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'Next Iron Chef' recap: 'You were simply outcooked'

November 15, 2010 |  9:55 am

When I first wrote about the competitors for this season of "The Next Iron Chef" I expressed shock that celebuchef Ming Tsai would put it all on the line in a bid to join the culinary elite in Kitchen Stadium. And several of you took me to task, saying I was being duped. You said the show was a sham, the outcome inevitable: Food Network would anoint Tsai as the next Iron Chef, and the show would just be a, well, just a show. There was no way, you said, that Ming the Merciless would lose.

What do you say now?

I certainly would have wagered that Tsai would be among the final two standing. But it's a good thing I'm not a betting woman. 'Cause Tsai was eliminated this week along with chef Celina Tio. That leaves a Marco-versus-Marc finale, with chefs Marco Canora and Marc Forgione battling it out.

Could anyone have predicted this pairing heading into the season?

But week after week, both chefs accepted the judges' notes on their already formidable cooking skills and scrambled to improve. They both seemed to have a knack for that artful balance that any Iron Chef must achieve: They transform ingredients in new and exciting ways, while still elevating the "secret" ingredient to hero status -- and never allowing their creativity to overshadow it.

This week's challenge was all about seduction. First up, the final four cheftestants had to come up with a signature cocktail and a little bite to go with. Canora won, in part, by spanking the mint. This being Vegas, the final four "gambled" on their key ingredients for the next round. Forgione, that lucky guy, got lobster. Hard to beat that in the seduction department. Canora had wagyu beef (which he was able to swipe from Tsai, due to his earlier win) while Tio had Hawaiian moi fish, and Tsai was left with Mangalitsa pork. "I think I actually hit the jackpot," Tsai said of the switcheroo. That may be so, but Tsai served up a lardo pork dish that ended up being too fatty and off-putting for at least two of the judges.

"Chef Tsai," host Alton Brown said, "You were simply outcooked -- and not by much. But by enough, and I'm sorry, but you won't be the next Iron Chef." OUCH!

Were you surprised by Tsai's elimination? And who do you think will win? Canora or Forgione?

And memo to chef Tio: It was a pleasure watching your personality blossom. Soulless, you are not.

--Rene Lynch

Photo: Food Network