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Could 'Top Chef's' Spike Mendelsohn be your 'Next Iron Chef'?

April 19, 2011 | 11:07 am

Spike 
Spike Mendelsohn is making the leap from Bravo's "Top Chef" to Food Network's "The Next Iron Chef." The Season 4 favorite joins nine other chefs, including Anne Burrell, Robert Irvine and Michael Chiarello in a battle for a permament perch in Kitchen Stadium.

The channel announced the celebrity-studded cast for "The Next Iron Chef" as shooting begins in Los Angeles and New York. The eight-episode series is set to return Oct. 30, with Alton Brown resuming hosting duties. Judges include the original "Next Iron Chef" winner, Michael Symon, as well as Simon Majumdar and British Iron Chef Judy Joo.

For "Chopped" fans, Tuesday's announcement includes delicious news:

"Chopped" judge Alex Guarnaschelli -- who has dispatched many a "Chopped" competitor with a snarl and a glare -- will be among the cheftestants.

And for Food Network watchers, it's another opportunity for an all-out showdown between two of the network's biggest rivals, Burrell and Irvine. (Of course, Burrell would probably dispute that and say there is no "rivalry," because she always wins.)

The winner of "The Next Iron Chef" will get more than just bragging rights. He or she joins the veritable pantheon of celebuchefs who reign over Kitchen Stadium and stand alongside the likes of Bobby Flay and Masaharu Morimoto, taking on all challengers in the hit series "Iron Chef America." Moreover, a "Next Iron Chef" win paves the way for potential Food Network superstardom, and perhaps even their own show. (Although that might not mean much to many of this season's competitors. They've been there, done that.)

Some have criticized the reality series as watering down a franchise that is as much about celebrity as it is cooking skills and creativity. (The last two winners, Marc Forgione and Jose Garces, worthy as they may be of the title, don't seem to have the same Q Rating as Morimoto and Flay. But what do you think? Do you disagree?) The network seems to be addressing that with a cast that is largely already recognizable to Food Network fans.

In addition to Mendelsohn, Burrell, Irvine and Napa Valley's Chiarello, the cast includes:

--Beau MacMillan of Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain in Phoenix, who's had stints on "Iron Chef America" and "Worst Cooks in America"

--Marcus Samuelsson of Red Rooster Harlem in New York, and a judge on "Chopped"

--Geoffrey Zakarian of the National and the Lambs Club in New York, and a judge on "Chopped"

--Elizabeth Faulkner of Citizen Cake and Orson in San Francisco, and a former "Iron Chef America" challenger

--Chuck Hughes of Garde Manger in Montreal and the show "Chuck’s Day Off" on Cooking Channel and an "Iron Chef America" challenger

What do you think about this lineup?

-- Rene Lynch
Twitter / renelynch

Photo: Spike Mendelsohn appears to be reading up on the competition during the South Beach Wine & Food Festival earlier this year. Credit: J. Pat Carter / Associated Press

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