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Next Iron Chef Finale - Spoilers

well, well, well! I am happy Chef Garces won, I liked what I saw of him better than Chef Mehta. What do you all think?
Jeffrey did seem even more pompous then ever... (did I spell that right???) WTH was the comment that the Iron Chefs all want someone who "cooks like them"!
I thought it was an exciting secret ingredient and there were several dishes I would have LOVED to try!

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  1. Was it me or was the episode strangely edited and produced? At the half hour mark they were already doing the countdown.

    I realize they need a longer intro for the finale and a longer, final debate, but they also picked roasts and ribs for the ingredient, foods that deserve time to cook.

    Would you want ribs or buffalo steamed in a pressure cooker for 20 minutes? Blah.

    3 Replies
    1. re: joninaz

      No, I wouldn't, jon, but perhaps that was part of the design behind tonight's particular challenge.

      I've never seen experienced rib cooks or recipes agree on whether the ribs should be simmered, in order to render out some of the fattiness, before grilling or roasting. I can imagine what those opposed to simmering phase would think of the pressure cooker.

      1. re: joninaz

        I like ribs cooked in a pressure cooker. It does a great job of softening the connective tissue.

        1. re: paulj

          TY, paul.

          I myself *do* simmer my ribs prior to seasoning and dry-heat glazing. I'm not brave enough to take on a pressure cooker, though. I'm kinda clumsy, and if there's an accident to be had...I'll find it. ;-)

      2. I was pleased with the secret ingredient's accessibility and was relieved that for one night, we got a break from IC's obsession with fish and seafood.

        Chef Garces' victory was a pleasant surprise, for me. I thought for sure "the fix was in" for Chef Mehta. While I can't deny Chef Mehta's talent, I have to say that after a while, I tired of his predictably over-presented, overwrought platings of too many ingredients. Occasionally, such preparations are great, and welcomed. But I think an Iron Chef has to be a disciplined editor and know when to exercise restraint, to prevent sensory chaos. JMO.

        9 Replies
        1. re: Normandie

          Well said, Normandie--"overwrought" is exactly right. In the "integrity" battle in Japan, Chef Mehta's platings were breathtaking, but somehow seemed wrong in kitchen stadium, and with such a robust secret ingredient.
          Having said that--I felt badly for Chef Mehta when the judges found his burgers undercooked, and I remembered that it was one of Chef's assistants who'd taken them off the grill.
          Does that exonerate Chef Mehta, or should he have checked the burgers for doneness?

          1. re: AnneBerryWrites

            No, it does not exonerate him. It was his responsibility to either check them for doneness or to make sure he had a sous who could be counted on to do it. It was his challenge, not hers.

            When his burgers were overcooked at the table though, I did recall AB making a point of saying she pulled them off rather quickly and that they were probably headed for another application. I guess not.

            1. re: dagwood

              Yeah, I have to agree. If he's serving it, it's his responsibility to make sure it's up to what I would hope are his standards.

              1. re: jlafler

                Mehta should be responsible but he shouldn't be accused of not knowing the fundamentals of cooking - that criticism makes no sense.

                1. re: Ericandblueboy

                  My recollection of that criticism was in regards to his undercooked french fries. It could have been the burgers too but I remember the french fries specifically. I don't remember who cooked those.

                  1. re: dagwood

                    You're right, the fries were undercooked too (but I don't know who fried them).

                    1. re: dagwood

                      I believe Mehta's sous, the Asian gal, made the burgers... when the camera showed the burgers flaring up on the grill. I had a feeling she was going to undercook the meat.

                      I don't know who made the fries.

                      Too bad the final score wasn't shown as done during a typical NIC episode.

                      1. re: dave_c

                        Also, not mentioned by any of the judges, but I noticed that Alton Brown had a lot of interaction/banter with Chef Garces during the episode, where AB was asking what he was doing, "Making carnitas" " Making pizza" etc. whereas AB had little interaction with Chef Mehtas during the episode (except at one point near the end AB mentioned that the pressure cooker was open now and Mehtahs replied, "It is?" or something along those lines indicating that he didn't know that it was) Mehtahs seemed like such a stress case, particularly with the pressure cooker not opening.

                        Of course, it could all be editing, but I wondered if "entertainability" was part of the discussion, off camera. Personally, I find watching Mehtas a little stressful, and not just in the finale. He's kind of a wisp of stress (I was going to say "a ball of stress, but he's more wispy")

                        I swear, though I'm sure I'm imagining it, AB referred to Chef Garces as "Iron Chef Garces" at one point. I've been meaning to go back and see if I can see it again, but, again, I'm probably just imagining it. Did anyone else also imagine that?


              2. re: AnneBerryWrites

                (This is to AnneBerry)

                Hi, Anne. I agree with those here who believe that Chef Mehta cannot be excused from being responsible for his sous-chefs' work. The implications of underdone food vary. With some items, it would merely render them unappealing. But with some proteins, or other foods that haven't been stored under optimal conditions, serving them undercooked represents a health and sanitation risk. To me, that is so fundamental that the chef in charge must be on top of it.

                But particular to this show, part of an iron chef's job during battles is to supervise and coordinate what his staff produces. Chef Mehta needed to display that consistently in his final contest against Chef Garces. For that reason, I was taken aback when it was Alton Brown from whom Chef Mehta first heard that the pressure cooker was opened. It was obvious earlier in the program how important that pressure cooker was to him. It follows, logically, that he should have assigned one of his sous-chefs to check it periodically and let him know when it was opened. So either he didn't do that, or someone on his staff failed to tell him. Either way, a management-communication glitch. JMO....but I'm interested to know...what do you think about it?

            2. I have had the pleasure of dining at 4 out of the 5 restaurants that Chef Garces owns in Philadelphia and I have eaten something very similar to 2 of the dishes he prepared tonight.

              I had the carnitas taco at his Mexican inspired Distrito, but it was prepared with black beans and pineapple salsa. And at his Spanish tapas Amada, I had something very close to the beef flatbread he prepared. The version I had did not have the balsamic drizzle on it. It had parmesan cheese and horseradish.

              I'm so glad Chef Garces won, but now it will only be tougher to get a reservation at his restaurants. And it can be really tough now!

              2 Replies
              1. re: Philly Ray

                I also read in our local paper today that Chef Mullen was one of the guests at a viewing party that Chef Garces hosted at one of his restaurants last night.

                1. re: Philly Ray

                  This was true. I saw Chef Mullen last night at Distrito. Seeing him there did give away the outcome a bit, but it was nice that he came down to Philly for the party.

              2. This was pretty much what I expected -- as has been noted by many here, Mehta has been given a "villain edit" all along. It did seem to me that, despite what Alton said, the theme ingredient stacked the deck in Garces' favor.

                It seems pretty clear that Garces is technically skilled, so it's not a bad choice. I just hope he opens up and gets more creative in future battles.

                Steingarten also gets a villain edit -- he's "the East German judge" -- Kishi's old role. I don't like him much, but I think he's probably not as much of an ass as he looks on the show.

                3 Replies
                1. re: jlafler

                  I might agree with you re the ingredient, but at the same time, some of the challenges have been stacked in Chef Mehta's favor (certainly the Indian cuisine themed challenge and I think one or two others, too).

                  But that all begs the question, j...do you feel, when the judges rule (whether tonight in the finale or the individual eps) that they consider the whole body of work the competitor has shown them, or do they tend to make their judgments based solely on that night's work?

                  1. re: Normandie

                    I only saw about the first half of the Indian challenge, but one of my first thoughts was that it could work against Mehta since the judges would have higher expectations for him (justifiably enough). But that didn't bother me so much because it was a group challenge. When you have only two, and the ingredient so clearly favors one over the other, that seems like more of a big deal. I'm not complaining (no ingredient or theme is perfect for both contestants), but it did seem odd to me that AB specifically said the ingredient was good for both of them.

                    I meant to ask before, why did you think the fix was in for Mehta?

                    1. re: jlafler

                      That's a very good point you raise--that Chef Mehta's familiarity with the food and precepts behind the Indian challenge could have have worked against him. Of course you're right about that, and I had failed to consider that.

                      I'm not *100 percent* sure why I had thought prior to the conclusion that "the fix was in". I can't even tell you with certainty whether I meant by that that the Network had pre-determined Chef Mehta would win or simply that, to me, he seemed "fated" to win. But I do know that one factor in my thinking that way was due to some of the challenges and ingredients involved. Another *possible* factor in my thought process was that I thought I had seen chefs dismissed from the competition for lesser mistakes than Chef Mehta had made now and then. But, really, j, all I can say to you is that, fair or not, it's just a feeling I'd had for a couple of weeks. Obviously, I was wrong...so if I start shouting out lottery numbers or NFL game predictions, you'd do well to ignore me, LOL. ;-)

                2. The secret ingredient clearly favored Garces. Mehta said it was all stuff he doesn't eat much. But I think I prefer Garces anyway. We'll see if he relaxes into the job. I do wonder whether Steingarten is that nasty in real life.

                  1. ok, i know i'm going to get splatted here for saying this, but what the heck.

                    1. i didn't watch the show or this particular series.
                    2. when they previously picked cat cora, i felt they were filling in a demographic gap. female chef. check.
                    3. when i saw that the "next star" was between an indian guy and an hispanic guy, i said to myself, it's gonna be the hispanic guy. another demographic group. check. done.

                    and... i was right. i think fn operates this way. it is cynical, but i don't think these are truly unexpected outcomes to these alleged "contests." (same with other "contests" winners. the hearty boys show. demographic: gay men. check. guy fieri. demographic: young males. check.). what is the next contest winner's demographic? maybe they'll wait for the census results and who has the most flat-screens.

                    17 Replies
                    1. re: alkapal

                      If you watched the early episodes you'll see that there were plenty of white guys competing and if they really wanted to fill a demograohic niche they could have easily have chosen Aaron Sanchez last time around. He's more telegenic then Garces and already had shows on the network.

                      As to the point that Guy appealing to young males, either they were way off base or you are because from all the footage I see of the book signings it's more middle ageg men and women then anyone under the age of 30 that is Guy's key demographic. Think Nascar dads rather then their offspring.

                      1. re: KTinNYC

                        ok, then that's the guy fieri demo.

                        i love diners drive-ins and dives -- when i pull myself away from "createtv".

                        as to aron sanchez...maybe you have a point. is he not good enough, though, from his history?

                        1. re: alkapal

                          In the first "Next Iron Chef" they started out with four white men out of eight contestants, and only one of them got eliminated before the last of the non-white and female chefs had been tossed.

                          1. re: jlafler

                            but they had their female already, cat cora.

                          2. re: alkapal

                            "is he not good enough, though, from his history?"

                            I don't know what qualifies as "good enough" in this context. He was good enough to tie with Morimoto in a black bass challenge and get one star from Bruni in the NY Times. Is this good enough to be an Iron chef? I don't know.

                            1. re: KTinNYC

                              when Sanchez was eliminated during that first season i recall being disappointed because i like him, but thinking that he did deserve to go. and though i'm not sure it's a fair comparison, based on the few episodes i watched of Chefs vs. City, i don't know that he has the stamina to be an Iron Chef - something tells me he wouldn't have held up to well under the pressure of ICA battles on a regular basis. in every episode he was falling behind Chris Cosentino, whining about something, or incapable of finishing a task and Chris needed to jump in & save him. i *know* that, as is the case with all these shows, editing has something to do with it, but to be perfectly honest the edits he's gotten on that show and Chopped have made me like him a little less. he just comes across as a bit of a wimp.

                              but i will say that i truly enjoyed the food at Patria back in the mid-90's when he was cooking there.

                              1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                I defer any knowledge or opinions about the chefs on Chef vs. City to others. I found that show painful to watch.

                                1. re: KTinNYC

                                  painful is right - i DVR'ed it a few times and gave up after torturing myself by trying to get through about 3 episodes. great concept, but the execution was awful.

                        2. re: alkapal

                          alkapal, I think you're absolutely right.

                          I still wonder about Chef Cora, I think being the executive chef at bon Appetit must have some perks for FN in addition to fulfilling several demographics (southern/gay/female/some ethnic roots) and that's why she's there. I'm even getting used to Mike Symon, and I never thought I would. I don't get Cat Cora, the Bland Bombshell.

                          And looking below, I see I'm not the only one who wanted to see Aaron Sanchez as an Iron Chef. I've liked him ever since "Melting Pot" on FN lo these many years ago.

                          1. re: EWSflash

                            It seems to me that almost anybody on TV is there at least partly because the execs think they'll appeal to some demographic or other. This is nothing new. What I don't get is why it's only noteworthy when the demographic is non-white, female, gay, etc.

                            1. re: jlafler

                              because- at least to me- it appears to be akin to affirmative action- not "Who's the best, most entertaining chef?" but "Who will the (fill in the demographic or combination thereof here) want to watch? We don't have enough of them watching." which in my opinion, at least on Food Network, dilutes the entertainment/education value of the network as a whole.

                              In other words, I don't care if you're young, old, gay, straight, black, white, multicultural in background, tall, short, slender, obese,blonde, dark-haired, if you suck on TV I'm not going to watch you. Tell me there isn't too much of THAT on FN any more.

                              1. re: EWSflash

                                Except that you do seem to care, in that some categories seem to be especially suspect as far as "affirmative action" goes.

                            2. re: EWSflash

                              i enjoyed that melting pot show, too. it had lots of folks that are on food network or bravo these days. cat. aaron. padma. symon. the italian guy who is so into himself...oh...what's his name? the one that had the "restaurant" show. and there's someone else? instead of hitting the tv, michele started her resto in miami.

                              (i always thought padma had a very flat affect).

                                1. re: coney with everything

                                  yes, that's his name; rocco despirito was on melting pot.

                                2. re: alkapal

                                  I think you are thinking of David Ruggierio.

                                  1. re: KTinNYC

                                    he was on melting pot? the name doesn't sound familiar to me.

                            3. Jeffrey was WAY over the top on this one. He was almost sneering at the Iron Chefs with contempt. He used to be sort of charming but he's gone overboard; I don't even like watching when he's on anymore.

                              11 Replies
                              1. re: dagwood

                                What struck me about Jeffrey last night was that during the presentation of the dishes, he sounded like he liked most of the dishes, but during the discussions, he said that he "would not pay for any of those dishes", which made it sound like he did NOT like them.

                                1. re: araknd

                                  I like Steingarten a lot. I think the IC shows suffer when he's not there.

                                  I suspect he was a little overwrought at being saddled with the two not-really-qualified female judges, who really added little to the entire series. I think if I had to listen to Donatella in particular for too long I'd snap.

                                  1. re: jmckee

                                    My wife and I agree. While he can be bombastic at times, he always tells it like it is and is not dazzled by the stardom of the ICs or contestants. It's all about the food, the plating and the creativity.

                                  2. re: araknd

                                    I believe he was talking about the 'German' dish

                                    1. re: araknd

                                      And what did he say after that? Something like, and if YOU would, then.....

                                    2. re: dagwood

                                      I didn't find him over the top at all. If anything I thought the comments we saw were more balanced and to the point rather than the snarky ones we've been shown during the competition.

                                      My read on the Iron Chefs was they clearly wanted Garces and Jeffrey called them on that - forced them to explain their reasoning.

                                      1. re: Tmrock

                                        I think if I were forced by some strange twist of circumstance to submit to a steady diet (no pun intended) of Jeffrey Steingarten's particular brand of flintiness, I would turn into an exceptionally sharp-tongued female (or even more of one, LOL).

                                        I think he was right to ask the ICs to discuss their reasoning, but he could have been more respectful in the way he initially brought them up.

                                        But to be fair and honest about his participation in IC... While it seems to me he now and then conveniently overlooks the gulf between cruelty and wit, for what appears to be no other end purpose than to be perceived as "clever", he simultaneously is not stingy about telling a chef when he finds a dish to be exceptional. He needs to be given credit for that, IMO.

                                        1. re: Normandie

                                          Moreover, when he dislikes or likes something he gives a REASON -- one that is well grounded in his extensive experience and knowledge base. As opposed to the one lady who didn't like anything "spicy" -- something she should have considered before accepting judgeship in a competition where one chef is Hispanic and another is Indian!

                                          1. re: jmckee

                                            Oh, two good points, j, definitely. There have been one or two occasions on which I've disagreed with his reasons, but even so at least they were *reasoned*.

                                            I think Donatella is one the who doesn't like spicy food...I think. Remember one or two episode before the finale when she gulped and her voice broke, due to the heat of the food? I agree with you. Just because food is too spicy for the person eating it, that doesn't mean it wasn't well prepared. But it's an interesting dilemma, because if we say that, then I think we'd also have to say that about Chef Mehta's tendency to oversweeten things, according to the judges, wouldn't we? How does one distinguished between the proper seasoning for a particular dish versus personal taste?

                                            Under-salting seems to be a more verifiable technical mistake, because salt, even in small amounts sometimes, does seem to have the ability to bring out each food's individual flavors. Or at least many of us here seem to believe that and we see all these chefs who do, too. But it seems to be a different question than how much ginger or chili powder or sage, etc., to put in dishes (they seem to be more subjective).

                                    3. I think when they first went to Japan, Mehta spoke about wanting to win to get respect.
                                      So there is some personal issue there he is struggling with.

                                      I didn't find Jeffrey "more pompous than ever." His comment about the others wanting a similar style of chef standing on stage with them was valid, and probably true to a great extent. These are full forward personalities, savory cooks from the get go. Mehta is a self-described pasty chef who clearly relies on style of presentation just as much, if not more so, than the taste of the food.

                                      Perhaps the current Iron Chefs realized that Mehta would be fighting an uphill battle - trying to win on presentation and creativity when Taste is King and carries the most weight. After all, the imagery of an Iron Chef has not been built on 'pretty' - its been built on heat, passion, muscle and sweat.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Tmrock

                                        I love Jeffrey. He's one of the reasons I watch.

                                      2. I knew it was going to be Garces when....I saw him in the coomerical for the Jan 3rd special. Did anybody else see that? Here, they were showing that commercial early in the show.

                                        1. I swore that if John Besh didn't win last season, I wouldn't watch it ever again. And he lost to Mike Symon. So I didn't watch it, although I did sneak an occasional peek at the show's progress on-line. And I'm glad Chef Garces won! I'll probably watch next time.

                                          BTW, Steingarten is entertaining, and, at times, informative. I'm just glad I don't have to live w/him- he would drive me nuts!

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: stuck in Hartford County

                                            if you haven't read his two collections of essays, you should. They're wonderful And frequently laugh-out-loud funny, with himself as the butt of the joke.

                                          2. I was surprised. I was hoping Chef Mehta would win but I'm glad for Chef Garces.

                                            I think the judges didn't know what they were talking about. It's EASY to sit there and eat someone's cooking and say, "Too salty," or "Too bland."

                                            Good luck to the new show.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: paris221966

                                              "It's EASY to sit there and eat someone's cooking and say, "Too salty," or "Too bland." "

                                              But that's what judges do. Judge. What would you like them to say?

                                            2. After thinking about it, I'm not sure we can ever know 1) that the judges didn't consider *the whole* competition (actually, I believe they referenced previous challenges during the final discussion); or 2) that they would have chosen Chef Mehta had they considered the other challenges, if your premise (that they weren't thinking about the whole season) is correct.

                                              Both chefs had won individual challenges, right? The judges had noted in several episodes Chef Mehta's predilection to too-sweet treatments, hadn't they? And he--like Chef Garces and all the other contestants--had made technical mistakes now and then.

                                              What I'd heard the judges bring up repeatedly about Chef Garces was his ability with technique and execution. Now, I realize that this is just my own personal opinion, but I don't understand how any judge could ever weigh creativity, novelty and presentation above technical merit. Certainly, when it comes to the science of cooking, one must know the science to be a master cook. And when it comes to the artistry, I cannot think of any artform in which a person can achieve greatness if he or she doesn't know how to manipulate the tools of the particular discipline. This is true (admittedly, IMO) of cooking, of the visual arts, of the dramatic arts, of writing, of anything creative...

                                              When Chef Symon posed that germane question about creative failure, I thought about the unfinished cathedral in Beauvais, France. It was to be a soaring masterpiece that iterated the unity and superiority of France. The vision was there, and the effort, but not the technical skills or technology to build a stable building to the heights that were attempted. It suffered a collapse and was never finished. It is beautiful to behold, stunning--the sections that are there--but its builders failed at their goal.

                                              I think cooking is like that. One can be the greatest of visionaries, but if one lacks the necessary technical skills, or at least is inconsistent in them, victories will be a triumph of style over substance. Is that what an iron chef should be? I suppose there will be differences of opinion about that. And I realize that both chefs have their weaknesses and both have their strengths, but I think given these two final candidates, the judges made the responsible decision. JMO, and no disrespect to yours intended.

                                              1. I suspect that Garces was chosen over Mehta for his more gregarious personality. Chef Mehta comes across as more reserved. All of the current Iron Chefs ( Morimoto is a possible exception) are very outgoing, and FN feels this makes for better television, I expect.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: lscanlon

                                                  If the judges were to make a decision in any one IC ep, never mind the finale's choice, based on contestants' personalities, they would be putting at risk their professional reputations. I don't see a Jeffrey Steingarten as being willing to sacrifice what he probably sees as a reputation for integrity and credibility, in order to find for the Food Network a better television personality. If Chef Mehta had been selected, some of us would have been disagreeing with that selection, too. I think it was a tough, close choice, and the judges just did the best they could to make a judgment call. I don't think the chefs personalities entered the equation, at all. (Besides, just my personal opinion, but I found Chef Garces to be more quiet and less forceful than Chef Mehta over the course of the season.) All JMO.