Duskie Estes, left, was eliminated this week on "Next Iron Chef"… (Food Network )
"The Next Iron Chef" has brought many competitors to their knees over the seasons. But this week, it brought a judge to her knees. Kind of. Judge Donatella Arpaia told Los Angeles restaurateur Eric Greenspan that his innovative twist on a banh mi sandwich -- turning it into a panzanella -- left her swoony.
"I would marry you on the first date with this dish, I really would," she said. "I thought it was very sophisticated and smart."
Greenspan, it's safe to say that no matter what happens the rest of the season, you have accomplished one of your goals: You have officially put grasshoppers behind you.
The competitors were asked to take three street food classics -- the banh mi, the falafel, and the taco -- and make them Iron Chef-worthy.
It was up to Alex Guarnaschelli -- the winner of last week's competition -- to put the teams of three together. It was one of those "Gee, thanks for nothing" prizes. While it gave her a considerable advantage, it also made her Public Enemy No. 1 when Gamemaker Alton Brown revealed that each team would have a winner and a loser.
Alex put herself on Team Taco, and blew the judges away by frying up delicate squash blossoms and using those as a fish taco shell. Eric won for his panzanella.
But chef Jehangir Mehta destroyed the field with his Asian-meets-Mediterranean spin on falafel, tucking them inside rice paper with a tahini vinaigrette. While it was not necessary gorgeous to look out, it was gorgeous to eat, the judges said, and that win helps solidify his status as a front runner in this competition. (And his suspected kitchen antics -- he was accused of tinkering with a competitor's stove burner -- solidifies his status as the show's arch-villain. Yay!)
The bottom three were a shocker and a no-brainer.
It was a shocker because we've learned to expect more from the three women who landed there with a thud. But their dishes clearly fell short. Elizabeth Falkner served up a pasta dish that -- sorry, it's true -- looked like barf on a plate. There's just no other way to say it. Amanda Freitag's falafel dish was delicious, but it was too on the nose. It was basically a traditional falafel dish. Where was the innovation?
Duskie Estes fell short, it seemed, because her taco soup had the audacity to take on Alex's tacos. No matter what Duskie delivered, it was going to be a distant second.
At that point, the three-way secret ingredient showdown was a mere formality.
There was simply no way the pig-tailed Duskie could or would outcook Amanda and Elizabeth.
No offense to Duskie's cooking, but her competitors have more experience and Duskie gets a little frazzled under pressure.
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