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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

ICA: Forgione vs. Cooper – Outcome

iron chef America, wannabe tv chef

SPOILER ALERT: The following information is the outcome of Forgione vs. Cooper. If you want information on the combatants click HERE. If you are only interested in the outcome read on.

The judges for Battle: Bell Pepper were Karine Bakhoum, Adam Richman and Nigella Lawson

Forgione                      Cooper
Taste: 28                      Taste: 24
Plating: 12                    Plating:  13
Originality: 14               Originality: 8
Total: 54                      Total: 45

If you haven’t yet, be sure to check out my recent interview with the newest Iron Chef, Marc Forgione HERE.

Next time Jose Garces vs. Mike Lata in Battle: Sparkling Wine.

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ICA: Forgione vs. Cooper

iron chef America, wannabe tv chef

The ninth season of Iron Chef America is here and it features a battle between Chef RJ Cooper and Next Iron Chef 3 winner Marc Forgione. You’ll also notice a slight format change. After each chef presents their menu the Chairman then asks the panel for their overall opinion of the meal.

RJ Cooper of Rogue 24Chef RJ Cooper, formerly of Vidalia in Washington DC, is the chef/owner of Rogue 24 –  an ultra high end eatery in the nation’s capitol.  As it stands now, Rogue 24 is the most expensive restaurant in the Beltway but the clientele has no issues with doling out the high prices.  Let’s face it, the clientele is made up of politicians who are either putting the tab on their Congressional accounts or having it picked up by lobbyists looking to subvert the democratic process.

Cooper is a James Beard Award winner originally from Detroit.  He attended the The Culinary School at Kendall College in Illinois before moving to Atlanta to work with Daniel Schaffhauser at The Ritz Carlton.  He has also worked with Eric Ripert at Le Bernardin and he was in charge of the Crow’s Nest Restaurant in The Captain Cook Hotel in Anchorage, Alaska.  He eventually found himself at Vidalia in 2004 but left this past summer to open his own place.

His opponent will be Next Iron Chef 3 winner Marc Forgione who makes his first appearance in Kitchen Stadium as an Iron Chef.  To battle the newest Iron Chef, Cooper appointed Rogue 24’s chef de cuisine Harper McClure along with notable DC pastry chef and long-time friend David Guas of Bayou Bakery, Coffee Bar & Eatery.

Cooper and Guas are long time friends as well as comrades in the kitchen at countless charitable events over the past 10 years. In celebration of this exciting event, Cooper is hosting a benefit for Chefs as Parents (a chef driven, non-profit organization that is working to improve the quality of school lunch programs) coinciding with the premiere.  With a $50 donation per person, attendees can enjoy savory hors d’oeuvres from each of the renowned chefs in addition to a mouth watering array of fresh Mid-Atlantic oysters provided by Rappahannock River Oysters, LLC at a special viewing party that will be held from 8pm -12am at Long View Gallery (1234 9th St., NW), a Blagden Alley neighbor of Rogue 24.

The judges for Battle: Bell Pepper were Karine Bakhoum, Adam Richman and Nigella Lawson

If you haven’t yet, be sure to check out my recent interview with the newest Iron Chef, Marc Forgione HERE.

Click HERE for the outcome.

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Anthony Bourdain’s Medium Raw

Respected but largely unknown New York City chef Tony Bourdain wrote a book called Kitchen Confidential over a decade ago. What has followed since is nothing short of the American dream. More books, TV shows, fame, fortune and family. Recently Bourdain released his latest, Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook and is aiming for a paperback release later this year.  In order for a little pay back, Tony is offering lessor known writers (like myself) a chance at stardom.  Here, let him tell you:

Here is my entry:

Well Done: The essence of all that is cooking boiled down to fit comfortably in the proverbial nut shell.

I know people who insist that making tuna salad is “cooking.” They make the same argument for a bowl of cereal, can of soup, bag of chips and even Pop Tarts. They are “eat to live-ers” and are as alien to me as a Klingon. I, undoubtedly, am just as alien to them. Why would anyone grind chuck roast just to hand pat a burger when they could easily roll by a window and get a fat burger for under three bucks? Sadly, for them anything that doesn’t involve a combo number is “cooking.” Tragic news to someone who has enjoyed cooking since he was five years old. At the same time, good news for someone who has made a living from doing it for them.  Life is a series of trade-offs.

For a cook, cooking is pseudonymous with creating; it is art. Whether that creation is an elegant Beef Wellington or a simple reduction sauce to bring life to an otherwise boring piece of chicken it is the process itself that draws us to the kitchen. There is rhythm in the chopping of onions and melody in the sizzle of bacon. At the risk of sounding overly metaphoric the kitchen is Pink Floyd and the meal is “Dark Side of the Moon.”

I have had people tell me that the food I cook at home tastes as good as restaurant food and they mean that as a compliment. Few restaurants, no matter how extravagant can touch a really great home cooked meal. A great meal is a communal event; it brings people closer together. Yet it is also an intensely personal experience. Intimacy only serves to accentuate the sensation. There is nothing more intimate than to cook for someone. Well, nothing that is considered appropriate in a public setting.

There is a place and a time for going out and having a great dinner at a restaurant and those times should be cherished. But every meal, everyday? Any idiot with an American Express card can walk into an Le Bernardin and have a meal that excites the senses. But it is a whole other animal to create that meal with your own imagination and energy. There is a self-satisfaction that cannot be replaced no matter how much money you throw at it.

To cook well, to cook really well is to elicit an emotional response that goes beyond the palate. Truly great food either conjures memories or creates them. It can be seen in the “oh face” of your fellow diners. The first bite of a truly great meal suspends time; that bite is like “the first time” and one should savor it for what it is, ecstasy. Crunchy, gooey, cheesy, acidic, sweet ecstasy.

Like it?  Of course you do.  So go vote for it HERE.

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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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