Monday, November 22, 2010

Ave, Iron Chef Forgione!

The battle is over, and we have a new Iron Chef: Marc Forgione, the younger of the two finalists in Kitchen Stadium. As spun by Alton Brown and the judges, this was a battle of youth and vigorous inventiveness versus a predictable yet comforting "soulfulness" (to use Brown's term for Chef Marco Canora's food). In the end, like Elisson, I found Chef Forgione's personal story more compelling: Forgione, like Chef Ming Tsai, wanted to prove he had chops (Tsai, for his part, did himself credit by making it to the semifinal round); he repeatedly expressed a desire to step out from under the shadow of his father, Chef Larry Forgione, a well-known culinary talent based in New York and, according to son Marc, one of the "godfathers of American cuisine." (I'd never heard of the guy before, so this may be one of those references that means more to foodies and culinary pros than to the general public.)

The battle, which featured multiple secret ingredients meant to be tied together into a coherent Thanksgiving theme, was as intense as could be expected. Canora made, I felt, some crucial mistakes in both his overall strategy and some of his tactics. Strategy-wise, Canora went old-school and chose to make a rather typical-looking Thanksgiving dinner. His approach to the venison made me cringe, though for a different reason from that of the judges: the judges disliked his herbs and seasoning for the venison, but I disliked the addition of pistachios to the venison's stuffing. Although I'm a fan of contrasts in texture, I'd have a hard time biting into hard pistachios while simultaneously trying to appreciate a tender slice of meat. In all, I thought it was a poor choice of nut.

Chef Forgione did his own venison roulade wrapped in caul fat (trivia: the opening credits for Season 7 of "House" feature brief, amusing images of swirling caul fat in addition to all the normal graphics), but he chose chestnuts as a component of his stuffing-- a wiser choice given the time constraints. Forgione also decided to forgo the conventional notion of a Thanksgiving dinner, preferring instead to honor a vision of what the first Thanksgiving dinner (Forgione said it occurred in 1625... historians?) would have been like. He went heavy on seafood and venison for his proteins; I think he also went for the duck. Turkey was nowhere to be found, and neither were white potatoes, since both ingredients were absent from that first Thanksgiving feast. Overall, I thought this was the better strategy, because riskier. I also felt that Forgione produced what was, overall, a more imaginative and tastier-looking menu. Canora's food was generally praised, but the critiques he received were about some embarrassingly basic matters, such as seasoning.

Chef Forgione's entrance into the Iron Chef stable will, we hope, inject some new blood and fresh ideas into the competition. He produced some amazing dishes during the competition to become an Iron Chef, and although Canora was routinely praised for his consistency, I'd say that Forgione wasn't as inconsistent as some might think. Mike Symon summed it up well when he said that, of the five best dishes he remembered eating during the competition, three of them belonged to Marc Forgione.

Congratulations, Chef Forgione, on becoming the next Iron Chef, and congratulations to all the other contestants as well.


1 comment:

Charles said...

Sounds like it was a good season. I'll have to start watching it on Hulu when I get the chance. Despite the fact that I know the outcome, it should still prove interesting.