Marco Canora

Review: Extreme Chef

So what is Extreme Chef?  Here’s what the Food Network site has to say about it:

You thought Iron Chef was tough? Those crazy Chopped baskets seem impossible? Extreme Chef takes competitive cooking to a whole new level. Host Marsh Mokhtari takes seasoned chefs out of their kitchen comfort zones and throws unpredictable curveballs.

Extreme ChefHere’s what the web site says about host Marsh Mokhtari:

Born in the UK, Marsh, a seasoned world traveler, has lived on four continents. His globetrotting started at an early age when he spent his first six years in Iran, and then later moved to England, where he ultimately earned a degree in medical physics from the University of Newcastle. While there, he played American football for the UK national team and rugby for the Newcastle Falcons.

He went on to enjoy a successful career in executive search in London. While on sabbatical in Australia, he had a fortuitous encounter with a film crew and found his true calling. The lure of acting, adventure and travel took Marsh to Bolivia where he hosted Death Road, a one-hour special for History Channel that garnered him instant credibility and notoriety. The National Geographic Channel saw the potential and commissioned a series of specials, Perilous Journeys, featuring Marsh. Marsh was guest star on numerous TV shows and recently completed shooting an independent feature, Carjack. Marsh is also currently the host of Food Network’s new series, Extreme Chef.

Here’s what I have to say about both:

Mokhtari has no background in food.  None.  There aren’t chefs or food writers out there who need a job?  For that matter 1 out of every 8 Americans is out of job.  Couldn’t they have hired one of them since they were going with someone unqualified to host the show anyway?  That aside, he has a good camera presence and is good looking.

As for the premiss of the show as a whole – it’s better than Cupcake Wars, but I doubt I ever labor through another episode.  I’m just not a fan of taking someone who is good at something and then doing everything you can to F with them.  It isn’t entertaining.  You know what is entertaining?  Watching someone who is really good at something do the thing they are really good at unimpeded.

The contestants were annoying as hell in the premiere, or should I say one chef was annoying as hell, Chef Paul Menta.  They were joined by celebrity chef Marco Canora who was on Next Iron Chef a few years back.  In addition to making accomplished chefs cook alligator over a Bic lighter they also have “X Factors” which are stupid physical challenges that have nothing to do with cooking.  The one bright spot of the show was that Chef Gina Clarke is a stone cold fox.  Food Network get her a show – a real show.

If you want to know what Extreme Chef should have been, check out Chef Unleashed with Chris Cosentino.


Marsh Mokhtari

Food Network’s Extreme Chef Premieres June 30th

Food Network Press Release:


Extreme ChefFood Network takes chefs out of their kitchen comfort zone in new primetime series Extreme Chef premiering Thursday, June 30th at 10pm ET/PT. Hosted by TV veteran and seasoned world traveler Marsh Mokhtari, each episode pushes three chefs to their physical and mental limits as they must adjust to extreme conditions and unpredictable curve-balls such as swimming across a lake for ingredients and using a car engine as a makeshift stove. Whether extracting ingredients from a block of ice or using a pocket knife as a lone cooking utensil, each of the eight episodes in season one follows three culinary pros as they navigate this over-the-top contest vying for $10,000 and the coveted title of Extreme Chef.

With three challenges per episode, the competitors’ wits, adaptability and artistry are tested as they must cook up a way to showcase their creative chops while surviving the ultimate competition. With minimal time to complete each challenge, speed counts but quality matters most in the end. After the first two challenges, one chef is eliminated and the two remaining competitors battle in the ultimate showdown. From beaches and farms to ghost towns and mountains, Extreme Chef takes the competitors to obscure locations for each out-of-the-box challenge, like cooking a meal on a deserted island, preparing a perfect block party in a torrential downpour and gathering ingredients from a bucket of rattlesnakes.

The season’s competitors hail from across the country and span the culinary spectrum. From restaurateurs to executive chefs, these kitchen masters will need their varied perspectives and cooking styles to tackle seemingly unthinkable tasks. Leading the competitors through this jaw-dropping journey is host Marsh Mokhtari, a U.K. based adventure seeker and host of several cable network travel and lifestyle specials. Notable judges from this season include: Simon Madjumdar (Next Iron Chef judge, food journalist), Josh Ozersky (food journalist), Marco Canora (Next Iron Chef finalist, restaurateur) and Candice Kumai (food writer).


Inside Look: Next Iron Chef w/Marc Forgione

Who knew that when the Food Network started airing old reruns of the hit Japanese reality series Iron Chef back in the late 90’s that it would create a whole new genre within a genre?  That of course is the reality cooking competition.  After years of watching the overly dramatic, overdubbed and often sub-titled cooking competition the Network began wondering if they could pull off an American version of the show.  Thus we have Iron Chef: America.

ICA has proven to be such a hit that other networks began doing their own versions.  Bravo brought us Top Chef, Top Chef: Masters, and Top Chef: Just Desserts.  Fox has produced Hell’s Kitchen and MasterChef.  NBC produced the short-lived Chopping Block.  Food Network, not to be out done, added Ultimate Recipe Showdown, Chopped, Next Food Network Star and Food Network Challenge to name a few.

But the problem with most of these shows is that they have tried to dazzle viewers with bizarre ingredients, screaming hosts and insultingly stupid challenges.  They also have forgotten that at its crux ICA was still a show about food not personalities.  To date, only one show comes close to matching the intensity and integrity of ICA and ironically it is the spin-off Next Iron Chef.

Next Iron Chef pits some of the best chefs in the country against one another to earn the title Iron Chef.  To date the contest has produced Michael Symon who is currently the winningest champion in the show’s history and a bona fide star.  It has also produced Jose Garces who has only tasted defeat twice.

Iron Chef Marc ForgioneMarc Forgione (chef/owner of Marc Forgione in New York) is the son of the “godfather of American cuisine” Chef Larry Forgione.  The younger Forgione has long been known as Larry’s son but that ended eight weeks ago when NIC began airing.  Today if you Google “Chef Forgione” the first page of results yields only one article about Larry and the rest are about his talented son.

Marc’s forte is New American cuisine of which Gael Greene says, “Not a molecular burp anywhere.  Just real food most food-obsessed New Yorkers want to eat.”  High praise from a high priestess of haute cuisine.  Though he began cooking professionally at age 16 with his famous father, Marc also did some time working with Michel Guerard in Eugenie les Bains, Patricia Yeo at AZ and Pazo, Laurent Tourondel at BLT Steak and with Puck disciple Kazuto Matsusaka .  He also graduated from the School of Hotel and Restaurant Management at UMASS Amherst.

I was lucky enough to get to talk with Chef Forgione just days after his victory aired so that I could give fans an Inside Look at The Next Iron Chef.  So what was it like competing to the show?

To find out I started off my questions by asking Chef Forgione to describe the process beginning with his first contact with the Food Network to which he replied, “I got a phone call one day while I was at work.  They said this is the Food Network.  I wasn’t really sure where that was going to go.  The first interview was over the phone about a half an hour of me just speaking to a talent agent or talent scout.  And I guess I passed that test.

Iron Chef Marc Forgione“And then they call you in for the second round.  And in the second round you actually go in there, it’s pretty weird actually they take you into like a dark room and shine the light on you and you answer questions.  And then I just played the waiting game.  I didn’t find out until three days before the flight that I was going.  I was the last one on there.”

I then asked what emotions he felt as he entered the kitchen for that very first challenge.  He offered, “You know we were already in LA for two days at that point, maybe three.  We were all staying at the same hotel so we all got to meet each other and we went out to eat.  At that point we were just hanging out.

“Then all of a sudden the Chairman comes out and when he looked at all of us and said, when I heard the sentence, you know what I mean, one of you will be the next Iron Chef I got goose bumps and all of the hair stood up on my neck.  It was go time.”  And then he described his feelings for that first challenge, “It was adrenaline, passion, excitement, a little bit of anxiety.”

On what makes the title Iron Chef special Forgione said, “When you hear the word Iron Chef to me the words that come up right away are respect and honor.  I’m a very competitive person by nature anyway.  So for me this is one of those things where it’s either put up or shut up with your food.  There’s no gray area.”  He added, “Anybody can talk the talk but this is actually your opportunity to get up there and show your stuff.”

According to Forgione the nightly group meals were almost as interesting as the on-camera battles, “You think it’s hard to cook for maybe one chef that’s coming into to eat at your restaurant imagine that 10-top coming in to eat at your place.”  Adding, “Obviously once a couple of drinks got into everybody it always got interesting.”

Asked which challenge on the show was the hardest Chef Marc quickly answered, “By far the hardest for me was the buffet challenge.”  He then revealed that half way through that battle he ripped his pants wide open, “They don’t stop the clock for anything so I had to adjust my apron to cover my derriere.”

Iron Chef Marc ForgioneChef Forgione then describe his final battle with Chef Marco Canora, “Sitting back here the other night watching it.  You know I knew we were doing two opposite things obviously while it was going on but to really watch it. It wasn’t just a battle of Thanksgiving it was almost a battle of like, well Alton Brown said it best, ‘Which do you want to go with?  Do you want to go with unpredictable genius or safe and soulful.’  He cooked safe and soulful and I cooked unpredictable genius.  It was kind of a microcosm of the whole thing.”

When asked if he had changed his approach in his first defense as an Iron Chef, Forgione replied, “I actually made a point to attack it exactly the same – I don’t know if gusto is the right word – but I made sure to stay true to what got me there.”

Chef Marc Forgione enters Kitchen Stadium for the first time as an Iron Chef Sunday night to do battle with Chef R J Cooper.  The episode premieres on the Food Network at 10/9 central.  For more on that click HERE.

All photos courtesy of the Food Network.

Next Iron Chef 3 Finale – Outcome

SPOILER ALERT: The following information is the outcome of Canora vs. Forgione for the title Next Iron Chef. If you want informaNIC Finaletion on the combatants click HERE. If you are only interested in the outcome read on.

The judges for Battle: Ultimate Thanksgiving Feast were Donatella Arpaia and Simon Majumdar plus Iron Chefs Michael Symon, Bobby Flay and Morimoto.

Congratulations to the Next Iron Chef. . .

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Marc Forgione

[blackbirdpie url=”!/MarcForgione/status/7162036848955393″]

Did you miss an episode of NIC because you were helping count write-in votes in Alaska?  No problem, you can get caught up HERE.  Be sure to check out my exclusive interviews with Celina Tio (HERE), Mary Dumont (HERE) and Maneet Chauhan (HERE).

Be sure to check out new Iron Chef Marc Forgione in his first title defense next Sunday night against Chef RJ Cooper.  If you haven’t yet, be sure to check out my recent interview with the newest Iron Chef, Marc Forgione HERE.

Photo courtesy of the Food Network.

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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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