Chef Elizabeth Falkner, left, gets bad news as she stands alongside Nate… (Food Network )
"The Next Iron Chef" proves that winning just might be the riskiest thing a chef can do. Chef Elizabeth Falkner -- who came thisclose to nearly becoming an Iron Chef in Season 4, found herself heading out the door this week, undone in part by a supposed "advantage" she had earned from winning an earlier round of the competition.
But so often in this high-stakes competition, "advantage" is just another way of saying "opportunity to lose it all." And that's exactly what happened in a near-mirror image of the Season 4 upset -- down to the bleach-blond spiky hair-do -- that also came during the auction challenge.
In the auction challenge, the players had to outbid and outmaneuver each other in a race to prepare surprise ingredients like a cow's head or a rack of bison. Falkner's rollover advantage meant that she had the power to determine one of the two players who'd end up in the secret-ingredient showdown. But like Anne Burrell before her, Falkner ended up cooking herself into the bottom of the heap, and ended up competing against -- and then being bested by -- that hand-chosen competitor, Nate Appleman.
Falkner, arguably, was the person who most wanted to become an Iron Chef. True, the others, especially Appleman and Jehangir Mehta, want it as well. But one gets the sense that it is largely because those fierce competitors want to win and will stop at nothing to do so. But Falkner wanted the title, the honor, the recognition -- she said it was a personal goal. (Projecting here, but that title would also recognize the sheer will and determination it takes for a woman to make it in such a male-dominated career.)
She was badly shaking as she quietly left the competitors kitchen, unable to even be consoled by her friends and fellow competitors. Later, in her interviews, Falkner could barely keep the tears from spilling out.
Gamemaker Alton Brown put the injustice of it all into perspective for the remaining competitors, who are now on full alert that one simple mistake could end the road to redemption: One of the best chefs in the United States went home because of too much saffron.
And then there were five.
Elizabeth Falkner, you will be missed. You came into the competition in Season 4 as an underdog -- you were dismissed by many as "just" a pastry chef. But you proved you were a chef -- savory or sweet, you could do it all.
Random observation: Did Appleman miss an opportunity to possibly throw Mehta on the chopping block?? If Appleman bid on ostrich eggs with 20 minutes on the clock, wouldn't that have forced Mehta to put together a mortadella dish in 15 minutes? That said, if anyone could pull that off, it would be Mehta.
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