Last night marked the premiere of television's newest food reality show. Since a pair of San Francisco chefs are involved, we thought it best to tune in and share our thoughts as we shake our Bay Area pompoms for Incanto's Chris Cosentino and Jardiniere's Traci Des Jardins. Warning: spoilers follow.
1) The voiceover-heavy preview lasts a solid seven minutes, surprisingly long for a show that, as a whole, felt a bit rushed.
2) First impressions of New Orleans star chef John Besh: he's definitely being set up as the favorite, but his "seasoned by combat" line was a bit much.
3) As soon as the chefs are thrown into the first challenge, it becomes clear that The Next Iron Chef is about cooking, not character development. The first competition begins right away, pitting the chefs in a race against time as they perform a medley of knife skills: debone a chicken, French a rack of lamb, shuck oysters, etc.
4) Speaking of the environs, looking at the Culinary Institute of America
mansion campus should assuage any doubts as to where tuition goes. Heavens.
5) After he finishes first (timewise, not results-wise) in both competitions with plenty of time to spare, we realize that Morou—who, by the way, seems pretty dead-set on making that one-name thing happen—is totally that Yelper who always wants "First to Review" status. He's an early personal favorite of ours.
6) New York City's Aaron Sanchez wins the "speed" competition with a perfect score. Also, if you close your eyes and just compare the voices, Sanchez is a dead-ringer for Napolean Dynamite.
7) The second challenge tests artistry: create two desserts without butter, cream and sugar; one dessert has to incorporate a savory ingredient.
8) Hometown Watch: Chris Cosentino obviously knows exactly what he is doing when he picks tripe as the secret ingredient for his dessert dish, a variation on panzanella. Stone-fruit panzanella is a regular on the dessert menu at Incanto ... though not with tripe. Yet.
9) Cosentino also has the best line of the episode: "I fumbled my salmon."
10) Hometown Watch the Second: If we're not mistaken, it takes nearly 30 minutes for Traci Des Jardins to get her first non-voiceover line. That should have been an omen for the chef that Vegas previously pinned as the odds-on favorite.
11) The judges—Michael Ruhlman, Donatella Arpaia and Andrew Knowlton—already have an air of friction within their ranks. Alton Brown has the snark meter on high, while The Chairman is the Holy Ghost of the Food Network: simultaneously omnipotent and absent.
12) Besh wins the "artistry" competition with his truffle catfish creations, and the first elimination comes down to Cleveland pig pro Michael Symon and Des Jardins. Symon took the safe route with his bacon dessert, but Des Jardins' salmon roe concoction was not up to "dessert standards" so in a bit of a surprise, she is the first to be eliminated. Hence, she will not be the next Iron Chef.
Have thoughts on the premiere? The comment field awaits.