We’re in the home stretch in the competition to select The Next Iron Chef, and the finals will feature two East Coast chefs with backgrounds quite different from much of the people you typically see on Food Network. There is New York-based Jehangir Mehta, a native of Mumbai, India and Philadelphia’s Jose Garces, Ecuadorian by birth and a practitioner of a variety of Latin cuisines. He’s also the proud recipient of the official TVFF foodie man-crush, even if he doesn’t know it. You can get caught up with the competition on the Food Network site and be sure to tune in this Sunday at 9 p.m. Eastern to see who brings home the title.
Endless Simmer had a chance to chat with Chefs Mehta and Garces about the Next Iron Chef experience:
ES: During the first season of Next Iron Chef, the contestants got tripped up a little bit with the fundamentals. Did you do any brushing up in preparation for this competition?
Mehta: I unfortunately have not seen a single episode, so I don’t know. I didn’t see anything of the first season, but even when I was there, I had asked a couple of people, “Does anyone have any tapes, or anything for me,” and I don’t think anyone did, so I never watched a single episode.
Garces: You know, I can answer at this point, there’s really not much you can do to prepare once you start the show or even beforehand. You really have to rely on years of experience, years of cooking, and hope that that’s enough to get you through. So, there was no preparation on my part.
ES: After the first couple of challenges was there any sense you could get from the judges of what they liked and what they didn’t like, and did you adjust your style or your output in any way?
Mehta: I did try to make things less sweet but somehow it didn’t work as much as I tried. I think you must always listen to the negativity that they might give you, but you must also look at the point of what they are saying they didn’t like about others, because you learn a lot from other people’s mistakes. I was just keeping my ears open to what is happening even when others were going down in terms of what they were told, what the judges liked, what they didn’t like. And it could be what they didn’t like of that dish – that doesn’t mean they didn’t like the whole idea of it. You have to just view things and take the best of what you need to do.
Garces: I found the judges to each have their own style and as Chef Mehta said, some may like things a certain way where others may not like things a certain way. I know that Jeffrey Steingarten was really particular about texture and doneness, so after a few battles you knew that he was going to look for both of those things. But overall, with so many different palates and so many different points of view, you really can’t change your style to fit all three, so I found that just going with my gut and what I do best served me well.
After the jump, find out how they think they compare with the current Iron Chefs and why – no matter who wins – this could be an offally good addition to the current roster.Read More›