dinner impossible

Review: Cook Like an Iron Chef with Michael Symon

Cook Like an Iron Chef with Michael Symon

I finally got a little more quality time with the Cooking Channel so I am attempting to review several of the shows I have not seen.  This time around Cook Like an Iron Chef.

I really dig Michael Symon’s cooking.  I enjoyed he and Wayne Harley Brackman together on the old Melting Pot show from Food Network’s adolescent days.  I like his performance on Next Iron Chef and the year he replaced Robert Irvine on Dinner: Impossible but it is on Iron Chef America that I have become a serious Symon fan.

Do you know that Symon has by far the best winning percentage of any established Iron Chef?  He’s good for a win somewhere around 80% of the time.  That’s impressive.  I had the pleasure of interviewing Symon last year and in that interview you get a glimpse of his creative process (HERE) but on Cook Like an Iron Chef you get a full blown look.  From the Cooking Channel web site:

Iron Chef Mike Symon is breaking out of Kitchen Stadium to share his creative process and techniques for turning your favorite secret ingredients into unique, daring and delicious food. Chef Symon arms you with an arsenal of dishes that deliver perfect 10’s for taste, presentation and creativity to help you do battle for the discerning judges at your own kitchen table.

The set is very cool with Iron Chef knives all over the walls and even two sous chefs (what’s that all about and more to the point – where do I apply?).  The stainless steel and heavy metal look of the set matches Symon’s shaved dome and tattooed sleeves perfectly.  The “offal” T-shirt was a nice touch and something that is close to my heart.

Cook Like an Iron Chef is a show for advanced cooks who already know how to use a knife and are familiar with professional lingo.  It is exactly what I look for in a stand-and-stir show.  It airs Thursdays at 10pm ET on the Cooking Channel.

Ina Garten – The Heartless Contessa?

I never understood the hullabaloo Food Network threw over Robert Irvine slightly fudging on his resume.  After all none of what he listed was false just exaggerated; still he was suspended.  JAG was pulled from the finale of NFNS 4 for the same thing although his “exaggerations” were a bit more exaggerated.  Worst Cooks in America host Beau MacMilan had a minor traffic violation that resulted in his job being pulled, ironically he was replaced by Irvine.

On the grand scheme of things these are not serious infractions.  Not in the least but it does make one wonder how Food Network and parent company Scripps Networks will handle the recent actions of Barefoot Contessa hostess Ina Garten.  After all, punching up your resume or rolling through a stop sign are nothing compared to telling a dying child you’re too busy to meet them.

Apparently that is exactly what Garten did.  On March 25th TMZ and about three dozen other media sources reported that she repeatedly snubbed the dying wish of a terminal Leukemia victim.  Here’s an excerpt from TMZ’s report:

… a little boy named Enzo was approached by the (Make-A-Wish) organization after he was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia three years ago.

Enzo told Make-A-Wish … he really wanted to cook with the “Barefoot Contessa” host because he would often watch the show with his mother while resting in bed.

M.A.W. approached Garten with the wish last year … but at the time, she was unable to meet with Enzo due to a book tour.  The organization urged Enzo to pick another wish, but he told them he wanted to wait until she becomes available.

We’re told the organization went back to Ina this year … but her team responded with a “definite no” … once again, citing scheduling conflicts.

A member of Enzo’s family says the 6-year-old is heartbroken … and asked parents, “Why doesn’t she want to meet me?”

Now I have acknowledged that I think Garten’s food and creativity are quite good but I’ve also gone on record as not being a fan of the Barefoot Contessa program.  To me it is one of the most boring cooking shows around.  I am not alone in my belief that if Ina Garten were not Martha Stewart’s best friend no one would know who she was.  She damned sure wouldn’t have a nationally televised cooking show.  That being said, she does score exceptionally well in one demographic – well-to-do housewives from the Hamptons.

However, I don’t see that trend remaining after telling a dying child they aren’t important enough to meet her.  It sounds like someone is taking their “Contessa” title a little too seriously doesn’t it?  It would appear Garten thinks she is something more than just another well-to-do housewife from the Hamptons.

I might could swallow the “scheduling conflicts” excuse but who has a year worth of scheduling conflicts?  I’ll tell who wouldn’t – Bobby Flay.  Flay is an actual chef who runs nearly a dozen restaurants from Vegas to Nassau, owns a production company, makes countless personal appearances and stars in four TV series.  That certainly demands more time than just shooting one TV show from your home and doing the occasional book signing but I’m willing to bet that had Make-A-Wish called Flay would have been on the next flight out.

Since the story has hit the public spotlight, Garten has miraculously found a little time in her busy stay-at-home schedule to honor Enzo with her presence.  For his part Enzo says he no longer cares to spend his last few days on earth cooking scones with her royal highness.  His new last wish is to go swimming with dolphins.  Good for him.

I cannot help but contrast Garten’s callousness with what I witnessed firsthand in tiny Dauphin Island, Alabama.  Dauphin Island is a resort town of 1300 people on the Gulf of Mexico that has two industries – tourism and fishing.  Both of those were eliminated a year ago when the Deepwater Horizon oil spill struck.  Both BP and the White House have essentially Contessa’d the Gulf Coast but Good Eats host Alton Brown managed to spend an entire weekend of his time helping the Island rebound from an ecological, economic and bureaucratic nightmare.

Now if saying you cooked an entire meal for the Royals when it was only dessert results in one year of TV exile and saying you were stationed on the Afghan-front when you were actually stationed at a support facility miles from the action means you don’t ever get a cooking show at all then anything short of Food Network pulling all affiliation with Garten is unacceptable.  She’ll be okay, she still has her pal Martha Stewart to prop her “career” up.  I understand that celebrities cannot honor every single request for their time but when a dying six-year-old says that their last wish is to spend a few minutes cooking with you how do you say “no” and still sleep at night?

Review – Restaurant: Impossible

Restaurant Impossible

I know what everyone thought when they first heard that Food Network was spinning off Dinner: Impossible with a new show called Restaurant: Impossible.  I thought the same thing, “Oh, they’re ripping of Kitchen Nightmares.”

Think about it, an intimidating English chef goes into struggling restaurants in an attempt to turn them around.  That’s Kitchen Nightmares – the Fox reality show starring super chef Gordon Ramsay.  It’s also the tag-line for Restaurant: Impossible. The only real difference I have seen between the two is that Restaurant: Impossible host Robert Irvine has a support team to help him out and a noticeable lack of bleeps.

Robert IrvineI don’t have a problem with Ramsay or any other chef dropping any words they want in the heat of a rush.  Goodness knows I do it.  I do have a problem with Fox telling Ramsay to do it just for shock value.  That’s bush league.  That’s why I have always preferred Ramsay’s BBC shows to his American ones.

Well there is no issue with that from Robert Irvine.  He brings the same intensity and passion to the task as Ramsay but without all of the pretend anger.  The formula for Restaurant: Impossible is simple – Robert takes a look at the operation and fixes it.  These fixes include retooling menus, retraining or releasing employees and overhauling the decor.  In the end Irvine has given the owners the best possible chance to succeed.

My opinion:  I like it.  I like it a lot.  My only complaint is that I can’t remember when it comes on so I end up stumbling on it half way through each time.  That’s not Food Network’s fault; it’s mine.  So I think I’ll make myself a reminder. . .

Don’t forget!
Restaurant: Impossible
Wednesdays at 10pm/9c on Food Network.

“Worst Cooks in America” Shake-up

When I first saw that Dinner Impossible star Robert Irvine was replacing Beau MacMillan as Anne Burrell’s foil on Worst Cooks in America I thought it was just a chemistry thing.  But it appears MacMillan’s departure was predicated on some legal issues he is having in Arizona.  Check this out from Scottsdale Arizona News:

According to police documents, Food Network star Beau James MacMillan, 38, of Scottsdale, was arrested Sunday afternoon on a warrant for failure to appear, a misdemeanor.

Food Network's Beau MacMillan ArrestedThe report says MacMillan was stopped by Scottsdale PD on 21900 North Pima Rd. at 12:55 p.m. on February 7 for fail to stop correctly at the traffic signal while turning southbound on to Pima Rd. from Pinnacle Peak Rd.

The report says police checked the license status of MacMillan which returned “Restricted – to and from work only” out of Arizona. Beau MacMillan told the officer that he was on his way to work at the Sanctuary Resort. The officer performed a wants and warrant check for MacMillan and he had a misdemeanor warrant for his arrest for failing to appear in the Scottsdale City Court.


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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

2015 1st Place Luck of the Irish Cook-off
2015 4th Place Downtown Cajun Cook-off
2015 2nd Place Fins' Wings & Chili Cook-off
2014 2015 4th Place LA Gumbo Cook-off
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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