Well, the Next Iron Chef is Jose Garces, proprietor of six restaurants in Philadelphia and Chicago and dubbed (insulted?) by some as "the Latin Emeril," who over the past weeks blew off nine other chefs from around the country and last night edged New York toque/pastry chef Jehangir Mehta to join the "veritable pantheon of culinary giants" in the Food Network's Albert Speer-by-way-of-Disney World Kitchen Stadium.
A few thoughts on the battle of, if not the ages, at least 9 p.m. on Sunday night.
• Garces deserved to win, because, one, flavor and execution are always more important than "creativity," as anyone who's had to choke down the multiculti slop dished up by too many SoFla chefs in the name of pushing the culinary envelope can attest, and, two, Mehta is just way too weird.
• Mehta is weird, and you gotta bet that figured into the
judges' decision. This is television, you know, so it's really not all
about the talent. Beauty may only be skin deep, but ugly goes all the
way down to the lower intestine. Whether viewers really want to root
for someone who looks like an ethnic Montgomery Burns cackling over
foreclosing on Marge and Homer while selling Lisa into white slavery is
a question the Food Network probably didn't want to risk asking.
Can we please sub out the endlessly mediocre Cat Cora for the ballsy,
talented Amanda Freitag? The woman can flat-out cook, and Cora could
make habanero mouthwash taste like oatmeal.
• Nate Appleman got jobbed. The guy is really fucking good.
• Jeffrey Steingarten is a dick. I mean, how many different ways can you say it? Dick, dick, dick, dick, dick.
Interesting food fight at the end between the two pairs of
judges--Steingarten (aka, Dickman), Donatella Arpaia and Anya Fernald
vs. Bobby Flay, Michael Symon and Masaharu Morimoto. The former liked
Mehta for his ability to wow their taste buds with eccentric flavor
combinations, even if he did serve raw pigburgers and french fries. The
latter went for Garces for his impeccable technique and restrained
culinary style. Things got a little nasty when Steingarten sniped at
the chefs, "I would not pay for that [Garces's] food, and if any of you
would, I have a bridge going to Brooklyn that I would like to sell
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you." I wouldn't pay for that, but I would shell out a few bucks to see
Morimoto whip out his hand-forged kamagata usuba knife and begin
filleting Steingarten's tongue, dressing it perhaps with a dab of
wasabi and a few shreds of pickled ginger. Now, that cuisine really would reign supreme.