« Previous Post | Show Tracker Home | Next Post »

'The Next Iron Chef': Technique trumps creativity

"The Next Iron Chef" is Chef Jose Garces.

In the end, Garces' technique -- though bland at times -- beat out Chef Jehangir Mehta's unquestionable creativity.

For this finale, the judging panel added Iron Chefs Michael Symon, Bobby Flay and Masaharu Morimoto, weighing in on who should join their stable of "cooking giants" who defend their titles in Kitchen Stadium on Food Network's "Iron Chef."

The cheftestants were given 60 minutes to make a five-course feast that represents America's melting pot. The secret ingredient was ribs and racks of all sorts, including buffalo, pork and beef.

Chef Garces played it safe, an approach that seemed to impress the fellow Iron Chefs. But it turned off the judges, who have presided over the competitions that led up to tonight's showdown, including food critic Jeffrey Steingarten.

At times, the competition seemed less about Garces versus Mehta and more about Steingarden versus the Iron Chef judges.

Steingarden appeared to be trying to shame the Iron Chefs into voting for Chef Mehta by accusing them of playing it safe as well. He said like Garces because he cooked like them. "I would not pay for that food, and if any of you would, I have a bridge going to Brooklyn that I would like to sell you," he said.
Chefs Mehta and Garces are radically different in their cooking style yet well matched. They both won three challenges apiece during the course of the competition, which this season was set in Los Angeles and Japan.

Mehta was back at the ice cream again, making an avocado version that made nearly everyone swoon. But he also made a pork burger that was, well, raw. And it was served along with raw French fries. Chef Morimoto told Chef Mehta that he had tried to do too much -- it would have been better to focus on one dish and execute it perfectly.

On the other side of the spectrum, Chef Garces did just that, executing everything nearly perfectly. (The exception being a mouthful of cartilage that one of the judges got biting into his carnitas taco). But on balance, Garces' dish were kinda safe and boring, according to some of the judges.

The judging panel was left with a difficult decision: What talent should the reward most? Perfect execution, without a lot of flash? Or creative genius that sometimes fall short? Chef Symon asked this provocative question: "If you're creative and you fail, are you creative? Or are you a failure?"

It was a bit of an exaggeration, of course -- Mehta is not a failure by any stretch. But his culinary high points -- which may have surpassed anyone else in the competition -- were followed by comparable lows. Said one judge: "He can hit a high point ... but can't execute a French fry well."

It was enough to hand victory to Garces.

So what did you think? Did the right chef win?

-- Rene Lynch 

Comments () | Archives (73)


All of the contestants were excellent chefs, and had won an battle as a contestant. All have the chops, but I think that Garces was the right choice. Start to finish he was consistently excellent, despite not having the highest highs. I think the next Iron Chef not only needed to be great on the show, but needed to fit. Garces has the presence of an Iron Chef, to me he just feels like he belongs with Bobby, Mario, Cat, Michael, and Morimoto. Not to mention that his Latin influence fills a missing void in the current crop.

I know one must take the show's seeming inconsistency, especially between the judges comments and voting, as well as the intra-chef drama with a grain of salt due to editing. On the final episode Jeffery Steingarden used words like perfect, amazing, and remarkable... then say that he wouldn't pay for it? I think he tries to be a man of extremes, contradictions be damned.

For the season I would rank them: Garces, Mullen, Freitag, Mehta, Appleman.

Congratulations Chef Garces!

The right chef won. While Mehta may have shown bursts of creativity, he also consistently played underhandedly and made comments that he had to behave this way to win - which shows me that even he did not have confidence in his talent alone and believed he had to stoop to stealing/hiding ingredients from the other chefs. Garces, on the other hand, focused on his skills, consistently delivering meal after meal. I don't know that his foods were safe and boring but perhaps just not as out there as Mehta's... could Mehta consistently amaze? probably not, but Garces will satisfy time after time. Again, the right chef won, with both talent and class, befitting a true Iron Chef.

Its not competition.. its representation. Chef Garces will bring a latin flavor profile to the ICA stable that the Food network needs and that was decisive.. from the get-go he was deemed the favorite, even though he did not innovate one bit

stunningly, the food network star contestants had to be more creative than the next iron chef participants..

all along you knew that Mehta wont win, the editing was painting him to be a villain and those folks just dont win.. the pattern of painting one contestant as affable and the other as abrasive is drama but unfair

and Michael Symon.. come on did he forget he was standing there a couple of years back.. to call Chef Mehta a failure... wow

know what i dont watch ICA if its Cora .. now i will add Symon to that... that was a cheap cheap comment.. why not have some seasoned vets like Batali on the judging table

chef mehta should have won

I guess I am glad Garces won out of the two, he is slightly less annoying than Mehta, whose bug eyes and do-anything-to-win ways really rubbed me the wrong way. Garces was annoying also though, he can't take criticism at all and came off from the beginning like he deserved to be the next Iron Chef without any doing anything.

Personally, I thought Chef Mullen was the best chef out of the bunch, not just technically speaking but he actually seemed like a really decent guy. I don't understand why Appleman was booted either, but oh well, Food Network seems to have gotten the chef they wanted from the beginning, not to mention the one who clearly thought of himself as being the most deserving from day one.

I think at the very least, the outcome should have been a tie. Chef Jehangir was robbed. It was interesting to note that the tally of judging points for each chef that is normally shown at the end of each IC episode was not shown for this competition. It would have been interesting to see the point spread. In any case, we will watch upcoming episodes of IC featuring Chef Garces to see how often he wins and if he justifies the competition results.

This could be a Jump the Shark moment. Not only is the selection of Chef Garces very questionable, but there appeared to be several other chefs during the course of the series who were superior to the two finalists. The one chef who showed the greatest Iron Chef potential was almost certainly chef Appleman. An NIC finals between Nate Appleman and Amanda Freitag would have been much more interesting for the viewer and certainly more satisfying for the judges. The elimination format of the series allowed Garces to fly under the radar and caused the greatest risk takers to go down in flames just as a matter of probability. Not a happy result, and you could see it on almost everyone's face.

chefs are not only become great by executing a perfect dish but also taking some bold steps and being creative, chef Symon got it wrong when he said "If you're creative and you fail, are you creative? Or are you a failure?" well sometime being creative you turn up a little short as chartering unconquered territories i liked what chef mehta bought on the table it was well presented it was different and in the end it was creative while chef garces was burger pizza carnitas.
well in the end the decision has been made a wrong one but its been made


How can a person win by playing safe? Beats me!! The chairman should be sacked :) pity we wasted our time watching such a pitiable show without any "innovation"

How can a person win by playing safe? Beats me!! The chairman should be sacked :) pity we wasted our time watching such a pitiable show without any "innovation"

Yes I believe the right chef won this competition. Chef Mehta is a good chef but not a "great" chef. He was all over the place, disorganized in what I will call his "competition driven creativity" applied through experimentation without consistency of the technical aspects. Experimentation during a time limited competition is truly hit or miss.

Iron Chef Garces, a superior chef had the much more refined and consistent technical ability to lead in a high pressure scenario. In my view, Chef Garces did use some well applied creativity that must not be ruled out, i.e. his choice of pizza having a Spanish flare with short ribs. His dish presentation often appeared comparable to Chef Mehta.


Didn't Mehta's sous chef really screw up on the burgers, leaving the center of the ground pork almost raw, probably because she was already burning them on an overheated grill?

The right chef won for sure. Chef Meta made some pretty impressive food combos but he was remarkably stubborn and unwilling to adapt. At times, this even flowed into his character and made him seem like a jerk.
I would say the least enjoyable part of this season was Mr. Steingarden. Always trying to cram his opinion down others' throtes as the ony viable truth: I felt like it was my throte on line when I agreed with the other judges.
Still, a fantastic show that I will watch again and again.

I thought that the winner of a battle on Iron Chef is decided based on points earned in three catagories: taste, presentation, and originality. Does this mean that creativity has nothing to do with originiality? Maybe it should be replaced by 'technique'

I think Steingarten was right on in his challenge to the other chefs. It was pretty obvious that they already knew and respected Chef Garces, and I think going in, even the judges probably thought him more Iron Chef-worthy than the rest of the competition. But if that was how they intended to decide the title, then why bother with the farce of the "competition" in the first place? I knew entering this season that Garces was going to be the next Iron Chef and I think everyone associated with the show did, too. Unfortunately, the finalé didn't go according to script and Chef Mehta clearly won the day across the board — the panel admitted he had won hands-down on creativity and taste, with some minor quibbles about his plating. Chef Garces meanwhile, proceeded to prepare some of the most pedestrian dishes I've ever seen in Kitchen Stadium — come on, tacos? Pizza?? Gimme a break. He is obviously a great and respected chef, but the winner tonight should have been Chef Mehta. Shame on all involved.

I think Chef Garces deserved to win. His food was creative in it's own way and above all much more consistantly good. while Chef Mehta had some good dishes he was not consistant enough. and as a side note while an Iron Chef has to have good dishes his character should be good as well. In one of the episodes Chef Trevino needed grape leaves for his dish and chef Mehta knew that and he took all the grape leaves and put them under his platter just so Chef Trevino could not use them. That to me was a cheat and not A person of Iron Chef caliber.Congrats Chef Garces, I was rooting for you and I would eat any of your dishes anytime!!!!

The right chef did not win, in my opinion. If I wanted to eat something boring and repetitive, I could go out to Burger King. An Iron Chef needs to have that creativity, and Jehangir Mehta has creativity. No-one can deny that.

Hurray!! for Chef Garces, the Iron Chef said it right. The basics and integrity of the ingredient it's important, Steinguard had no problem enjoying his dishes and how tender the ribs were. I thought Chef Mehta play safe! through the hole Competion and had to many thing going on(no unity).

you know, after watching "The Next Iron Chef"series I have ended up with a severe case of food poisoning and the only cure is to purge the Food Network from my system


1 2 3 4 | »


Recommended on Facebook

In Case You Missed It...


Tweets and retweets from L.A. Times staff writers.




Get Alerts on Your Mobile Phone

Sign me up for the following lists: