Tag Archives: NextIronChef

Has Food Network Retired “The Next Iron Chef”?

With only a week left in October, it would usually be time for Food Network to be rolling out their “limited run series special” The Next Iron Chef that has turned into an ongoing way to inject life into Iron Chef America.



Except….there’s nothing. No promos, no webseries, no sign anywhere that the show is coming back.

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The Next Iron Chef: Redemption “Passion/Respect Finale”

So this is it? A Top Three Finale? (Again? This is becoming a regular thing this week.) I’m a little perplexed. Not that NIC hasn’t changed formulas before, but the finale structure–that we went all the way down to a Top Two, and then the final episode was a straight Iron Chef America 5 dish 60 minute episode, albeit with a few extra people sitting at the judgement table. (That was then followed by the season premier of ICA, featuring the newest hire, just in case they needed to reinforce how many months in advanced the previous episode had been taped.)

I’m not fully complaining mind you–Food Network has changed in the five years since they started running this series, and they have other Food Cooking Competitions to fill out their line up. I just don’t like the sense that the finale was dumbed down to accommodate the preferred winner.

Speaking of the Writing on the Wall, shall we get to our Top Three? If I liked Chef Nate at all, I would feel sorry for his mistaken belief he has a chance. Instead I will revel in schadenfreude as he walks through the MGM Grande restaurant and they stand before Alton. It is apparently time for The Last Supper.

Chairman’s Challenge:

Before them are three cards, each containing the key ingredient from each of our judge’s chosen “Last Suppers.” So you have to guess the dish they want? Or you have to elevate it? Chef Amanda, having won more challenges than anyone this season, get to pick first.

  • Chef Amanda: Farm Raised Chicken
  • Chef Nate: Haddock
  • Chef Alex: Sea Urchin

Can I guess whose is whose? Chef Nate obviously should make fish and chips for Judge Simon. Chef Amanda has to be Donatella, and needs to go Italian. Meanwhile, if pretentious Chef Geoffrey isn’t the one insisting on Sea urchin for his last meal, I’ll eat my hat. Chef Nate is making Clam chowder, which shows he’s not understanding the judges, and also isn’t focusing on his ingredient. Chef Amanda is deep frying chicken skin, which sounds like the most elevated version of fried chicken ever, and also heavenly. Chef Alex is going on and on about her childhood and how she’s grown as a chef. One thing we learned last season was that spinning a yarn about food is her strongest suit, so it’s probably smart for her to fall back on that right now.

That was one of the fastest “put it downs and walk aways” we’ve had yet. Let’s go to the food.

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The Next Iron Chef: Redemption “Transcendence”

…and then there were all of four. But the thing that really matters is there is Alton in an airplane. Well an airplane simulator. They’re in David Copperfield’s Museum of Magic, and Mr. Copperfield himself is there to tell them he’s hired this show to cook his guests a buffet. No, not cook him a buffet. They’re just cooking a buffet. Then why is he here? For decoration? Because he thought it would make a nice ad for his show? Alton then announces this buffet challenge somehow this means that this has to do with “transcendence.”

Chef Amanda is perplexed. So am I. Buffet? Transcendence? Why is David Copperfield here? David Copperfield thinks this is hard. Oh, I’m so glad to have his opinion, but I still don’t understand his superfluous existence in this portion of the show. Ah, it turns out he is actually there to do lame party tricks to reveal the buffet secret ingredients. Oh dear. Can we say “lame?” There’s a card that turns out to read “tomatoes” (revealed by the old “rising card” trick) and then “eggs”, “corn”, “bacon” and “oranges” (revealed by the more newfangled “sliding cards around under a glass box” trick.) Sounds like breakfast to me! But it’s not really all those ingredients–it’s just one, and Mr. Copperfield gets to chose. All this silliness and mumbo jumbo to reveal that the secret ingredient is…

Bacon! Naturally. Revealed by the old “rising card from Alton’s pocket” trick. Look, I’m not dissing bacon, but why is it the “it” ingredient all the time? Can we come up with a new one soon? If you ask me, bacon is getting played out.

Chairman’s Challenge:

Back to the MGM Grand back kitchen where the real challenge is revealed–2 cold dishes, 3 hot, and there’s a guest judge from InStyle magazine to be fed plus 25 or so VIP guests. Did Alton mention this is a team challenge? So each team is making five dishes. Did he mention since Chef Amanda won last week she’ll be picking the teams? No? Well he has now. She asks for a minute before picking Chef Nate. That leaves Chefs Marcel and Alex as the other team. Chef Alex is less than pleased. Alton then points out what I thought should be obvious–that the losing team will go head to head in the Secret Ingredient Showdown at the end of the episode. Chef Amanda seems shocked–wait! That’s not what she meant! Really, lady? Because if you couldn’t figure that out, I question your savvy.

Two hours to cook. No time to plan. Just–go. They stop and plan anyway. Chef Nate and Amanda finish figuring their menu out first, which drive Alex and Marcel to stop passive aggressively pushing at each other and start cooking. There’s sugar hogging and Chef Nate being aggressive-aggressive. He’s also worried about how gross bacon can get under a buffet warmer, which I’m thankful *someone* is thinking about. Chef Marcel and Alex are going French-ish since they both can at least agree on that. Chef Amanda and Nate don’t quite seem to have quite a theme like that, perhaps because they actually agreed on a menu. Chef Nate makes up for their lack of theme by announcing that one of his ideas he’s using came from this great TV show, “Good Eats.” When in doubt, butter up a judge.

Chef Alex is wrapping chicken in bacon. Marcel is making bacon wrapped bacon. There is lobster on Chef Amanda’s station, but what should worry everyone is that Chef Nate is making crepes–didn’t he just fail at pancakes last episode? He swears this is redemption. We’ll see. Chef Marcel wants to make love to the bacon wrapped chickens. Ewww. Chef Amanda is doing a peanut butter something that’s supposed to be an homage to Elvis. Well, it is Vegas.

Twenty minutes to go, and suddenly it turns out they have to decorate the buffet on top of all the cooking. Chef Alex goes out and does a crappy job on their buffet because she doesn’t care. Chef Nate goes out and merely makes sure does a better job then her on the other one. Chef Marcel then goes out at the 15 minute mark and redoes Chef Alex’s job which pissed her off. Seriously, girl should be thanking him–until you remember how much Simon hates Chef Marcel’s design aesthetic. Oh dear. Alex ends up screaming at him at the two minute mark because they are not going to finish. After all that prettiness, they end up just dumping the food in the chafing dishes any which way and willy nilly. It is a major fail.

Let’s go to the food.

Continue reading The Next Iron Chef: Redemption “Transcendence”

The Next Iron Chef: Redemption “Fusion”

And then there were five, in Las Vegas, and no, none of them were Chef Elizabeth Falkner. It’s been a week since her elimination, and I have mostly come to terms with this. Though she had some major highs, the truth was that this was her fourth trip to the SIS (Secret Ingredient Showdown) in five episodes. One cannot continuously land in the bottom and not eventually go home. The odds are stacked against it.

Speaking of the odds, and them being ever in one’s favor, we are in Vegas, at the MGM Grand. Chef Nate says the fact that he got this far is his own personal redemption, since in his season he was eliminated right before the big trip. I am not impressed. I would have rather see Chef Elizabeth make it instead.

Chairman’s Challenge

The chairman is here! By video. His video has nothing to say except “Good Luck.” Alton, on the other hand, has plenty to say–this is a wedding challenge! Follow him! to the Forever Grand Wedding Chapel, which is not nearly as famous as the Little White Wedding Chapel, and probably cost less to rent. The Marriage? Not between people. This is not a “cater a wedding” challenge. Instead it is the “Fusion Challenge” and all this wedding talk is about marrying ingredients that do not go together and then turning them into a dish. Alton sets about marrying the different samples of food in front of him for the chefs to have to use. Blue Cheese is married to Peanut Butter. Chicken Livers takes Peppermint Candies to be its spouse. Bone Marrow marries Fruit Candies (which looks to mean skittles,) and Alton thinks they’re a marriage that could just last. He’s having fun with this. Clams are mated with Strawberries (ok, eww. That’s nasty.) And finally Calamari finds itself getting hitched to (of all things) Mini Marshmallows.

As the winner of last week’s challenge, Chef Marcel gets to assign these pairs of disparate foods to their chef. He instantly steals the easiest pair, which Alton frowns at, with a warning about taking the easy path. But this is, after all, not the risk challenge. The point is to win, or at least survive. The assignments are as follows:

  • Chef Marcel: Peanut Butter&Blue Cheese
  • Chef Jehangir: Bone Marrow& Fruit Candies
  • Chef Nate: Clams&Strawberries
  • Chef Alex: Chicken Liver&Peppermint Candies
  • Chef Amanda: Calamari&Mini Marshmallows

Forty-five minutes to create one dish, in a tiny, completely unfamiliar kitchen in the back halls of the MGM Grand. And go. This is like last year when they left the the nice big Food Network Kitchen Studios, where the cameramen are working to stay out of the way as hard as they are to film the cooking. Half the challenge is this is not a kitchen that was designed for a TV show to film in. Half the camera shots look to come from pre-installed, and almost all the cameras seem to have fish-eyed lenses. At one point we see Alton himself holding a tiny camera to get a close up of Chef Alex working. Never forget, this is a man who was once a camera director. I’ll bet he helped come up with how to film this so that the chefs could work. Even so, there is lots of snapping by the chefs at people to get out of their way (just at each other though) and pushing and shoving.

Chef Alex claims to be having a panic attack. Chef Nate is making “Acqua Pazza: Crazy Water” (which you may remember Chef Marcel did a couple of weeks ago), and handmade pasta. Chef Amanda doesn’t care if you borrow her stuff as long as you give her space. She’s adding horseradish to her marshmallow to attempt to turn them savory. Also, she’s having pressure cooker issues. Chef Nate helps her, because he’s being an ass about “integrity.” Dude, be a good person, but don’t wave your dick around about it–it spoils the “good person” points. Chef Marcel is going the opposite direction of Chef Amanda and making dessert. This requires him to use an unknown ice cream machine. Let’s hope it works. Chef Alex is making salad. Chef Jehangir had never eaten skittles, so he’s breaking them down into their basic elements, grilling them and then balling them and frying them. That’s fascinating. I would watch an entire segment on just doing that to a skittle. Chef Amanda is pissed that he doesn’t clean the fry basket after himself, as she now has to fry her calamari in candied oil. Oops. She ends up grilling it instead.

The panic in the last two minutes is intense. I can’t tell if everyone finished. I think so though.

Let’s go to the food.

Continue reading The Next Iron Chef: Redemption “Fusion”

The Next Iron Chef: Redemption “Risk”

…and then there were six. In an aircraft hanger. Sitting in front of covered silver domes, and holding auction paddles. Anyone who saw last season knows what this challenge is. Chef Alex and Chef Elizabeth lived through last season, so they know exactly what’s coming. Chef Elizabeth calls this challenge “a really cool one, but a really stressful one.” That’s what we like to see! Good attitudes. Chef Alex notes that the chef who had the advantage last time (That would have been Miss Chef Anne Burrell) was actually the one who went home.

Chairman’s Challenge:

And in roll refrigerated trucks. Chef Elizabeth is starting to feel like she’s in The Hunger Games. The domes? They don’t cover ingredients. After all–there are only five domes! They contain invites to go to Las Vegas…for the five that survive.

So for those that didn’t see last season, the auction isn’t done with money–it’s done with time. “I can cook “x’ ingredient in one hour” is outbid by “I can cook “x” ingredient in 55minutes,” and so forth. The losing contestant (the one at the end who failed to win any of the trucks) is penalized by having to take a time that is five minutes less than the lowest bid. Got that? Let’s get to who wins what, and how long they have to cook it.

(Why trucks? Because the ingredients ARE HUGE.)

  • Lot One: Rib of Bison, Winner: Chef Alex/45minutes
  • Lot Two: Cow Heads. Winner: Chef Marcel/50minutes
  • Lot Three: Paiche. Winner: Chef Elizabeth/50minutes
  • Lot Four: Wheel of Parmigiana. Winner (by default): Chef Amanda/40minutes
  • Lot Five: Ostrich Eggs. Winner: Chef Jehangir/25minutes
  • Lot Six: 180lb Mortadella. Forced Upon: Chef Nate/20minutes

Chef Jehangir and Chef Nate actually refused to bid up until the last two trucks, because of their focus on the ingredients (that’s partly why Chef Amanda got a whole wheel of parm with 40 minutes), whereas Chef Elizabeth and Chef Alex are fast on the mark trying to get the highest times because that’s what they learned was important last time–especially Alex who was the auction loser when we did this last year. Chef Elizabeth gets the extra advantage this time of functioning at the “defacto fourth judge” and getting to choose which on the five dishes she deemed least successful. That means it is her choice of chef who lands one of the spots in the Secret Ingredient Showdown. You may remember this was Chef Anne’s advantage last time too–and she ended up as the other one in the bottom and went home.

Both Chef Elizabeth and Chef Marcel have 50 minutes, so they both start cooking at the same time–so there isn’t a weird period with only one cooking while everyone watches. Chef Alex runs in at the 45 minute mark, and decides to supplement her Bison with some of Chef Marcel’s cow head. He doesn’t argue. After all, he’s butchered off the bits he needs. Chef Amanda turns out to be lucky to have that whole 40 minutes–opening that wheel of cheese with her tiny frame is really difficult. Chef Nate actually starts yelling advice on how to pry it open. She’s going for the ice cream machine. Once Chef Jehangir hits the floor, we discover he is too. Good thing there is more than one machine. Alton intones doom at them before letting Chef Nate enter the fray. He just cuts off the tip of his Mortadella, and leaves the other 175lbs to sit. After all, he’s not going to be cooking more than a pound of it.

At the ten minute mark everyone is starting to freak. Chef Alex is scared her stuff is raw. Chef Marcel is fighting to open pressure cookers. Alton keeps yelling to remember an extra plate for Chef Elizabeth.

And time is called. Let’s go to the food.

Continue reading The Next Iron Chef: Redemption “Risk”

The Next Iron Chef: Redemption “Transformation”

…and then there were seven. Chef Alex calls this the halfway point. With only three gone? Well, yes, because after tonight there will be six–and then in four weeks, there will be two. She is correct. Reality show math–it’s not like real life math at all.

Chairman’s Challenge:

Upon the altar sit canned goods. Not just any canned goods–nasty canned meats. Half of which are not even labeled–they just have large question marks. The ultimate mystery meats. The Cheftestants would have rather have had a big red veil confronting them that the horror of precooked, preseasoned, canned-in-questionable-juices meat. Alton points out that there’s everything from the aforesaid mystery meats to pâté. The challenge is to redeem the reputations (and one assumes, the flavors) of these cans through transformation. Everyone immediately dismisses the pâté as a trick to screw up whoever chooses it. Chef Amanda, as last week’s winner, selects last, since that way she’ll be able to steal any contestant’s already chosen ingredient, and screw them over. She actually declines to play that way, deciding that everyone should be allowed to die on the hill they chose, rather than what she forced upon them. The breakdown of chef to canned food is as follows:

  • Chef Marcel: Canned Clams
  • Chef Jehangir: Center Mystery Meat
  • Chef Spike: Vienna Sausage
  • Chef Alex: Spiced Ham
  • Chef Elizabeth: RightHand Mystery Meat
  • Chef Nate: LeftHand Mystery Meat
  • Chef Amanda: Corned Beef

One hour on the clock and the chefs go scrambling to the fridges. Upon reaching his station Chef Nate discovers his mystery meat is in fact that old cat food standby, canned tuna. Chef Elizabeth stares into her can in horror trying to figure out what it is–once she tastes it she realises it’s supposed to be canned roast beef. Key words: “supposed to.” The expression of panic on her face as she tastes it suggests she has an uphill battle. She declares it one of the worst things she’s ever put in her mouth. Chef Jehangir has canned chicken. I suppose it could be worse. Chef Alex is making pasta and pesto to work her spiced ham into. Chef Spike is going back to his Vietnam experience for the Vienna sausages. He and Marcel are doing the broski thing the entire 60 minute period, tasting each other’s food, and joking with each other. The other chefs stare at this warily. Chef Elizabeth decides to ignore them and stares reducing wine to Frenchify her roast beef. This is not a bad idea, if she can pull it off. Chef Amanda seems to be making a dish that doesn’t actually include her corned beef, since she doesn’t even turn to open it until the last half of the battle–and then she can’t get the damned can open and has to hack it open with a knife. Maybe she should have forced someone to trade after all.

Chef Nate has done some questionable things with his canned tuna, but the most questionable is that he froze his tuna with liquid nitrogen. I blame Chef Marcel for the prevalence of that stuff this season. Speaking of which, Broski Boi has set a towel on fire. Nice. Chef Jehangir has overcooked his rice. Better than undercooking? Chef Spike dances a jig. Because random? Or maybe he was done early, because Alton is counting down the last ten seconds.

It’s time to put it down, walk away and go to the food.

Continue reading The Next Iron Chef: Redemption “Transformation”

The Next Iron Chef: Redemption “Simplicity”

…and then there were eight, at the Farmer’s Market in LA. Since this is outdoors, we get to see Alton in a Panama hat. Apparently the first step of today’s challenge is a photo shoot. To that end Mr. Brown is joined by one Todd Selby, who I’ve never heard of, but apparently is known to the chefs. He is a “renown food photographer,” and he is here to create portraits of each of our remaining contestants. This segment is fun. Chef Marcel gets a mad scientist look as he plays with caramel. Chef Eric tries to carry as much cheese as can fit into his beefy arms. Chef Amanda is caught laughing over meat. Chef Elizabeth makes pizza. Chef Jehangir and Chef Nate both give the cameras intense, semi-evil stares. Chef Spike plays with chorizo over a pizza crust, while Chef Alex makes it into sausage. But even as they’re having fun, they’re all wondering what the hell this has to do with the challenge.

Chairman’s Challenge:

Back to kitchen stadium, where the best shots have been framed up and sit upon the altar. Alton, now hatless, appears. He reminds the chefs that in the very first season of Next Iron Chef, for the “Simplicity” challenge, the Chairman had the contestants make a single bite that exemplified their personality and style of cooking. The twist this season is that they will be making a single bite dish that exemplifies a fellow contestant’s personality–gleaned from the photo. Chef Alex grumps that this is “Simplicity in its most complex form.” Chef Nate frowns that he doesn’t know what the other chefs taste like. But the real twist is that with each of the chefs paired together cooking from the other’s photos, each will actually be competing against the other, so at the end of the hour we will have a bottom four, one from each set, to compete in the Secret Ingredient Showdown.

Chef Jehangir, as the winner from last week, gets the prize of setting each pair up. They are as follows:

  • Chef Alex vs Chef Marcel
  • Chef Elizabeth vs Chef Amanda
  • Chef Nate vs Chef Eric
  • Chef Jehangir vs Chef Spike

I already pity Chef Marcel, as Chef Alex has a judge in her pocket. Chef Amanda is worried that this is a set up to knock her out, since Chef Elizabeth outcooked her last week in their 3 way head to head at the end of the episode. Chef Nate looks at Chef Eric like a lion surveying an injured gazelle. But Chef Spike is the one who gets really insulted, as Chef Jehangir obviously thinks he’s easy prey. Alton ignores all this, passes out the photos and announces to let the cooking begin.

Chefs Nate and Marcel are so eager to be the first to the fridges that they run into them bodily, which seems counter productive. Apparently they are both after truffles. The scuffling gets bad enough that Alton feels the need to amusedly announce that “Food doesn’t like violence.” Chef Marcel ends up with said truffle and isn’t about to cut it in half and share until he’s damned good and ready. What the hell is he using it for? Well, apparently he sees Chef Alex as a mother figure, so he’s using eggs. He’s also using sausage, per the photograph, and butter, as that is the name of her restaurant. The truffles are because she’s expensive, I guess? It seems superfluous. In response, Chef Alex is going for the liquid nitrogen, because, hello, we all know Chef Marcel is famous for that.

Chef Nate is cranky in his corner for his lack of truffle, until he finds another in the fridge. Why does he need a truffle? Because his take on Chef Eric is “big bold flavors” with roasted tri-tip and poached prawns, smothered in truffles. Chef Eric is flattered. His take on Chef Nate’s intense stare for the cameras is deviled eggs. Chef Amanda is very worried about missing the theme again, so she’s going ultra simple. She’s also going for anchovies because she feels they are a misunderstood ingredient, as Chef Elizabeth is misunderstood, pigeon holed in her dessert world, when she’s so much more versatile than that. Chef Elizabeth seems to be focused on how sexy she thinks Chef Amanda is, and that this somehow translates to sea urchin, despite the fact that Chef Amanda is holding slabs of red meat in her photo. Chef Jehangir is going for combining the photograph with Chef Spike’s Greek heritage by making a pizza roll dolma. Chef Spike is busy insulting Chef Jehangir. First he’s using shrimp because they are “slippery”, then he’s using bacon, despite the fact that he is Parsee and doesn’t really use pig. Hmph.

And with that, it’s time to put it down and walk away. Let’s go to the food.

Continue reading The Next Iron Chef: Redemption “Simplicity”