The Next Iron Chef 2011 resumed November 27 with a fifth week of Super Chef action. Following a landmark-inspired Chairman's Challenge that required them to cook a dish and tell a compelling story and a bagel-rific Secret Ingredient showdown, hopeful Marcus Samuelsson was eliminated from the competition. Here's a complete recap of the action.
The hopefuls gathered at Grand Central terminal, where they met with show host Alton Brown, who introduced the Chairman's Challenge theme of the week: Storytelling. He held up six numbered postcards, each featuring a concealed photo of a New York landmark, and explained that they'd each be challenged with creating a dish and a story to represent the location pictured. Michael Chiarello, who won the previous week's challenge, was given the privilege of choosing his card last.
Anne Burrell selected number 4, Central Park. Alex Guarnaschelli thought it was a "slam dunk" of a pick for her competitor. Elizabeth Falkner went with number 5, the Statue of Liberty. Marcus Samuelsson chose card 2, which represented Broadway. Chef Alex picked number 1, which turned out to be the Empire State Building. Chef Geoffrey opted for number 6, Times Square. Chef Michael was then given the right to steal one of the others' locations or take the final card that remained. After mulling his decision, he took the Statue of Liberty from Chef Elizabeth, who wound up with the Brooklyn Bridge. She was pleased with the "interesting concept" possibilities provided by the final card.
With the locations assigned, Alton gave the remaining challenge instructions. Each chef was given $250 and 20 minutes to shop for ingredients at the Grand Central Market. In a departure from the norm, they were also told that they'd be cooking for six total, including usual Next Iron Chef 2011 Super Chefs judges Simon Majumdar, Judy Joo, and Michael Symon, Alton and two special guests.
They were off quickly when the timer began its countdown, with Chef Anne grabbing tons of cornish game hen, and Chef Elizabeth looking for pork tenderloin. Chef Michael went in a different direction, asking for rabbit.
When they all gathered in the kitchen to begin their 45-minute cook time, Alton challenged them to create "good food and a tasty tale." As the clock counted down to presentation time, Chef Geoffrey once again defied the judges' rules by creating a multi-dish offering with his New Year's Eve breakfast feast concept, prompting Chef Alex to declare that he "never colored in the lines and never will."
Disaster struck for Chef Alex as her food slid into the water with just 25 minutes remaining, but she regrouped and recooked, imagining how she would react in Kitchen Stadium. Meanwhile, Chef Marcus worked hard to put himself into his dishes, and Chef Elizabeth joked that her pork dish had "a lot of fun bridging going on."
When time expired, the contestants faced the panel, which included Chef Charlie Palmer and Iron Chef Marc Forgione, who won the 2010 season of The Next Iron Chef. Up first for judgment was Anne Burrell, who presented her "journey to New York" experience via a grilled cornish game hen with chicken fried chicken liver. Judy called it "fun," while Simon deemed it "bloody gorgeous." Second in line was Alex Guarnaschelli with her Empire State Building-inspired grilled pork chop. Chef Marc was impressed with the story, while Chef Charlie found her bag-sniffing experience interesting. Chef Judy, however, was disappointed that she didn't just roast some nuts, and Simon called it one of his "least favorite" dishes she'd made during the competition.
Geoffrey Zakarian continued the competition with his Times Square "indulgence" four-part presentation, featuring salmon tartare and a superfood soup, among others. Chef Michael called it "perfect" but Chef Marc found it confusing. Judy thought he needed to be "spanked" for presenting multiple dishes yet again. A confident Michael Chiarello followed with his rabbit porchetta, which Chef Charlie praised. Judy didn't care for the plating but called the taste "phenomenal."
Marcus Samuelsson was up next with his hot smoked salmon and crunchy steak salad, both inspired by Broadway. Chef Marc really enjoyed the steak part of the dish, but Chef Simon didn't think the story went well with the dishes. Elizabeth Falkner brought up the rear with her pork schnitzel with fennel and apple, and Brooklyn Bridge tale. Judy enjoyed her plating and called the execution fantastic. Chef Michael, however, knocked her for lacking enthusiasm during her delivery.
Come judgment time, the nervous Next Iron Chef 2011 hopefuls faced the panel. Chefs Anne and Michael were praised for their good performances, and both were saved to cook again after Chef Anne was deemed the winner. Despite her sloppy dish, Chef Alex's storytelling saved her hide, leaving Chefs Marcus, Elizabeth and Geoffrey to face the music. Chef Geoffrey was declared safe based on his food quality, leaving an "angry" Chef Elizabeth to battle Chef Marcus in the week's Secret Ingredient Showdown for the final spot.
When the cloth was lifted on the mystery item, a truly New York centric item awaited: Bagels. The round breakfast staple took on unique and unusual forms, as Chef Marcus made dumplings from his and Chef Elizabeth charred hers and tossed them into an ice cream maker.
First up to present to the panelists was Chef Elizabeth. Chef Michael called her dish "thoughtful" and "well-executed." Simon didn't care for her ice cream, but liked it overall. Judy praised her for keeping "the heart and soul" of the bagel alive. Chef Marcus followed with his lox, bagel and cream. Simon found it to be "very elegantly composed" and his "most focused dish" yet. Chef Michael enjoyed the pickled fish, but didn't care for the gazpacho. Judy enjoyed it overall.
After the panelists deliberated, Chefs Elizabeth and Marcus rejoined them for final judgment. Alton shared that although both contestants had done a good job with their dishes, one had done a better job of "embracing" the bagel, and Marcus Samuelsson was eliminated from the competition. He had "no regrets" following his elimination, and Chef Elizabeth was pleased to have successfully taken him out.
Tune into The Next Iron Chef 2011 Super Chefs on December 4 as the remaining five contestants continue toward the final coveted prize.