After spending more time with a variety of new and returning Food Network shows over the past few months, I came to appreciate how there’s something extra special about The Next Iron Chef that puts the series on a higher level than other weekly culinary competitions. Not only is The Next Iron Chef steeped in a legacy of success from The Iron Chef but also the Food Network series delivers quality on two levels of Chef competitors and the fine dishes in the game.
Unlike some of the competing chef based reality shows working with everyday people and familiar comfort foods, The Next Iron Chef puts professional, high caliber chefs to the test to use their food education and expert culinary skills to create dishes on par with the best in the world. In the October 4 second season premiere of The Next Iron Chef, ten new chefs step up to apply their expertise to ten dishes to become The Next Iron Chef.
Kicking off in Los Angeles with host Alton Brown and words from “The Chairman” Marc Dacascos the ten new culinary hopefuls announce style specialties that range from Asian, American and Mediterranean to Spanish, Fusion, Rustic Italian, South American and pastry before the doors open to the battlefield kitchen where the first challenge awaits. Given orders by Alton Brown to use ingredients found in the kitchen to tell a story about who they are, the ten new hopefuls of The Next Iron Chef get down to kitchen business on such diverse dishes as a father’s beef stew, childhood Confit from India, green bean stew and country apple to a grandmother’s mozza balls.
Although we get a glimpse into who the new Next Iron Chef contestants are as people, it’s the kitchen players themselves who are forced to get to know their opponents by tasting each other’s newly prepared dishes and giving their honest thoughts before the declared winner receives an advantage in the second challenge.
The true competition begins after the chefs play judge to their opponents, critiquing the simple to culturally complex dishes from the lives of others. Egos soon get in the way as some realize they need to earn their place in the kitchen in the same way they started their careers. For some, the criticism lays a kitchen foundation for individual rivalry.
The second culinary test, also an elimination challenge, pits the chefs against each other under the theme of “fearlessness” as each is given an unknown ingredient to prepare two different dishes in 75 minutes for the professional Next Iron Chef judges. Putting the chefs to the test, Alton Brown reveals unknown ingredients that range from jellyfish and chicken feet to stinky tofu and grasshoppers and many more bizarrely offbeat natural food items. Before the second test begins, the first round winner uses his advantage to switch the dishes of two opponents for an added edge.
When the second Next Iron Chef round begins, the kitchen is ripe with tension, innovation, sweat and mechanical failure. The kitchen chaos soon boils over to make for a highly entertaining culinary clash of egos that helps one Next Iron Chef contestant pack their bags after hearing from judges Anya Fernald, Donatella Arpaia, and respected food writer Jeffrey Steingarten.
After watching the October 4 second season premiere of The Next Iron Chef, it’s safe to say that the Food Network and Iron Chef series stand toe-to-toe with any of the top mainstream reality competitions. Whether you’re a fan of the first season, a pro chef at home, or an amateur chef hopeful, the second season of The Next Iron Chef is an hour well spent in the heat of the Food Network kitchen.
The season two chef list for The Next Iron Chef includes 2009 James Beard Award winners Nate Appleman and Jose Garces plus Dominique Crennof Chef de Cuisine Luce at InterContinental in San Francisco, New York City Executive Chef Brad Farmerie of Double Crown, Madam Geneva, PUBLIC, and The Monday Room, Jehangir Mehta, Executive Chef & Owner of Graffiti in New York City, Seamus Mullen, Executive Chef & Partner of Boqueria Flatiron and Boqueria Soho in New York City, Chef & Owner Holly Smith of Cafe Juanita, Poco Carretto Gelato in Kirkland, Washington, and Executive Chef & Owner Roberto Treviño of Budati in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
The Next Iron Chef airs Sunday, October 4 at 9pm on The Food Network.