HOLLYWOOD—I did something on my spare time that I rarely do. I revisited two seasons of one of my favorite reality food competitions that aired nearly a decade ago on the Food Network. I love the Food Network, but I don’t watch it as much as I used to because it is all competition themed. I loved the network in the early 2000s when the focus was on actual chefs teaching the American public how to cook. You really only see that for a few hours now on Saturday and Sunday mornings now if you’re lucky.

With that said, “The Next Iron Chef” is my favorite cooking competition, especially seasons four and five. Season four was epic, some of the best chefs in the world were competing with the opportunity to become an Iron Chef, I mean hello we had Marcus Samuelson, the late great Michael Chiarello, Beau MacMillian, Elizabeth Faulkner, Spike Mendohlsen, Chuck Hughes, Anne Burrell, Robert Irvine, Alex Guarneschelli and Geoffrey Zakarian.

Two of the ten people listed here actually earned the title of ‘Iron Chef’ with Guarneschelli and Zakarian earning the accolade in season 5 and 4 respectively. Zakarian is a technician in the kitchen and what he did with the panko and Ponzu ‘Sudden Death’ challenge floored me, and I was an Anne Burrell fan at the time. He was impressive and earned that accolade. However, after watching season five again, I still think Amanda Frietag should have earned the title.

It wasn’t just that she won three challenges during the competition, but she was creative as hell in the kitchen. I mean she crafted a tasty dish utilizing squid and marshmallows. Let me repeat that squid and marshmallows. She was overlooked, and I would love the Food Network to bring this competition back for one more go around delivering a season of the actual Iron Chefs competing against one another to be deemed the ‘Titan of Iron Chefs’ or to see another slate of highly esteemed chefs compete for the title.

Why? I love the challenges. I love the notion of creating these challenges where the chefs are forced to think outside of the box or really open up the horizon for what you can do when it comes to food. Could you imagine having to utilize candy, actual candy to craft a sweet and savory dish? How about utilizing something from a can that needs to be transformed into a tasty, high-caliber dish?

I loved the secret ingredient showdown because especially in season four it was proof that any chef could go home at any time if they weren’t on their A-game. Also, they had no clue what the secret ingredient would be. One minute its peanuts, the next its Tofu, then you have white bread, pineapple, scallops, anchovies, and many more surprises. Hell, I could come up with some ingredients that I know would leave the chefs competing for a shock, especially if they were forced to craft a dessert using a certain ingredient versus something savory.

While I do believe season four was the best of the best, season five was no slouch either, as it was all about redemption for chefs who previously competed coming close to earning that title but losing out earlier than expected. I mean seeing Amanda again was great, as well as Elizabeth, who was very underrated as a chef, but proved herself during season four, being seen as a major threat in season five. I loved seeing Nate Appleman back in the mix who I thought was robbed in season two, and you have just great competition and people not afraid to voice how they felt about some of the dishes placed on the table.

I will admit I think the judging was slightly off both seasons. I didn’t love Judy Joo as a judge in season four. I think Jeffrey Steingarten or Donatella Arpaia would have been better choices or hell, even Bobby Flay. He was the one person I wanted to see judge, beyond doing the judging during the big finale. I mean people know that man and he is a force to reckon with on Food Network.

I didn’t hate the judging on season five, I just wanted a judge who may have not had actual connections to the chefs as in they are friends or have competed with one another in the past. In addition if the network is EVER considering bringing the series back, they should do blind judging. That is the greatest thing Guy Fieri did with his competition series, “Tournament of Champions.”

The judges not knowing whose food they are tasting I think is a great tactic and it just the judging I think a bit fair and open.