Monday, October 04, 2010

"The Next Iron Chef," Season 3, Episode 1:
and how will Ming Tsai do?

My buddy Charles will be interested to know that Ming Tsai (whom Charles has met) is among the crop of ten nationally ranked chefs currently competing in this season's "The Next Iron Chef." I had begun to wonder just how many Iron Chefs would be allowed into the stable, but given the departure of Mario Batali, there's now an empty pedestal.

The East-meets-West chef won the first elimination after a not-so-distinguished preliminary competition involving sandwich-making. His victory in the elimination challenge wasn't flawless, either: there was some dispute about the doneness of his clams. Tsai (yep, that's his surname, not Ming) will probably go far; he may even win. Several of the contestants privately expressed some intimidation, given Tsai's veteran status. I felt he deserved to win the first challenge primarily because he showed that he was capable of cooking a complex meal in under an hour.

This time around, the judges are Mike Symon (one of the winningest Iron Chefs along with Mario Batali), the always-prickly Donatella Arpaia, and a new guy I've never heard of: Simon Majumdar of England. Writeups for all the judges and contestants can be found at the Food Network site.

Digression: it occurs to me that Donatella Arpaia could pass as Piper Perabo's sister. See below:

This season, the motley group of chefs looks both livelier and friendlier, overall, than the group from the previous season, though I don't see any of the easy camaraderie of the first season (in which Mike Symon was crowned Next Iron Chef). Season 2 disappointed me because it felt like any of the other reality shows on the Food Network: there was plenty of small-minded sniping and no shortage of mind games, all of which detracted from what could have been an ambiance of professionalism. Season One stood out in my mind for the way those chefs acted: it was truly a gallant effort on all their parts, and pettiness was kept to a minimum. Many of the chefs already knew each other, and they all bonded over time. I don't know whether Season One is available as a DVD set, but I confess I'd like to own it. It's a great example of what healthy competition should look like.

As of tonight's premiere Season Three episode, Chef Andrew Kirschner has been eliminated and Chef Ming Tsai stands tall as the first winner of a major challenge. I'll be watching his progress with interest. He says he's not doing this to prove he can cook: he's doing this to prove he's still "got game." My tentative prediction is that his poise and professionalism will take him at least past the fifth episode, but some of those other chefs seem pretty sharp as well. For Tsai, though, his survival of the first round means that his chances of winning the entire competition go from a mere 10% to 11.1%. If he survives next week, it'll be 12.5%, then 14.3%, then 16.7%, then 20%, then 25%...

My worry: there's already a fusion-oriented East Asian chef in the stable: Morimoto. Would a second Asian chef skew the group's composition? Then again, with two chefs doing Southwestern/Latin (Flay and Garces), and two chefs showcasing their Greek/Mediterranean influences (Symon and Cora), perhaps two East Asian chefs would be a good thing.



Charles said...

That is indeed interesting news! Kind of surprising, too, as Tsai has already had his own show on the Food Channel. I can understand why some of the other chefs might feel intimidated.

I won't be able to watch the show, of course (unless I can find it on the internet), but I will follow any and all updates here. Even though I don't know any of the other chefs, I have to admit that I would like Tsai to win. I think he would make a great Iron Chef, both in terms of his cooking and his personality. As far as having two Asian chefs in the stable, I don't think it would be a problem. Tsai's food is more Western cuisine flavored with Asian influences, while Morimoto's food strikes me more as the opposite.

*Sigh* Pisser that we don't get the Food Network here.

[woosese (n): the language one speaks when feeling dizzy, confused, or drunk.]

Kevin Kim said...


While it's not the same as watching the actual episode, the Food Network site contains episode highlights, summaries, and behind-the-scenes extras and commentaries. This includes video highlights, which will help keep you abreast of all the triumph and tragedy.