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Ok, I'll do it ... THE NEXT IRON CHEF, SEASON 3, EPISODE 4, "TRANSFORMATION" (obviously spoiler alert)

Chef Estes is going home.

Ok, onto the recap.

Mystery ingredient chalenge was classic American condiments.

Each chef was assigned a condiment by Chef Canora (last week's winner).

Here's what they made.

Chef Caswell (ketchup): Ketchup Shrimp Cocktail Sauce
Chef Chauhan (ranch dressing): Lemon and Ranch Mousse
Chef Canora (mayo): Mayo pudding
Chef Forgione (bbq sauce): BBQ Pasta and BBQ Bolognese
Chef Tio (hot sauce): Almond Cake with Hot Sauce and Hot Sauce Ricotta
Chef Estes (mustard): Crop Crepes with Mustard
Chef Tsai (steak sauce): Steak Sauce Carpaccio

Chef Tio won and Chef Chauhan brought up the rear.

Up next was the elmination challenge ... at the San Diego County Fair.

Contestants meet up with Alton Brown at the fair and are challenged to transform fair food into haute cuisine. Each chef must use ingredients only found at the fair concession stands and make three dishes -- one grilled, skewered, and of course one deep fried.

Some highlights from judging:

Chef Tsai was chastised for leaving an "inedible" garnish on his plate (banana peel), which almost choked 2 of the judges. And the judges complained

Judges liked Chef Forgione's deconstructed cheeseburger.

Chef Estes defended what the judges found to be "uncooked" dough as "amond paste" in her deep fried strawberry chocolate pie. She also flubbed with a nasty, partially covered bacon caramel apple on a stick.

Chef Canora tried to "transform" typical fair food into healthy menu items, which the judges found "refreshing".

Chef Caswell made a nasty looking corn snow cone ... it was like something out of The Exorcist (think regurgitated pea soup on a snow cone).

Chef Estes and Chauhan brought up the rear, with Estes going home.

Chef Chauhan was warned, ever so menacingly, never to make her "corn cakes" again by Alton Brown, lest she want to go home. But she was probably ultimately saved by her avocado and chocolate beignet, which all the judges were impressed with.

Maybe what ultimately felled Chef Estes was her pronounciation of "gyro". Phoenetically, she made it sound like a scientific instrument, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gyroscope, and not something Chowhounds would recognize as a foodstuff, http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/443408.

Six left. On to next week.

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  1. Chef Caswell and Chef Forgione continue to impress. I've liked Chef Tio from the start and was glad to see she finally found her balance point. So over Chef Canora, don't like his attitude, tho' it seems he does produce some great tasting food. Chef Tasi has had the most interesting plates.

    When do they head to Vegas (Baby)?

    1. Yeah, sorry, I added onto last weeks and probably messed this all up. I'm liking Chef Tio more and more. I was impressed that she used hot peppers and didn't like them and that she handled that whole crazy grill situation and made it work--I can't imagine trying crepes on uneven heat. I didn't think Chef Estes deserved to go home over Chef Chauhan who hasn't delivered much at all. I think, of all the contests, this shouldn't be one based only on last challenge--after all, the iron chef can have an off day but needs to execute well most of the time. If you're barely performing every week, you can't be the next Iron Chef.

      That banana peel thing--really? First, Donatella downs a roasted hot pepper and complains it's burned her mouth and then she eats a banana peel and complains about it being inedible. Don't serve her oysters on a half shell!

      2 Replies
      1. re: chowser

        "don't server her oysters on a half shell!" great line to sum her up. That's more age appropriate to a little kid who just shovels in whatever is put in front of them, without looking, or even nibbling.

        Bye Estes.. the apple was a disaster. Her runny fried dessert was not a success. I'd eat her food, but it's just as clear her food is just not the type IC is looking for.

        I've got to give kudos to all the chefs... I thought the challenge was hard! With the unconvnetional heat source, restricted ingredients to what one could get from county fair stands.

        1. re: chowser

          Eating the oyster shell sounds like an Abbot and Costello bit or Three Stooges bit. Funny stuff from my childhood. lol!

        2. Really glad to see Tio do so well. As for Estes, the bashing has been excessive on this board but I am not sorry to see her go. I don't care how she wears her hair but going on and on about local food just gets annoying. It sounds holier-than-thou.

          1. Do you think the uncontrollable flames on the heretofore lukewarm grill (chefs all had to use the same ginormous grill which wasnt hot, then, after they complained erupted in flames) was a SET UP? Or a F*CK UP?

            Because it burned a lot of their food to a crisp.

            Caswell's charred corn/cilntro "snow cone" looked like barf and apparantly tasted like it. During Judge's table it sounded like he was one of the worst, yet they announced him in the top three. I ?????'d over that one.

            IMO the whole epi was a snooooozer.

            28 Replies
            1. re: C. Hamster

              I was wondering if that grill malfunction was a set up. It seemed crazy that Caswell was in the top 3 with the burnt corn cone and Ming Tsai wasn't because the judges weren't smart enough not to eat the banana peel. His seemed far better than Caswell's. Is Ming Tsai sitting back thinking, hey I lost to burned gray corn?

              1. re: chowser

                I think Mr. Tsai is probably sitting back wondering why his fair food got dinged for not being elegantly plated...no one else did and it wasn't mentioned. Methinks perhaps Mr. Tsai is being groomed for the IC slot. He's getting very direct, very succinct suggestions from the judging panel, far moreso than the others who get comments like "looks like a linebacker, cooks like a ballerina" . Ming Tsai gets comments (so far) telling him to make the food less fussy and plate it better. Personally, I thought his plating this week was just fine, and anyone who would eat a banana peel is just...well, we won't go there.

                1. re: DiningDiva

                  Tsai is obviously being judged by a different standard.

                  That banana split idea (sucking the straw with the ice cream) that's totally cool. It's like a "reverse-deconstruction" of a banana split sundae.

                  RE: Plating. I forget, but what did Chef Caswell use to "hold up" his snowcone? Wasn't it something inedible as well, or am I "misremembering"?

                  1. re: ipsedixit

                    no it was an apple, but you weren't supposed to eat it.

                    As far as Chef Estes' apple, I thought "that's what a caramel apple *I* would make looks like!" (not a good thing). It was really sad. She should have at least tried to cut up the apple and drizzle it with the failed sauce, so it doesn't just look like a really sad caramel apple.

                    1. re: DGresh

                      I wondered the same thing DGresh about why she didn't serve the apple another way, but then I remembered she was trying to serve the apple on a stick to meet one of the requirements. But, to be honest, I wondered what was transformative about a caramel apple on a stick in the first place. It's a very common fair item.


                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                        I think that the innovation (ok, transformation) was that she added bacon and maybe something else to the caramel. Not exactly transformative..

                        1. re: chicgail

                          There's so little time for them to think of their feet that the winners are the ones who can do it. Her caramel looked gritty but she knew it was wrong. Maybe she could have made balls w/ it and cut the apples into skewer sticks. But, sticking w/ something that didn't work isn't the way to go, although, come to think of it, it put Carswell (was it) into the top three with burnt corn cone.

                          1. re: chowser

                            She knew was was sunk when the oil spilled into her caramel. But, I think you're right, she just ran out of time to try something different.

                            I was trying to imagine if I would have liked Carswell's snow corn cone even if it went the way he imagined. I don't I would have!


                            1. re: chowser

                              If she could have cut the apple, skewered/battered it and deep-fried on a stick, and worked the maple bacon sugar into the batter and as a drizzle or powdered topping . . .
                              well, then she might have had time to do what she initially wanted to do.

                              1. re: pitu

                                That's a good idea, maybe wrapped in bacon. It's so easy to sit back and come up with suggestions! I can't imagine how hard it is to improvise, under the time constraints, for them. But, I guess if you want to be an Iron Chef, you'd better be great at thinking on your feet!

                      2. re: ipsedixit

                        I thought the reverse banana split was really creative too, and I would have known better than to try and eat the peel ;-)

                        Chef Caswell used a cored out apple to hold the snow cone. The judges knew not to eat that, tho' they knew did ask

                        1. re: DiningDiva

                          Ming Tsai sure does really go for it in a big way, every time. He may not succeed, but it is fun to watch the wacky things he comes up with. I thought the steak sauce thing was a lot of fun (though, I agree with Tio's win. I thought using the vinegar in the hot sauce to curdle milk--or was it cream-- into cheese was brilliant!) I wonder if it tasted good.

                          I thought the reverse banana split was a fun idea, too. But ugly.

                          I'm not certain I would have known not to eat the peel. Did he do more to it than just cut it into little curly-cues? It seems like even a curly-cue of a banana peel would be recognizable. But, Michael Symon backed Donatella up saying something like "Inedible garnishes went out in the 80's". I think Tsai was trying to solve the "ugly" problem in a playful way. I'm sure he never dreamed someone would try to eat the peel! "Oh, don't do that" he says, incredulous!


                          1. re: The Dairy Queen

                            I thought they were thickish strips of banana peels. I think it would have sounded condescending if he had said, "Don't eat the banana peel", just as it would have sounded funny if Forgione had warned Donatella, "Be careful, the roasted hot pepper is spicy!"

                            1. re: chowser

                              I don't recall who commented in this thread, "Don't serve Donatella oysters on the half shell"...but, yeah I agree, it seems there are some things you should just know not to eat, as long as they are sufficiently recognizeable!


                              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                I don't recall who commented in this thread, "Don't serve Donatella oysters on the half shell"...but, yeah I agree, it seems there are some things you should just know not to eat, as long as they are sufficiently recognizeable!


                                Symon: I really liked Forgione's dish, but I have to dock him some points after I saw you choking on parts of it.

                                Donatella: Yeah, who knew that the half-shell wasn't edible. I thought he had deconstructed it and made a faux-shell with deep-fried almond paste.

                                Symon: Yeah, inedible garnishments are so '80s.

                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                  Ipse, awesome. You survive to post another day. ;-).


                                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                    LOL, as long as no one is told, "Please pack your keyboard and go."

                                2. re: The Dairy Queen

                                  Donatella is such an idiot. I have NEVER liked her judging, but eating hot peppers, banana peels, etc., is just over the top. Does she realize how stupid that looks? I wonder if they are paying her to be that way.

                          2. re: ipsedixit

                            I do think he has deconstructed enough already.

                            1. re: scubadoo97

                              Yeah, I noticed the deconstruction as well. The thought crossed my mind that all he was doing was deconstructing dishes, not creating new ones.

                              1. re: DiningDiva

                                I hadn't thought of it that way, but it's an excellent point.


                                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                  Has Tsai deconstructed before this episode? With the transformation theme, that's an appropriate response.

                                  Sweet foods on shaved ice is a common dessert, especially in Hawaii and Asia, but they rarely look as bad as the sno cone here. They're usually bright, fruity, and colorful.

                                  1. re: Fukui San

                                    Yeah, he's deconstructed at least a couple of times now. One that comes to mind was the "innovation" challenge. I think that's the one where they had to innovate a classic diner dish and he just went nuts. That's when the judges said he was trying to do too much and he finsished second to last. They sent the other guy home.


                                    1. re: Fukui San

                                      Yes, he's deconstructed at least 1 dish every week. If it wasn't Chef Tsai we all be crying "one trick pony".

                                      1. re: DiningDiva

                                        Totally agree, except that I hadn't noticed it until it was pointed out.


                                    2. re: The Dairy Queen

                                      I truly think that Arpaia's little choking behavior is a passive-aggressive type of manipulation, to set up the chef for a downgrade. As soon as she said that I saw that her point was to ding Tsai and to bring him down a notch. There are power issues in play here too.

                                  2. re: scubadoo97

                                    I think so, too. I never knew he was such a big fan of it.

                          3. I totally enjoyed this episode. Despite the gimmicky nature, it seemed like it was more about the cooking technique in oddball circumstances. Yeah to Chef Tio, who is lucky enough not to catch hell for wearing braids. Sorry to see Estes go.

                            1. I'm not a fan of Chef Estes, but I actually wanted to mention: Was it a coincidence that the only actual chef on the judging panel knew the fried dough was cooked and that the gooey element was a paste? To me, it was no coincidence at all, and when Chef Estes tried to defend herself, Donatella tried to defend her assertion that the dough was raw because she didn't taste any almond. It just reeks of someone not knowing what she's talking about...

                              Now my real question... is it a coincidence that this is coming from someone who just ate a banana peel?

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: andytseng

                                not that I'm a fan of Donatella either, but later in the show (after they'd shown her eating the peel) I saw Chef Tsai cutting it up for the garnish, and he was cutting it rather small --artistically small-- but small-- perhaps an inch long and 1/4 inch wide. I wouldn't expect to have a non-edible garnish that small on a plate.

                                1. Happy to see chef Tio do well... I really admired her cooking such an innovative dish with an ingredient she doesn't like!
                                  I don't think chef Estes was that good at the "on the fly" thinking required of the challenges. Her apple looked AWFUL! so did chef caswell's "sno cone" ugh!

                                  1. i agree with those who said that the judges appear to be holding Ming Tsai to a higher standard than the other chefs, but i can't decide if it's because they've already basically chosen him as the winner, or simply because he's Ming Tsai! but yes, as much as i like him, i groaned when he said he was deconstructing another dish. he needs to move on...

                                    the criticism of the banana peel was a bit much - i don't think anyone would have said a word about it if Donatella & Simon hadn't been dumb enough to eat it.

                                    and yes, i also suspected the flame-up on the grill was intentional

                                    5 Replies
                                    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                      symon didn't eat it.

                                      and while i'll admit the snow cone looked awful, at least it seemed true to the idea of the challenge. some of these others just didn't at all. it wasn't make something palatable out of stuff you find at the fair, it was try to knock our socks off with some fabulous rendering of creative fair cuisine.

                                      only thing i thought was odd - especially since no one mentioned it, was that it was completely a challenge that symon did on dinner impossible when he was on. he nailed it by the way. probably my favorite episode.

                                      1. re: AMFM

                                        chef simon didn't eat the banana peel. the other guy's name is simon, also. he said he ate it.

                                        1. re: AMFM

                                          as jujuthomas clarified (thanks for that!), my comment about eating the banana peel was in reference to the other judge, whose first name is Simon with an "I," not Michael Symon.

                                          i remember seeing that Dinner Impossible episode years ago, it was great!

                                          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                            whoops! sorry. my bad. :) obviously i have not been paying good attention.

                                      2. Was looking on Ming's website today to see when a couple of his shows were going to be on, and I saw that episode 811 will have Chef Canora on as guest chef, and episode 812 will have on:Chef Forgione.
                                        Do you think that they will be the final 3? Nott sure when TNIC was filmed or when these shows from Simply Ming were filmed. Although I know that he was taping some of his shows in August, but I don't think it was these, as some his new season was filmed while he was doing road trips.

                                        I haven't noticed that these 3 seemed all that friendly towards each other, has anyone noticed that they have been?

                                        These shows will be airing in Dec,. 812 is scheduled on Christmas day no less.