We have to make a confession right off the bat. Generally, we watch The Next Iron Chef every Sunday, taking copious notes as we do so. We then email the notes from our home computer and email address to our email address here at MenuPages. Somehow, last night’s email didn’t quite go through or rather, the email did, but the attached Word file with our notes did not. All that to say that we are working solely off our memory right now, so please don’t judge us too harshly should we make any major mistakes.
Anyways! The Next Iron Chef continues to be excellent. Last night, the chefs flew to Paris where they were given two thousand Euros to concoct a three course meal for twenty American and French dignitaries. There was a madcap shopping montage, a dramatic Alton standing in front of the Eiffel Tower in the rain wearing a trench coat, and an exceptionally ill-tempered Andrew Knowlton. Let’s jump into the thick of it, shall we?
•The contestants were instructed that their meal needed to showcase their vision of American cuisine, prompting Cosentino to remark “I haven’t cooked American food in years!” and leading to a long conversation between my roommate and me about the definition of American food. Here at MenuPages, we have two categories for American cuisine: American (Traditional) and American (New). The first encompasses standard dishes like burgers, macaroni & cheese, and French dip. The latter focuses more on creative interpretations of standard fare (i.e. the horseradish crusted salmon at Metropolis Cafe). Despite the usefulness of these categories for MenuPages users, we feel that they aren’t necessarily definitive guides to American food. In the end, the United States is a lot like France or Italy. While our country might have certain foods associated with it internationally (such as burgers), “American cuisine” is really a collection of many different regional cuisines. Chefs Cosentino and Besh certainly would seem to agree with this assertion: Cosentino, who grew up in Rhode Island, presented an explicitly New England based lobster roll as his first course, before moving a bit south to present his take on a Philly cheese steak. Besh focused exclusively on Southern foods.
•The parallels between the final three contestants on TNIC and those on Top Chef 3 are startling. Cosentino is obviously the Dale: clearly talented with occasional flashes of brilliance, but when he misses the mark, he misses it by a lot. Symon is the Casey: home-like flavor combinations with plenty of soul. Besh is the Hung: virtousic, with subtle and sophisticated dishes that are, undoubtedly, delicious, but perhaps not as much fun to eat as Symon’s creations. Will next week’s finale produce an outcome that mirrors that of Top Chef? We hope not.
•Andrew Knowlton’s epic pissiness reached new heights in last night’s episode when Donatella Arpaia criticized Cosentino’s lobster roll, prompting Knowlton to interject: “Do you know what you’re talking about? Do you?” Knowlton, however, missed the title of “crankiest person of the night” by a country mile. The French restaurateur (whose name we would know if we had our notes!) seated next to Michael Ruhlman was wildly dismissive of nearly everything put in front of him. Ruhlman consistently had an excellent “please get me away from this man” expression throughout the dinner.
•As we predicted before the episode began, Cosentino was a goner. His lobster roll had too much mayo, as Arpaia pointed out, his Philly cheesesteak didn’t have enough cheese, and his moonshine and melon dessert was simply lackluster. We would, however, very much like to eat at his restaurant, Incanto, whenever we find ourself in San Francisco.
•Next week, Besh and Symon battle it out in Kitchen Stadium! We, for one, cannot wait.