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'The Next Iron Chef': The final stretch

And then there were two.

Could anyone have predicted that Chef Jose Garces and Chef Jehangir Mehta would be the last two standing in the battle to become "The Next Iron Chef"? Not because they lack talent. Quite the contrary -- they are two talented chefs in a pool of talented chefs. But there were no clear standouts. All had their highs, all had their lows.

Yet here they stand, representing two vastly different backgrounds. Chef Garces is inclined toward more Latin fare, an homage to his Ecuadorian background, while Chef Mehta is inclined toward ... flowers. And Indian food. And seems to have an unnatural affiliation for ice cream makers.

This week's challenge was one of the toughest yet -- fitting for a challenge to narrow the field down to the final two. Chefs Mehta, Garces and Chef Seamus Mullen had 60 minutes to shop in what is perhaps Japan's most famous fish market, and then, for a panel of six, make a five-plate meal that best illustrated integrity and their personal expression through food.

Chef Mehta shopped as if he were cooking for 100, and seemingly had as many flowers on the plate as he had food. One of the contestants sniped that his presentation looked like a funeral procession. The judges thought it lacked restraint -- but also appreciated that he was indeed putting himself on the plate. (Of course, he used the ice cream maker.)

Chef Garces was the challenger who took the "personal story" angle to heart, and indeed explained how each plate echoed a key point in his life. (The char marks on one of the fish dishes symbolized all the burns he picked up working in kitchens over the years.)

Chef Mullen, limping along with rheumatoid arthritis, thought he could show up his fellow competitors by making six dishes, instead of just five. But that may have been his undoing. With so many dishes to keep track of, he ended up with a salmon mousse that was overcooked and a rice dish that was undercooked. Well, you can imagine how poorly cooked rice goes over in Japan. There was no recovering from that, even if his mullet roe ice cream won rave reviews from the judges.

Mullen went home.

So, out of Garces and Mehta, who will be the next Iron Chef?

Final thought: I had no idea just how much I'd miss Amanda Freitag until she left. I'd really had her pegged for making it to the finals.

-- Rene Lynch

Photo credit: Food Network

Comments () | Archives (14)

You miss Amanda Freitag .. come on. And who couldn't imagine Mehta vs Garces??? Garces will come out on top!

Ia anyone else annoyed by the thought that this season has been rigged in favor of Chef Mehta? Remember, the big double elimination to see which four would be going to Japan was a dinner of Indian food. If this were on the level, that wouldn't have happened (see Top Chef to understand how that works).

That said, they have to make Chef Garces the next Iron Chef, so they don't look suspect. Only if Mehta is OBVIOUSLY superior at Kitchen Stadium (and won't he be happy to have an ice cream maker that works) should he become TNIC.

Am I the only one who thought the presentation of Chef Mehta was beyond hideous? Mullen was one of my favorites along with Garces and Appleman, now I am rooting for Chef Garces.

I've followed Next Iron Chef from the beginning and Pleased that a Latin chef is among the final two. Jose Garces is Iron Chef material, PS cute too!

Having watched a few episodes, yes not all of them, I find Chef Mehta's personality not to be fitting of an Iron Chef. I understand it is a competition, but the winner will be in a position to be on television and his personality is not a pleasing one. I think that besides their culinary talents, the judges should also take into some small account, their personality and how they will be presented on television. Just as they do on The Next Food Network Star. That may not be the name of this show, but it has the same outcome.

Mehta all the way for me. Garces is great, give him a FN show. But Mehta really puts himself into all his food. loved his presentation.

I think Mehta has won the most praises from the judges throughout the show, and his dishes seem more thought out and interesting. I root for Mehta to be the next Iron Chef!

I think their both talented chefs, however, its Chef Mehta for me.

In response to Robert's points, personally, I'm not sure if even watching all of the episodes is necessarily enough to judge the chefs. For example, I know for a fact that Chef Appleman was cut to made much more villainous than he actually was.

And in response to Dave in Northride, each chef is specialized in different things. If they had a Latin dinner before the double elimination, I honestly wouldn't count it rigged in favor of Garces, or anybody else. Iron Chefs need to be well rounded. There are obviously things that they are more familiar with, and more things that they are not.

I'm happy with either of them being an Iron Chef, really.

Chef Mehta is an eclectic chef not an Indian one. His ability to adapt to any ingredient and be comfortable in global cuisine worked to his advantage. Although Chef Garces is a good cook, he lacks creativity and sticks to the traditional. Finally what stands out the most in Chef Mehta’s favor is clearly his strong plating skill. The judges wanted integrity and Chef Mehta was true to his calling. There is no doubt therefore that these two talented chefs made it to the last two

I really thought when the show began that the two that would enter kitchen stadium would be Amanda Freitag and Jose Garces. I was really disappointed when she was sent home after the japanese guest judge raved about her rice. The last episode I could not believe that Chef Mehta was moved on, his presentation was horrible and the judges were not completely impressed with his food. I think they sent home the wrong guy in both of the last two episodes.

That being said and in consideration of kitchen stadium. I hope Jose Garces kicks butt after all he beat Bobby Flay last year.

I would evetually love to see him and Amanda Freitag take one another on. With 44 years of experience between the two of them it would be an episode to watch.

Chef Jehangir Mehta will win. He is the next Iron Chef. ( imo)

Amanda Freitag was great but she was not Iron Chef material.

I would like to add one more point to all the points above in favor of Chef Mehta. I think it is an important aspect for a chef to offer good experience and not just good food. Good food definitely is a major factor and we have seen that Chef Mehta excels in that department but his plating skills and the special thought that he puts into it, gives a holistic experience. I can completely understand the strong feelings that some of you have expressed but think back and point out if any other chef has been able to induce these reactions? I feel it is important for an action to evoke emotions, positive or negative, since these emotions form an integral part of the experience. It is this experience that people remember for a longer time even after they forget the taste of the food served.

I was for chef trevino even though I did not think he could win, I thought he was Iron Chef material. I also liked Dominique Crenn (she is french). I can't stand chef mehta. I hope chef garces will win and I know he will.

Chef Mehta has the Iron Chef potential. Chef Graces is ok and doesnt jump out as far as his food is concern. Graces just play it too safe with familiar food and presentation . Many chef are capable of whipping up dishes but few are able to move beyond to Innovate a dish. Not as a disrespect, the only true iron chef in the Iron chef America line up is Chef Morimoto and grossly underrated and Flay is grossly overrated . I don't remember most of his dishes but Morimoto's dishes and presentation lingers on me. Similarly Graces present existing food with his own flare..not innovating...very forgettable. The truth is Chef Metha create flavorful and dare to be different.
Let's admit..who wants another boring flay like chef. ..bring on Morimoto like chef calibrate anytime for me. my vote goes to Metha


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