Category: The Next Iron Chef

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

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:

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'The Next Iron Chef' recap: The son also rises

Marc-Forgione_ICA-Jacket Meet your new Iron Chef: Marc Forgione.

Marc Forgione, the chef-owner of Marc Forgione in New York, comes with quite the pedigree. He is the son of Larry Forgione, whom some have dubbed the “godfather of New American cuisine.” And Marc Forgione recently received his second Michelin star in the 2011 guide, said to make him the youngest American-born chef and owner to receive the honor in consecutive years.

Clearly, he can cook. And he cooked the meal of his life against chef Marco Canora to land "the culinary world's biggest prize."

The pair started out as part of the party of 10 who embarked on the quest to become the next Iron Chef and bested a field that included celebuchef Ming Tsai, who many (like me) considered to be the inevitable frontrunner. But Forgione and Canora earned the right to be the last two standing. The final battle to find a "new kitchen warrior" was perfectly themed: They had 60 minutes to prepare a five-course Thanksgiving dinner. Their ingredients included turkey, venison, duck and lobster.

Canora chose the traditional, reaching for the turkey. Forgione, who held himself out as a bit of a Thanksgiving expert, said he was actually going the traditional route by not choosing turkey. (He said venison, not turkey, was actually served at the first Thanksgiving dinner.)

After tasting all the dishes and gathering input from Iron Chefs Masaharu Morimoto, Bobby Flay and Michael Symon, the wisdom of the judging panel summed it up this way: Canora's consistent soulfulness versus Forgione's risk-taking creativity and flashes of brilliance.

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

Finalists 
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?

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'Next Iron Chef' recap: And then there were four

Caswell What's more shocking? That the linebacker/ballerina got the boot? Or that chef Marco Canora is still standing?

No offense to Canora, but he seemed to struggle early on, and I wouldn't have predicted that he'd be in the final four. Conversely, the imposing chef Bryan Caswell seemed to be wowing the judges, leading to one of the more memorable lines of the season: Caswell looks like a linebacker and cooks like a ballerina.

But fortunes change, as they often do in the quest to become the next Iron Chef. Canora is coming on stronger and stronger each week. Sometimes, it's not necessarily for his food, but for his execution, as it was this week. And that deadline execution is crucial: A chef at a restaurant can fiddle with and perfect a dish before it's ready for prime time. An Iron Chef does not have such a luxury. All things being equal, execution could make the difference between winning and losing. And that is where Canora is whipping the competition.

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

Celina_Tio 
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

'The Next Iron Chef' recap: What happened to Marco Canora's artichokes?

Fishing

Chef Marc Forgione says this battle is gonna be a dogfight. Right now, it's a food fight, with the judges delivering verbal body slams left and right.

The first challenge Sunday -- a test of resourcefulness -- had the cheftestants preparing a "portable snack using pickles." Forgione won with a bite-sized foie gras-meets-bruschetta that had a little pickle-ness on top. That gave him an advantage going into the next challenge: The would-be Iron Chefs had to catch their own fish and then prepare it. Forgione won the right to swap his catch with someone else's hard-earned booty, and he did.

And that's when the judges started swinging.

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'The Next Iron Chef'' recap: Ming Tsai nearly serves up his own elimination

Groats 
Did celebrity chef Ming Tsai think his bid to become "The Next Iron Chef" was going to be a cakewalk?

Probably not.

But he probably also would not have predicted that he'd be in the bottom two -- with a 50% chance of elimination -- in Week 2!

That's right, there was no mercy for Ming the Merciless in this week's challenge.

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'The Next Iron Chef' recap: Even good chefs can have a bad day

Well. That was fast.

For the second year in a row, the Los Angeles chef competing to become an Iron Chef became the first person eliminated.

Andrew Kirschner, executive chef at Wilshire in Santa Monica, was bounced off "The Next Iron Chef." (Last year, the first to depart the challenge was chef-owner Eric Greenspan of The Foundry on Melrose.)

Kirschner was felled by duck -- the ingredient he said he would most wish to have if he was stranded on a desert island. (He got his wish: He and the other competitors were forced to cook that wished-for ingredient beachside.)

But the duck wasn't well prepared -- the fat wasn't properly rendered, the skin not quite crispy enough. Worse, it showed no ingenuity, the very point of the challenge.

"It sucks to be first," he said afterwards.

Stuck in the bottom with Kirschner was Duskie Estes, a ranking that knocked the stuffing out of the 'tude she brought into the competition. (Who votes for themselves as having the best dish!?!?) She admitted as much: "My cocky first day is all gone."

First victory went -- no surprise -- to Ming the Merciless: "I'm striving for an undefeated record," he said. 

--Rene Lynch
Twitter.com / renelynch

'The Next Iron Chef': Bringing in the big gun

The-Next-Iron-Chef
Spit take!

That's Ming Tsai competing in Season 3 of "The Next Iron Chef" debuting Sunday night on Food Network.

The superstar chef seemingly has everything -- his Blue Ginger restaurant ranks as one of Boston's best, and he's published plenty of cookbooks, including the upcoming One-Pot Meals. He won an Emmy for his "East Meets West" Food Network show, which helped introduce Asian fusion cuisine to the masses, and his "Simply Ming" is currently on PBS.

So why risk it on "The Next Iron Chef"? Not knocking the show, where competitors vie for an opportunity to become an Iron Chef and do battle in Kitchen Stadium on "Iron Chef America." But wouldn't it, you know, be embarrassing if he doesn't go the distance?

It all speaks to the type of competitor Tsai is -- and the allure of joining the pantheon of Iron Chef greats such as Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto. Read more here, including why the inimitable Alton Brown says he almost passed on Season 3 hosting duties.

And what do you think? Are you planning to watch?

-- Rene Lynch
Twitter.com / renelynch

Photo credit: Food Network

'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.

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'The Next Iron Chef': Life is about to change for one cheftestant

Jehangir-&-Jose-3_Ep-8 For Chef Jose Garces, it was a curdled flan. For Chef Jehangir Mehta, it was the grape leaves.

The last two chefs standing in the battle to become "The Next Iron Chef" say they are haunted by such flops as they head into Sunday night's finale on the Food Network. The Season 2 winner will join an elite stable of champions including Masaharu Morimoto, Bobby Flay and Cat Cora. These culinary warriors are the ones to beat on the popular Food Network game show "Iron Chef America."

But the title goes beyond a TV game show. The winner gains immediate fame thanks to a singular standing on the Food Network platform, and fortune is not far behind.

That's a chief reason why many of the competitors -- all successful chefs in their own right -- gambled all to join the competition.

"It's a huge risk to go on the show and possibly be eliminated early ... or be displayed in a negative light," said Chef Garces. "But [if you win] it brings a lot of prestige, it's an honor and a privilege to be an 'Iron Chef.' ... It's very good for business as well, let's be honest. I have six restaurants, so having that title would be great."

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'The Next Iron Chef': The final stretch

Chef
And then there were two.

Could anyone have predicted that Chef Jose Garces and Chef Jehangir Mehta would be the last two standing in the battle to become "The Next Iron Chef"? Not because they lack talent. Quite the contrary -- they are two talented chefs in a pool of talented chefs. But there were no clear standouts. All had their highs, all had their lows.

Yet here they stand, representing two vastly different backgrounds. Chef Garces is inclined toward more Latin fare, an homage to his Ecuadorian background, while Chef Mehta is inclined toward ... flowers. And Indian food. And seems to have an unnatural affiliation for ice cream makers.

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