Nothing can replace Top Chef in our reality-TV affections, but we have to say, The Next Iron Chef is pretty good. We only started watching this past week, being understandably resistant to another show built on the identical format of Top Chef. The premise Next Iron Chef is that, rather than just having the next Iron Chef selected by Food Network suits, the nation’s most celebrated chefs should compete, with the winner given the dubious honor of cooking in weekly battles in Kitchen Stadium. (You would think chefs would be fighting to avoid such a fate, but such is the pull of fame.)
The chefs include John Besh, the toast of New Orleans; Michael Symon of Cleveland, recently run out of town when Parea went under; New York’s own favorite son (and Grub Street friend) Aaron Sanchez of Paladar and Centrico; meat master Chris Consentino of San Francisco; and a few other chefs whom we expect to get the mitten sooner rather than later. (The two lone female chefs, Traci des Jardins and Jill Davies, have already packed their knives and gone.) The chefs get their marching orders from Alton Brown, who relays the not-very-intimidating commands of “The Chairman,” actually petite martial-arts master Mark Dacascos. It’s all stuff you’ve seen on Top Chef already, but, amazingly with some of the country’s most accomplished and celebrated chefs instead of obscure, mohawked weirdos. We’re pulling for Aaron, but Michael Symon seems to be the guy to beat on the show, with the equally rock-solid John Besh coming in a close second. But if history has taught us anything, it’s not to underestimate the power of New York chefs to get television shows. So we’re keeping our fingers crossed.