Squee! It’s here! The Next Iron Chef: Super Chefs is finally here!
TEAM ANNE BURRELL!
It’s a reality show, so the formalities are observed. Here we have the introduction of contestants, though for most food TV nerds these will be unnecessary. Perhaps sensing that, the introductions are perfunctory. Each competitor introduce the next. Alex begets Robert, Robert begets Anne, Anne begets Beau. Beau begets Spike, which helps transition us to our non-Food Network stars. Spike begets Marcus. But before Marcus can beget anybody Alton Brown walks in. By the way, since I’m familiar with all these contestants from their various prior TV appearances, so we’re just going first name around here. Just in case you were confused. It’s kind of nice, having to skip the “getting to know you” phase of the reality show format. I approve. Also, I think if I have to spell out Guarnaschelli, Chiarello and Majumdar several times every episode, I might lose my marbles.
The giant doors then open to reveal…a VIDEO SCREEN! Ugh. I understood the Chairman introducing by video when he was busy filming Dancing With the Stars, but why have we stuck with that? Really? Oh, He’s busy starring on Hawaii-Five-O over on network TV. I guess that’s an acceptable excuse, but I hope we do get to see him in the flesh once or twice before the finale.
The format of the show will be a little different that before. The faux Top Chef format with the opening challenge that determines who gets an advantage in the main challenge has been done away with. Instead we go directly into the main “Chairman’s Challenge” followed by “Secret Ingredient Showdown” between the bottom two to determine the loser.
Then we’re back with introductions. Here’s Chuck from Canada and Cooking Channel. Here’s Elizabeth and her not-as-big-as-Ann’s blonde spiky fro, reminding us all she’s a pastry chef and not on our TV as much as the others. Here’s Geoffrey, the granddaddy of the Food Network judges. Here’s Michael from Top Chef Masters, also on Cooking Channel.
Meanwhile Alton is passing out matches. Spike gets the red match, which turns out to mean he gets to pick his partner and then pair everyone else off. Spike picks Marcus. He pairs Anne and Robert (Anne: “Good God, Again?”), Alex with Elizabeth, Michael with Chuck, which leaves Beau and Geoffrey as the last pair. With that Alton sends them out into the wilderness (really, a spot next to a lake) to cook.
Robert is all about this challenge, since cooking in bizarre locations while being filmed is what he does for a living. The secret ingredient is suckling pig, which will require butchering. There are piles of wild veggies and random foodstuffs in various locations. Did we mention they need to start their own fires? Geoffrey apparently owns four fireplaces so he thinks he’ll be fine. While he’s boasting, Robert steals all the kindling. Anne is delighted.
Notes on the cooking process: Spike and Marcus are boiling lake water for stew? Um, eww? Alex is going for ears and tongue and kidneys. Yes Lisa it’s some wonderful, magical animal, the pig. Then Alex starts to panic, loses her head and burns a pork leg. Elizabeth is annoyed. Chuck is harvesting pigs brains. Beau is totally in awe of Geoffrey’s skills. Michael runs off and picks random wild flowers for the salad that weren’t part of the original supplies given. Is that legal?
Time to introduce our judges this season! On the left we have Judge Michael Symon, the original winner of NIC. In the middle, Judge Judy Joo, who is the American Chef from Iron Chef UK, and finally, on the right we have Judge Simon Majumdar, who has the sonorous opinions needed to judge shows such as these. Judge Judy manages to use the word “foodgasm” during her introduction. Awesome.
- Braised pork belly and pork cheek, sweet potato purée and asparagus salad. Judges love it, have nothing bad to say.
- Porchetta with a Shaved Artichoke Salad. Judge Simon says the roast pork leg wasn’t crispy enough, but the salad is very good.
- Pork stew. Judges say it needed crunch and acid, but otherwise it’s good.
- Honey Orange Glazed Pork Ribs with a Citrus Salad. Ribs are “anorexic” according to Judge Judy and are “aggravating” according to Judge Michael
- Pork Shoulder with a Barigoule of Artichokes and Pear with a Pistachio Chimichurri. Alton makes Geoffrey explain what a Barigoule is. The judges love it, and go gaga at the finesse that was achieved ”in the wild.”
- Spit-Roasted Leg with Scalloped Salsify with Rhubarb Raspberry BBQ Sauce. The judges love this too, and love that they took risks.
- Salad of Crispy Pig Ear with wild mustard. Judge Simon demands more pig ears in the salad.
- Grilled Pork Chop with Pig Brain Duxelles on a Grilled Potato. Judges love it, though Judge Simon thinks the pork is a bit raw for his taste.
- Pig four ways (Pig Ear with Mushrooms, Sunchokes and Eggs with Tongue, Jowl with Rhubarb and Strawberry, and Kidney with Tarragon and Leeks.). Judge Michael calls it his favorite dish of the day, and Judge Judy loves the ambition of doing for dishes “in the wild.”
- Glazed Pork Belly with Roasted Leg and Succotash Celery Root. Judge Michael thinks the pork belly doesn’t go. Judge Simon says the dish is flat and boring. It’s the only real negative review anyone’s gotten all day.
Dear Alex: It seems a little disingenuous to worry about going home in the first episode and saying how humiliated you would be to not be on TV anymore when you have several shows you appear on nightly. Just saying.
Michael&Chuck and Beau&Geoffrey are in the top, with Beau and Geoffrey taking the win. Anne and Robert were told they played it too safe, but they survive to cook another day. Alex and Elizabeth are told they are not consistent enough. Marcus and Spike are scolded over their ribs. Alex and Elizabeth survive to cook another day on the strength of Alex’s panic dish. That leave the two contestants who come from the competing network program in the first bottom two.
Secret Ingredient Showdown:
Alton calls the choice of ingredients “trick or treat” The trick was canned tuna. Thankfully Spike chose wisely and picked the fresh diver sea scallops. Too bad he didn’t choose wisely earlier and pick Geoffrey for his teammate. 30 minutes on the clock. The other chefs stand around and cheer them on. Chuck almost cries from the stress of watching. Beau just keeps yelling positive things at them like an anxious coach. Spike really wants to give them all muzzles and then goes all Top Chef and pulls out liquid nitro.
Spike: Scallop Soffrito with a seared scallop on top, and frozen shaved roe on top. Simon dubs it “a successful dish.”
Marcus: Scallop Duo, one scallop corn miso soup, the other seared scallop with porcini. Judge Judy dubs it sophisticated. Judge Simon calls the flavor flawless, but his points off for presentation.
Judge Michael says he has an affinity for Spike, but Marcus was amazing. Judge Judy calls Marcus’ food “an epiphany.” Judge Simon preferred Spike’s single dish to Marcus’ duo.
The moment Spike starts saying he knows he’s got this, I know Marcus is safe. I’m sorry Spike Mendelsohn, you will not be the Next Iron Chef. And the Kingdom of Food Network was saved from douchbaggery!
Next week, the cheftestants will be cooking in a ballpark. Hotdogs for everyone!