Recap: Next Iron Chef 3

Recap: Next Iron Chef 3, EP7

The Final Four in Vegas!  That sounds like a Gambling Anonymous sponsor’s nightmare.   And this time two will be going home.  It’s hard to believe that this time next week we’ll be discussing the newest Iron Chef.

Celina TioLast week was supposed to be the double elimination week but the judges were unable to come to a consensus as to who should go home between Tsai, Tio and Forgione.  Now that makes me a little nervous.

You see in season four of Next Food Network Star the judges failed to reach an accord on who between Adam Gertler, Aaron McCargo Jr. and Lisa Garza should be eliminated before the finale.  That was extremely odd since McCargo had just turned in the single worst performance in the history of NFNS.  Most of the scuttlebutt was that McCargo had been deemed the winner before the contest started.  In retrospect that makes sense.  Of the dozen or so competitors that season McCargo was no better than the fifth best.

So that’s why the judges “indecision” makes me a little nervous.  On the other hand, there was no one performance last week that was clearly worse than any other.  In fact, I have a hard time buying Canora with the best performance – that’s seems fishier than not being able to send one of the other competitors home.

1st Challenge:  Make a signature drink and an Iron Chef quality bar snack.  A neat challenge.

2nd Challenge:  Create an extravagant meal with extravagant ingredients.

My thoughts:

Marco Canora – If you haven’t learned to dislike Ron Jeremy’s doppelganger yet you’ve still got time to beat the Christmas rush.  One thing Canora has proven throughout the contest is that each dish he serves comes with a complimentary glass of whine.  1st. challenge – He did well and sort of won (more below).  2nd challenge Canora played the douche card and used his 1st challenge win to sabotage Tsai. . . twice.  First he took Ming’s theme ingredient wagyu beef but Ming ended up with a premium cut of super expensive pork instead.  Then when deciding who got first shot at the “groceries” at the various restaurants in the resort he took the Japanese restaurant to keep Ming from getting familiar ingredients.  But in so doing he missed out on a giant summer truffle.  Canora nearly had a stroke trying to find the parchment paper that he claimed “was moved” only to find it in the exact place every restaurant keeps it – right next to the sheet pans.  The judges liked some elements of his meal and not others.  There must have been something about the editing because it seemed like the judges enjoyed his food the least – they were certainly the most critical of his menu according to what made the air.

Bryan Caswell – Went home week 6.

Maneet Chauhan – Went home week 5.

Mary Dumont – Went home week 3.

Duskie Estes – Went home week 4.

Marc Forgione – Of all the chefs in this contest, Forgione has done more to elevate his reputation.  Whether he is the Next Iron Chef or not Chef Marc is a star on the rise.  1st. challenge – went very well.  2nd challenge he got lobster.  The judges felt his food was really good with one exception.  He has made a strong push the entire season and would make an outstanding Iron Chef.  He approaches his challenges the way I feel rookie football players must feel when they cash their first check for playing a kid’s game.  He has had the best energy throughout the contest.

Andrew Kirschner – Went home week 1.

Mario Pagán – Went home week 2.

Celina Tio – Tio has never lacked for talent or respect but by spending the bulk of her career in Kansas City she has merely flown under the radar.  She’s proven to be a solid chef.  1st. challenge – the drink was good but her bar snack was raw oysters – she didn’t actually cook anything but still tied for 1st place.  2nd challenge she got Moi – a fantastic Hawaiian fish.  The judges thought her food was good for the most part.

Ming Tsai – Another win last week for Uncle Ming and it was actually in one of those stupid self-judging rounds (of course there was an extra vote cast by a guest chef).  During the season no one has beaten Ming.  He has beaten himself and he has been denied earned wins from collusive self-judging but no one has proven themselves a better chef. 1st. challenge – it was OK.  2nd challenge he got Wagyu beef but Canora douched him out of it so he ended up getting the best ingredient available – premium pork.  Judges felt his presentation was very good and the flavor was good although two did not like one texture element while the other loved it.  Win or lose Ming has given it quite a go seeing how the cards were firmly stacked against him.  Perhaps he was targeted by the other chefs because he was the one well known chef in the contest, a strong departure from last year where half of the chefs were well known and the first season that featured nothing but star chefs.

Tonight’s winners:

1st challenge – Chef Canora (actually tied with Tio but they pulled some chicanery to let Canora win).
2nd challenge – Chef Canora.

Quote of the night – “Bacon gets me excited.”  Marc Forgione.

Next week – Forgione vs. Canora (or a winner vs a whiner).

Have you missed an episode of NIC because you were storm chasing in Tornado Ally?  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).

The Next Iron Chef will not be . . .

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Tio or Tsai

Recap: Next Iron Chef 3, EP6

Chef Chauhan got the boot last week ending her slide.  Maneet came out on fire when the contest started but the past few weeks it seemed as if her creativity was waning.  Of the five chefs remaining (Canora, Forgione, Tio, Caswell and Tsai) I feel like Chef Caswell is the weakest link.  His food has been good but he hasn’t had any of the triumphs of the others.  That being said picking a weakest link in this group is like trying to pick which nuclear bomb will hurt the least.

Next Iron ChefWhat’s become apparent is that the majority of people watching the show do not like Chef Canora.  I think he has been the main chef over-exaggerating his critique of the others during those stupid self-judgings rather than being honest.  I think the Food Network wants us to hate him so that we will enjoy his losing more.  One things is for sure – if he wins he’ll be the first Iron Chef that fans root against.

1st Challenge:  Make a cake.  The worst challenge in the history of this or any other show.  There is nothing Iron Chef about a wedding cake.  Who ever thought of this challenge should lose their job and their pension.

2nd Challenge:  Create a Vegas-worthy buffet.  Never mind the fact these days buffets are almost as hard to find in Las Vegas as a job.

My thoughts:

Marco Canora – Ron Jeremy’s doppelganger continues his bid to be this season’s D-bag.  If you have to cheat to compete then you are not good enough to be here to begin with. 1st challenge – he made a cake.  Canora screwed up his profiteroles so he suggested sabotage.  That’s not the first time he’s suggested sabotage when he’s messed up.  Oddly enough he’s the only one who’s been caught actually sabotaging others.  2nd challenge – eggplant parmesan, braised veal cheeks, compressed fruit salad and seafood salad.  I wonder if Canora’s buffet dishes come with a complementary glass of whine?  Judges said it was good.

Bryan Caswell – Caswell failed to stand out last week but fortunately for him Chef Chauhan was less impressive.  1st challenge – he made a cake.  2nd challenge – Gulf Coast with BBQ cracked crab, chili braised pork butt, little riblets, beef & grape salad.  The judges thought his food was OK but he had nothing that wow’d.  That’s the story of his tenure on the show.  Iron Chefs simply must wow.

Maneet Chauhan – Went home week 5.

Mary Dumont – Went home week 3.

Duskie Estes – Went home week 4.

Marc Forgione – Last week was not Chef Marc’s best performance.  He’ll have to regain is mojo to stay in the race.  1st challenge – he made a cake.  2nd challenge – vegetable consume, leg of lamb, raw salmon, prime rib and braised veal cheeks.  Judges felt his food was good.  They seemed to receive it well.

Andrew Kirschner – Went home week 1.

Mario Pagán – Went home week 2.

Celina Tio – After a stellar outing two weeks ago, Chef Tio was back to the middle of the pack last week.  1st challenge – she made a cake.  2nd challenge – Gnudi and lobster Shepard’s pie, creamy cauliflower soup sous vide duck and slow roasted salmon.  The judges said they were impressed with most of her food.  Simon thought her duck was confused.  No duh, if you went from floating on a pond to being vacuum sealed and submerged in hot water you’d be confused as well.

Ming Tsai – Another win last week for Uncle Ming.  He still struggles during the 1st challenge each week but it is obvious that it is by design.  1st challenge – he made a cake.  2nd challenge – Tour of Asia with tea smoked fish, Thai ceviche, garlic lobster & fried rice, baby back ribs and ribeye Pho.  According to the judges most of the dishes were good but tey all thought the Pho needed a little help.

Leading the pack: Ming Tsai

Dark horse: Marco Canora, Celina Tio

Tonight’s winners:

1st challenge – Chef Tsai.
2nd challenge – Chef Canora.

Quote of the night – “Chef Canora does a lot of complaining.”  Ming Tsai

Next week – the Final Four.

Have you missed an episode of NIC because you were tracking escaped convicts from the Phantom Zone?  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).

The Next Iron Chef will not be . . .

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Bryan Caswell

Tonight was supposed to be a double elimination but the judges failed to reach a consensus on who should join Caswell.

Recap: Next Iron Chef 3, EP5

Are we at the halfway point already?  It appears so.  Estes is gone, Chauhan is slipping and Tio is starting to emerge as a contender.  All five of the chefs remaining have experienced both highs and lows but one thing is for sure – all of them have a legitimate chance at being named the Next Iron Chef.

Next Iron ChefNot only does the talent of the contestants as a whole seem to be a step up from last year but we have also seen a reduction in lame challenges.  I believe there have only been two truly moronic challenges so far this season whereas last year the biggest piece of drama was waiting for a challenge that wasn’t stupid.  All in all I’d say season 3 is making up for the disappointment of season 2.  The self-judging remains a blight on the current season.  Virtually everyone watching and Tweeting has made a negative comment about it.  I know it is too late to do away with it now but if there are any future NIC‘s Food Network would do well to 86 it.  It’s bush league.

Challenge #1 – Battle: Potato.  Wow and actual secret ingredient challenge that will be judged by a Marine Colonel.  This is cool.

Challenge #2 – Americano.  Make a dish from each of the four corners of the 48 contiguous.  NIC 2 winner Jose Garces sits in as a guest judge subbing for Mike Symon..

My thoughts:

Marco Canora – Canora has made himself a strong contender, although last week he was excessively douchey.  Hopefully that was just a case of unflattering editing.  1st challenge was butter poached potatoes.  Since he got to gather his ingredients first on the 2nd challenge Canora took everything leaving nothing for the other chefs.  That is classless.  Anyone who would do that is not worthy of the title Iron Chef.  It’s cheating plain and simple.  Three of his dishes were good one was overly salty.  Top 2 finish.

Bryan Caswell – Another very good performance but still not great.  1st challenge – truffled tater tots.  The ladies on Twitter continue to love Chef Bryan’s appearance but his food has just not been as popular with the judges so far. 2nd challenge food was OK but crawfish and grits is not an Eastern dish it is a Southern dish.  They didn’t care for most of his dish but they loved his collard greens.  Middle two finish.

Maneet Chauhan – After flying out of the gates in the first two weeks, Chef Maneet has struggled the past three.  This could be her swan song unless she can turn it around.  1st challenge – potato ravioli.  She responded well with the first challenge.  Her second challenge seemed to go well but the judges hated her presentation while liking her food.  Bottom two finish.

Mary Dumont – Went home week 3.

Duskie Estes – Went home week 4.

Marc Forgione – Another strong outing last week.  Though he didn’t win either challenge is was a strong runner up in both.  You have to like the fact that Forgione always tries to judge the other chefs without respect agenda.  1st challenge – potato gnuddi.  It was a major failure.  He came in last and was penalized.  2nd dish he did an ode to the great eateries, Delmonico, Chinois etc.  Some was good and some was not so much.  He is in danger of going home.  Bottom two finish.

Andrew Kirschner – Went home week 1.

Mario Pagán – Went home week 2.

Celina Tio – What a week Tio had last time out.  She won both challenges – the first time we’ve seen someone do that this year.  Another good performance and we’ll have to consider her a genuine contender for the title.  1st challenge was not received well by Casweel but everyone else seemed to like it.  2nd challenge was mediocre as well.  Middle two finish.

Ming Tsai – With all respect to Chef Tio, Ming Tsai was the clear winner of the first challenge last week.  So why didn’t he win?  The stupid self-judging which is used simply to let the other chefs stay in this competition, otherwise this might already be over.  1st challenge – sweet potato risotto.  2nd challenge Ming brought both the funk and the noise.  He’ll be hard to beat.  Top 2.

Leading the pack: Ming Tsai

Dark horse: Marco Canora, Marc Forgione

Tonight’s winners:

1st challenge – Chef Canora.
2nd challenge – Chef Tsai.

Quote of the night – “Her meal was like Iron Chef junior.” Donatella on Chef Chauhan’s plate presentation.

Next week: Vegas.

Have you missed an episode of NIC because you were tracking escaped convicts from the Phantom Zone?  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).

The Next Iron Chef will not be . . .

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Maneet Chauhan

Recap: Next Iron Chef 3, EP4

Well it took the judges three weeks to figure it out but they finally sent Chef Mary Dumont packing.  Chef Dumont is undoubtedly a fine chef.  If she weren’t she never would have been asked to come on the show.  NIC would never take a sub-par cook (that’s Hell’s Kitchen’s domain) it’s just that she wasn’t right for this kind of contest format.

We are starting to whittle the field down considerably.  Of the seven chefs remaining three have an outstanding shot a winning (Fargione, Chauhan and Tsai), two are nipping on their tails (Canora and Caswell)  and the other two (Tio and Estes) have been solid.  Tio has yet to wow anyone but her food has been good enough to avoid a bottom three finish.  Estes’ biggest flaw has been her consistency (followed closely by her plating) – she may blow the competition away in one challenge then do so poorly in the other that she is close to going home.  Because of this Chef Duskie remains a wild card which has lent some drama to the season.

It appears that the contestants judging each other after the first challenge is now a permanent fixture in the show’s format.  This means the first challenge is pretty much meaningless.  It just wastes the first segment of the show.  I wouldn’t blame you if you skipped it to watch part of the Sunday Night NFL game.  If you do you will have missed little of significance.  A dip into the live Tweets and forums discussing the show will quickly demonstrate that the fans of the NIC hate the self-judging.  That’s a hint, Food Network, if you pay attention to what these people are saying you will gain valuable information on how to improve your programming.

Challenge #1 – Transform a standard American condiment into something new.

Challenge #2 – They are given 30 minutes to harvest whatever they could find at the concession stands at a county fair and transform three fair food dishes – one fried, one grilled and one on a stick.  This is a pretty stupid challenge.  Iron Chef is better than this.

My thoughts:

Marco Canora – Proved very resourceful last week winning the 2nd. challenge despite having a terrible fishing day.  Canora may be on the brink of making himself a strong contender. Celine Tio Recap: Next Iron Chef 3, EP3 1st challenge he transformed mayo into a pudding.  Most chefs considered it a cop out.  He didn’t hesitate to attack everyone else.  That’s the sign of someone with confidence issues.  2nd challenge he wanted to make fair food into health food.  An immediate fail in my book but the judges seemed to like it.  They, however, were wrong.  Canora was excessively douchey.

Bryan Caswell – His creativity keeps him on the verge of full blown contender-dom but as inventive as he dishes have been he has yet to hit a home run.  Still a string of triples ain’t bad.  1st challenge he is transforming ketchup into a flavored water.  Whatever.  2nd challenge his corn on the cob got singed because the production team did not have the grill running properly.  His food was OK.  The concept was strong but the execution maybe not so much.  Top 3.

Maneet Chauhan – She had a rough week last time out.  Her first bottom three finish and the biggest killer was under-seasoned food, unheard of from an Indian chef.  1st challenge she tried to transform Ranch dressing into something edible.  She came in last in the 1st challenge.  Why? Because Ranch Dressing is an abomination.  But that’s two bad challenges in a row.  Her menu for the 2nd challenge sounds like a life saver if pulled off.  Kabab dog on a sugar cane skewer and other dishes were OK.  The dessert, fried avocado and chocolate, was the best received.  Bottom 3.

Mary Dumont – Went home week 3.

Duskie Estes – She finally listened to the judges and put an effort into her plating.  As a result she had a very nice week.  1st challenge transforms mustard.  Decided on grilled calamari as part of her 2nd challenge menu.  That is way too finicky a protein to try and do a challenge like this.  She deep fried caramel which failed.  Some things were not cooked well and her caramel she tried to pass off as maple sugar.  Bottom 3.

Marc Forgione – Another strong outing last week.  He won another challenge and at this point has to be considered the favorite to win it all. 1st challenge he transforms BBQ sauce into a bolognese.  2nd challenge he is transforming bacon-cheeseburger, fried root beer float and Buffalo frog legs.  Judges loved it.  Top 3.

Andrew Kirschner – Went home week 1.

Mario Pagán – Went home week 2.

Celina Tio – Chef Tio has to win something soon because we are getting to the point were a solid performance sends you packing.  1st challenge transformed hot sauce into ricotta cheese dessert and gets that win she needed so desperately.  She ran into trouble on the 2nd challenge.  First the grill wasn’t hot then it burst into flames.  Her food was good but was it good enough?  Yes.  She won the 2nd challenge.

Ming Tsai – I find it impossible to believe that every week Ming’s 1st dish is merely OK while his 2nd dish is great.  What’s the difference?  Oh yeah, actual judges.  Still within striking distance.  1st challenge he transformed everything into something else – the condiment, steak sauce he turned into a protein.  The protein, steak, he turned into a sauce.  You gotta love molecular gastronomy.  2nd challenge Ming did everything on a stick.  Should make for a neat presentation but will the judges think it’s a cop out?  It went over “fairly” well.  Middle of the pack.

Leading the pack: Marc Forgione

Dark horse: Ming Tsai, Marco Canora

Tonight’s winners:

1st challenge – Chef Tio.
2nd challenge – Chef Tio.

Quote of the night – “Her calamari gyro was just clunky.”  Donatella on Chef Estes.

Have you missed an episode of NIC because you were valiantly liberating an oppressed society?  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).

The Next Iron Chef will not be . . .

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Duskie Estes

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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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