger battle with this eight-legged beast this week really reminded me of my experiences in Japan and I hope it inspires you to try preparing octopus in your own kitchen.
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