Recap: Next Iron Chef 3, EP2

So what did we learn in week one?  Plenty – like all of the chefs are awed by Ming Tsai who they have nicknamed Uncle Ming, that Duskie Estes has never seen Iron Chef before (via this interview from FoodGal.com) and that Andrew Kirschner will not be the Next Iron Chef.

Duskie Estes of Next Iron ChefEarly indications suggest that this is Ming’s competition to lose.  Not only do his credentials trump those of the other competitors but week one revealed that his talent is a cut above the rest.  However, Ming cannot sleep on Maneet, Marco or Marc Forgione.  Unless Chef Pagan can produce better than last week his stay on NIC may be short lived.

Challenge #1 – Make an inspired breakfast dish incorporating doughnuts and coffee.  All of the chefs seemed to have a good grasp on what they would make.  Chef Ming correctly said that there are some people who really excel at breakfast but not everyone does.  Again 30 minutes to cook and judging each other.  The judging each other crap has got to go.  It is clearly there so the other chefs can rip Ming Tsai apart and to add drama.  They should call it Ming-bashing.  It is not “Iron Chef” worthy.

Challenge #2 – Recreate a classic diner dish and elevate it.  The dishes must be “Iron Chef” worthy.  The winner of the 1st challenge got choose which dish they wanted to recreate and then assigned them to everyone else.

My thoughts:

Marco Canora – Had a very quiet but outstanding first week.  Marco flew a little under the radar but ended up with a top 3 finish.  On the 1st challenge his food came across bitter because his griddle was too high.  He flipped liver and onions for the 2nd challenge.  Judges liked it but the liver was overcooked.

Bryan Caswell – A middle of the pack performance in week 1.  Nothing memorable, nothing bad. He was a hit with the ladies, though.  1st challenge French toast.  He got defensive at the critique.  He reinvented a turkey and dressing open faced sandwich.  Judges liked it a lot.  Simon especially loved it.  But Michael said it wasn’t actually a sandwich.  It almost won.  Top three finish.

Maneet Chauhan – In week 1 her 1st dish was good but her 2nd dish was great.  She had a top three finish and has established herself as a true contender.  Doughnut grilled cheese?  It seemed to go over well.  Having won the 1st challenge she got to choose her which recipe to recreate for the second one and then assign the other dishes to the others.  She took burgers and fries and made a veggie burger with squash blossom fries.  The judges appreciated the idea but not exactly the finished product.  Another top three finish.

Mary Dumont – Week 1 she turned in a middle of the pack performance.  1st challenge – bananas two ways for breakfast with very little coffee or doughnut and she cut herself.  Her food was not well received at all.  She came in dead last and as a result was penalized – she looses 1 minute of cook time on the second challenge.  That hurt because her dish was pot roast, a slow cooking dish.  She elected to go with the pressure cooker to catch up but she did not know how to use it.  Simon, “It fails immediately.”  The pot roast was like shoe leather.  A bottom three finish.

Duskie Estes – Last week she won the first challenge then bombed the second so badly she nearly went home. Lots of people watching the show have called her this year’s Jehangir Mehta.  1st dish was okay.  2nd challenge she got fried chicken & biscuit.  She fried quail and an goat cheese and lavender biscuit.  It went over well but the judges still had issues with it.

Marc Forgione – A talented chef to be sure and he loves to do everything from scratch.  He did well but I don’t think we’ve seen his best yet.  He certainly embraces the mentality of an Iron Chef.  1 st. dish was okay.  Made deconstructed chicken pot pie.  The judges loved it.  His talent and dedication are starting to shine.  His dish could be the winner.

Andrew Kirschner – Went home week 1.

Mario Pagán – To be honest, I am not sure how he survived week one.  He came in dead last in the 1st challenge and had a bottom three finish in the second.  Perhaps the close call will motivate him.  1st dish was not memorable but didn’t suck.  2nd dish – meatloaf and potatoes.  He made it tropical and used pork belly as a meatloaf, uh that’s not really right.  The idea was nice, the execution was not there.  Simon didn’t like it and all judges disliked the appearance.  Bottom three finish.

Celina Tio – Celina had a fine showing in week 1.  Everything was above average but none of it stood out.  But she certainly has the chops.  Tio’s breakfast dish was STRANGE but some people liked it.  I’m sorry but fried chicken livers on a doughnut is just weird.  But then again I thought that about melting sharp cheddar cheese onto apple pie so. . .   For the 2nd challenge she got baked fish and rice pilaf – she made salmon with a risotto pilaf.  Michael and Simon loved it. Donatella not so much.

Ming Tsai – During the 1st challenge the other chefs who seemed to be taking advantage of the judge-each-other format to attack Uncle Ming.  The second challenge Ming established himself as the chef to beat blowing everyone away with the only dish of the challenge worthy of an Iron Chef.  1st challenge was a green tomatoes, eggs and ham doughnut sandwich plus a coffee drink.  Again the younger chefs jumped on Ming despite his product.  East/West corn-beef and cabbage with eggs.  The judges criticized him for using too many ingredients but they all loved the taste.  No way he deserved a bottom three finish but that’s what he got.  It was a little suspicious.

Quote of the night – “Who wants to be criticized in front of your peers?  No one does.”  Ming Tsai before the final judgment of the evening.

Leading the pack: Ming Tsai, Maneet Chauhan

Dark horse: Marc Forgione

Tonight’s winners:

1st challenge – Chef Maneet.
2nd challenge – Chef Forgione.

Have you missed an episode of NIC because you were subjected to the torture of an arts and crafts festival?  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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Mario Pagán

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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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