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**SPOILERS** Your next Iron Chef, redemption style, is ...

... Alex Guarnaschelli.

Amanda advances with chicken.

Alex squeaks by with urchin.

In Kitchen Stadium, Alex takes the cake in no small part to her sour cream ice cream with chili cherry tart dessert.

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  1. Jeez Food Network, way to insult the viewers. It was obvious from the get-go that either Alex or Amanda were going to win. And since Alex has been playing sous chef for Zakarian most of this past season, it was almost a forgone conclusion... I lost interest once Faulkner was booted off.

    Meh.

    1. If Nate Appleman had cooked like the second coming of Flay or Morimoto he still would have been booted off. It was clear that Guarnaschelli had the third best dish. Although I have watched this 'contest', I rarely watch ICA, so the outcome doesn't really matter to all that much.

      4 Replies
      1. re: John E.

        It was clear that Guarnaschelli had the third best dish.
        __________________

        How was that "clear"?

        Do you have Plato's third eye?

        1. re: ipsedixit

          Thanks for the reminder. I gotta pull that splinter out of my forehead...

          Merry Christmas!

        2. re: John E.

          I didn't think it was "clear," John. I was surprised she beat Amanda, but only because I thought Amanda was "the chosen one."

          1. re: chicgail

            I was referring to the initial round of cooking when all three of them were competing. I knew Guarnaschelli was going to be the IC because of the comments on her dessert.

            Merry Christmas!

        3. Surprise, surprise @who won...... Not!
          And the "I really need to win this", "I've got this won" etc etc in those confessionals had me slowly yawning. How many times can one say/hear, I really really really need to become the next IC.

          2 Replies
          1. re: RUK

            Usually when an episode is edited so that se hear someone talking repeatedly about how important it is that they win, it is a clue that they are NOT going to win.

          2. Reminds me of the following line from Casablanca: "I'm shocked, shocked I tell you, to find that gambling is going on in here."

            1. I'm with you all - no surprise as it was clear from the beginning they were putting Alex in the ICA spot. Given that the top chefs in the US would never become ICAs, I've never taken the competition seriously but I have enjoyed seeing some really talented chefs compete and some interesting ones win. This time (and actually last) it was all just clearly a FN promo piece and so dull and rather unsavory.

              No more for me.

              1. Yep. No surprises here. I did hold on to a small glimmer of hope that Freitag would make it but when Alex won I just rolled my eyes.

                It was increasingly obvious in the last few shows that the judging criteria wasn't being evenly applied to all the chefs. When Marcel lost to Alex in last week's showdown even though his white chocolate risotto was by far the most iron-chef worthy and winning dish that evoked rave reviews from the judges while Alex merely grated chocolates on her dishes, I knew at that point the whole competition was rigged to get Alex win.

                As it is I have no renewed interest in watching the regular ICA programs.

                1. Speaking of Top Chef

                  It was interesting to see that two of the sous chefs were former cheftestants from that other show.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: C. Hamster

                    I noticed Ashley from TC 6 right away. It took a little longer to recognize Arfiane from TC 5.

                  2. What a cynical bunch! Though I also had Guarnaschelli pegged early on. I don't mind; Amanda bugs me anyway.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: guilty

                      I have the opposite view. Guarnaschelli bugs me, but since I've never seen her Saturday show and I don't watch Chopped it's easy to avoid her (with the exception of this show).

                    2. LA Times take on this win
                      http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/...

                      http://www.eonline.com/news/373777/th...

                      "The last winner of The Next Iron Chef was Geoffrey Zakarian, who is another fellow Chopped judge. Did he give you any advice on how to get to the end?

                      ...We've all judged each other.... I think Geoffrey considers his own credibility, his own objectiviety, above anything else, just as Amanda and I do.

                      You are Geoffrey's sous chef when he competes on Iron Chef. Do you think that helped you to prepare for this season?
                      No, it made no difference. Because it doesn't matter what you do. It only matters how you feel inside."

                      http://blog.foodnetwork.com/fn-dish/2...

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: paulj

                        In the LA TImes article, they say "She said it was both an advantage and disadvantage that she ended up in the final three with Nate and Amanda. "They go way back together, they are good friends," and they seemingly had an alliance"

                        I didn't see anything that indicated there was an alliance between Freitag and Appelman, did I miss something?

                        1. re: Joanie

                          In one episode (after Spike/Marcel as I recall) Freitag and Appelman were shown being generous with equipment or ingredients to one another and there was some grumbling about an alliance. I think there was all of two minutes screen time spent on it.

                      2. Alex Guarnaschelli. I'm so shocked...umm wait no. Maybe just because I have a crush on Duskie Estes. That being said nothing I have seen her produce makes me want to track her down and taste her food. My true feeling is how do we get more of our stable of chefs on other shows...package deal lower costs Food Channel Win. Chopped, Best Thing I ate, Iron Chef Trifecta(SP). now if we can only find something to do with the Neely's and Aaron Sanachez:)

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: chris2269

                          The Neely's should have a Maury type daytime show.

                          I'm not sure what to do with Aaron...

                        2. Saw some great food, and regardless I rarely miss ICA.

                          But from the Get Go with Zakarian as the Judge I was pretty sure, like the rest of you it was in the bag for Alex.

                          I was sure it would be a women with Kat Cora no longer on ICA.

                          13 Replies
                          1. re: sparky403

                            Zakarian's comments (edited no doubt) did not show any bias in favor of Alex. We have no evidence that he favored her in the votes. Also there weren't many cases were one person's vote determined whether Alex stayed or not. Other than the final one, she only participated in one cookoff, and won only one challenge
                            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Next...

                            1. re: paulj

                              The fact that within the Iron Chef world Alex has served as Zakarian's sous chef reflects a lack of impartiality.

                              Whether or not that ever came into his judging or not, it's impossible not to call it into question. Similarly if a judge in a court of law was presiding over a case involving a relation or close friend they'd have to recuse themselves. Not because they couldn't be an impartial judge - but because the impartiality would always be in doubt.

                              Also while Alex was only in one cookoff, you could argue that she should have been in two (the peppermint/chicken liver challenge) but that a potentially friendly score from one judge had her be third from the bottom as opposed to in the bottom two.

                              Ultimately with Cat Cora leaving, the feeling that they would *need* a woman to replace her combined with Zakarian judging - this season just left a far more "rigged" feeling than previous seasons.

                              1. re: cresyd

                                People were saying it had to be a woman last season.

                                1. re: cresyd

                                  Cat Cora hasn't appeared on ICA since season 9, Marc Forgione and Geoffrey Zarkarian been named IC's since then. We are in Season 11 now.

                                  1. re: LikestoEatout

                                    Exactly. People were making the same "it has to be a woman" predictions last season and possibly even the one before, and both times men won.

                                    And while Alex has been Geoffrey's sous-chef, he's also connected to Amanda, who's been his co-judge on Chopped. So they're all so inter-linked that it basically brings them back to the same level.

                                    1. re: piccola

                                      Personally, I don't see there being the same relationship between being co-judges as there is in having someone be your sous-chef. To choose someone as your sous-chef in that environment, there's first the element of "you have a style of cooking that compliments what I like and I approve its quality", and second he's worked with her in a kitchen which forges a different type of relationship. Being judges together on a panel involves the producers of Chopped assigning you to work together.

                                      In general cooking competitions require the perception of judging to be fair far more than a show like Project Runway simply because the viewer at home can never actually taste what's made. Also, with NIC - the prize is partially about cooking and taste, but largely just about being on TV. Which is always going to bring to mind greater doubt that winning is just about the food.

                                      In another thread about the new cooking competition show, "The Taste" where dishes are tasted blind, I commented that I really didn't see what value could be brought to the competition by not knowing people's personal stories/backgrounds. Well, I will admit being wrong and say that in the NIC case I think blind tasting (not being blindfolded but just not knowing who made what dish) would have had a value.

                                2. re: paulj

                                  comment postd in wrong place sorry Delete

                                  1. re: paulj

                                    Say what you will - But when one of the chosen (zakarian) is Judging his Sous Chef - It certainly doesn;t give an air of impartaility now does it? Coincidence is very very hard for me to belive on this one...

                                    Further, sinse Kat Cora is no longer there - it was a no brainer that the next chef would be a woman - Surprise it was.

                                    It seemed like fulkner really wanted it and it's too bad she didn't make it.. The faces of the judges when they kicked her off told the story..

                                    1. re: sparky403

                                      Friendship between judge and contestant can work two ways. 'I want xxx to win, so I'm going to vote for her', or 'People expect me to favor xxx, so I'm going to try extra hard to be fair and impartial (even to the point of being overly critical).'

                                      As Alex said in one interview, they have all judged each other. They have all competed against each other. In the previous season 2nd to the last episode, Zakarian won, Alex lost. The final battle was between Zakarian and Falkner, with Alex being the chosen 15 minute assistant for both. They also competed in the holiday showdown with relatives (Alex and her mom won)

                                      At the start I thought Alex had an advantage because she had been a Sous - more because of the experience than the friendship. However in one interview she didn't think it made much of a difference. Amanda was my preference, mostly because of a cheerful disposition.

                                      I don't see how network executives, show producers, or judges can steer the outcome, nor why they would want to.

                                      The trailer for the ICA competition shows Alex against Judy Jo, the IC UK chef, who was judge last season. Any they sort of blame for voting Alex off. Of course that sort of talk is aimed more a generating interest than anything else. Alex said that that battle came right on the heels of winning NICA, so Judy had been chosen as challenger much earlier.

                                      1. re: paulj

                                        Exactly right, re Zakarian judging Alex. Who is to say he favored her? He might have been harder on her? And he's clearly friendly with Freitag too, how does that affect his judging?

                                        I don't believe I am a naive person, and I believe that the judging was done based on the food. I don't see any evidence otherwise, and I don't see any reason for them to do otherwise. I mean, is Alex so much more telegenic that the fix had to be in? Honestly, I preferred Freitag mostly because she has a more pleasant personality. Why would the FN be so dead set on Alex that they would rig the whole thing and risk the credibility of all of those chefs? It doesn't make any sense (and the fact that people say "they needed a woman, it was obvious a woman was winning" is just absurd and ignores everything that happened in previous discussions).

                                        Confirmation bias is raging through this thread.

                                        1. re: paulj

                                          I am not talking black helicopters and foil hats mind you (not that you were saying I was - I just like the phrase).

                                          I doubt the fix was in - but subconsciously it would be easy to be less subjective if you were pulling for one chef over the other - as it seemed the dishes were all amazing, this to me seems the most likely.

                                          I don't really like alex's show (Alex's day off). She seems sorta partronizing. But she did prove to be a very fierce compititor - she definitely can cook. Either lady would of been great and I think they both earned it - only one won.

                                          1. re: sparky403

                                            Oh, I agree that it is possible that Zakarian was subconsciously favoring Alex, but we don't really know, and in any case this isn't a court of law so I don't really care. I'm satisfied if he simply consciously tried to be fair. In any case, there were at least 5 other people weighing in (not sure if Alton or the Chairman vote) so even if he was biased, it likely wouldn't have swung the whole thing.

                                        2. re: sparky403

                                          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_...
                                          Chopped, series 11, episode 11 in the All-Stars set
                                          Judges:
                                          Geoffrey Zakarian
                                          Amanda Freitag
                                          Aarón Sánchez

                                          Contestants:
                                          Chris Santos (eliminated after the appetizer)
                                          Marc Murphy(eliminated after the entrée)
                                          Alex Guarnaschelli (eliminated after the dessert)
                                          Marcus Samuelsson(advances to final round) (winner)

                                          First aired April 2012, playing again tonight

                                          In the previous All Stars tournament, episode 76 had the reversal of roles. Aaron won that one.

                                          Appleman won the earlier AllStars Tournament, Samuelsson the 2nd.

                                    2. Guarnaschelli... really?

                                      Soooo many others I think should've or could've won.

                                      Faulkner
                                      Mehta
                                      Appleman
                                      Vigneron (even though he's annoying and says "like" to much he grew on me and cooked some interesting food)
                                      Freitag

                                      Like so many have said in the various NIC threads selecting someone like Guarnaschelli doesn't really bring anything new to the show. She cooks the typical food that so many of the other Iron Chef's already cook. Mehta, Faulkner and Vigneron would have brought something new (Indian, Pastry, Molecular) to the fold.

                                      Honestly, I'm not sure why I watch. I got sucked in last season but the gimmicky challenges, uneven judging, shameless product placement and odd, inconsistently advantageous rewards for winning challenges has gotten pretty old.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: virtualguthrie

                                        If you think product placement on NICA is shameless, you never have watched Top Chef.

                                        1. re: paulj

                                          Truer words have never been spoken.

                                          I'm surprised The Elves don't require a sponsorship fee of some kind every time one of uses the term "Top Chef" on these boards ....

                                      2. I've been rooting for Alex from Day 1 so I was happy to see her win. That said Frietag was my #2 choice so I would have been pleased to see her win as well. Anyone but Mehta or Faulkner!

                                        1. Was the "fix" in? I doubt it, unless Alex G signed a contract years ago obligating FN to make her an Iron Chef one day.

                                          Looked at logically.... She seems to be the weakest of the chefs, is fairly unattractive & cooks food that seems to be less tasty. She lacks gravitas. Why would FN want that for an IC?

                                          If I were FN, the fix sure as hell would've been in and it would've been Faulkner, Mehta, or maybe Vigneron or Appleman.

                                          1. I for one am very pleased Alex won. I do think it was well deserved. As for her being a sous chef for Zak, wasnt that lady with the wild hair also a sous chef for Mario and she didn't make it as an iron chef when she competed.

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: dolly52

                                              I don't think Zakarian was biased or that the fix was in for Alex, but to be fair Mario Batali was not a judge when Anne Burrell (aka "that lady with the wild hair") was a contestant.

                                              1. re: dolly52

                                                This descrition of Zakarian's 1st battle mentions Alex several times
                                                http://blog.chron.com/tubular/2011/12...

                                                "Oh look – Chef Alex Guarnaschelli is one of Iron Chef Zakarian’s sous chefs. I wonder if she will be a regular (like Anne Burrell was with Iron Chef Batali)?
                                                ....
                                                The Iron Chef is utilizing her like he did during his final battle with Chef Falkner, letting her take on at least one of the dishes with minimal supervision.
                                                ....
                                                Fifteen minutes to go, and no plates down? Iron Chef Zakarian and Chef Guarnaschelli are going back and forth over whether a dish (the soup, I think) is cooked enough or not. Is their honeymoon over?"

                                              2. Alex is witty and ornery and her unpredictable personna fits well on television. Having said that I am sure she will up her game on ICA and kick some butt. She is one competetive intelligent creative woman who IMO could do stand up comedy as a side line.

                                                1. Two things: judging should be "blind" (judges don't know who prepared which dish), and cheftestants should cook using the same ingredient(s).

                                                  7 Replies
                                                  1. re: Mayor of Melonville

                                                    Eh. TNIC never claims to be fair, impartial or a good test of cooking. Its a silly show that leads into another silly show. Brilliant programming, so long as the outcome is as good as who they would've picked on their own.

                                                    The mystery to me is how they manage to go though all this expense to arrive at the least interesting winner.

                                                    1. re: sal_acid

                                                      I don't think that TNIC ever claimed to be unfair or a spoof. If anything the whole part of the Iron Chef saga (going back to the original in Japan) was that it took itself very seriously. If anything, I think the US version has toned down some of the gravitas that at times did spill over into the cheesey - but there was always this premise that this presented a serious show about food.

                                                      Where I think a lot of the suspicion regarding the winner is, is due to the fact that the prize is being on another TV show. As the prize is that, it's far more likely to suspect "producer meddling" - as the producers are essentially stuck with the winner.

                                                      I like cooking competition shows generically, and while I don't need them to be at Olympic level drug testing fairness levels - I need to at least be able to tell myself there's a level of fairness I can buy into.

                                                      1. re: cresyd

                                                        Yep. That's why Alex as a winner is somewhat odd given that when you consider the Iron Chef style of cooking is taking secret ingredients and using it in unconventional ways, hence "thinking outside the box," or to use a cheezy phrase, "to go boldly where no man has gone." Granted, it's been years since I saw a regular Iron chef program but back when Batali was still an Iron chef I did watch quite a few and the judges were always harping on about transforming secret ingredients in ways a cook would normally never do. Chefs who hewed to true and tried recipes, no matter how wonderful it may have been, usually lost to the more creative chefs.

                                                        Alex is no doubt an excellent cook but of the contestants on the NIC, especially the final six or eight, she was the most cautious and conventional and yet ultimately beat the more innovate and creative cooks. I can only think of one dish that may have been truly innovative - the chili cherry tart in the final. That Alex won when more creative chefs lost is the puzzling aspect of this NIC that's causing many of us to consider the possibility that the whole show was rigged, although I will agree that the second puzzle is if the show is going to be rigged, then why Alex or not Faulkner or someone else who cooked much more in the style of Iron chefs? One way or another the current format and judging criteria of NIC is seriously flawed.

                                                        1. re: Roland Parker

                                                          My grassy knoll/conspiracy theory-self has guessed that the producing powers at be wanted to go with the most 'known television quantity'. In the Alex/Amanda toss-up, both have a lot of on screen time, particularly with the larger Food Network family.

                                                          To argue the other side though, I think a very valid argument would be that Marcel could have drawn the most attention had he won. He could serve as a polarizing/villain type, and it would be easy to ham up rivalries between him and challengers. Also, while he has a greater history of TV than just Top Chef, there's the potential for him to (possibly) bring over some Top Chef fans to Food Network who perhaps have been lost/never had.

                                                      2. re: Mayor of Melonville

                                                        That may be optimal for fairness, but isn't that great for TV entertainment. Things like chili cookoffs are done that way, but few, if any, of the made-for-tv contests.

                                                        1. re: paulj

                                                          True for the blind judging, but on ICA they cook with the same "secret ingredient", no?

                                                      3. Alex had the edge because she's sous chefed in the competition many times and knows the drill. I'm not saying it's unfair, though. I do think Freitag was far more creative in putting all the flavors in one dish. She was dinged for not making the shiso stronger in the dish w/ the burrata but wouldn't that easily overpower the burrata if she had used more? And is chili and cherries really that unusual in a tart? I wish Freitag had won. There's something fake about Alex--she seems to "act" at having fun, even when she's jumping up and down. Freitag is pleasant but I could see her bordering on boring to some viewers.

                                                        1. Interview with AG at Reality Blurred, posted here mainly for the "how it's done" insight:

                                                          ”We have to prepare the food for all four plates, and then you can just reheat certain elements. So when time is up, you’ve made enough for more than just that one plate, and when it’s your turn to be judged, you warm up the rest of what you’ve made and serve it to the judges,” she said. “It’s what they call a reheat. You can’t clean one piece of shrimp and then when it’s time to cook for the judges, clean the other shrimp. It all has to be ready to go.” She also talks briefly about the Chopped conflicts of interest.

                                                          http://www.realityblurred.com/reality...