Recap: Next Iron Chef 3, EP4

Well it took the judges three weeks to figure it out but they finally sent Chef Mary Dumont packing.  Chef Dumont is undoubtedly a fine chef.  If she weren’t she never would have been asked to come on the show.  NIC would never take a sub-par cook (that’s Hell’s Kitchen’s domain) it’s just that she wasn’t right for this kind of contest format.

We are starting to whittle the field down considerably.  Of the seven chefs remaining three have an outstanding shot a winning (Fargione, Chauhan and Tsai), two are nipping on their tails (Canora and Caswell)  and the other two (Tio and Estes) have been solid.  Tio has yet to wow anyone but her food has been good enough to avoid a bottom three finish.  Estes’ biggest flaw has been her consistency (followed closely by her plating) – she may blow the competition away in one challenge then do so poorly in the other that she is close to going home.  Because of this Chef Duskie remains a wild card which has lent some drama to the season.

It appears that the contestants judging each other after the first challenge is now a permanent fixture in the show’s format.  This means the first challenge is pretty much meaningless.  It just wastes the first segment of the show.  I wouldn’t blame you if you skipped it to watch part of the Sunday Night NFL game.  If you do you will have missed little of significance.  A dip into the live Tweets and forums discussing the show will quickly demonstrate that the fans of the NIC hate the self-judging.  That’s a hint, Food Network, if you pay attention to what these people are saying you will gain valuable information on how to improve your programming.

Challenge #1 – Transform a standard American condiment into something new.

Challenge #2 – They are given 30 minutes to harvest whatever they could find at the concession stands at a county fair and transform three fair food dishes – one fried, one grilled and one on a stick.  This is a pretty stupid challenge.  Iron Chef is better than this.

My thoughts:

Marco Canora – Proved very resourceful last week winning the 2nd. challenge despite having a terrible fishing day.  Canora may be on the brink of making himself a strong contender. Celine Tio Recap: Next Iron Chef 3, EP3 1st challenge he transformed mayo into a pudding.  Most chefs considered it a cop out.  He didn’t hesitate to attack everyone else.  That’s the sign of someone with confidence issues.  2nd challenge he wanted to make fair food into health food.  An immediate fail in my book but the judges seemed to like it.  They, however, were wrong.  Canora was excessively douchey.

Bryan Caswell – His creativity keeps him on the verge of full blown contender-dom but as inventive as he dishes have been he has yet to hit a home run.  Still a string of triples ain’t bad.  1st challenge he is transforming ketchup into a flavored water.  Whatever.  2nd challenge his corn on the cob got singed because the production team did not have the grill running properly.  His food was OK.  The concept was strong but the execution maybe not so much.  Top 3.

Maneet Chauhan – She had a rough week last time out.  Her first bottom three finish and the biggest killer was under-seasoned food, unheard of from an Indian chef.  1st challenge she tried to transform Ranch dressing into something edible.  She came in last in the 1st challenge.  Why? Because Ranch Dressing is an abomination.  But that’s two bad challenges in a row.  Her menu for the 2nd challenge sounds like a life saver if pulled off.  Kabab dog on a sugar cane skewer and other dishes were OK.  The dessert, fried avocado and chocolate, was the best received.  Bottom 3.

Mary Dumont – Went home week 3.

Duskie Estes – She finally listened to the judges and put an effort into her plating.  As a result she had a very nice week.  1st challenge transforms mustard.  Decided on grilled calamari as part of her 2nd challenge menu.  That is way too finicky a protein to try and do a challenge like this.  She deep fried caramel which failed.  Some things were not cooked well and her caramel she tried to pass off as maple sugar.  Bottom 3.

Marc Forgione – Another strong outing last week.  He won another challenge and at this point has to be considered the favorite to win it all. 1st challenge he transforms BBQ sauce into a bolognese.  2nd challenge he is transforming bacon-cheeseburger, fried root beer float and Buffalo frog legs.  Judges loved it.  Top 3.

Andrew Kirschner – Went home week 1.

Mario Pagán – Went home week 2.

Celina Tio – Chef Tio has to win something soon because we are getting to the point were a solid performance sends you packing.  1st challenge transformed hot sauce into ricotta cheese dessert and gets that win she needed so desperately.  She ran into trouble on the 2nd challenge.  First the grill wasn’t hot then it burst into flames.  Her food was good but was it good enough?  Yes.  She won the 2nd challenge.

Ming Tsai – I find it impossible to believe that every week Ming’s 1st dish is merely OK while his 2nd dish is great.  What’s the difference?  Oh yeah, actual judges.  Still within striking distance.  1st challenge he transformed everything into something else – the condiment, steak sauce he turned into a protein.  The protein, steak, he turned into a sauce.  You gotta love molecular gastronomy.  2nd challenge Ming did everything on a stick.  Should make for a neat presentation but will the judges think it’s a cop out?  It went over “fairly” well.  Middle of the pack.

Leading the pack: Marc Forgione

Dark horse: Ming Tsai, Marco Canora

Tonight’s winners:

1st challenge – Chef Tio.
2nd challenge – Chef Tio.

Quote of the night – “Her calamari gyro was just clunky.”  Donatella on Chef Estes.

Have you missed an episode of NIC because you were valiantly liberating an oppressed society?  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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Duskie Estes

One Response to Recap: Next Iron Chef 3, EP4

  • Virgil says:

    I have been enjoying your commentary on Next Iron Chef Season 3 and making sure I write my own commentary before I read yours. We agree on much, but have some major disagreements. I thought Estes should have already been gone (I agreed with you on Dumont) and I have Canora as the winner I would bet on at this stage of the competition.

    My commentary this week is at my site,

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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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