James Beard Award

Next Iron Chef 3 Finale

Well it is finally here.  The Next Iron Chef 3 finale is this week and when the dust settles a new Iron Chef will join the “veritable pantheon” of Kitchen Stadium.  The two chefs vying for this lofty title are Marco Canora and Marc Forgione.  Both are extremely talented chefs but only one can be the Next Iron Chef.

Marco CanoraMarco Canora (Hearth, Terroir, and Terroir TriBeca all in New York) – he first hit the New York scene back in 1996 as a line cook at renowned Gramercy Tavern where he flourished under the mentoring of Tom Colicchio.  Colicchio helped Chef Marco earn a stint working with famed Italian chef Fabio Picchiand at his famous Cibreo in Florence.  Canora has since made a name for himself by creating innovative and healthy Italian cuisine.  Canora’s first cookbook Salt to Taste: The Keys To Confident, Delicious Cooking (available at amazon) was nominated for a James Beard Award.

All through the contest Marco has put out consistently innovative food that was both creative and inspired – his cooking is truly Iron Chef caliber.  The negative’s on Canora’s NIC appearance have been his dishonorable tactics and constant whining.  However, television is a fickle bitch and it is likely that the producers could have used equally unflattering footage on all of the chefs.  I can honestly say that I would love to try his food and it is likely that he is a very likable person.  I have no doubt that he’d be a fun guy to grab a beer with.  After all it is unfair to judge the whole of a person’s character based solely on a few hours of footage that may have been selected specifically to make him look like a bad guy.

Marc ForgioneMarc Forgione (Marc Forgione in New York) – the son of the “godfather of American cuisine” Chef Larry Forgione.  The younger Forgione has long been known has 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.

Throughout the contest Marc has offered some of the most creative dishes of the season.  Not only is his food Iron Chef worthy but he has a firm respect for what an Iron Chef should be.  The biggest complaint that people have had about Forgione is that his personality isn’t exciting but that critique comes from reality TV buffs not foodies.  That’s what is great about Iron Chef, it isn’t about personalities, it’s about food.  If you want a cooking contest where food is merely an after thought then might I suggest Top Chef or Hell’s Kitchen.  An Iron Chef doesn’t need to be charismatic or controversial; an Iron Chef should be innovative with a Bushido-like sense of honor.

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

Click HERE for the outcome.

Have you missed an episode of NIC because you were caught up in an epic game of Jenga?  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).  If you haven’t yet, be sure to check out my recent interview with Marc Forgione HERE.

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7 Questions with Maria Hines

If Iron Chef America host Alton Brown has said it once he’s said it a dozen times, when it comes to fish you do not want to battle Morimoto.  How true, out of Morimoto son’s thirty some-odd battles he’s has only lost twice when the secret ingredient was fish.  Once was to Seattle chef Tom Douglas in Battle Wild Salmon.  Oddly enough the only other chef to defeat the senior Iron Chef in a fish battle was also from Seattle.

Just recently Titlh chef/owner Maria Hines handed Morimoto his second loss in Battle Pacific Cod.  Judges John T. Edge, Julie White and Sam Haskell felt that Hines prepared the best tasting dishes awarding her 28 points in the “flavor” category to just 23 for the Iron Chef.  But Iron Chef is only the latest accolade for the  Bowling Green, Ohio native.  Chef Hines also won a James Beard Award for Best Chef of the Northwest in 2009 and was named one of Food & Wine Magazine’s 10 Best New Chefs of 2005.  Chef Maria is a founding member of Seattle Restaurant Week.

Maria Hines 7 QuestionsAfter studying at Mesa College she soon found herself working in kitchens in New York, France, California, Washington D.C. and of course Seattle, first at Earth & Ocean and now with Tilth.  Hines was also a contestant on the second season of Top Chef: Masters which was won by Marcus Samuelson.

Recently Chef Maria Hines was courteous enough to answer 7 Questions:

1. How old were you when you first started to cook?

8

2. When did you decide that you could make food your career?

16 years old

3. Which chefs have influenced you the most?

Alice Waters

4. If you hadn’t followed this career path, what other career could you see yourself in?

Photography

5. What’s the highlight of your career so far?

Owning Tilth restaurant.

6. Only two chefs have ever bested Iron Chef Morimoto in a battle involving fish, yourself and Tom Douglas.  What is it about Seattle that makes the chefs so proficient with seafood?

We are surrounded by an amazing seafood bounty in the Northwest.

7. What’s next for Chef Maria Hines?

This is it. I love Tilth.

native of Bowling Green, Ohio.

ICA: Morimoto vs Hines

Iron Chef America on WannabeTVchef

Finally!  It has been 6 years, 213 days, 9 hours and 37 minutes since the last Iron Chef: America.  At least if feels like it anyway.  With Top Chef and Hell’s Kitchen wrapping up their seasons, NFNS hitting it’s stride and the MasterChef premiere it is nice to get back to the TV cooking competition that started it all (sort of) and remains the best.

Maria Hines on WannabeTVchef.comFrom the Emerald City comes Maria Hines and her New American cuisine.  Hines insists that the food at her restaurant, Tilth, be prepared with certified-organic or wild ingredients that are locally sourced.  The approach has won the chef/owner a James Beard Award winner for Best Chef of the Northwest in 2009 and saw her named one of Food & Wine Magazine’s 10 Best New Chefs of 2005.  Chef Maria is founding member of Seattle Restaurant Week.

The challenger is a native of Bowling Green, Ohio.  After studying at Mesa College her career has seen her working in kitchens in New York, France, California, Washington D.C. and of course Seattle, first at Earth & Ocean and now with Tilth.  The Top Chef: Masters alum now faces off against the dean of Iron Chefs, the incomparable Morimoto.

The theme ingredient is Pacific cod.  You never want to face Morimoto in a fish challenge.  The judges were John T. Edge, Julie White and Sam Haskell.

Click HERE for the outcome.

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Review: Gordon Ramsay’s MasterChef

MasterChef is the latest American incarnation of a successful British reality competition.  The original MasterChef has been a hot commodity for years in the UK as has its cousins MasterChef: Australia and MasterChef: Hungary.  For the American version Fox has teamed Gordon Ramsay, one of the world’s greatest and most renowned chefs with two of the kingpins of the US restaurant industry, Chef Graham Elliot Bowles and restaurateur Joe Bastianich.  Fox was nice enough to let me catch a preview of MasterChef’s debut episode, a sneak peek so to speak.

Meet the players:
Graham Elliot Bowles on WannabeTVchef.comBowles is a prodigy who became America’s youngest 4 star chef at the age of 27.  He is a pioneer of the trendy molecular gastronomy movement that couples cooking and chemistry.  His groundbreaking restaurant, graham elliot, combines cutting edge American cuisine with humor and just a touch of moxie to create Chicago’s first “bistronomic” restaurant.  His accolades are many having brought home traditional culinary affirmation like the coveted James Beard Award and new age recognition as a competitor on both Bravo’s Top Chef: Masters and the Food Network’s Iron Chef America.

Joe Bastianich on WannabeTVchef.comIf the name Joe Bastianich sounds familiar it should.  His mother is famed Italian cheflebrity Lidia Bastianich.  He is also friend and business partner to America’s most successful Italian chef, Mario Batali.  But Bastianich’s life is about more than just great restaurants.  He is also a noted winemaker who is described as a “street-level philosopher.”  He has been honored as both vintner and restaurateur by the likes of Food & Wine and the James Beard Foundation.  His book on wine pairing, Vino Itialiano (available at amazon.com), is considered the standard by which the genre is judged.

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Gordon Ramsay on WannabeTVchef.comFew people in the western world are not familiar with the name Gordon Ramsay.  Though his reputation in the states is built mainly around his explosive temper and colorful use of metaphors in Europe he is thought of as one of the best chefs in the world.  It is a shame that most Americans only know the exaggerated personality shown on TV because he is one of the most gifted and passionate people in the culinary world.

The premiere episode features 100 hopeful home cooks vying to be one of the 30 finalist competing for the title MasterChef.  To earn one of the coveted MasterChef aprons each competitor is asked to cook the meal of their lives for the three judges.

The first round of dishes fails to yield a single plate worthy of remaining in the contest.  This forces Chef Ramsay to give a pep talk to the remaining contestants filled with the bleep riddled prose that the host is known for as well as a bit of the overcharged, dare I say forced drama that is the mainstay of virtually every “reality” show.

As with every “reality” contest on TV there is a plethora of over-critiquing.  Negative comments are far more negative than they need to be and positive comments are stuffed with Pentecostal exuberance.  Nothing is ever mediocre in “reality” TV; it is either dreadful or the best thing ever.  This lack of gray area is why television is anything but real.

The best example of overly-negative critiquing is when Gordon takes a stuffed bell pepper garnish from one plate, dumps out the contents so he can spit out the mouthful of fish taco he is tasting.  The best example of made-for-TV positive shtick is Bowles tasting one contestant’s Korean duck wrap and stating, “That is like sex in your mouth . . . in the best possible way.”  There are plenty of the tear jerking moments that producers love to show as well.  MasterChef follows the American Idol formula to a “T.”

But, as with any of Ramsay’s shows, there are truly honest moments.  It is these glimpses of lucidity that make him a star.  At his soul, Ramsay is a compassionate person and it is evident that he genuinely cares for other people.  It is likely that his persona and Graham Elliot’s lovable big guy personality will produce a similar chemistry to Paula and Simon.  Although I highly doubt Bowles would look as good in a short red dress.  Bastianich is the wild card; he lacks that biting English snark while at the same time he is cold and calculating in his critiques.

MasterChef separates itself from “Worst Cook in America” because it starts with ametuers who can already cook and seeks to make them better.  It also separates itself from “Next Food Network Star” because it allows Southern cooks to compete.  The best home cooks in America traditionally hail from the South but NFNS has clearly avoided casting calls in the South for some reason opting for mainly East Coast and West Coast auditions.

MasterChef also separates itself from all other TV cooking contests with its prize – $250,000 cash and a major cookbook deal which is potentially worth millions.  I like MasterChef more than I do Top Chef, Hell’s Kitchen or Chopped and far more than I do NFNS.  But at the same time it is a far cry from Iron Chef America.

MasterChef premieres Tuesday July 27th (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on Fox.  For more information check out the official press release HERE.

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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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