HOLLYWOOD—To say that I was thrown for a loop by the second season finale of the Food Network hit “Iron Chef Gauntlet” would be a major understatement. I’ve told this to tons of people, “Iron Chef America” was instrumental in helping me perfect my skills in the kitchen. However, “The Next Iron Chef” is responsible for giving me the confidence to experiment in the kitchen. It seems every season of this competition series has crowned a winner, that is until now. The Food Network rebooted the series last year, which I loved, but I was not so keen on the concept.
Everything is still the same, except the fact that Alton Brown is serving as a host and a judge. Sorry, Brown should NOT be given the authority to judge the chefs foods and send someone into the secret ingredient showdown. He’s being given too much power and as a result I feel the contestants are not being judged fairly. Beyond that, I knew Chef David LeFevre would make it to the Gauntlet; I mean the guy was in the secret ingredient showdown three times and was victorious each time.
However, rather he would be crowned with that coveted title was still up in the air. He had to battle newest Iron Chef Stephanie Izard, Iron Chef Alex Guarnaschelli and Iron Chef Michael Symon. Now last year, I enjoyed the idea of the challenger getting the opportunity to choose which Iron Chef they would compete against regarding the secret ingredient. That was a fun twist that allowed the challenger the opportunity to weaken their opponent. Unfortunately, that concept was quickly scrapped for season two. Why?
The Iron Chefs were selected by the Chairman (happy to see you back) and there were two secret ingredients to choose from: one that may have been an advantage to our Iron Chefs or a major threat. Look, let’s be honest as viewers we are aware both ingredients could have been cooked by ANY of the Iron Chefs without hesitation. I’m not going to sit here and go over the pros and cons of each battle; it is simply pointless to say the least. I loved watching Chef LeFevre hold his own with the chefs. Did he truly lose? Not really, and if he did it was simply because Alton Brown was given the opportunity to judge, which actually made no sense to me. He hadn’t judged any of the other secret ingredient battles in the past, so why now?
What might be frustrating for most viewers is that Chef LeFevre lost by a mere 2 points, yes 2 points America and I know many people like myself were screaming at the TV screen. Why? I actually thought we were looking at a new Iron Chef. I mean would a competition series really end without a winner? I’ve never seen that transpire, so to actually see that on the small screen was actually exciting, fun and memorable to say the least.
Look there are two things that can be done to make this series a must-see guilty pleasure: one take the past and implement it more. Past Chairman Challenges were a bit more creative, unexpected and fun to watch. These not so much because they’re always in Kitchen Stadium; take the chefs out of their element like “The Next Iron Chef” did. Second, lose Alton Brown as a judge. The guy has the skills to do it, but as I’ve argued before it gives him way too much power and I don’t like it. He’s best suited as the host, so let him do his magic there.
Let the same skilled chefs who judge the secret ingredient battle judge the main round. It creates fairness and consistency across the board if you ask me. Switching the judges for each round is not a big problem to me, as it keeps the contestants on their toes. I love “Next Iron Chef,” but I need to see these tweaks in “Iron Chef Gauntlet” if the series wants to keep me as a viewer, and I’m certain I’m not the only one who feels this way.