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'The Next Iron Chef' recap: Where did she come from?

Here we've been focusing on the perceived front runners -- Ming Tsai, perhaps, or Marc Forgione -- when chef Celina Tio crept on up and stole dual victories in the secret ingredients challenge and the chairman's challenge. To quote chef Tio: "Sweet!"

The secret ingredient challenge led to a philosophical debate -- take "American mother sauces," such as barbecue sauce, mayo and mustard, and transform them. But what does "transform" actually mean? Was it enough to take a liquid and turn it into a solid, as Tsai did, making a steak sauce gelatinous thing? Or did the ingredient need to be turned on its head? Chef Bryan Caswell made a consomme of sorts out of ketchup. Maybe competitors needed to do both.

Regardless, Tio nailed it. She was left with hot sauce and used it to make almond cakes with a hot sauce ricotta cheese and a hot sauce caramel. Even more amazing. Tio is averse to hot sauce and super spicy food. Her dish, though, was the nearly unanimous winner and paved the way for her to win the fair challenge. The competitors were sent out to the county fair and had to cook on the "outlaw grill" -- all 27 tons of it -- and transform fair food into something Iron Chef-worthy while dodging hazardous flame flare-ups.

There were creative moments. Forgione made a deep-fried root beer float (!) and a corn and cilantro snow cone. And there were some big flops. Chef Maneet Chauhan once again made a mealy something-or-other patty, and once again the judges told her to stop it. She was saved this week from elimination by chef Duskie Estes' abysmal dish, which included a messy-looking caramel apple -- what was transforming about that? -- and a fried strawberry pie that was undone on the inside (despite her claims to the contrary).

And with that, Estes was gone. Were you surprised by that? She started out so strong. But as A.B. tells us, this competition is as much about endurance as culinary finesse. In the end, slow and steady just may win the race.

--Rene Lynch
Twitter.com / renelynch

Photo: The victorious Celina Tio. Credit: Food Network

Comments () | Archives (5)

Though I liked how Chef Tio handled herself-Ming Tsai made dishes I would actually order in a restaurant! Isn't that the whole idea of being a chef? And what do the judges (especially that obnoxious woman) have against Ming? Is it his fault two of the morons ate the garnish with the food? Please. I have a feeling he is too professional and popular for the producers of this show-no one else did "elegant" fair food and Chauhan and Forgione's was far messier! If the bias continues on "Chef", my friends and I will find something more enjoyable to watch!

Chef Ming Tsai is definitely in a league of his own. He has an element of surprise in his dishes that makes me yearn to see what's up his sleeve. I am watching this season just because he makes the show interesting but what a shame he was "edited out" of this episode. Look to be another repeat of last season , it would be sham if they pick another Gracia type winner who cooks but produces forgettable dishes, a bore to watch, lack innovation and creativity in final execution . All chefs cooks ...few carries the extra elemental touch . If they are serious about sustaining the Iron Chef franchise, they need to pick the right chef and in this season ,there is only one deserving Chef.

Celina Tio won for being innovative and clever. I actually think the food snobs have a thing against the unknown upstarts and worry that their "known" chefs are gonna get crowded out by -- shock of all shocks-- a YOUNG WOMAN. It is about time a woman won this contest and Celina is a James Beard award winning chef and restauranteur. I think she's the one to beat now.

no doubt about it, Chef Tio is really bringing it, but I'm not sure she's up to Cat Cora level - yet. Ming Tsai's working hard and frankly, I love that such a well-known chef wanted to see if he still was on his game enough to even consider joining the competition!

a great season so far, but Maneet must go. in fact, I was shocked they sent Estes packing instead of her.

its good to see someone from the disney make it chef celina use to work with me at spoodles. hope she wins!!!!!!!


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