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The Next Iron Chef: Super Chefs (Episode 4: "Food Is Funny") [Spoilers]

The theme for the Chairman's Challenge? Improvisation.

And so of course we're off to a comedy club (a Night at the Improv, anyone?) where the ingredients du jour are chosen: octopus, marshmallow, kumquat and tortilla.

Chefs have 45 minutes to cook and because Falkner was the winner from last time she gets a bonus 300 seconds.

Seems like the pressure cooker is going to be the undoing of many of our heroes in the kitchen.

Onto judging ...

Zakarian's marshmallow scrambled egg dish is successful but someone calls his octopus "muddy" but is it really more like "nutty"?

Chiarello takes a risk and does Spanish take with the ingredients, as well as some marshmallow aioli, and all-in-all it was a success. One judge said, "best bite so far".

Falkner has "marshmallow ash"! Rave reviews for her technique and plating from all three judges.

Burrell makes octopus ravioli that one judge calls bad texturally because the octopus is rubbery. It's a simple dish, but succeeds on certain levels.

MacMillan's charred baby octopus is too "tough" but his plate is "pretty" and, oops!, the tortilla fritter is "dry". Sum it up? "Kung fu fighting in my mouth" says one judge. Yikes.

Samuelsson's food is interesting, but everyone is a bit confused. Soup on a plate again? Maybe his food is too progressive for the judges? Perhaps me thinks Thor would be a better judge of his food.

Guarnaschelli makes burnt marshmallow because she wants that "campfire" feel. Her entire dish, cabbage included, is "outstanding"! Someone ended up licking their plate!

And our comedic winner?

WINNER: Chiarello
RUNNER UPS: Guarnaschelli, Falkner, Burrell

Elimination Challenge: MacMillan v. Zakarian
Secret Ingredient: Coconut

LOSER: MacMillan*

Zakarian's crudo was the kicker in this challenge.

Next week ... the Big Apple. The city, not the food.

(*Guess Food Network did not reveal the winner of Next Iron Chef in a promo, eh?)

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  1. still waiting for an episode where they get to cook with normal ingredients. these ones are frustrating.

    11 Replies
    1. re: mattstolz

      I agree, it's time for something more akin to ICA such as one ingredient and make a meal out of it.

        1. re: FoodPopulist

          pork was. but this is now what? 3/4 challenges with weird/things you would never put together on purpose ingredients

          1. re: mattstolz

            I actually prefer those sorts of challenges. I want to see the contestants taken out of their comfort zones. I am more interested in seeing creativity than exquisite technique.

          2. re: FoodPopulist

            the pork was. but this is now what? 3/4 challenges that had strange/things you wouldnt put together on purpose as a cook ingredients? i want to see them actually good real food. not do culinary tricks

            1. re: mattstolz

              But don't you think this really does sort them out from the most to the least innovative? I mean, if there were standard ingredients, they'd just be pulling old recipes out of their hats. You know, they've done this before. Chef Alex did that with one recipe early on with her lemon ice cream thing at the ball park. That isn't ingenuity, that's recollection of a recipe.
              I'd rather see what these guys can do pairing odd ingredients and unusual flavors instead of saying Oh RABBIT is on the table, along with potatoes, carrots and turnips. Well, at my restaurant I do a great rabbit stew (or soup if you're Chef Samuelsson LOL) so I'll do it here....that to me would be kind of boring. I find it waaay more interesting to see how they can make octopus, marshmallow, tortillas and kumquats work together. THAT takes real skill, I think....

              1. re: freia

                And if people insisted on one ingredient, I think I'd like to see a marshmallow battle with a ban on desserts instead of a tortilla or kumquat battle. I'd probably prefer an octopus battle, but the octopus has to start out live.

                1. re: FoodPopulist

                  and angry...gotta be a live and angry octopus. Now THAT'd be enterTAINment!!! LOLOLOL
                  I can hear Alton Brown now...
                  AB: Ok it seems that the octopus has now wrapped itself around Chef Zacharian's head...it seems to have hold of Chef's glasses. This is a huge blow for our competitor, he's virtually blinded....
                  Chef Zacharian: gaaaakkkk help me....
                  AB" What's that??? over on the other side of Kitchen Stadium it seems that Chef Burrell's octopus is confused by her hair, and is trying to mate with her head...interesting development, as you know the life cycle of an octopus is exactly 125 days from mating to blah blah blah...
                  LOLOLOL

                  1. re: freia

                    Someone should make a variation of San Nak Ji (the Korean preparation of raw, squirming octopus tentacles seen in the Hollywood episode of Chefs vs City)

                    1. re: freia

                      re: freia - LOL!! And down to our favorite Canadian on the floor...............Kevin Brauch!!

                    2. re: FoodPopulist

                      The live octopus battle was one of the best ever on the original IC Japan.

            2. Blatant Top Chef ripoff.

              From Top Chef Masters:

              "IMPROV

              In an entertaining penultimate episode, the remaining four chefs’ senses of humor are put to the test. A trip to the storied improv comedy club, the Groundlings, gives the chefs 3 words of inspiration from which to create their dishes."

              15 Replies
                1. re: TrishUntrapped

                  I was trying to figure out which cooking contest had already done this and couldn't remember. It was driving me crazy. Thanks.

                  1. re: TrishUntrapped

                    In a sense- yes- because it was at a comedy club. But ingredients were not specified in that episode. This to me was more like an episode of "Chopped" where the contestants were given four random ingredients and had to make a dish using them.

                    1. re: lenwood

                      It seemed exactly like Chopped to me.

                      1. re: LurkerDan

                        It did to me too. I thought this episode was somewhat unbefitting to what Iron Chefs would do even when called upon to improvise.

                        1. re: huiray

                          I wonder how the current Iron Chefs would do in these challenges. Mark Forgione won the NIC but hasn't done well on the show. The other IC haven't been challenged. Maybe they could bring in an Iron Chef and have the others compete against him.

                          1. re: chowser

                            That's an interesting idea. Probably unlikely, however, even for a future TNIC - I suspect they might have a bit too much to lose if an IC got whupped!

                            In principle, though, it would fall into the category of "prove that you have the chops to judge others" etc. I remember one time (in my early adolescence) when I attended a piano recital with my folks where the performer was the judge (British lady) who had been judging/examining local students for their Grade exams/Performance exams. I remember one of the audience members saying to my mother that he wanted to see what she, who had just examined his daughter, was actually capable of. Any number of similar situations could be called up by folks, I imagine. :-)

                            1. re: huiray

                              if they keep having seasons of next iron chef, they're gonna need to have a showdown with the Iron Chefs at the end of the season where the winner takes on the chef they want to replace, or we'll have no more chefs to be challengers

                              cuz theyll all be iron chefs already!

                            2. re: chowser

                              Some of them have done poorly competing against Iron Chefs. Samuelsson and Zakarian both having double-digit losses on ICA is something that I hold against both of them. They are my bottom two of the remaining chefs.

                              1. re: FoodPopulist

                                For that matter, I myself am not 100% sure that Samuelsson was the correct person to win his season of TCM...but that's done with.

                          2. re: LurkerDan

                            I am really tired of these food competitions where chefs get, say, pickles, cheddar cheese, chicken liver and a sock and are told they have 20 minutes to make a dish. It's gimicky and does not display real-world cooking skills.

                            There are more creative ways to test for improvisation.

                            1. re: taos

                              See, like I posted above, I'm not sure how else to test creativity and ability to think on your feet with conventional food items. After all, at this level, they'd just be pulling old recipes out of their recipe book don't you think? This way, you can see if the chef has the ability to get it together under pressure with unfamiliar non-everyday items.
                              Now, I can sure see your POV when it comes to competitions that involve cooking out of a vending machine like they did on one Top Chef season (you have cheese puffs, a crunchie bar and a single serving pack of Kraft dinner, make a main course dish for 40 people...). But on this Iron Chef, it strikes me that the ingredient combos while unorthodox are really sorting the chefs out.
                              I can't think of any other way to sort them out...ideas?

                              1. re: freia

                                freia, you make a great point. I wasn't sure how I felt about these challenges with the ridiculous ingredients, but I think you are right. If they were given "standard" ingredients, we might not really find out who was the best true Iron Chef. making them use and pair ingredients that they otherwise wouldn't forces them all to be creative in ways they wouldn't otherwise be.

                              2. re: taos

                                Bah, that's too easy. liver cooked in sherry, chopped and mixed with pickles, cooled down and served on toast made from dough that incorporates ground sock, and topped with fried shredded cheddar. Served with a sock gratin and liver-pickle gravy.

                                Now, if the sock is argyle, that might be a bit more challenging.

                            2. re: lenwood

                              With 26 episodes so far, with titles like Ingenuity, Resourcefulness, Innovation, Inspiration, Transformation etc, some multiple times, wasn't it just a matter of time before they added Improvisation to the mix? This just combines the IC 'secret ingredient' idea with typical improvisational theater's audience participation.

                              This year's format, with a 'Chairmans challenge' followed by a 'bottom 2 battle', seems to downplay the remote site cooking. In this episode they got ingredient list from the club, but all the cooking and judging was at FN kitchens.

                              The stages for the next 2 episodes will be Grand Central Station NY, and an auction house.
                              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Next_Iro...

                          3. Honestly, I was rooting against Samuelson. I was disappointed that he wasn't one of the bottom two.

                              1. Marshmallow ash--that's the stuff that's so nasty on the marshmallow that we throw it out. I'm happy Falkner is doing well, though, and would love to see her win. She's cool and unflappable, plus it would be cool to see someone who is great at desserts in Iron Chef. It would bring a new dimension to the show.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: chowser

                                  I also used to hate the charred bits of marshmallow! Gak! But Falkner combined hers with some of the blue corn tortillas (fried chips?), so maybe the "burnt" taste got severely toned down....