On the previous episode of The Next Iron Chef, Maneet Chauhan was finally put out of her misery. Nice lady, interesting choices, but just not consistent enough to get the job done.
We also learned that in this episode that two of the final five would be getting the ax. If I have to guess right this second who they'll be, I'll say Bryan Caswell and Marc Forgione. That is a total guess, but here are my reasons why the other three won't be picked: Marco Canora has been a beast down the stretch and has wowed the judges more often than anyone else. Celina Tio will be kept because she is almost always solid, doesn't make stupid mistakes and is the last remaining female contestant. Ming Tsai will still be around because he has, hidden under his mattress, those photos of Mario Batali's secret weekend retreat with Bobby Flay. So much hair, so much hair.
All other chefs come out in clothes that would look appropriate for an evening at Sawyer Park. I will say, though, Tio cleans up pretty well. Do those legs go all the way to the top? Pastry ninja Jean Philippe Maury is in the kitchen when the chefs come in Superman-like transformed into their chef clothes. They find out they will have to make an "inspirational" desert that includes chocolate for a fancy wedding party in less than two hours.
Canora, Caswell and Tsai are all doing a cream puff tower. Tio decides to do something with a grapefruit and chocolate gel, while Forgione is doing a chocolate and peanut butter parfait.
Our first food fight of the night occurs when Tsai opens the oven door to put his pastry in while Canora's are already cooking steady at the right temperature. It appears he did it on purpose.
They all struggle -- and all consider giving their respective restaurant's pastry chefs a raise -- but they all do get the job done.
Onto the judging where Caswell's tower of chocolate cream and caramel gets a lukewarm reception, at best.
Pastry chef Maury likes Ming's creation, but Caswell throws a dart about the caramel being too crunchy.
It's Marco Canora's turn, and Chef Maury goes all Frenchy on him, saying that the best thing about his offering is the raspberries ... by themselves. The judge then smokes a tiny cigarette and touches his special lady's underarm hair.
Chef Tio goes in front of the judging panel and gets raked as well. It seems like nobody is willing to admit anyone else did a passable job in this challenge.
When it is all said and done, though, Ming comes out the winner.
We learn the elimination challenge will be a Las Vegas-style buffet. In three hours, the contestants have to prepare three hot and two cold dishes that will be served to a group of VIPs. Because he won the last challenge, Ming gets an extra minute to pick ingredients. Because it is a buffet, it has me pondering Golden Corral. Acceptable occasional guilty pleasure, or scourge of the culinary world? Discuss.
Caswell is being featured in the little interview segments way more than any other chef, and that has me worried. I really hope it's not a, get-a-look-at-him-now-ladies-cause-he'll-be-gone-soon thing. Say what you want, commenters, there is not a thing in the world wrong with me pulling for a guy that pulls for Houston like Bryan Caswell does.
I have to say it's kind of exciting and fascinating to listen to the chefs break down what they will put on their buffet. Lots of items sound good: Forgione's coconut curry-braised veal cheek, Canora's "seafood salad," which is really a scallop carpaccio, Tsai's pho with marrow duck necks and butter-poached rib eye, Caswell's chili-braised pork butt, and Tio's fresh ricotta dumplings.
Not shocking that Tsai sandbags the competition by messing up the Cryovac with a coconut milk explosion.
The three hours also include setting up the buffet stations, and the chefs are all flat stressed.
Forgione is up first, and his veggie consommé gets raves; the veal cheek is a little over salted.
Tsai's tour of Asia is well-received, and he knocks it out of the park with his Singapore-style chicken and rice, but his pineapple pork doesn't win them over.
Caswell lumbers forward and presents his Gulf Coast-style buffet, and while his barbecue crabs are critiqued for being all spice and no crab flavor (that pretty much is a barbecue crab, though, right?), no judge can think of anything bad to say about his ribs. There is also nary a bad word said about anything Tio puts out. Cauliflower soup and slow-roasted salmon with a cider dressing are the tops.
Finally it's Marco Canora's turn. His eggplant parm surprises the judges, as does his herby pork loin. All bow to the power of the ponytail.
Deliberation time, and we hear that Caswell wasn't the worst and wasn't the best. It's been a familiar theme with him, as he hasn't won any single challenge throughout the show.
You never know with editing, but it seems like the judges can't decide who to send home between Tsai and Forgione. I'm still sticking to my Caswell and Forgione pick for getting the boot.
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SHOW ME HOW
The announcement that Canora has won the challenge isn't a real surprise. Now to the losers.
Caswell gets a ticket home first. The judges felt his dishes battled each other and nothing really stood out. See ya Houston, it will not be as entertaining a show for sure. Helluva run, sir.
Forgione is at the bottom of judge Simon Majumdar's list, Tio is at the bottom of Donatella Arpaia's list and Ming Tsai is at the bottom of Michael Symon's list.
Since it was a three-way tie, it is up to host Alton Brown to make the decision, and he "decides" to do nothing, all three get to stay. I'm effing pissed. They say a tie is like kissing your sister, and it couldn't be more accurate.