Welcome to another exciting episode of The Next Iron Chef, where the Houston food community gathers, hoping for a win for an Iron Chef who has a real passion for this sometimes underdog Texas city. And where Ming Tsai acts like a tool. By the way, did you hear when "Ming" called into 1560 The Game this past week? Brilliant.
At the top we are reminded that Mary Dumont was kicked off last week and that Bryan Caswell was called a ballerina.
Ming Tsai comes in wearing his Karate Kid headband. That just means more opportunities to make fun of him. Will there be waxing on and off in this first challenge?
The theme of the first challenge is transformation. In this case it is ordinary condiments that they must morph into something Iron Chef-y. Marco Canora gets to choose first and dole out the goodies to everyone else. He takes mayo and gives Caswell ketchup.
Maneet Chauhan gets stuck with ranch dressing, which gives me an opportunity to come out of the condiment closet. I really don't like ranch. There, I said it. My wife loves it, and even has her favorite places that make their own. Blech.
Caswell is doing some sort of cocktail sauce consommé, or ketchup water, as Kenneth Ellen Parcell might call it.
Chef Tio has said in the past that she doesn't like hot sauce, and that's what she is stuck with as her ingredient, of course. She's making a fresh ricotta using the vinegar in the sauce. Me want.
It's steak sauce for Tsai. He describes what he is making. I have no clue what he is talking about. I think the headband is on too tight.
They all judge Caswell first, and his ketchup shrimp cocktail shot with pickled cucumber it is a hit. It also looks suspiciously like something on the menu at REEF (and, oh man, is it good).
Chauhan makes a lemon and ranch mousse. Vomit. In. Mouth.
Canora does a mayo chocolate pudding, and as strange as that sounds, I think I could handle that. Everyone else seems to agree that it's pretty tasty. Chef Canora, Bill Cosby on line two for you.
Marc Forgione gets tepid marks for his barbecue sauce pasta sauce.
Everyone loves Tio's ricotta and she wins. Chauhan's ranch days are over, and she will ride into the sunset as the loser for this challenge. I mean, c'mon, ranch mousse?
So it's another challenge in which Caswell doesn't lose and doesn't win. Is he playing possum? Let's hope so.
The chairman appears on TV and tells everyone they are going to the county fair. I swear that chairman dude frequents bars on Washington Avenue.
Alton Brown appears at the San Diego County Fair in a carnival barker's outfit. Here's to hoping he crams a corn dog or fried Twinkie in that pie hole. I'm starting to worry he will just wilt away otherwise.
All seven remaining chefs get to grab a basket and go shopping in all the concession stands around the fair. They have 30 minutes to do this and are all sprinting around the midway.
They all gather as many raw or fresh ingredients they can find and hoof it back to the cook site. They are all sucking wind when they get there. Caswell is wearing a Little Big's logo cap, and that thing is going to be sweatier than a Dom DeLuise armpit in a minute.
The rules state they have to have one dish on a stick, one has to be fried and one has to be grilled.
I like the sound of Estes's grilled calamari gyro, Tio's funnel cake moon pie, and Forgione's fried cheeseburger.
I don't like the sound of Chauhan's avacado chocolate beignet, Canora's tomato salad stick, and Caswell's corn sno cone.
The grill goes from stone cold to surface-of-the-sun-hot in seconds. Kind of like my wife when, in the middle of a fight, I bring up the fact that years ago she threw car keys at my face to justify anything else I may have done wrong.
Canora gets rave reviews for his healthy approach to the fair with stuff like grilled shrimp and lightly fried chicken. He is looking like a top contender.
Marc Forgione makes a deep-fried root beer float, and I'm gonna go ahead and book his reservation at the State Fair of Texas right now.
Ming has his deconstructed banana split deal and, in telling the judges how to eat it with a straw, he says, "suck and suck hard." Again, "suck and suck hard." Once more, "suck and suck hard." I really hope my editor leaves in all three of those.
Caswell is up, and it seems like for the first time on the show, he is taking some criticism. Not the best marks for his cilantro corn sno cone, and his plate just doesn't look that striking. One judge does comment that he is bold, though. So he's gotten "bold" and "ballerina" in consecutive episodes. I feel like that could be the treatment for some movie staring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson.
That moon pie funnel cake of Tio's sounds wonderful, and the judges agree.
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Cut back to the studio, where the judges are discussing the misses for the night. First up is the grey and green abomination known as the cilantro and charred corn sno cone. If this is the item that gets Caswell kicked off the show, I hope he starts serving it at Big's and calls it Crash and Burned Corn.
They also don't like the fried burger from Forgione and most everything from Chauhan. When the top dogs are announced, though, it is Canora, Forgione and Caswell. The winner is Tio, and with that funnel cake it should be no surprise.
After failing on her caramel apple and giving the judges a partially raw fried pie, Duskie Estes is kicked off.
Six left now and if I were a betting man I would say the final four at the end will be Caswell, Canora, Tio and Forgione. Suck it, Ming. Suck it hard.