The Next Iron Chef: Super Chefs “Storytelling”

When last we left our cheftestants, they were on their way to NYC, because filming in LA is expensive. To celebrate we are treated at the top of the episode to a montage of New York City. Because, you know, we just don’t see enough of those in entertainment.

And then there were six, in Grand Central Station.

Chairman’s Challenge

Each contestant gets a postcard of an iconic NYC location, which they have to make a dish in reference to, and have that dish tell the story of said iconic NYC location. 20minutes to shop for 6 guests, 45minutes to prepare. The locations are chosen blindly by number, and are as follows:

  • Anne: Picks No4, gets Central Park
  • Elizabeth: Picks No5, gets Statue of Liberty**
  • Marcus: Picks No2, gets Broadway
  • Alex: Picks No1, gets Empire State Building
  • Geoffrey: Picks No6, gets Times Square

Michael…as the winner of last week, he can choose any of the other’s cards, or take the last one. He chooses to take Elizabeth’s Statue of Liberty, which leaves her with the last card. So

  • Michael: Picks Statue of Liberty
  • Elizabeth: left with No3, gets Brooklyn Bridge.

Alton Brown’s Quote of the Week: “Careful on the stairs, chefs. Speed kills.”

Shopping is a riot. The image of Anne climbing up onto the fruit and veg case is burned into my brain. She orders five Cornish game hens and all the chicken liver the butcher is willing to part with. Geoffrey buys $50 worth of caviar. Alex gets central cut pork chops, while Elizabeth gets pork tenderloins. Marcus takes some Waygu beef. Michael gets 6 rabbits. Twenty minutes is a short time to shop, kids.

Some of their thoughts behind their shopping: Anne’s Cornish games hens are a play on the pigeons of Central Park. Geoffrey’s Times Square idea is New Years Eve leftovers. He’s not listening to the judges again, and is once more making a ton of dishes, 4 courses to be precise. Sigh. Alex is going with “the Empire State Building was built on a farm” back story, but also with a street food twist…

…..and then her tray of prepared food falls in the dirty sink water with 25minutes left. She just lost a big batch of her ingredients. She apparently didn’t lose all of them though because she magically produces new ones and starts anew…

Marcus is also not listening to the judges and doing too many elements. I hope they really do force him to edit right there at the table, like they threatened to last time he did that. Michael’s idea is born from the Statue of Liberty being a gift from France, so he’s making French food. Elizabeth has the same idea. The Brooklyn Bridge was designed by Germans, so she’s making German food.

Guest judges today: Charlie Palmer, the famous Restaurateur, who let the show use his kitchens for the advertising, and Chef Marc Forgione, who you all might remember as the last Next Iron Chef winner.

Geoffrey’s Quote of the Week: “With all these guest judges up there, it feels like the Last Supper. And I should know, I cooked for the Last Supper.”

  • Anne: “Grilled Cornish Game Hen with Chicken Fried Chicken Livers” Her story is that she comes from a small upstate New York town, and then she spent a year in Italy studying cooking, so when she goes to Central Park, these are the places she’s imagining she’s escaping to. She gets high marks across the board, both for story and for food. The judges love the “hens as pigeons” idea.
  • Alex: “Grilled Pork Chop with Roasted Potatoes” She has a bag of burnt peanuts and pretzels that’s there for smell, not for eating. Her story is about walking by the Empire State Building on her way to her first job and smelling that scent in the air. It’s a clever gambit, but Judge Judy thinks that serving inedible food is not in the spirit of the challenge, and she should have served them roasted peanuts and pretzels instead. Judge Simon says it’s the worst plate of food she’s served them all season, especially noting that her roasted potatoes are soft, and not crispy. High marks for story, low marks for food.
  • Geoffrey: “Eggs with Truffle&White Asparagus; Eggs with Smoked Fish&Caviar; Salmon Smoked Tartare; Superfruit Fruit Soup” His story is the renewal of New Years Eve and how everything is forgiven. The Eggs are the indulgence of New Years, the salmon represents renewal, and the superfruit is to cleanse the whole year away. Got that? Yeah, it’s convoluted, and a little bit catholic. Marc Forgione Does Not Get It. He had to eat eggs in two dishes? What’s that about? Judge Michael loves the execution. Judge Judy wants to spank him for this unnecessary over-indulgence of courses, but admits they are all tasty.
  • Michael: “Rabbit Porchetta with Cherry Agridolce” Michael chose the Statue of Liberty because he did a report on it in elementary school. His story feels like a recitation of said report: There were apparently wild rabbits and cherry tress on the island before the statue came, so he made rabbits and cherries. Charlie Palmer loves the history lesson. Judge Simon thought the story was too long. Judge Judy wanted the plating to be more architectural and statuesque.
  • Marcus: “Hot Smoked Salmon and Crunchy Steak Salad” He explains that in Sweden, smoked salmon is a poor man’s dish, so that he’s dressed it up with caviar and transformed it into a star dish, like poor people becomes stars on Broadway. The steak, again, steak is a working man’s meal, here it is made with Waygu beef and dressed up and really for its close up. Marc Forgione thinks the steak is the best bite of food all day. Judge Judy doesn’t think the two dishes go together at all. Everyone else says the food is shoehorned into the story, instead of organically springing from it, and do not approve. Marcus is miffed.
  • Elizabeth: “Pork Schnitzel with Fennel&Apple” Her story is how the Brooklyn Bridge was designed by a German, so here’s some schnitzel. The Apples are there to represent the Big Apple. The plate is also suppose to be a bridge between raw and cooked foods. Judge Michel likes the food, but says her story lacked conviction when she told it. Charlie Palmer agrees that her story was lackluster. But Judge Judy thinks the plating was clever.

Judgement time! Top two are Anne and Michael. Judge Michael tells Anne she needs to keep pushing the envelope. Judge Judy tells Michael his plate was beige but the food was delicious. Anne takes the week! TEAM ANNE BURRELL!!!! Iron Chef Anne Burrell totally has a ring to it. Alex’s storytelling skills save her over her food and she is safe to cook another day. Geoffrey’s story was muddled and he did too many goddamn dishes again, but they were so tasty, he’s once again safe. This leaves Elizabeth vs Marcus for the Secret Ingredient Showdown.

Secret Ingredient Showdown

The Secret Ingredient is………….. BAGELS! “How New York” says Elizabeth.

They’re in a totally different kitchen now, one that looks like the back room of a hotel. It’s so much smaller than before, with tiny doors they need to run through to get to things, and skinny aisles between prep stations and the need for spectators to get the hell out of the way. It’s got little Iron Chef decals all over the tiles, but only on two walls, the ones the camera point at, so there are shots (when the Camera points at Alton for instance) where the decals are missing. Also, the move means they’ve left behind the Darth Vader doors! So Sad! In fact, the whole kitchen, though far more realistic a place for a chef to be working, is kind of sad after the big cavernous sound stages we were used to. Geoffrey yells to Marcus: “Simplify Brotha!” Coach Beau, he is not. Marcus is deep-frying his bagels. Elizabeth is burning hers, to the confusion of Alex and Anne, but as a dark toast aficionado, I totally get what she’s doing. Then it is revealed that Elizabeth is making TOASTED BAGEL CREAM CHEESE ICE CREAM. OMG. Beat That Marcus! He thinks he’s beating her because he made his own lox, and hers came from the package. Yes, but she made TOASTED BAGEL CREAM CHEESE ICE CREAM. She also notes that the other chefs are underfoot and turn the kitchen into an obstacle course.

Onward to judgement!

  • Elizabeth: “Bagel with the Works: Pumpernickle and Plain Bagels, pureed into a Toasted Bagel and Cream Cheese Icecream, served with Lox, Grilled Eggplant, Black Olive and Bagel Puree and Fried Brown Butter Bagel Bits.” Judge Michael loves everything about it. Judge Simon does not like the ice cream. Apparently he rarely likes these experimental ice creams in practice. Judge Judy is overwhelmed by the dish in a good way, and says Elizabeth kept it real. We are all thankful she kept her foodgasms to herself.
  • Marcus: “Lox, Bagels and Gazpacho Cream” Judge Simon is so thankful that it’s only one dish, and says it’s Marcus’ most focused plate he’s served all season. Judge Michael does think the Gazpacho muddled the bagel flavor, but otherwise its fabulous. Judge Judy loved the dish and the flavors.

Judge Simon is fighting for Marcus. Judge Judy is fighting for Elizabeth. Judge Michael is leaning a bit towards Elizabeth, but is definitely the swing vote. Marcus is eliminated, but only by a hair. That means the only non-full time Food Network employee left is Elizabeth. Everyone else (Alex, Anne, Geoffrey and Michael) already have shows on the network. Aslo we have three women left. I like these odds to finally get some gender balance on the dias.

Next week: RISK! There’s going to be a bidding war on ingredients, and the currency is time. I cannot WAIT to see how that works out.


One thought

  1. I don’t think this is the real NIC New York Kitchen – remember, they could use any of the Food Network rooms. Maybe this was a smaller kitchen at Charlie Trotters? Or another place at Grand Central Station?

    Good point that Elizabeth is the only non-food network employee left. I really like her – but your observation has me worried!


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