cat cora is leaving iron chef

Next Iron Chef Finale: Falkner vs. Zakarian

NIC4Banner Recap: Next Iron Chef 4, EP 7

TV’s ultimate cooking competition,  The Next Iron Chef, culminates with a tête à tête between Elizabeth Elizabeth Falkner Geoffrey ZakarianFalkner and Geoffrey Zakarian.

Once known for all things dessert, All-Star Chef Elizabeth Falkner is now widely acknowledged to span both savory and pastry at her restaurants Citizen Cake and Orson.

A well-known chef for over 25 years, Geoffrey Zakarian now has two restaurants in NYC, The National and The Lambs Club. He’s also on the judging panel for Chopped and 24 Hour Restaurant Battle.

The theme ingredient for this winner-take-all showdown was Holiday Meal (rib roast, cider, winter squash, et al).  The judges were Simon Majumdar, Judy Joo, Iron Chefs Michael Symon, Bobby Flay and Masaharu Morimoto.

Each chef was asked to prepare three dishes.  the the Chairman calls them over to ask for a fourth dish using cranberries.  To help out he allows them to share and extra sous chef from their former competitors – 15 minutes with each side.  They decide on Alex.

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A few minutes later the Chairmen requests a fifth dish – ice cream.  Then a few minutes later he presents them with martini glasses – a sixth dish?  A cocktail?  The only rule is there has to be something to fill the glasses.

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Check below for the outcome:

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Congratulations to Chef Geoffrey Zakarian on becoming the Next Iron Chef.

Next Iron Chef Finale: Thoughts and Predictions

NIC4Banner Recap: Next Iron Chef 4, EP 7

Elizabeth FalknerGeoffrey Zakarian
Since the beginning of Next Iron Chef 4: Super Chefs the Online has been buzzing with innuendo, controversy and conspiracy theories.  I have seen the boards on some sites where the ladies are lauding Chef Falkner’s success but they all seem to include some version of this sentence, “You know if she wins they are going to say that it’s because they needed a woman Iron Chef.”

Only a fool would think that does not play a part.  Like it or not a show like Iron Chef is still a business that makes it’s money by attracting ad revenue.  Other companies choose to advertise on a specific show because of demographics.  The fact that Elizabeth Falkner is a female helps those demographics.  So does the fact that she is gay.  That’s the real world.

I have also seen a lot of chatter that Geoffrey Zakarian will win because he is a New Yorker, essentially an insider.  That has merit as well.  Logistics are huge.  Looked at Chopped.  It is an insanely popular series yet the contestants come almost exclusively from the tri-state area.  That’s because airline tickets and hotels cost a lot more money than a cab ride.

Food Network is a very successful cable channel but they do not have the unlimited funds of major networks like NBC who’s parent company GE is one of the largest corporations on the planet and because of their allegiance to the White House don’t have to pay any federal taxes.  For Food Network, flying Chef Falkner from the West Coast to the East Coast a dozen or so times a year to tape ICA is expensive.  Geoffrey can take a cab.

I see these issues as a wash.  What’s more important is that either Falkner or Zakarian, as well as the eight chefs they defeated, would make an amazing Iron Chef.  To be brutally honest for a second, that has not been the case in past seasons.  Each of the first three casts contained ratings fodder – contestants who didn’t stand a chance – so that the first elimination or two would be painless.  This cast was so good that you could have chosen the winner out of a hat and still gotten a great Iron Chef out of it.

Now as far as my prediction.

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For weeks I have felt that Falkner was on a course with destiny.  Set aside the fact that she best fills FN’s demographic needs, there is also the back story of a pastry chef wanting to prove she can hang with the savory crowd.  Like Marc Forgione (last year’s winner) she was the least known competitor.  Just like Forgione she has an affiliation with a famous chef.  Marc is the son of the godfather of American cuisine Larry Forgione and Elizabeth is Cat Cora’s former sous chef.

But in the last 24 or so hours I’ve started to second guess myself.  The reason?  Social media.

During the Food Network Star competition all of the contestants were very active on Twitter and Facebook.  That is except for two, Vic Moea and Susie Jimenez.  As it turns out they lost out to Jeff Mauro in the finale.  Mauro, for his part, was quite active on Facebook and Twitter.

Most of the NIC contestants have been live Tweeting the show this year.  Samuelsson, Guarnaschelli, Irvine, Chiarello, Burrell and Zakarian especially have been very active on Twitter.  Curiously absent from the party is Chef Falkner.

So that’s it.  That’s what I am basing my prediction on, Elizabeth Falkner doesn’t Tweet a lot.  Sure it sounds flimsy but is it worse than any other theory?  Regardless, I say Zakarian is the Next Iron Chef.

Recap: Next Iron Chef 4, EP 7

NIC4Banner Recap: Next Iron Chef 4, EP 6

TV’s ultimate cooking competition may be Food Network’s The Next Iron Chef.  This cast is sick!  Easily the best line-up since NIC 1 which included John Besh, Aaron Sanchez, Chris Cosentino and eventual winner Michael Symon to name a few.

Well, there goes my pre-season prediction of an Anne Burrell victory.  Although Anne did well in this contest she certainly did not dominate they way that I and lost of others thought she might.  In hindsight perhaps we all set our expectations for Anne too high.  After all anyone of of the ten chefs in this year’s competition would make a great Iron Chef.

I have seen where judges Judy Joo, Simon Majumdar and Michael Symon have each had to deal with some rough treatment via social media.  Mike had to suspend some of his weekly Facebook activities because of nut jobs irate that their favorite chef had somehow been wronged by the judging.  Let me take this opportunity to say IT’S JUST A FREAKING TV SHOW!  The troubles of the world will not be solved by determining who makes the best omelet.

Battle: Passion

Alex Guarnaschelli Next Iron ChefChairman’s challenge:  “Hampton’s Beach Cookout” (Secret Ingredient: Seafood) The penultimate challenge takes place in the Hamptons, where the four remaining chefs cater a beach cookout. The chefs were asked to create a love story using seafood in their courses. After a double elimination, the two surviving chefs go onto the Finale.

Sudden Death challenge: Pits the bottom two finishers each week in a “loser leave town” match. Secret ingredient: Crackers and Wine – three bites.

Anne Burrell – Eliminated in week 6.

Michael Chiarello – Bottega Restaurant (Napa Valley), Easy Entertaining with Michael Chiarello (Cooking Channel)

  • Chairman’s challenge: Lobster – Passion Through the Ages – Scallop with Carrot Caponata, Tuna Crudo Arrabiata and Smoked Fluke with Gribiche.  Judges loved the presentation and liked most of the food.  Top 2 finish.
  • Sudden Death: Chicken Liver Mouse with Cabernet Mustard, Escovitch of Sardine with Panzanella and Goat Cheese with Cabernet Caviar.  Mixed reviews on first course.  #2 and #3 went over well.

Elizabeth Falkner – Citizen Cake, Orson (San Francisco), Iron Chef America – challenger (Food Network)

  • Chairman’s challenge: Elizabeth by virtue of her win last week got a 15 minute head start at the fish monger.  She decided to make Vichyssoise Chowder, Smoked Scallop and Sweet Corn Puree and finally Lobster Cioppino.  Judges gave mixed reviews on each course.  A bottom 2 finish.
  • Sudden Death:  Shrimp & Grits, Chicken Liver Mouse with Red Wine Shallot and Curry Spiced Lamb Meatball with Raiata.  All three of her dishes seemed to go over well.

Alex Guarnaschelli – Butter, The Darby (New York), Alex’s Day Off, Chopped (Food Network)

  • Chairman’s challenge:  Raw Fluke with Tomato Jam and a Muddled Strawberry Cocktail, Clam Chowder and Lobster with Poached Egg and Hollandaise.  They loved the first course.  The second course had mixed reviews, the same for the third.  Judges were contentious about choosing a loser between Alex and Elizabeth.  Alex lost.

Chuck Hughes – Eliminated in week 3.

Robert Irvine – Eliminated in week 2.

Beau MacMillan – Eliminated in week 4.

Spike Mendelsohn – Eliminated in week 1.

Marcus Samuelsson –Eliminated in week 5.

Geoffrey Zakarian – The National, The Lambs Club (New York), 24 Hour Restaurant Battle, Chopped (Food Network)

  • Chairman’s challenge:  Seabass Salad and Celery Roll Up, Black Fish Minute Steak and Lemon Tapanade and Roast Scallop Sausage Sandwich with Cherry Clam Risotto.  They loved the flavor but Simon questioned the presentation.  He won the challenge.

Quote of the night – “It’s all homicide.”  Alex Guarnaschelli

Have you missed an episode of NIC because you were tracking escaped convicts from the Phantom Zone?  No problem, you can get caught up HERE.  Be sure to check out my exclusive interviews with NIC contestant Alex Guarnaschelli (HERE) and NIC judge Michael Symon (HERE).  Also check out my interview with last year’s winner Marc Forgione (HERE).

The two chefs vying to be the Next Iron Chef are . . .

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Geoffrey Zakarian and Elizabeth Falkner

Recap: Next Iron Chef 4, EP 6

NIC4Banner Recap: Next Iron Chef 4, EP 5

TV’s ultimate cooking competition may be Food Network’s The Next Iron Chef.  This cast is sick!  Easily the best line-up since NIC 1 which included John Besh, Aaron Sanchez, Chris Cosentino and eventual winner Michael Symon to name a few.

First some house cleaning.  For some time it has been rumored that this season of NIC was to fill a vacancy caused by the eminent departure of Cat Cora.  It makes since – ICA is filmed in New York City while Cat’s two restaurants are in Florida and California.  That plus her rapidly growing family have to be putting a strain on her time.  That was the conventional wisdom anyway.

Well it appears to be true as Cat is set to star in a new show on OWN, Oprah Winfrey’s struggling cable network.  Several sources including YumSugar and AOL are reporting that she will be teaming up with Queer Eye alum Carson Kressley for a show that will “be devoted to self-discovery, to connecting you to your best self and to the world.”  Good luck, Cat.

The Sudden Death challenge two weeks ago between Beau and Geoffrey was the best moment of the season thus far.  At least it was until last week’s showdown between Marcus Samuelsson and Elizabeth Falkner.  Both dishes were inspired.  Marcus didn’t lose because his dish was bad but because it wasn’t quite as glorious as Falkner’s.

Battle: Risk

Recap: Next Iron Chef 4 Geoffrey ZakarianChairman’s challenge:   “Food Auction” (Secret Ingredients: ) The five remaining chefs are brought to an auction house, where they must bid on ingredients. Then, each chef would place a bid on the least amount of time they think they can create a dish with each ingredient presented. The two least successful chefs were sent to the final Secret Ingredient Showdown of the season.

Sudden Death challenge: Pits the bottom two finishers each week in a “loser leave town” match. Secret ingredient: Panzu and Panko. . . as a dessert.

Anne Burrell – Secrets of a Restaurant Chef, Worst Cooks in America (Food Network)

  • Chairman’s challenge: Canned Sardines – 50 minutes.  Fried Sardine Spines, Sardine Filets on Beet Chips and Anchovy Salad with Parmesan Bread Pudding.  Anne gets to be a fourth judge today by virtue of her win last week.  Her presentation was great – but judges were mixed on taste.
  • Sudden Death Zucchini Involtini with Ponzu Caramel, Ponzu-Kumquat Ice Cream with Panko Crust.

Michael Chiarello – Bottega Restaurant (Napa Valley), Easy Entertaining with Michael Chiarello (Cooking Channel)

  • Chairman’s challenge: Lobster – 25 minutes.  Butter Poached Lobster with Lobster Risotto.  Judges were mixed on execution but agreed on flavor.  Another solid finish.

Elizabeth Falkner – Citizen Cake, Orson (San Francisco), Iron Chef America – challenger (Food Network)

  • Chairman’s challenge:  Tuna Jerky – 25 minutes.  Tuna Jerky Souffle with Dashi Sauce.  It may have been her best performance of the contest.

Alex Guarnaschelli – Butter, The Darby (New York), Alex’s Day Off, Chopped (Food Network)

  • Chairman’s challenge:  Leg of lamb – 20 minutes.  Lamb Sausage with Vegetable Puree.  Mixed reviews.

Chuck Hughes – Eliminated in week 3.

Robert Irvine – Eliminated in week 2.

Beau MacMillan – Eliminated in week 4.

Spike Mendelsohn – Eliminated in week 1.

Marcus Samuelsson –Eliminated in week 5.

Geoffrey Zakarian – The National, The Lambs Club (New York), 24 Hour Restaurant Battle, Chopped (Food Network)

  • Chairman’s challenge:  Wagyu – 30 minutes.  Wagyu Steak Salad Nicoise Style.   A home run.
  • Sudden Death: Panzo-Blackberry Marmalade Souffle with Panko White Gazpacho dipping sauce.

Leading the pack: Elizabeth Falkner, Michael Chiarello

Dark horse: Alex Guarnaschelli

Tonight’s winners:

1st challenge – Falkner
Sudden Death challenge – Zakarian vs. Burrell.

Quote of the night – “Sign the painting Geoffrey.”  Michael Chiarello

Have you missed an episode of NIC because you were tracking escaped convicts from the Phantom Zone?  No problem, you can get caught up HERE.  Be sure to check out my exclusive interviews with NIC contestant Alex Guarnaschelli (HERE) and NIC judge Michael Symon (HERE).  Also check out my interview with last year’s winner Marc Forgione (HERE).

The next Iron Chef will not be . . .

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Anne Burrell

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Stuart in 80 Words or Less

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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Stuart’s Honors & Awards

2012 Taste Award nominee for best chef (web)
2012 Finalist in the Safeway Next Chef Contest
2011 Taste Award Nominee for Little Grill Big Flavor
2011, 12 Member: Council of Media Tastemakers
2011 Judge: 29th Chef's of the Coast Cook-off
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Wing Cook-off
2011 Cooking Channel Perfect 3 Recipe Finalist
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Gumbo Cook-off
2011 Culinary Hall of Fame Member
2010 Tasty Awards Judge
2010 Judge: Bayou La Batre Gumbo Cook-off
2010 Gourmand World Cookbook Award Nominee
2010 Chef2Chef Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2010 Denay's Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2009 2nd Place Bay Area Food Bank Chef Challenge
2008 Tava: Discovery Contest Runner-up

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