Host Alton Brown believes that “The Next Iron Chef 3,” which premieres Sunday, Oct. 3 at 9 p.m. ET/PT, is definitely more difficult than the previous two seasons. Hear that, Chefs Michael Symon and Jose Garces? You had it easy.
“We know how to make them really hard by now,” Brown tells Zap2it. “It’s forcing the chefs to either cook in places that really are challenges for restaurant chefs, to cook with ingredients that they’ve probably not worked with before and to do a lot of reinterpretation of who they are as a cook. It forces them to do a lot of looking inward.
“So the tasks are more difficult. Some of them are just from a workload and time standpoint, absolutely grueling. I shudder to recall a few of them. I wouldn’t have made it. I may have made it to the third round.”
Finding the Chefs
A chef’s record, critical acclaim and placement in the food world are considered, but there are other factors that could stand in the way getting on the show. Some chefs aren’t willing to leave their restaurants for the duration of the competition. Some no longer have the skills to keep up.
“A lot of executive chefs aren’t good enough on the line anymore,” Brown observes. “If your skills — your knife skills, your line skills, your ability to move, your organizational skills — aren’t at the top of the game, you go down, and you go down hard. And a lot of executive chefs now, let’s face it, do photo shoots and TV and don’t do a lot of their own prep anymore.
Add to that needing to know “Iron Chef”-specific skills that are necessary for competition.
“The pressure cooker is the friend of the Iron Chef because it can fold time and space,” says Brown. “Not a tool that apparently a lot of classically trained restaurant chefs manage. It bites a few people this time. I’d say if there was a vessel of fear in this run, it’s the pressure cooker.”
The big time chefs risk a lot on the show, and if they lose, their business could suffer.
The Brave Ones
Ten chefs have signed on this time, and one name is a fairly big surprise: Ming Tsai. Not only is he already a well known Food Network personality, winning an Emmy for “East Meets West,” but he’s a veteran in the industry and even comments that he knows fellow competitor Marc Forgione’s dad, Larry Forgione (aka the Godfather of American cuisine).
“That’s a gutsy, gutsy thing to do because if you lose, man, that blows,” says Brown. “Some of the [other contestants] were very intimidated, but some of them were’t intimidated at all.”
Was there any hazing? Soap in a sock?
“If there was, I did not see it.”
Joining Tsai and Forgione are the following: Marco Canora (New York), Bryan Caswell (Houston), Maneet Chauhan (Chicago, New York), Mary Dumon (Cambridge, Mass.), Duskie Estes (Sonoma County, Calif.), Andrew Kirschner (Santa Monica, Calif.), Mario Pagan (Puerto Rico) and Celina Tio (Kansas City, Mo.).
This season, the theme is all-American.
“Doughnuts. You’re going to see doughnuts, you’re going to see diner food,” says Brown. “You’re going to see Vegas and Vegas’ influence on food and Los Angeles and that region’s effect on food. And you’re going to be seeing ingredients that you think of being specifically American: potatoes and turkey.”
In the season premiere, the chefs will be challenged to create sandwiches. Let’s just say that slapping together two pieces of bread, some meat and a spreadable form of condiment won’t cut the mustard. Later in the season, they’ll deal with the freshest proteins (i.e. it’s alive), grillin’ (but perhaps not chillin’) and proving their seduction skills.
Ice cream will come into play as well, but don’t expect anything too unusual.
“No one will be forced to put yak brains into an ice cream machine. Nope, no freak shows,” says Brown, before reiterating the difficulty of the challenges facing the chefs. “This is scary stuff.. In the end, I need the best person for the job up there. My fear has always been that I don’t want ‘Iron Chef America’ to be watered down. So you’ve got to have absolutely stinkin’ what it takes to be up there. You want to be up there? Earn it.”
Also read more from our interview with Alton Brown discussing his “Good Eats 2” book and the effect of the celebrity chef.
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Photo credits: Food Network