Recap: Next Iron Chef 3, EP1

TV’s ultimate cooking competition may be Food Network’s The Next Iron Chef.  Season three of the popular contest is once again teeming with high caliber chefs.  The reason that NIC vies to be the ultimate series of this ilk is the quality of it’s contestants.  Top Chef is made up of talented up-and-comers while Hell’s Kitchen tends towards chefs that are average at best.  NIC only takes the best chefs in North America.

To review: Season 1 was packed with famous chefs like John Besh, Aaron Sanchez and Chris Cosentino to name a few.  That first coven of chefs had an amazing esprit de corps that made that first season enjoyable.  Though they were vying for the same title they genuinely wanted to see each other do their best.  The eventual winner was Food Network alum Michael Symon.  Symon has proven to be the toughest Iron Chef to defeat with an amazing 82.5 winning percentage in more than 20 battles.

Season 2 was again loaded with award winning chefs, though few as famous as the combatants from Season 1.  The dynamics of the second group was not nearly as congenial with a lot of back-biting and dirty tricks most of which came from Jehangir Mehta.  This distasteful, underhanded behavior made the second season less enjoyable than the first.  The eventual winner, Jose Garces, has proven formidable winning 75% of the time he goes out but he has only battled four times so it remains to be seen if he can duplicate Symon’s success.  Rumors abounded this summer about the possibility of Garces leaving ICA but Food Network insiders have assured me he will be back.

Mary Dumont Next Iron ChefChallenge #1 – Make a sandwich worthy of an Iron Chef in only 30 minutes that also defines them as a chef.  All of the chefs seemed in awe at Ming Tsai.  But when they found out that they would be judging each other they seemed to take the opportunity to “wolfpack” him.  Ultimately Pagan’s sandwich bombed and Duskie Estes was the clear winner.

Challenge #2 – Dessert Island challenge.  First stupid challenge of the season.  They are given one ingredient that they can’t live without and had to share what was left of the pantry after 1st challenge winner Estes was done picking what she wanted for 5 minutes.  At least each chef got a Big Green Egg to cook on.  I wonder how much that product endorsement cost?  They actually had to cook everything on the beach.

My thoughts:

Marco Canora – Sandwich was pretty good if a little mild.  His second dish was good in that he used the typical island ingredients but maybe a little too salty.  He was in the top 3.

Bryan Caswell – A middle of the pack performance on both challenges.  Nothing memorable, nothing bad.  The ladies seemed to like him.  One Tweeted that he was like a more handsome Patrick Duffy (the actor famous for starring as The Man from Atlantis, the leg of Scuzzlebutt and some other show).

Maneet Chauhan – Very confidant.  Very talented.  Extremely creative.  Her cucumber and mint sandwich was nice.  Her 1st dish was good but her 2nd dish was great.  She had a top three finish.

Mary Dumont – Confident without being cocky  Her sandwich was not extremely well received, tempura oyster on cornbread.  Her island ingredient was corn and she did OK but it did need some kind of flash.  Her food did not impress but wasn’t the worst either.  Middle of the pack performance.

Duskie Estes – Bold, creative.  I like her style.  She said she didn’t like any of the other sandwiches in the 1st challenge and voted her own as the best.  She may have been being honest but it may have cost her a friend or two.  Suckling pig for dessert island challenge was adventurous, Mike Symon (the king of pork) said her dish would have benefited from the omitting of pork.  After winning the 1st challenge she was in the bottom 3.  Lots of people watching the show have called her this year’s Jehangir Mehta.

Marc Forgione – A talented chef to be sure and he loves to do everything from scratch.  He did well but I don’t think we’ve seen his best yet.  He did chicken two ways for the 2nd challenge which seems rather mundane after making sausage from scratch on the sandwich challenge but it was pretty good.  He is trying to cook his way out of his famous father’s shadow.

Andrew Kirschner – Sandwich was panned for putting mustard on his brochette.  He chose duck for his island ingredient and he killed it with chilies.  Donatella almost gagged from the heat – she is not a fan of heat.  His duck was not cooked well.  He may be in trouble.  Bottom three finish.

Mario Pagán – His traditional Puerto Rican sandwich was not well received and that put him behind the eight ball from the go.  Even he voted his sandwich the worst.  Second dish was very small which was perfect because it was very rich.  He was the only one to have sand make it into a plate.  Chef Symon called his dish, “fine.”  That’s not good.  Bottom three finish.

Celina Tio – She is talented but a little like a Vulcan.  She made a breakfst version of the Cuban sandwich.  She took corn for the 2nd challenge and made it with shellfish.  It seemed to go over well except with Donatella saying that it was boring.  Simon wondered what she did with the hour since her dish couldn’t have taken long to make.  She lives to cook another day.

Ming Tsai – The best known chef in the contest.  The others seemed in awe of him which made him a target.  His sandwich was panned in the first challenge with comments about expecting more from him.  His second dish was extremely complex and for the most part he pulled it off.  Top three finish.  Ming said he wants to go undefeated.  That won’t be easy and certainly isn’t realistic.

Quote of the night – “That dish isn’t going to live any longer in the memory than it does in the colon.” Judge Simon Majumdar on Kirschner’s dish.

Tonight’s winners:
1st challenge –  Duskie Estes.
2nd challenge – Ming Tsai.

Have you missed an episode of NIC because you were on a black ops mission in the Republic of Chad?  No problem, you can get caught up HERE.  Be sure to check out my exclusive interviews with Celina Tio (HERE), Mary Dumont (HERE) and Maneet Chauhan (HERE).

The Next Iron Chef will not be . . .

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Andrew Kirschner

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Stuart is a celebrity chef, food activist and award-winning food writer. He penned the cookbooks Third Coast Cuisine: Recipes of the Gulf of Mexico, No Sides Needed: 34 Recipes To Simplify Life and Amigeauxs - Mexican/Creole Fusion Cuisine. He hosts two Internet cooking shows "Everyday Gourmet" and "Little Grill Big Flavor." His recipes have been featured in Current, Lagniappe, Southern Tailgater, The Kitchen Hotline and on the Cooking Channel.

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2015 1st Place Luck of the Irish Cook-off
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2015 2nd Place Fins' Wings & Chili Cook-off
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2012 Finalist in the Safeway Next Chef Contest
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2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Wing Cook-off
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