We watched The Next Iron Chef this weekend and we’re pleased to inform you that it was just about as awesome as we suspected it would be. In the first few minutes of the episode, we noted to our roommate that the show’s major challenge would be to distinguish itself from Top Chef and we think it did so admirably. We are devoted to Top Chef, but we must admit that the chefs on The Next Iron Chef made Top Chef look like amateur hour and with good reason. The NIC contestants are at the top of their games with nationally ranked restaurants and full-blown culinary careers under their belts. It was fascinating to watch chefs of such skill and professionalism compete. The show also benefits from a very fast pace that made the first episode at least feel like a nail-biter. We encourage you to check out the episode during one of its six (!) reruns this week, but in case you miss it, here are the highlights.
•The Chairman brought it this week with his awesomely dramatic deliveries of all of his lines. “The journey will be long and the journey (lengthy pause) will be hard.” Seriously. The only other person giving line readings even remotely as awesome as those of the Chairman is the narrator on Gossip Girl (which, by the way, we cannot recommend strongly enough, especially if you, like us, are fans of camp).
•Did you know that the top two chefs will participate in a “culinary shootout” in the Kitchen Stadium? True story!
•Alton Brown is predictably great as the show’s Tom Colicchio. We especially like the way he talks to the contestants as they’re in the heat of the challenge. We worry that someone is eventually going to stab him.
•The episode’s two challenges were quite compelling. In the first, the contestants had fifteen minutes to: break down a chicken, fillet a salmon, french a rack of lamb, shuck six oysters and six clams, cut a slice of daikon thin enough to read the newspaper though, and extract all the milk from a coconut. New York’s Aaron Sanchez won, but no one was as breathtakingly skilled as Top Chef’s Hung. In the elimination challenge, the chefs had to create two desserts: one that could be composed of anything but could not use butter, sugar, or cheese and one that had to be centered around a savory ingredient. New Orleans chef John Besh won with a savory catfish dessert.
•First impressions of the chefs? John Besh seems like a bit of a tool (but honestly, that could just be the fact that his name sounds so much like John Tesh), Chris Cosentino wants us to think he’s an a-hole, but is actually pretty funny, Jill Davie is a genius at underselling herself, Gavin Kaysen is 26, which makes us feel inferior, Morou Ouattara is hard to read thus far, and Aaron Sanchez and Michael Symon are poised to become a very funny duo.
•We’ve already expressed our admiration for Michael Ruhlman and we love Donatella Arapia, but Andrew Knowlton made us roll our eyes a lot when he declared “What I’m looking for is a warrior in the kitchen.”
•Proving that we have absolutely no prognosticating skills, Michael Symon and Traci Des Jardins, our two early favorites, landed in the bottom two. Des Jardins was eliminated, which is tremendously disappointing, but we suspect not truly indicative of her skills as a chef.
•The awesome non-elimination line? “You survive to cook another day.” Excellent! We must, however, take umbrage with the line that starts the elimination process: “One of you will not be the next Iron Chef.” That is not, strictly speaking, true. All but one of the assembled chefs will not be the next Iron Chef. One of them will just be taken out of the running immediately.