by Simon Majumdar in Shows, December 31st, 2012
by Simon Majumdar in Shows, December 27th, 2012
There are no easy tests in Kitchen Stadium. The first battle for any newly crowned Iron Chef, however, is perhaps the toughest of all. The glory of winning The Next Iron Chef competition is all but forgotten and the winner now has to prove themselves worthy in the world’s toughest culinary arena.
It also doesn’t make any difference that Iron Chef Guarnaschelli has become familiar with Kitchen Stadium over the last year, as Iron Chef Zakarian’s sous chef. This time around, she was master, not servant, and any defeat would be associated directly with her name.
It was ironic that her first opponent would be Judy Joo, who — along with Iron Chef Michael Symon and I — was responsible for eliminating her in Season 4 of The Next Iron Chef: Super Chefs. She not only battled to win, but also had a very definite point to prove.
The Secret Ingredient was mortadella (something her fellow rival chef, Chef Nate Appleman, is now very familiar with) and both chefs managed to get their first dish in front of the judges within the 20-minute time frame. Neither was declared a great success, but Iron Chef Guarnaschelli came away with a slender lead of two points to take into the rest of the battle.
by Simon Majumdar in Shows, December 26th, 2012
So many people tell me that they wish they could see what happens behind-the-scenes as we film The Next Iron Chef. So here’s just a little insight into what a regular day might be like as I play my part in helping to decide who is going be the newest addition to the culinary pantheon (read the winner’s interview here).
6:30 a.m. — I head to the gym. A body this lovely doesn’t keep itself (no sniggering at the back).
9:00 a.m. — Being bald has its benefits. I have not visited a barber or bought shampoo in the last 15 years. Best of all, it means that during the filming of The Next Iron Chef each season, I have the latest call time of any member of the cast.
by Simon Majumdar in Shows, December 24th, 2012
As Chef Guarnaschelli dons her jacket and prepares for her first battle this Sunday as a fully fledged Iron Chef, I now have a chance to look back over the last eight weeks and select my highlights from the nearly 100 dishes that were placed in front of the judges during the competition.
It’s certainly no easy task, as I genuinely believe that the level of cooking this year was even higher than in previous seasons. But I’ve come up with my list of the top 10 tastes from The Next Iron Chef: Redemption.
10. Clam Chowder: Chef Estes (Road to Redemption Web Series, Battle Potato)
Chef Estes never really showed her considerable skill to the best effect this season. The clam chowder (pictured above) she prepared in the cook-off competition against Chef Wong, however, was evidence that she deserved her place in the final 10. If you’re going to serve chowder to the judges, it had better be the best you’ve made. I suspect this was pretty close and it received rave reviews from Alton Brown, Iron Chef Jose Garces and me.
Find out which dish made Simon’s top spot
by Maria Russo in Shows, December 23rd, 2012
It 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.
by Simon Majumdar in Shows, December 17th, 2012
There’s no question that this season of The Next Iron Chef: Redemption has been one of Food Network’s most-intense culinary competitions to date. After all, 10 superstar chefs have put their personal and professional reputations on the line — for a second time — in the hopes of making gastronomical history by claiming the only title that matters: that of The Next Iron Chef. Week after week rivals fall and their hopes at achieving redemption become crushed in an instant.
Despite the anxious, pressure cooker-like challenges and Showdowns in which the chefs inevitably find themselves, judge Simon Majumdar has managed to interject a host of witty, well-timed reactions and one-liners that delivered some of the smartest and flat-out funniest moments of the show. Among his best instances of constructive and comedic criticism have been his reaction to Chef Spike Mendelsohn’s use of an apparently juvenile melon baller — he quipped that “We are talking about becoming The Next Iron Chef, not The Next Home Dinner Party Cook” — and his judgment of Alex Guarnaschelli’s too-green spiced ham ravioli, which he deemed reminiscent of “Kermit in a blender.” These sharp, entertaining remarks have provided some of the most LOL-worthy moments of the season to date, and what makes them perhaps even more hilarious is that they’re coming from Simon, a notoriously no-nonsense judge with little tolerance for less than perfection.
Get the best one-liners
by Simon Majumdar in Shows, December 10th, 2012
The four remaining chefs were asked to transform the much-maligned Las Vegas buffet into something worthy of Kitchen Stadium Sunday night.
After legendary magician David Copperfield pronounced that bacon was to be the main ingredient, Chef Freitag paired herself with Chef Appleman to face off against the decidedly odd couple of Chef Guarnaschelli and Chef Vigneron.
The end results brought some real highs and some very definite lows on both sides. I thought that Chefs Freitag and Appleman’s salad lacked any of the announced lime and jalapeno dressing, leaving it bland and tasteless. Their dessert called “The Elvis,” however, still ranks as one of the very best tastes of the whole competition.
Chefs Guarnaschelli and Vigneron produced two triumphant dishes in the form of bacon-wrapped bacon and sublime roast chicken. But they let themselves down by presenting undercooked leeks and a chocolate mousse that was grainy and unpalatable. It was enough to send them both to the Secret Ingredient Showdown to battle it out for a spot in the finale.
Keep reading and get an extended preview of the finale
by Simon Majumdar in Shows, December 9th, 2012
Creating coherent dishes out of unlikely ingredients can be one of the biggest tests of any chef’s skill. Asking them to do so with the marriage-made-in-hell offerings paired by Alton Brown was the perfect challenge to determine which of the five remaining competitors really did have what it takes to become the Next Iron Chef.
Chef Freitag’s ability to combine calamari and marshmallows so splendidly was as brilliant as it was unlikely and meant she unanimously earned her second win of the competition. Chef Vigneron’s creation of blue cheese ice cream with peanut butter brittle was a close second and proved beyond a doubt that he had become a very serious challenger for the title.
Chef Guarnaschelli’s insistence on playing it safe could have seen her relegated to her first Secret Ingredient Showdown. She was saved by Chef Appleman’s undercooked pasta in an oil-slick sauce, however, and Chef Mehta’s preparation of bone marrow did little to hide his contempt for the candy element of his pairing.
by Simon Majumdar in Shows, December 3rd, 2012
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.
by Simon Majumdar in Shows, November 26th, 2012
The curse of the auction challenge strikes again.
No one who watched The Next Iron Chef Season 4 will ever forget the look on Chef Burrell’s face as she realized that her decision to place eventual winner Chef Zakarian in the Secret Ingredient Showdown was going to come back and bite her in the backside. In Season 5, Chef Falkner found herself in the exact same position.
But first, let’s give due praise to Chef Vigneron. His stunning dish of braised beef cheeks proved that he had emerged from the shadow of high school shenanigans with his pal, Chef Mendelsohn, to make himself a very serious contender for a place in Kitchen Stadium.
Keep reading and get an extended preview of the next episode
I am not sure that any chef would be pleased to be informed that they had to produce a meal almost entirely from the contents of a can. But if you want to become The Next Iron Chef, those are exactly the sort of obstacles that you have to overcome.
Chef Falkner’s mystery can contained a substance as far removed from USDA prime beef as I am from Brad Pitt. Despite this, she astounded everyone at the judging plinth by producing a dish so fine that it would have been acceptable in some of the best restaurants on the planet. It really was that good.
Chefs Mendelsohn and Vigneron, however, were far less successful. Chef Mendelsohn’s dish lacked balance, while the salt levels in Chef Vigneron’s dish drew the words “inedible” from all three judges and Alton Brown. It made it pretty obvious that these two high school friends would be competing against each other in the Secret Ingredient Showdown.
Keep reading and get an extended preview of the next episode