The Chefs have moved to New York City to continue their battle. Geoffrey Zakarian says it means they are halfway to being the Next Iron Chef. Michael Chiarello says Marcus Samuelsson is a force to be reckoned with but he came to be the Next Iron Chef, too! Alex Guarnaschelli says Anne Burrell and Elizabeth Falkner are the toughest competition. Zakarian says Falkner is very clever and inventive. Anne feels a different energy; tensions are close to the surface though it is masked with big smiles! And as she says that they show a picture of all the chefs, and she has the biggest smile! I do wish they would stop telling me how tense things are, because things do not really look that tense other than them all constantly insisting they are tense!
Alton Brown meets them at Grand Central Terminal, which he says is the world’s largest train station (it must depend on how you measure it, since Nagoya, Japan thinks they have the largest train station). The challenge is: Storytelling. Zakarian does a pimp spot about how the Next Iron Chef has to be a profound storyteller because he gets to tell his story only once with no rehearsal. I do not know, if I had to list five things the Next Iron Chef must be, I do not think Storyteller would be in the list. But the Food Network LOVES stories! All those poor Food Network Star contestants have to make up stories for every dish, it is hilarious sometimes how they make stuff up and drag all their dead relatives into it! Anyway, Marcus is happy, he loves storytelling.
Alton has six postcards, each with a New York location. The chefs must come up with a dish and a story both inspired by the location on the card. Chiarello was the last winner, so he gets the advantage of… choosing last! Aha! Twist! Someone must have been up for hours dreaming up that one! Because really, picking random cards when you do not know what the cards are, there is no advantage to going first. Chiarello wonders what the advantage to going last will be.
Anne picks first, and she gets Central Park. Alex interviews that is good, because it has grasses, birds, and flowers; I think that would be a pretty strange meal, but I suppose trained chefs might think differently.
Falkner picks the Statue of Liberty. Marcus says that is good because it is the most iconic.
Marcus picks Broadway. Alex says that is a tough one to put into food. Tears!
Alex gets the Empire State Building. Anne says you could do something tall, or something romantic, or something with bananas – because of King Kong. That is a bit of a stretch, I think! Anne is a little bit nuts. But I think her storytelling ability is exactly what the Food Network loves!
Zakarian gets Times Square. Falkner says that is a crazy wild place and could go in lots of fun directions.
Chiarello can take one of the locations already given out, or he can take the last card which is still unknown. He did so many reports on the Statue of Liberty, he wants that, so Falkner gets the last card which is the Brooklyn Bridge. She is happy, she likes where it is located and what is on either side.
They have twenty-five minutes to shop at this huge market at Grand Central Station (yes, I know, technically it is Grand Central Terminal but how many people besides Alton Brown really call it that, and he probably only calls it that on TV when writers correct him). Wow, there is a whole supermarket there, and a very upscale one! That is pretty cool! They will have forty-five minutes to cook at the restaurant Charlie Palmer has there. So they will be stuck in Grand Central all day! And they will be cooking for six, the three judges, Alton, and two special guests! Aha, suspense! You can just feel the suspense crackle! (Not). The judges turn out to be Marc Forgione (the Hidden Iron Chef) and Charlie Palmer, who deserves a meal since they are using his restaurant.
Anne gets cornish game hens (to mimic the pigeons in Central Park) and chicken livers (because fried chicken livers remind her of Tuscany) Her story is her journey to New York City. She is nervous going into judging. She tells them she grew up in a small town in NY State, spent a year in Italy, then moved to the city, and Central Park is her escape from the city, it is like the green hills of her home town and Tuscany. Judy likes the fun description, it shows off her personality, wit on the plate. Forgione says it was successful. Simon Majumadar thinks the dish is gorgeous. Charlie loved the crunchy liver. Michael Symon thought everything was cooked perfectly and he enjoyed it a lot.
Zakarian gets caviar; for Times Square, he is thinking of a midnight New Years Eve celebration. He will need to make more than one dish, which they keep saying not to do, but he is not afraid and he must do it that way, to take it through all the steps from luxury and celebration to cleansing. Cleansing? That is scary! Alex says he must have been the kid who never colored within the lines. Alex, the kids who colored within the lines are not those who go bankrupt. They are not on TV either, but they did not leave all their employees stranded while they lit the four fireplaces in their house and embarked on a television career. Take it from me, the ones who colored within the lines are pretty boring. He says what do you have in the fridge after celebrating? A New Years Eve breakfast feast, heavy to less heavy to clean. Black and White eggs with truffles and white asparagus, smoked fish and caviar, salmon tartar with vinaigrette and Moroccan souffle blinis, and for cleansing a superfood soup with pomegranate, papaya, fig and lychee and balsamic sugar. He thinks he is the only one who hit it out of the park. He tells the judges about indulgence and renewal and forgiveness at Midnight. I do not get the forgiveness thing! Michael Symon says everything is perfect, and a perfect egg is a tough job. Forgione did not get it, he had to eat scrambled eggs twice. Poor Forgione, maybe that is why he is the Hidden Iron Chef. Judy says it all works.
Alex buys pork chops. She has the Empire State Building, which was built on land that was originally a farm so she is making pork chops, brussels sprouts, and potatoes. As a preview type of thing, not exactly an appetizer but a sensory prompt, she is charring red peanuts and chestnuts to create an aroma like what they sell on the street. Anne says Alex is a great storyteller. Alex roasts her potatoes but knocks them in the sink! With 25 minutes to go she bums a potato off someone else and makes more. She is freaked out. “I can not think of any place I do not want to be more in the universe than here right now.” Oh, Alex, I just saw a 60 Minutes story about a 15 year old girl who is living in a truck with her little brother and her unemployed father, they look for a safe place to park every night where the cops will not get them and put the kids in foster care but no one will rob them either; I think there are many places you would not want to be more than there right now. She explains the bag is the beginning of understanding the enormity of the building, they should just smell it, not eat the peanuts which are burned. She used to walk past the building every day on her way to her first job as a cook, and smelled the roasted nuts. Forgione felt he was walking by the building. Charlie thinks it is an interesting way to start a dish. Judy says it is very clever, but you should be able to eat everything that comes to the table, she did not have to burn them but could have served roasted nuts. Simon says it was the least favorite of her dishes, the potatoes were soft; he loved the story but not the dish. She is very upset and hopes the story is enough to keep her in.
Falkner gets pork tenderloins to tell her story about the Brooklyn Bridge. The architect was German, so she is making a pork schnitzel with fennel and apple. And she is including rhubarb raspberry mustard. There is a lot of fun bridging going on. Michael Simon wonders if he is supposed to go side to side and eat in order? Judy likes how she separated the cooked compote on one side, the raw fruit on the other, it is fantastically executed. Charlie Palmer loves the dish but the storytelling itself was not enthusiastic. Michael Simon says the dish is good, but whatever you are selling, you need to really sell it, and she did not deliver the story well. Hah! This is classic Food Network crap!
Marcus gets wagyu beef. This is some market in the train station; New York is funny like that. Our train station here in Portland has some vending machines and that is about it. He thinks Broadway is about big dreams, coming to america, his dream and heritage and the diversity of New York City in one dish. I think he has gone a little overboard. That seems like many many stories. And every dish he makes is about his journey to America, which is fine, it is an interesting story, but it has nothing to do with Broadway. He will make hot smoked salmon with hot paprika in it to blend Sweden and Africa, a steak salad of bok choy and peanuts with little pieces of steak since someone new to America would not be able to afford a whole steak dinner. That is kind of funny, his idea of what someone new to America would want. It would depend on where they were from, silly! The judges have warned him before not to do too much, but he has done well so far so he is not worried. Forgione says the steak portion is the best dish he has had. Judy does not understand two dishes on the same plate, the salmon is strong and competes with the steak. Simon thinks the story does not make sense, he shoehorned what he does into the story. Charlie Palmer thinks it is a convoluted story. Marcus is not pleased.
Chiarello gets rabbits because when the Statue of Liberty was built, there were a lot of wild English rabbits running around amidst the cherry trees.. He is making he rabbits porchetta style, wrapped in panchetta, with a cherry agrodolce, because the goddess being depicted is based on a Roman goddess. And he cooked it via mock sous vide because the statue came from France, where sous vide was invented. Simon says it is a good story, two hundred and fifty years in the making and almost as long in the telling. Simon is a grump. What is it with the English anyway, are they still sore about the whole Revolution thing? Judy did not like the plating but it tasted phenomenal.
The best of the day:
Anne: Michael Simon says she is finding her footing, though she needs to push the envelope harder. Her food was tasty and she had a good story.
Chiarello: Judy disses his beige on beige dish but says it was delicious.
Alton says they enjoyed the story Anne told better, so Anne wins!
Alex: Simon says we know you can tell a story but the potatoes were soft. Alton tells her the story kept her in, she is safe. She is feeling ferocious about the next challenge!
Zakarian: too many notes, clouded the story. But the food was brilliant, and he is in.
Marcus: Alton says they never got the story. Marcus will cook his way out of this.
Falkner: She had a good dish, but the story lacked passion and bogged the dish down. She is angry and disappointed.
Secret Ingredient Showdown:
They have thirty minutes to cook: Bagels! No, they are not making bagels, they have bagels and have to do something with them.
Falkner decides to make “a bagel with the works” which means toasted bagel and cream cheese ice cream, smoked salmon with eggplant and olive smear and bagel croutons. She is grilling the bagels and wants them charred, blackened for the ice cream, and Alex keeps reminding her she has them on the grill until she finally tells her she knows what she is doing! Hah! Take that, Alex! She blends the burned bagels with buttermilk, sour cream and cream cheese in an immersion blender and throws it in the ice cream machine. That sounds pretty awful. Michael Symon loves the bagel flavors she kept, it was well executed, thoughtful, and great use of the ingredient. Simon says these kinds of weird ice creams are usually more interesting than successful and that is the case here. Hah, someone finally said it! But he appreciates the many uses of the bagel to good effect. Judy likes how she interpreted the bagel, kept it real, captured the heart. I do not think that means anything!
Marcus makes his version of lox and bagels. He pickles some trout, and makes bagel dumplings with hoisin sauce. Then he makes gazpacho from coconut milk, peanuts, bagels, cucumber and grapes. This sounds pretty awful, too. Simon thinks he brought the dishes together very well, they were elegantly composed and well executed; it was the most focused of his dishes so far. Michael Symon liked the pickled fish, but the gazpacho muddled the bagel flavor. Judy thought it was a beautifully elegant dish, the bagel came through and kept the flavor profile true.
The judges talk behind their backs. Simon strongly prefers Marcus; he had better technique and the dish was more enjoyable. Judy says Falkner used lots of techniques; Michael Symon points out she made ice cream (which always impresses people, why, I am not sure). Marcus pickled his own fish, Falkner made ice cream, but Falkner was slightly more creative and the bagels were more prominent.
And the verdict is: Marcus is out, Falkner is safe.
Wow, Michael Symon has pull. I guess they had to get rid of the Top Chef Master even if he is the best chef there. He is a little grumpy, so they probably were not looking forward to having him on the team. But it was clearly rigged. They do not want really good chefs, they want people who will do what they are told. Marcus looks shocked. Say hello to Ming Tsai on your way out, Marcus!
They go through the whole “who is your biggest competition” – Falkner -> Chiarello -> Zakarian -> Falkner. And Anne and Alex are just out of luck. I was thinking Anne was most likely, but Elizabeth is pretty cool, too. But her lack of enthusiastic story-telling might do her in. And I do not think they will let an outsider win, no matter what they have to choke down.
Next week they play Name that Tune with lobster: I can cook that ingredient in 35 minutes. They call it an auction. They keep mixing their metaphors on this show. And Anne Burrell wants to throw up. Delightful.