Maria Hines

Where’s “Next Iron Chef Winner” Jose Garces?

On January 17th of this year, Jose Garces made his debut as the newest Iron Chef.  His lofty title was achieved by winning the second Next Iron Chef competition.  On the night where he made his triumphant ascension into Kitchen Stadium’s “veritable pantheon of culinary giants,” Garces defended his newly claimed regency by defeating Rachel Yang of Seattle’s popular Joule in Battle: Hawaiian moi.  It was May before Garces had another bout, a win over Colorado chef Kelly Liken in Battle: Bleu Cheese.  Garces battled Portalnd’s Naomi Pomeroy in Battle: Truffles in a contest that Pomeroy revealed was actually taped way back in 2009.  Apparently all of Garces battles were filmed then and he has not been back to Kitchen Stadium.

Since then no one outside of Philadelphia has seen hide nor hair of Iron Chef Garces.

Jose Garces on WannabeTVchef.comHe is still listed on the Food Network’s web site as part of their stable of chefs.  There is even a congratulatory note about winning the Next Iron Chef contest.  However, there is no mention in his official Network bio of being an Iron Chef, rather it says that he, “appeared on Food Network’s Iron Chef America.”

Chef Garces’ own media kit also stops short of calling him an Iron Chef but instead saying, “As the winner of The Next Iron Chef, Chef Garces will appear on the upcoming season of Iron Chef America.”  Which of course he has three times. . . before he disappeared.  So the question remains, is he an Iron Chef or not?

If gone, Garces would not be the first Iron Chef to leave the show.  The venerable Wolfgang Puck did a one-and-done as an Iron Chef before “retiring.”  Michael Symon’s inclusion was the result of Mario Batali’s desire to reduce the number of battles he performed so he could concentrate on building his restaurant empire with business partner Joe Bastianich (son of Lydia Bastianich and co-host of MasterChef on Fox).  Emeril Legasse on WannabeTVchef.comBatali has only appeared in one battle since his 2008 match-up against Paul Bartolotta.  That was the special “Super Chefs” battle that pitted Batali and Emeril Legasse against Iron Chef Bobby Flay and White House executive chef Cristeta Comerford.

Garces’ absence from what is still the best TV-based cooking competition might have gone unnoticed if not for the announcement from Food Network in April of this year of a third season of NIC.  Now the blogosphere is buzzing with rumor and conjecture.

Is Batali gone for good?  Is Cat Cora stepping away to spend more time with her growing family?  Is Flay, Symon or Morimoto leaving?  The most popular assumption is that there has been some kind of falling out between the Food Network brass and Chef Garces.  Never one for rumor I went straight to the sources to get answers.

First, I contacted the folks at Garces Restaurant Group and here is what I got from their end:

Bubkis!  Not a single word.

Then I called on Scripps Networks (the parent company of Food Network) and this was their response:

First I got, “We are releasing info on the new season of ‘The Next Iron Chef’ in a few weeks, can I reconnect with you then to answer your questions?”

Then, as promised, I got, “The winner (of The Next Iron Chef 3) joins the ranks of Symon, Bobby Flay, Masahaharu Morimoto, Mario Batali, Cat Cora and Jose Garces and launches into instant fame as a member of the Chairman’s team on Iron Chef America.

“The winner begins their reign as Iron Chef with a heated Iron Chef America battle on Sunday, November 28th at 9pm ET/PT.”

While it didn’t really address all of the questions people have about the future of ICA it does give us a hint as to where we stand on the career of Jose Garces.  Any comments?

Food Network’s web site does list one more battle (also taped in ’09) for Garces set to air in late September but beyond that nothing.  If you haven’t already, be sure to check out my exclusive interviews with Iron Chefs Bobby Flay and Michael Symon as well as ICA challengers, Amanda Cohen and Maria Hines.  Also learn more about Next Iron Chef 3 HERE.

Be sure you check back each Sunday for the NIC Recap.

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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Top Chef: Masters

The second season of Top Chef: Masters is taking some flack for the seeming lack of “Masters” in the competition. Tonight’s episode “It’s My Party” is no exception. Of the five contestants I am only familiar with one, the remarkably talented Marcus Samuelsson.  That is not to say that the other contestants are not great chefs.  There are any number of talented chefs who fly under the radar because they do not live in a large media market or have avoided the limelight.

The other four Carmen Gonzalez, David Burke, Monica Pope and Thierry Tautureau I needed to learn more about. Here’s what I found:

Carmen Gonzalez is the owner of Carmen the Restaurant in Miami. A native of Puerto Rico, she opened her namesake restaurant in 2003 and has received a notable amount of fanfare including Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence from 2004-2006; AAA’s coveted 4 Diamond Award in 2004 and 2005; a 2006 mention in Zagat’s America’s Top Restaurants.

David Burke owns David Burke Townhouse, David Burke at Bloomingdales, Fishtail by David Burke, Burke in the Box, David Burke Prime, David Burke’s Primehouse, David Burke Las Vegas, and Fromagerie, Burke.  With as many restaurants as he has with his name in the title it is a wonder I have never heard of the guy.  He was named the first ever recipient of France’s Meilleurs Ouvriers de France Diplome d’Honneur for excellence in American cuisine.  He has also been inducted into the 2009 James Beard Foundation’s Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America.

Monica Pope, that name sounds familiar, is the owner of t’afia in Houston, TX.  Pope was the 2009 Best Chef at the Houston Culinary Awards and a James Beard Award Nominee.  She is a sustainable foods advocate and hosts a local food talk show on Houston’s 1560 AM.

Thierry Rautureau is a native of France and is known as the “The Chef in the Hat.”  He is the owner of Rover’s Restaurant in Seattle and the only chef on tonight other than Samuelsson to actually win a James Beard Award in a any category in Rautureau’s case for Best Chef in The Pacific Northwest.  His French pedigree is stout.

Which brings us to Marcus Samuelsson.  Truly one of the most talented young chefs in America, Marcus was born in Ethiopia, raised in Sweden and trained in Europe.  He is the youngest chef to ever receive two three-star ratings from The New York Times and he is a two-time James Beard Award winner.  He is a food activist, TV show host and best selling author.  His restaurant, Aquavit is consistently one of the most popular in the uber-competitive NYC market.

Tonight the chefs throw a birthday party for actor Mehki Phifer.  Please, Bravo, enough with the stupid “challenges.”  Just put a bunch of talented chefs in a well stocked kitchen and let them cook.

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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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