Laura Calder

ICA: Flay vs. Knibb

Iron Chef Bobby FlayWest coast chef, Jason Knibb challenges Bobby Flay to a special seafood showdown. Whose cuisine will reign supreme?

Chef Jason KnibbJason Knibb is the executive chef at NINE-TEN in La Jolla, CA and has been since 2003.  Prior to that the Jamaican born chef was the executive chef at Robert Redford’s Sundance Village where he oversaw all food & beverage operations located on the resort property, including the Foundry Grill and the renowned Tree Room restaurant. Knibb started his career working with Wolfgang Puck at L.A.‘s Eureka restaurant.

Chef Knibb has also logged time in the kitchens of Yamaguchi, Tournant and Rockenwagner.  His career has seen him work in Hawaii, Poland, Southern California and he was even profiled on Bobby Flay’s “Food Nation – Best of Utah” episode.  In 2009 Knibb was inducted into the San Diego Chef Hall of Fame – he was one of the first three chefs to be inducted.

Waiting for Knibb in Kitchen Stadium is Iron Chef Bobby Flay and his team of haute hotties Rene Forsberg and Christine Sanchez.  In 2007 I interviewed Bobby for ‘Zalea Magazine.  You probably can’find a copy of that issue anymore but you can enjoy the interview in my Kindle single Dinner Conversations: 39 Interviews with America’s Favorite Culinary Movers and Shakers.

The judges for Battle: Caviar were Cady Huffman, Simon Majumdar and Laura Calder.

Check below for the outcome.

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Flay                   Knibb
Taste: 19                Taste: 14
Plating: 12              Plating: 12
Originality: 13        Originality: 11
Total: 44                 Total: 38

ICA: Flay vs. Stein

NewICAHeader ICA: Flay vs. Stien

After taking a few weeks off so the sugar addicts could satisfy their Jones with some mind-numbing cake bake-offs ICA is finally back for some real cooking.  It’s the Windy City vs. the Big Apple when Chicago-based Chef Todd Stein enters Kitchen Stadium to take on Iron Chef Bobby Flay. Who’s cuisine will reign supreme?

Chef Todd Stein on Iron Chef AmericaChef Todd Stein has been a mainstay of Chi-Town’s restaurant scene for several years going back to his apprentice days at Gordon Sinclair’s self-named Gordon Restaurant.  From there he worked his way up the lardon ladder with stages at Le Bernardin and Moulin de la Vierge before being named Chef de Cuisine at MK the Restaurant in 2003.  Two years later he was promoted to executive chef.

Stein left Chicago in 2006 to take the position of Consulting Executive Chef for Minneapolis’ B.A.N.K. and a year later he was off to Sin City to run the show at David Burke Las Vegas.  In 2009 he returned to Chicago to take command of Roof, then Cibo Matto (where he was employed during taping) and ultimately to head up The Flourentine starting in 2010.

Along the way he has collected an impressive list of accolades highlighted by being named Best New Chef by Chicago magazine and making Cibo Matto a 2010 James Beard semifinalist for Best New Restaurant and Time Out Chicago’s Best Hotel Restaurant.

If you’d like to learn more about Chef Stein the good folks at Zagat sat down with him last year for a terrific interview that you can read HERE.  With a back ground in New American cuisine and classic French it is the flavors of Italy where Stein’s star shines brightest.  We’ll see how bright when he enters Kitchen Stadium to take on Iron Chef Bobby Flay in Battle Mussels.

Chef Flay was once again assisted by Sous Chef Rene Forsberg (who I believe oversees Flay’s Mesa Grill outpost in the Bahamas) and Christine Sanchez, Culinary Director of the Iron Chef’s company, Bold Food.  The two cutest sous chefs in all of Iron Chefdom, when do we get to see Renee with her own show?  The judges for this battle were Julie Chen, David Rocco and Laura Calder.

If you haven’t already be sure to check out my exclusive interview with Iron Chef Bobby Flay (HERE) or my extensive interview with judge David Rocco just before the Cooking Channel went on the air last year (HERE).

Check below for the outcome.

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Flay                              Stein
Taste: 25                     Taste: 25
Plating: 12                   Plating:  13
Originality: 12             Originality: 10
Total: 49                      Total: 48

Review: French Food at Home

I finally got a little quality time with the Cooking Channel so I am attempting to review several of the shows I have not seen.  This time I’m watching French Food at Home.

French Food at Home is another import from Food Network: Canada starring Laura Calder.  At first the thought of a show about French cuisine that is shot in Halifax, Nova Scotia didn’t appeal to me until I remembered that the title isn’t French Food in Chamonix it’s French Food at Home.  Home is anywhere so I pushed that prejudice aside and clicked the start button.

Laura Calder on WannabeTVchef.comHost Laura Calder has a neat back story.  She gave up a nondescript office job in Toronto and moved West to study the culinary arts.  While working in California she was invited to move to Paris to help with a writing project about wine and food; the trip was scheduled to take nine months.  Seven years later Calder was a full on Francophile having remained in the City of Lights.  Her companion book to the show also entitled French Food at Home was first published by HarperCollins Canada in January 2003.  It was later followed by French Taste: Elegant Everyday Eating both are available at

Her accent is very distinct, it’s not exactly Canadian and not exactly French.  Does that make it French-Canadian?  There’s an almost British lilt to it.  She is definitely attractive with a pleasant face and a Giada-esque figure.  She also has mischievous eyes that suggest she knows something she isn’t telling you.  She has an unbridled love of food which makes her an excellent host.

The production quality is not quite as solid as what I have seen of the other FN:Canada productions like Everyday Exotic.  The lighting at times is a little dull or dank while the editing is way too jerky.  Sometimes visuals flip by so quickly that they should have a warning for epileptics during the opening credits.  It can be unnerving.  It’s more like a BBC show than a Food Network caliber program.

The style of the show strikes me as being very Cosmo – topical, sleek and just a tad grandiose.  But it is not stuffy at all.  The thing about a show on French cooking is less about recipes and more about philosophy.  French cuisine, like Italian, is built around finding the best possible local, seasonal ingredients and letting imagination do the rest.  Where French cuisine differs from Italian is in technique.  The French have mastered most of the world’s notable techniques while Italian food is more rustic.  French Food at Home does an adequate job of demonstrating this but would benefit from spending a little more time on it.

Here’s the network description from the web site:

French Food at Home invites you to share in a lifestyle that brings the magic of contemporary French food home. Witty and charming host Laura Calder makes cooking French easy, from bistro desserts to savory tarts to scrumptious sautes. Laura’s enthusiasm inspires viewers to make simple and irresistible dishes like herb-crusted leg of lamb, smooth and smoky squash soup and light-as-a-cloud chocolate orange mousse.

All and all it is not a bad show with ample potential.

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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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