Chef Alex Guarnaschelli reacts with relief after learning that she will… (Food Network )
There's a two-in-three chance that the winner of "The Next Iron Chef" will be a woman. Cause to celebrate?
Chefs Amanda Freitag and Alex Guarnaschelli are now duking it out with pitbull chef Nate Appleman for the Season 5 title of "Next Iron Chef" and a shot at sweet, sweet redemption. Ousted this week was Marcel Vigneron, who no doubt earned some redemption of his own after being bounced from that other competition ("Top Chef").
Like a challenge thrown down by the chairman himself, Marcel transformed from a foam-enthralled kitchen cut-up into a thoughtful chef who no longer stands as sidekick to Spike Mendelsohn or anyone else. Let's not forget that at one point, judge Simon Majumdar seemed to think that Marcel was the front-runner in this competition, and Marcel clearly managed to outcook some of the biggest names in the business to find himself standing in the Final Four.
Redemption complete, Marcel.
He said as much on his way out: "I've matured as a chef and as a person."
Unfortunately, he was done in by a bacon buffet (and illusionist David Copperfield). Alex and Marcel teamed up to take the judges to France via a bacon buffet served up in the land of buffets, Las Vegas. But they were outbaconed by Team Nate and Amanda. That pitted Alex and Marcel against each other in the secret ingredient showdown, which had them using Hershey's chocolate (Hellooo product placement) in a savory dish that reflected the holiday season.
Marcel served up lamb that was so rare it was close to following around Little Bo Peep, according to one of the judges. It had little chance up against Alex's perfectly seared duck breast, which boasted plenty of creativity and whimsy -- red peppercorns recalling ornaments on a tree and white chocolate shavings mimicking falling snow. Alex was so in the zone that she was "ninja"-like, according to Nate.
What did we learn as we head into the finale?
-- Amanda and Nate have a cozy alliance.
-- Amanda has a warped sense of reality. Is it really "playing dirty" when Marcel told her she could have the sugar, but did not stop what he was doing to help her get the sugar? Really? I thought that was called "sharing during the course of a competition."
-- If Alex wins, she will be an Iron Chef with a wicked sense of humor. Funniest moment of the season so far was Alex saying "I'm excited!" by the bacon competition.... EYEROLL.
-- There is such a thing as too much bacon. Especially when it's a broken bacon-chocolate mousse.
Memo to Food Network: Take a tip from "MasterChef" and publish a cookbook after these competitions. Why? Because I want the recipe for that BLT salad with the country-fried bacon and jalapeno-lime vinaigrette, that's why.
And, um, the recipe for "The Elvis."
Who could have imagined that something so seemingly simple -- bruleed bananas with a peanut butter pudding and a bacon peanut brittle -- would send the judges swooning?
Final thought: Did Donatella Arpaia get a new stylist? A new hairstylist? I don't think she's ever looked better on the show. Maybe it was all that bacon?