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

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

Comments () | Archives (65)

The fact that Chef Tsai didn't win is downright insulting to all who are interested in pursuing the culinary arts. While I'm sure the other two chefs are very gifted, Tsai has been cooking for 25 five years and is well-known for being one of the best celebrity chefs around... this was a big mistake on Food Network's part, for sure. And I'm also quite positive that neither Symon nor Donnetella have the credentials to be judging chef Tsai in the first place.

Oh i so totally agree with almost every one of the previous comments. - Ming Tsai, to ME, you Are better then the 2 who are going on to the finals, and we all know the whiny-school-bully with the pony-tail will take the win. - and i will Not Ever watch Iron Chef when he's on. - Forgione, good luck kid, i really hope you whoop Canora's butt!

FN missed the mark on this one. Tsai should be in the final two. Canora is obnoxious to watch. It's clear that he's the "anointed" one from the show perspective. Too bad. I will not watch a single if he is competing. Tsai hands down has the experience, definitely doesn't "need" the title. I am disappointed he is no longer competing.

Huh. I'm surprised by all the Tsai love. Like Pam, I found him to be really really arrogant. Didn't like his personality at all. He also had some serious food misses along the way; the consistency seemed to be lacking. I like to be able to root for my Iron Chefs, and I'm rooting for Forgione. Oh, and I've eaten in Tsai's restaurant. Once was enough. Food was overpriced and not memorable. Maybe the judges felt the same way.

Donatella needs to go. The other chefs often disagree with her. She may own a restaurant, but she's no chef. I think Tio and Tsai both out did Fargione in most competitions, and he has trouble boiling water sometime. He has not been consistent throughout. I think the person who commented that FN network may be looking for a replacement for Batalli is probably right. I think most reality shows have an outcome the producers want to happen. So Canora is probably the next Iron Chef.

I couldn't believe Ming didn't make it to the final two either! I have tasted his food and met him twice (he did a charity event for our nonprofit!), and I can say his food is excellent and that he is professional and very kind. He has a reputation in Boston for being a truly nice guy. I'm so glad I'm not the only one who's sick of Donatella. And I can't believe Food Network would want someone like Canora, who tries to win by screwing others over (giving each chef what he thinks are the worst ingredients for him/her, whenever the challenges allowed him to).

I agree with Pam and Meg about Tsai 100%. That's all I'm saying besides, Go Forgione!! =)

I had a Canora v Tsai finale - both have the appeal to tune viewers in - I would in a heart beat watch Tsai in a battle and I would not mind Canora. I really thought it was a no brainer - none of the other contestants had that "I want to watch them" appeal like these two. I just hope it doesn't bite ICA in the back side if Forgione wins - he has no appeal at all.

To really think Forgione outcooked Tsai is a joke - what were they really thinking? Hopefully they won't have a NIC next year - give it a break. I'm still irritated that Symon beat Besh a few years ago - Besh was definitely the better chef - oh well.

I don't understand why everyone is whining about Chef Tsai getting eliminated. He served raw, sliced pork fat, which earned him the boot. Moreover, his inconsistent performance throughout the season is more reason for his overdue elimination.

From the start this show was rigged to have Ming Tsai finish at least 3rd place in order to build his reputation and help promote his celeb status, they already have Morimoto, no need for 2 Iron Chef's who cook Asian food.

That leaves Marc and Marco who both have the accolades (Michelin Stars) to warrant top 2 status.

For this I am glad Tsai was elminated and that this show does have some integrity, it's about the food not the personality...or is it?

I knew all along Canora would take the title, it only seems appropriate, with Batali out, they need another Chef "Italy" to replace him. No better fit than Canora.

My votes on Canora but believe either of the Marc's deserve a top 2 spot based on their skill and resumes. As Tsai put it himself, he has simply spent too much time outside the actual kitchen.

This is a sad day when the obvious winner is trounched by lesser judges as to their unbalanced palates. I will not even enterntain the thought of watching the outcome (of the finale) based on the fact that these two inferior chefs will be there offering nothing in the realm of true IRON CHEFS. This is shades of chef Besh being defeated by what's his name when truly Besh was far superior. Now we've had to live with that travesty of a great error for quite a while. Chef garves or whatever is also a total joke.

That Ming actually had the grace to compete in this stupid show is beyond me ... but I am amazed (as was he) when he was criticized for his wonderful work. The judges are obviously on the payroll and they need a lame excuse for a tin chef that will accomodate their wishes rather than any proper culinary expert practiced far more than they are. The judges were not in the same league as chef Ming all along.

What a horrible sham and terrible example of what has become of the food network. Alton (cartoon idiot) is almost unbearable. Now I will NEVER watch Iron Chef America again ... you stupid fools ...

Thank GOD I can still catch the true integrity of the original Japanese Iron Chef ... when it's shown ... Iron Chef America is a joke ...

I cannot believe Chef Tsai was eliminated. I have been watching him cook for over 10 years . I agree with the earlier comment that FN is out to find an Italian Chef. It is unfortunate but I wont be watching the Next Iron Chef anyomore. Clearly, Chef Tsai should have at least gone to the end with one other chef.

There are few chefs that I put in the same context of Julia Child and Jacques Pepin ... chef Ming Tsai would be one of them ...

so noted

Donatella Arpaia lost me when she turned up her cosmetically enhanced nose at Chef Caswells Grandmother's name Birdie Bee. GET SOME UN-SNOOTY NON-NYC Non - Trust Fund Baby BE-AT-CHeS ON THE PANEL PUH-LEEZE. Keep it real, in other words, she's a joke.

I am a Native Houstonian born in 1956. You won't find anyone more fierce than me when it comes to standing up for our hometown talent. Native Houstonians are a rare breed. I was elated when our native son Chef Caswelll was a contestant, and was overwhelmed with pride when he made it so far in the competetion. I have had the pleasure of eating at the Reef and meeting Chef Caswell. Regardless, I KNEW that Chef Ming Tsai was the one and only chef of this seasons offerings that had any business winning this competition. The fact that he did not, mainly due to the nauseating relentless insistance of the talentless rants of the Obnoxious self absorbed Donatella Arpaia sickens me. Sickens me to the point that if you do not dump that idiot Bi-atch Donatella Arpaia from your shows, you have lost a viewer, and as many other viewers that I can hopefully influence in the future.

I have not been impressed with Canora or Forgione from the get go, and I really have not cared for Canora's primadonna attitude, his arrogant comments at everyone of the secret ingredient challenges made me want to change the channel. I enjoyed Tio alot and Caswell too. Ming was fine not a big favorite but he seemed to have the cooking chops and he never disrespected the other competitors the way Canora did. Will I watch who wins? No. But then I havent watched Symon and certainly not Garces. FN will give Ming his own new show, we all know that's true since pretty much every semifinal contestant seems to get their own doomed/silly show from Next FN Star. I will still watch Iron Chef, but only when Flay, Cora or Morimoto. Just as I will still watch the few shows that I enjoy and change the channel when most of their newer one's air. Hell I am still trying to understand the appeal of Guy.

Mario Batali left the Food network. Simply, they need an Italian Chef. That's all.

Why is Donatella a judge.. she can't even make a good pasta sauce...

i am so done with watching this show, can't agree more with Mimi, a punk who can't make a ravioli dough and a grease ball with the faul mouth are the final two? give me a break...as you probably know, chef Tsai has won both challenges by beating Flay and Botali, that alone says it all. who the hell is donatello? Does she know anything about lardo pork since she is such an expert? Ming is one of the best and classic chefs in this country, he does not need this show to prove he is the Iron Chef, he is in my heart. No one is going to watch Iron Chef America if the grease ball or the punks wins, i like the original fours, they have more class.

I agree with all comments that Chef Tsai would have been the choice for the next Iron Chef. He should not have had to put of with the snobbery of Donatella and Simon. Chef Tsai brought class and professionalism to the program. For him to have to put up with the insults of Donatella and Simon were horrible. He is an "Iron Chef" in my opinion.

No one can doubt Ming Tsai can really cook, but c'mon, all of the semifinalists can cater my parties any time. Tsai can be charming and he's photogenic, and would have been an excellent choice, but I find it hard to believe FN would eliminate someone for being Asian just because they have an Asian Iron Chef. (Will they not have any more jerks just because they already have Bobby Flay?) They wanted an Italian replacement for Batali? Maybe. But judging food is inherently subjective, and if I were a judge and someone served me something I really disliked--as Donatella disliked the slab of lardo--I wouldn't give them a pass just because they were cute, or because I assumed that they knew better than I what tastes good. Tsai was incredibly arrogant, constantly intoning that being the next Iron Chef was his "destiny," like Darth Vader wheezing to Luke Skywalker. That's arrogant no matter how good a chef you are.

How does chef Tsai get eliminated when his 1st course & 3rd course are better than chef Forgiones. Please give me a brake. The catagory was sensual and the 2nd course with lardo is a great sensual texture play. Maybe the judges should understand the catagory also. Next time i need to win a cooking competition, I'll just pour beef broth over asparagus like chef Canora did. Would love to see Chef Tsia (a real IRON chef) take on chef Symon. BYE, BYE Symon

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