Recap: Episode 5 of The Next Iron Chef

Last time out, Duskie Estes and Maneet Chauhan were both on the bottom, and that is a position that, as Chauhan said, "sucked big time." It sucked more for Estes, as she was booted from The Next Iron Chef.

Forget about whom the Next Iron Chef will be -- I gotta see what kind of retro garb Alton Brown will try to impress us with this week.

Ming Tsai is with headband. He is also with annoying.

Since the episode's on Halloween, what better way to get in the spirit than to give everyone... potatoes as the secret ingredient for the first challenge?

There is an army truck filled with spuds in the studio, and an army man gets out. He heads some center for military culinary excellence. I thought the army's policy on food is that we don't ask what they eat and they won't tell.

The chefs have 45 minutes to peel a meal.

Yes, the first controversy of the episode. Bryan Caswell steals all the truffles, and Ming wanted some. He then self-bleeps himself on cursing him out. In this Battle Potato, Ming Tsai is the Dan Quayle.

It seems that sweet potatoes are a popular choice.

Tsai makes a sweet potato risotto, and it gets roundly bashed for not being respectful of the sweet potato.

So you take one melon baller, take six different kinds of potatoes and a little butter, and what do you get? A hit with the chefs and the army man. Marco Canora's butter-poached goodness is well received.

Boy, that army man judge is a little stiff. I guess if you eat enough potatoes, you don't need to put extra starch on the uniform. Ha. Thanks, I'll be here all week.

Chauhan gets a little redemption with her potato ravioli and lemon grass sauce.

I like tater tots. I eat tater tots. Caswell makes tots and gets a little Ming ribbing for making a purple potato vinaigrette. Not sure if tots would win an Iron Chef competition.

Again, though Caswell doesn't win the challenge, he doesn't lose either and the winner is declared. Yes, Marco Canora is Mr. Potato Head.

In the Chairman's Challenge, the chefs have to show respect for America by cooking their way across the country.

North, south, east and west, and they have to cook one dish from each. Fried possum from the south for Caswell? We'll see.

Canora gets first crack at the ingredients in the kitchen, and he takes lots of good-looking fish and ribs. Marc Forgione lost the last challenge, so he has to sit there and wait while the others pick over the fridge.

The Big Caz's menu breaks down like so:

  • South: Snapper and collard greens
  • North: Waldorf salad with tarragon mayo
  • West: Watermelon gazpacho with charred peppers
  • East: Crawfish and grits

Sounds delicious and basic to me. Also, his eastern selection sounds more south to me. Hope it doesn't come back to hurt him.

For the record, yes, I am pulling for Caswell. This isn't like a political reporter making a biased statement on the news or something. I guess I am more like a home sports announcer who pulls for the team he is announcing for just a little too hard.

Burn, baby, burn. Celina Tio hopes to set the world ablaze with her cooking but not with her charred rice and scorched butterscotch sauce.

Ming Tsai is the anti-Caswell, or anti-tater tot, if you will. His stuff sounds so damn convoluted. I respect the talent it takes to Cryovac something, but it just doesn't make me want to eat it. He is also a nerd.

While watching this, my wife actually says, "Ming Tsai is pretty hot." Does anyone know the number of a quality divorce attorney? We are soul mates no longer.

It's dueling New England clam chowders as both Chauhan and Forgione selected that as their choice from the north.

We also will have collard greens two ways as Caswell and Forgione are making fish and greens. Forgione chooses halibut, though, which don't seem so Southern to me, boy.

Jose Garces, winner of the last Iron Chef competition, is your special guest judge.

Chauhan gets poor reviews for her choices, including a salad in an avocado skin. She also made a Louisiana bread pudding, and I can see raisins in it. That is an unforgivable sin to me. Let's ban all fruit in bread pudding right now.

Despite my dislike for all things Tsai, he looks to be an early frontrunner. The judges love the hoisin glaze on the quail from the south. The butter-poached scallops also perk them up. The judges love him now, my wife loves him now, this may be my last N.I.C. wrap, as I am contemplating a move to some faraway happy place.

Marco Canora seemed pretty confident as he was cooking, and with good reason. His raw Western salad bowls em' over, and his lamb chop is perfect.

Mixed reviews for Chef Tio, as her dirty rice could have been dirtier.

Up now is Caswell, and the city o' Houston can breathe a sigh of relief as it is apparent that he will not be going back to the Bayou City. He can also wipe the tremendous amount of dew from his brow. They love his Waldorf salad, the gazpacho and the fish and greens. We learn in the judging session that Caz's grandmother's name was Bertie Bee. Maybe the chronic sweating is a genetic thing.

In the deliberation, we hear the judges note that Forgione's halibut was the worst dish of the day and that Chauhan didn't impress at all. We also learn that again Caswell wasn't their favorite but wasn't the worst either. This is a continuing theme for him throughout the show.

Tsai and Canora are at the top, but Tsai is the top of the top. See, he takes off the headband and he wins.

This is the first time that Forgione has been in the bottom two and Maneet Chauhan is joining him. It's not surprising that Chauhan gets the boot, though.

Next time the remaining five earn a trip to Vegas, baby. Vegas.

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