Tony Abou-Ganim

ICA: Forgione vs McClain

forbanner ICA: Forgione vs. Curtin

After a summer nearly devoid of new ICA action this is the second fresh episode in a row.   This time, Iron Chef Marc Forgione faces off against challenger Shawn McClain, the executive chef at Sage, at Aria Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. Martin Yan, Ching-He Huang and Adam Richman are the judges for this battle.

Chef Shawn McClainShawn McClain, executive chef of Sage at ARIA Resort & Casino, has a knack for balancing innovative concepts with refinement and sensibility. His spirited New American menu takes the seasons as its departure point, tapping the freshness of California’s fertile environment to produce elevated flavor combinations interwoven with Mediterranean undercurrents.

A native of San Diego, Calif., and a 1990 graduate of the School of Culinary Arts at Kendall College in Evanston, Ill., McClain’s star rose quickly in the culinary world. He broke onto the national scene at Trio restaurant in Evanston, earning four stars from both the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times. There, his style came into focus, one that juxtaposes Eastern influence with Western foundations. After seven accolade-filled years, he left to open Spring – his homage to seafood. The restaurant opened in 2001 to extraordinary critical and consumer success. That same year, Spring was nominated for the James Beard Foundation’s Best New Restaurant award, and McClain was named Esquire magazine’s Chef of the Year. In 2002, he appeared in “40 Under 40,” Crain’s Chicago Business’ highly competitive list of who’s who in the city.

Chef McClain’s food had better be Zen perfect when he goes up against Iron Chef Marc Forgione in Battle: Tropical Ingredients.

Check below for the outcome.

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Forgione McClain
Taste 41 46
Plating 20 17
Originality 17 20
Total 78 83

ICA: Garces vs. Raij

Iron Chef Jose GarcesIron Chef Jose Garces, paired with mixologist Tony Abou-Ganim, faces off against Chef Alexandra Raij, paired with mixologist Charlotte Voisey. Chef Raij owns two New York City tapas restaurants, Txikito and El Quinto Pino. Judges are Michael Ruhlman, Dina Manzo and Adam Richman.

Tony Abou-Ganim was featured on the Iron Chef America competition with Mario Batali, “Battle Mango.”   He parlayed that into demonstrating the art of cocktail preparation on the Fine Living Network (now the Cooking Channel) program “Raising the Bar: America’s Best Bar Chefs,” grew up in the bar business, learning the craft from his cousin Helen David at the Brass Rail Bar in Port Huron, Michigan.

Alexandra RaijAlexandra Raij along with Eder Montero are the chefs and owners of Txikito, the acclaimed Basque restaurant in Chelsea. Txikito is a love letter to a region whose cuisine is distinguished by simplicity and excellence in both ingredients and techniques. It is an unencumbered cuisine, one where humble ingredients like beans and peppers share the same value at the table as aged farmhouse cheeses, pristine fish and seafood, and unique breeds of lamb and cattle. Check out this interview with Chef Raij from

Charlotte Voisey has run bars in Barcelona, Buenos Aires and London. In 2002, with the Gorgeous Group, Charlotte opened classic cocktail bar Apartment 195 in London and soon after was named UK Bartender of the Year. In 2005 Charlotte was invited to guest bartend at the Aspen Food & Wine Classic and consequently fell in love with the US cocktail community, one year later Charlotte officially made the move stateside to represent her favorite spirit, Hendrick’s Gin.

The battle was Tequila and Tortillas.  Check below for the outcome.

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Garces                        Raij
Taste: 44                          Taste: 39
Plating: 20                        Plating: 13
Originality: 19                   Originality: 14
Total: 83                           Total: 66

ICA: Cat Cora vs. Art Smith

Another rerun this week.  The 2008 battle between Cat Cora and Oprah’s former personal chef Art Smith.  Smith put his Southern influence-American organic against the Iron Chef’s own Southern-born cuisine in Battle: Cheddar Cheese.

According to Art’s website: “Art Smith, chef, author, and television personality has brought back meaning and symbolism to the word “table” and has united families and friends through the sharing of a meal.
Art smith in the Kitchen

“A native of Jasper, Florida, Art studied at the Florida State University School of Business. He began his career with two internships at The Greenbrier Resort and was then selected to attend the prestigious Walt Disney Magic Kingdom College Program. Following graduation, Art took a position working at the Florida Governor’s Mansion where he worked as executive chef for Governor Bob Graham, now a U.S. senator, and his wife Adele. He continued to cook for families all over the globe, including other well-known politicians and celebrities . . .

Here’s the box score courtesy of

Iron Chef Cat Cora’s Dishes
Mole Crackers and Cheddar Cheese Salsa
Beer & Cheddar Soup
Fried Green Tomatoes with Cheese Grits and Rock Shrimp
Pimento Cheeseburger
Chicken & Waffles
Cheddar Ozark Pudding

Challenger Art Smith’s Dishes
Cheddar Soup
Cheddar Biscuit with Soft Shell Crab and Corn Salsa
Cheddar Hoecake with Grilled Steak and Roasted Morels
Fish ‘n Chips with Mac and Cheese
Cheddar Tomato Pie

John T. Edge – Food Author
Cady Huffman – Actress
Tony Abou-Ganim – Mixologist

Iron Chef
Taste: 26
Plating: 11
Originality: 12
Total: 49

Taste: 23
Plating: 10
Originality: 11
Total: 44

Winner: Iron Chef Cat Cora

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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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