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'Next Iron Chef' competitors hope to cook up some redemption

Most competitors in Season 5 are chefs who fell short in previous seasons. Among them: L.A.'s Eric Greenspan, who had a fateful encounter with grasshoppers.

November 03, 2012|By Rene Lynch, Los Angeles Times
  • "Next Iron Chef" judges Geoffrey Zakarian, Donatella Arpaia, Simon Majumdar and host Alton Brown ponder a dish by rival chef Elizabeth Falkner during Season 5.
"Next Iron Chef" judges Geoffrey Zakarian, Donatella Arpaia,… (Eddy Chen/Creel Films,…)

The theme of Season 5 of "Next Iron Chef" is "redemption." But it might as well be "revenge."

The new season gets underway Sunday night on Food Network featuring chefs who failed, flopped and otherwise fell short during earlier incarnations of the channel's popular cooking competition. Among them: Eric Greenspan, the Los Angeles chef-owner of the Foundry on Melrose. He was unceremoniously eliminated after the very first competition (ouch!) of Season 2.

Now he's back for blood.

"I don't think there's anyone who needs redemption more than me," said Greenspan, who was eliminated after he failed to transform his given ingredient — grasshoppers — into a dish that made the judges swoon.

The winner of the competition stands among such culinary giants as Bobby Flay and Masaharu Morimoto, who, in turn, take on challengers in the network's "Iron Chef America" franchise.

Along with Greenspan, returning competitors include Nate Appleman, Amanda Freitag, Jehangir Mehta, Elizabeth Falkner, Alex Guarnaschelli, Spike Mendelsohn and Duskie Estes, in addition to first-time competitors Marcel Vigneron and Tim Love, who have redemption quests of their own following runs on "Top Chef" and "Top Chef: All Stars."

"It makes for a very different kind of competition," said Alton Brown, who returns as "Next Iron Chef's" host and game maker. "These people want it really badly. They've had a glimmer, taste, a whiff of what success will be like. And they want more of it."

Brown said returning competitors have an advantage — they know what to expect, the butterflies are no more — so the challenges have also been stepped up. Audiences also will notice a shift in the group dynamic. "They have learned that it's a horse race. And that means 'I don't necessarily have to run my best. I just have to beat you.'"

Translation: Look out for sharp elbows, if not sharp knives.

Greenspan said that when he first got the call asking him whether he was interested in a do-over, his reaction was: "Are you crazy? Why would I want to go through that again? ... What happened to me [in Season 2] was close to career suicide."

But during the course of the conversation, Greenspan began to soften his position.

He's after the title of Next Iron Chef, of course, but he also has another goal in his cross hairs.

You see, ever since his elimination, friends, strangers and restaurant guests alike have been ribbing him about grasshoppers. Grasshoppers on the menu tonight? You didn't put grasshoppers in this, did you? This could use a sprinkling of grasshoppers ... and so on.

"I don't want to hear about grasshoppers ever again," Greenspan said. "I'm doing this to exorcise those demons."

rene.lynch@latimes.com

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