Where’s “Next Iron Chef Winner” Jose Garces?
On January 17th of this year, Jose Garces made his debut as the newest Iron Chef. His lofty title was achieved by winning the second Next Iron Chef competition. On the night where he made his triumphant ascension into Kitchen Stadium’s “veritable pantheon of culinary giants,” Garces defended his newly claimed regency by defeating Rachel Yang of Seattle’s popular Joule in Battle: Hawaiian moi. It was May before Garces had another bout, a win over Colorado chef Kelly Liken in Battle: Bleu Cheese. Garces battled Portalnd’s Naomi Pomeroy in Battle: Truffles in a contest that Pomeroy revealed was actually taped way back in 2009. Apparently all of Garces battles were filmed then and he has not been back to Kitchen Stadium.
Since then no one outside of Philadelphia has seen hide nor hair of Iron Chef Garces.
He is still listed on the Food Network’s web site as part of their stable of chefs. There is even a congratulatory note about winning the Next Iron Chef contest. However, there is no mention in his official Network bio of being an Iron Chef, rather it says that he, “appeared on Food Network’s Iron Chef America.”
Chef Garces’ own media kit also stops short of calling him an Iron Chef but instead saying, “As the winner of The Next Iron Chef, Chef Garces will appear on the upcoming season of Iron Chef America.” Which of course he has three times. . . before he disappeared. So the question remains, is he an Iron Chef or not?
If gone, Garces would not be the first Iron Chef to leave the show. The venerable Wolfgang Puck did a one-and-done as an Iron Chef before “retiring.” Michael Symon’s inclusion was the result of Mario Batali’s desire to reduce the number of battles he performed so he could concentrate on building his restaurant empire with business partner Joe Bastianich (son of Lydia Bastianich and co-host of MasterChef on Fox). Batali has only appeared in one battle since his 2008 match-up against Paul Bartolotta. That was the special “Super Chefs” battle that pitted Batali and Emeril Legasse against Iron Chef Bobby Flay and White House executive chef Cristeta Comerford.
Garces’ absence from what is still the best TV-based cooking competition might have gone unnoticed if not for the announcement from Food Network in April of this year of a third season of NIC. Now the blogosphere is buzzing with rumor and conjecture.
Is Batali gone for good? Is Cat Cora stepping away to spend more time with her growing family? Is Flay, Symon or Morimoto leaving? The most popular assumption is that there has been some kind of falling out between the Food Network brass and Chef Garces. Never one for rumor I went straight to the sources to get answers.
First, I contacted the folks at Garces Restaurant Group and here is what I got from their end:
Bubkis! Not a single word.
Then I called on Scripps Networks (the parent company of Food Network) and this was their response:
First I got, “We are releasing info on the new season of ‘The Next Iron Chef’ in a few weeks, can I reconnect with you then to answer your questions?”
Then, as promised, I got, “The winner (of The Next Iron Chef 3) joins the ranks of Symon, Bobby Flay, Masahaharu Morimoto, Mario Batali, Cat Cora and Jose Garces and launches into instant fame as a member of the Chairman’s team on Iron Chef America.
“The winner begins their reign as Iron Chef with a heated Iron Chef America battle on Sunday, November 28th at 9pm ET/PT.”
While it didn’t really address all of the questions people have about the future of ICA it does give us a hint as to where we stand on the career of Jose Garces. Any comments?
Food Network’s web site does list one more battle (also taped in ’09) for Garces set to air in late September but beyond that nothing. If you haven’t already, be sure to check out my exclusive interviews with Iron Chefs Bobby Flay and Michael Symon as well as ICA challengers, Amanda Cohen and Maria Hines. Also learn more about Next Iron Chef 3 HERE.
Be sure you check back each Sunday for the NIC Recap.