Last night was the finale of The Next Iron Chef and as was to be expected, was completely intense and intensely goofy. I don’t understand how it can possible be such a serious thing to be an Iron Chef, but simultaneously not crack up over the Chairman, who widens his eyes and bites whole green peppers and things. I don’t watch the actual cooking show.
But I do watch the reality show. It came down to the final two, Chef Elizabeth Falkner, a primarily pastry chef from San Francisco who surprised everyone in the competition with her creative cooking, including cream cheese ice cream atop a bagel and a tuna jerkey soufflé. She was a self-described dark horse throughout the competition.
Her competitor, Chef Geoffrey Zacharian, was the clear frontrunner from the very beginner, although at first he wasn’t interested in following the rules. In one of the first challenges, Zacharian bypassed the rule of making food for a baseball game by making a highfalutin breakfast served in the box at a baseball game. Zacharian was probably the most technically masterful chef in the competition, and his technique certainly helped him into the finale.
For the winning challenge, the Chairman reveals that the chefs need to prepare a Christmas dinner using the ingredients of candy canes, squash, rack of lamb and other seasonal ingredients. Throughout the competition, he introduces three additional “gifts” that they must incorporate into their dinners: an ice cream machine, cranberries and a seasonal cocktail. As a bonus, both chefs get to use Chef Alex Guaranschelli for 15-minutes during the competition to assist.
Falkner’s meal is creative as is to be expected. She makes an unusual and favorite dish of the evening with a cranberry sorbet atop a bed of frozen greens. The judges’ favorite dish from her is a chocolate cake with a peppermint ice cream and what she calls a peppermint snow. She also makes a killer Beef Wellington.
Zacharian’s menu is amazingly well thought out for the hour that they have for preparation. He makes little cubes of meat, potatoes and parsnip wrapped in little green strings to look like packages. I thought it was pretty gimmicky, but the judges seemed to like it. He made a crisped brussel sprouts dish that the judges said could make a believer out of anybody.
In the end, there was no surprise twist crowning Chef Falkner the winner. We could see it coming a mile away: Chef Zacharian is the newest Iron Chef.