Chatting With the Runner-Up on Next Iron Chef: Super Chefs
Edward Chen/Creel Films, 2011, Television Food Network, G.P.
The fourth season of The Next Iron Chef: Super Chefs has come to a close and Geoffrey Zakarian has been crowned the prize so many would-be chefs covet: joining the ranks of Iron Chefs Marc Forgione, Bobby Flay, Masaharu Morimoto, Cat Cora, Jose Garces and Michael Symon.
While Geoffrey has won the final battle, we can't forget his worthy and very talented opponent, Elizabeth Falkner, who fought to the very end. Each week, she's proven herself more than a pastry chef; in fact, she can do it all. However, we still had to say goodbye to her.
FN Dish: You mentioned in this last challenge that you've really stayed away from the pastry side and haven’t called upon it until the finale. Why?
EF: I wanted to show people that I cook everything and actually have been doing so from the beginning of my career. I focused on pastry for the first chunk of years because I love the artistic side to it and the discipline. It helped me become a better savory chef. I love all kinds of food, cooking and learning about it all.
FN Dish: Alton Brown said, "You've far exceeded your reputation." I think a lot of people feel this way. Many saw you as the pastry chef entering this competition. Now, you're leaving the competition as a chef and a pastry chef. Talk to us about your experience.
EF: I knew that because of the name of my first business, Citizen Cake, that everyone would think I just make cakes. I make great cakes, but like a ninja warrior, I surprised them with my other skills that I have and have been honing for years.
FN Dish: It seemed like that Beef Wellington really turned heads. How did you decide on that and any plans to add it to your Christmas menu this year?
EF: We decided to do Beef Wellington by cutting out the eye of the standing rib roast cut and using the bones for sauce. I make a blitz puff pastry, which means fast puff pastry dough. I can handle doughs, so it seemed like a great and festive main course. This is something I have made and would serve at a holiday dinner. It came out perfectly.
FN Dish: Out of the three surprise challenges (cranberries, ice cream machine and cocktail), which one threw you for a loop the most?
EF: None of them. I love challenges — that's why I decided to do this show. It was fitting for the last episode because so many people at home are faced with family and cooking challenges during the holidays.
FN Dish: In your exit interview, you said that you have learned a lot about yourself and have made amazing friends. What have you learned and what chef will you miss the most?
EF: I have learned that I still really want to be the next Iron Chef. I have learned how to be a culinary athlete by training for it on many levels: physically, mentally, culinarily. I also learned how competitive I really am and how to never give up, though I guess I have been that way all my life. I believe all of us "Super Chefs" became closer even though competition can put distance between people. I miss the production people and the crew, too.
FN Dish: What was your favorite challenge throughout the whole competition? Least favorite?
EF: I am not kidding when I say that I loved every competition, but the first one was crazy because of the team situation and getting into "the game" without distraction.
EF: I have to find the way to the next big championship game.