Joe Bastianich

Get to Know the MasterChef Judges

Graham Elliot hipped me to this little video they shot to publicize the upcoming season of Fox’s MasterChef.  It’s pretty cool:

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ICA: Morimoto vs. Pasternack

NewICAHeader ICA: Garces vs. Paley

It’s a battle of the fish masters as Esca’s Chef David Pasternak takes on Iron Chef Morimoto. Will he keep his head above water in the rocky seas of Kitchen Stadium?

When Chef David Pasternak enters Kitchen Stadium he will do so with something very few ICA challengers has ever had, an Iron chef in his corner.  Pasternak is leads the kitchen at Esca which he co-created along with the dynamic duo of dining Joe Bastianich and Mario Batali.

Chef David Pasternak on Iron ChefBeing Jewish, Pasternak seems an odd choice to be the chef on an Italian restaurant that is co-owned by Italian heavyweights like Batali and Bastianich but consider this, Esca is Italian for bait.  The restaurant specializes in fish and Pasternak is an avid fisherman.  So much so that he supplies a good deal of Esca”s menu by way of his rod and reel.  Seriously.

According to a 2005 New Yorker article on Pasternak entitled “Gone Fishing,” author Mark Singer revealed that, “No other restaurant in the city—not now and presumably not ever—offers year-round wild game that has been personally bagged by the chef.”  In fact, the chef bought a truck just so his wife could deliver all the fish he catches to the restaurant.  Pasternak is so into fish that Frank Bruni calls him the “fish whisperer.”

But is he ready to take on the likes of the master of fish Iron Chef Morimoto?  Well, perhaps with Batali on his side he just may be up to the challenge.  The judges for Battle: Wreckfish were Cady Huffman, Jefferey Steingarten and Katie Chin.

Check below for the results.

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Morimoto               Pasternack
Taste: 24                Taste: 22
Plating: 12              Plating: 10
Originality: 11        Originality: 8
Total: 47                 Total: 40

MasterChef Season 2 Casting Call

Gordon Ramsay on WannabeTVchef.comFOX has ordered a second season of Gordon Ramsay’s newest culinary competition series, MASTERCHEF, it was announced today by Mike Darnell, President of Alternative Entertainment, Fox Broadcasting Company.

“Gordon Ramsay is an incredible talent and the biggest culinary star on television today, so we’re very happy to have Gordon and MASTERCHEF back for another season on FOX,” said Darnell. “MASTERCHEF has resonated with viewers this summer, and we look forward to seeing where Gordon takes the show in Season Two.”

“It’s amazing and refreshing to see how much passion and raw talent there is from amateur home cooks across America,” said Ramsay. “It’s extraordinary the amount of energy and excitement the show brought in Season One, and I’m thrilled to be back at FOX for a second season.”

“The amazing reception for MASTERCHEF on FOX has been hugely rewarding for all of us at Shine Group,” said MASTERCHEF executive producer and Shine Group Chairman and CEO, Elisabeth Murdoch. “As the creators of this unique global franchise, we’re thrilled to see the U.S. audience love this show as much as we do. We are looking forward to building on this early success with an even broader, bigger search in Season Two, and to seeing the brand grow as it continues to do so in Australia, the U.K., France and around the world, breaking viewing and ancillary records as it goes.”

MASTERCHEF is the No. 1 new program of the summer among Adults 18-49, outperforming the next highest-rated show by +14%.

For those that believe they are the next MASTERCHEF please visit fox.com/masterchef.

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.

Jose Garces on WannabeTVchef.comHe 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).  Emeril Legasse on WannabeTVchef.comBatali 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.

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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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