ICA: Garces vs. Lata

iron chef America, wannabe tv chef

Put all of that conjecture about Garces leaving Iron Chef to rest.  In episode 2 of the ninth season he returns to take on Chef Mike Lata in Battle: Sparkling Wine.

I have a soft spot in my heart for challengers like Mike Lata.  Like me, he became a chef without going to culinary school but rather by working his butt off for Mike Lata of FIGyears in kitchens in Boston, Martha’s Vineyard, New Orleans, Atlanta and even France (a lifelong dream).  A sustainability devotee, he became a self-appointed spokesperson for the Georgia Organic Growers Association.

Today Lata is Chef/Partner of FIG (Food Is Good), a local neighborhood eatery located in the heart of downtown Charleston.  Along with partner Adam Nimerow he has forged FIG into a James Beard Award winning eatery that is, “laid-back, eclectic and unpretentious, FIG is one part retro diner, one part neighborhood café, and one part elegant bistro.”

Waiting for Chef Lata is Iron Chef Jose Garces who is sure to be focused after finishing last season with back-to-back losses, the first two of his career.  The judges for Battle: Sparkling Wine were author and master sommelier Andrea Robinson, wine expert Steve Olson, actress Debi Mazar, and Barneys’ creative director Simon Doonan.

Click HERE for the outcome.

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Is Bobby Flay the Greatest Iron Chef?

Originally posted June 10, 2008.

Two weekends ago I warmed up for the new batch of Iron Chef America episodes by watching the ICA: Battle of the Masters mini-marathon on Food Network on Saturday. Those first ICA’s featured Bobby Flay, Mario Batali, and Wolfgang Puck. Flay competed in two of the three Masters episodes and won in both over the grand poobah of Iron Chefs, French master Hiroyuki Sakai. The first match was mano-e-mano with both chefs bringing their A games. Thinking back it occurs to me that both Flay and Sakai offered five dishes each that were absolute home runs. Honestly, all ten dishes were equally genius. In the second Flay/Sakai battle it was a mismatched tag team battle with Flay teaming with Morimoto and Sakai with Batali.

Having watched Flay school the dean of the Japanese IC, I prepared for the first new ICA episode, Flay versus Chef Bob Iacovone of restaurant Cuvée in New Orleans. The theme ingredient was languostine, a spectacular shellfish popular in Europe. Languostine are incredibly delicate and sweet. Flay remarked that the biggest challenge was in restraining himself from over pouring the languostine. Iacovone did not do as well at respecting the secret ingredient as the judges repeatedly remarked that they could not taste languostine in his otherwise inspired dishes. It was clear after hearing the judges’ comments to the challenger that Flay had won before his food was even tasted.

That ICA was followed by a special one-hour Throwdown in which Bobby rematched three former Throwdown competitors in Miami. This show was fascinating as you viewed the opulent hotel suite shared by the three competitors and the various twists that TFN threw at them like having them dress for a fancy dinner on a veranda and then showing up with raw steak and shrimp and a charcoal grill that they had to assemble before using. During this Throwdown something happened that many have been waiting for, Bobby got challenged to a Throwdown by yet another former challenger. The voting was close and had to go to a tie-breaker with Bobby just edging out the self-proclaimed Dream Team.

Never Diet – Change Your Lifestyle

NEWSFLASH: Diets do not work. There are no shortcuts!

At least no healthy ones, anyway. Sure you can have some hack stick the business end of a Oreck in your gut or take enough appetite suppressants to wire your central nervous system but you will not be any healthier. Diets do not work. Diet is the key. When you read of the latest diet you are not hearing about diet, you are hearing about a fad and none of them are healthy.

“What about the Mediterranean Diet,” you may ask, “Isn’t that supposed to be healthy?” When the phrase Mediterranean Diet comes up it does not mean a weight loss program, it means the diet of the people of the Mediterranean Sea.

What they eat everyday of their lives and yes that is as healthy as you will ever find. There are tons of studies that show us a lifetime commitment to eating more whole grains, fruits and vegetables and a decreasing emphasis on animal protein (fish first, then poultry, and finally beef/goat/lamb/dairy/etc.) and sugar is the way to go. Add in the proper amount of exercise and you have the recipe for a healthy life. Do not do this and nothing else you do is healthy. Proper diet and exercise is the way to go.

But the endless cycle of weight loss/weight gain is worse for your body than toting around that spare tire. Need to know more about the Mediterranean Diet? Check out the American Heart Association’s research.

Flay Does it His Way – Interview with Chef Bobby Flay

Originally published in ‘Zalea Magazine in October, 2007.

Bobby FlayFew names in American culinary circles is as polarizing as Bobby Flay. His fans and critics alike can be numbered in legions. For every person who describes him as arrogant or cocky there are a dozen who call him brilliant. Few, however, can debate Flay’s influence on American cuisine. More than any other chef, Bobby Flay is responsible for taking Southwestern cuisine from the dessert resort and depositing it on the table of every American.

Flay’s path to success began as a high school drop out. A native born New Yorker, Bobby was bored with high school and decided it was time to enter the workforce. At the age of 17 he began working as a line cook at Theater District legend Joe Allen Restaurant. Allen was so impressed with the young man’s talent and drive that he picked up the tab himself to send Flay to the newly opened French Culinary Institute.

By age 19, Flay had a degree in Culinary Arts and was the executive chef at Miracle Grill in the East Village. It was there that Flay’s bold Southwestern Cuisine caught the attention of restaurateur extraordinaire Jerome Kretchmer. Flay and Kretchmer teamed to open Mesa Grill in 1991 and a year later were the owners of the coveted Best Restaurant Award given by New York Magazine’s Gael Greene. They have since opened five more acclaimed restaurants in four cities and in two countries.

Flay’s second eatery, Bolo, specializes in Spanish cuisine, a trend that he pioneered in America. Italian restaurant icon Mario Batali has since opened a Spanish restaurant as have Alex Ureña and Frederick Twomey. Flay says that, “Spain has been left off the culinary map in this country. It has been all bistros, French and Italian cuisines. We opened Bolo 13 years ago and people weren’t sure what to think of it at first. The food in Spain is very herbaceous with lots of salty, gutsy flavors.”

Dinner Conversation: 39 Interviews with America's Favorite Culinary Movers and ShakersIn 1993 Flay was named Rising Star Chef of the Year by the esteemed James Beard Foundation. It was the same year that he joined the original troupe for the launch of a new cable network devoted strictly to food. The Food Network debuted with shows hosted by Flay, Batali and network anchor Emeril Legasse. Asked how the industry has changed since the launch of the network Flay says, “The industry has changed tremendously, but food in America has changed even more. It has gotten Americans to open their minds to new ingredients and new cooking styles. People are doing less fast food and learning to cook at home again.”

The following year saw the publication of Flay’s award winning first cookbook, Bobby Flay’s Bold American Food (Warner Brothers, 1994). Six more best selling cookbooks have followed with the latest being Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill Cookbook: Explosive Flavors from the Southwestern Kitchen which was released on October 16th. According to Flay, “It has taken 17 years to put together. It is sort of a greatest hits of the items we have featured on our menu over the years. Some of the recipes will be featured in the shows I will be doing there (in Mobile, AL).”

In 2000 Flay did something no other Food Network chef had ever done – he escaped the “kicked up” shadow of Emeril Legasse to become a bona fide star in his own right. A Japanese television show had become all the rage on US shores; it was a cooking competition called Iron Chef. The Iron Chef team made a visit to New York City where Flay challenged Iron Chef Japanese Masaharu Morimoto in Battle Rock Crab.

During the contest Flay complained of faulty kitchen equipment which many of his critics considered whining. As the last seconds ticked off the timer Flay leaped onto the counter to fire up the partisan crowd. This display did not sit well with the eventual winner, Morimoto who went on record saying that Flay, was “not a chef.” The animosity eventually led to a rematch in Japan in which Flay revamped his celebration and his cooking approach to defeat Morimoto on his own turf. Today the two men are friends and fellow Iron Chefs on the US version called Iron Chef America.

The Chef considers himself a “Texan by marriage,” but says the flavors of the Lone Star State were a part of his cooking prior to marrying Law & Order: SVU star Stephanie March, “I have been cooking Southwestern food since ’88. Blue corn and chilies have always been a part of my pantry so I have always thought of Texas. It is ironic that I am now married to a Texan.”

Though Flay’s style of cooking both personally and professionally is quite healthy he admits that he regularly enjoys ice cream. “I love to eat it, but I shouldn’t. I don’t eat a lot of junk food or fast food, so ice cream is my guilty pleasure.”

Bobby Flay speaking in Mobile, AL.

Bobby Flay speaking in Mobile, AL.

Chefs often come across new ingredients that demand exploration. It is through this investigation that new techniques and even food trends are introduced to American palettes. Chef Flay is no exception stating that right now his enthusiasm is devoted to, “spice rubs instead of marinades. They a do a better job of penetrating the food with flavor.”

Flay first visited our area a few years ago to do a profile on Matt Shipp (chef/owner of Justine’s at the Pillars) for a show called Food Nation. When asked if he planned on reuniting with Chef Matt on his visit to Mobile he said, “I haven’t talked with Matt in a while, but I am going to try and get by Justine’s.” He also expressed an interest in trying West Indies Salad, a Mobile delicacy.

In 1982 Bobby Flay was a high school drop out working as a line cook. Twenty-five years later he is the owner of six renowned restaurants, author of seven bestselling cookbooks, and an Emmy-winning television star. So what does the future hold for the fourth generation Irish-American?

On Saturday November 3, 2007 Chef Bobby Flay will make two appearances at the Mobile Civic Center. He will perform live cooking shows at 11:00 a.m. and at 3:00 p.m. Tickets range in price from $39.00 to $69.00. For more information you can contact the Mobile Civic Center at 251-208-7906 or Ticketmaster (

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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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