Iron Chef Forgione Looks Back on a Winning Season
As the winner of The Next Iron Chef Season 3, Marc Forgione is now part of an elite pantheon of culinary talent: the Iron Chefs. Kitchen Stadium's newest face sat down with us at his New York City restaurant to chat about the whirlwind he's just experienced.
How do you think your personal life — and your restaurant — will be affected by being on The Next Iron Chef? And winning?
Just last night, I walked back into the kitchen through the dining room and every table was looking around and pointing me out. That used to happen every once in a while, but now, every table, they're like, "Oh! That's him!" I got stopped on the street coming into work yesterday and again this morning, somebody asking me, "Did you win?" I went to a wedding the other day and everybody's coming up to me. It's wild. I'm really kind of a humble, chill person. I'm having a great time, don't get me wrong, but it's a big change.
You held viewing parties at the restaurant on Sunday nights. Good turnouts? Mostly friends, family, fans?
It’s friends, family, regular customers, people that were here one random Sunday and got a glimpse of it, so they come back. Now we have people come back every Sunday. The first night was the biggest for the premiere, then it died down a bit, then it got bigger and bigger.
Has it been tough to keep your win a secret all these months? Were you allowed to tell anyone that you won?
For me, no. But there hasn’t been one day that someone hasn’t asked me if I won. I wasn’t allowed to tell anyone. In that contract, from what I read, it was: Don’t tell anybody.
What inspired you to sign on for the show?
The only show that I would have done on TV was The Next Iron Chef. There are a lot of other chef shows, competitions that are on TV that I won't name by name, but The Next Iron Chef is the only one that truly says, we want to see you as a chef, and we want to see who can actually be an Iron Chef. Not to see who can entertain us with the after-work antics and all this kind of stuff. It's about the food. I’ve even been surprised by how much of the "antics" they’ve actually cut. Even the on-set banter, like on the boat, there was a lot of joking around and they just showed us picking up the fish!
How different was the experience from what you initially expected?
I'll be 100 percent honest: I didn’t think it was going to be as hard as it was. Not to say I went in thinking it was going to be easy, but I kind of went in there thinking, you know, you do what you do, you see what happens. Which is the philosophy that I had the whole time: Just cook your food and relax. But these challenges and how good everybody was ... when you’re the chef of your own kitchen, you think your s--- doesn’t stink. You get into a room full of these men and women and you’re like, wow. There’s nine other people just as good as I am.
Did you make good friends among the other "rivals"?
We’re all friends now. There was nobody that didn’t get along. Well, Caz and Ming had a little ... arm wrestle, I guess you could say? But for the most part, everybody really got along. I had heard of some of them, but had never actually met any of them before the show. We’ve had little mini New York reunions. I’m hoping that this can actually lead to some type of food festival we can have every year.
What was your favorite dish that you prepared throughout the competition? Least favorite?
My favorite dish, just because it came so out of nowhere, was the deep-fried root beer [during the fair challenge]. I’d never done anything like that nor do I think I ever really will. The fact that it was so well received, and to be honest, I never would have thought that would taste good. Another cool part about it was I made it, I fried it and I tasted it. At that point that was all I was going to do, but it didn’t taste right, so then I added a root beer reduction and cotton candy and all this stuff. So it kind of evolved in that hour and ended up being one of the judges' favorite things of the day. That was cool.
Least favorite, there’s a couple actually. There was a fish dish that I did when we did North, South, East and West. For some strange reason, I don’t know why, I pre-cooked it. I didn't pre-cook any of the fish throughout the entire battle. I think it was because I had a couple minutes to spare, I just threw the thing in the fryer and completely overcooked it. I wasn’t crazy about the hamburger, which they didn’t like. Other than that, I was pretty excited about everything.
What was the hardest moment to watch on TV?
Just a broad hardest part is that I didn't realize I had such an accent. I don't know where this accent comes from! The first time I watched it, I turned to whoever was standing next to me and asked, "I sound like this?" I grew up on Long Island, which is known for having a strong accent. Then I lived in Massachusetts, which is again known for a very strong accent. I lived in France and worked with a lot of people and speak French, so that I'm sure adds to it. And I lived with a guy from Scotland who I used to make fun of all the time, so I think I picked up from that. Put all those together and this is what you get.
We have to ask: What did your Dad think about your run on the show?
This is the honest truth: He hasn’t seen a single episode yet. He hasn't not watched on purpose ... he's been in St. Louis the whole time staying at a hotel; he has a restaurant there. And they don't have the Food Network in the hotel. My family got to come to Kitchen Stadium to watch the final battle, so he was there. But they kicked them all out for the judging.
How was your first official battle in Kitchen Stadium as an Iron Chef?
I did two battles. One was chock-full of, I don't know if conspiracy is the right word, but, my old boss and one of my mentors, Laurent Tourondel [of the BLT restaurants], was a judge. The sous chef of the guy I was battling was the old chef de cuisine of BLT Market. Conspiracy is a heavy word, but it was just all these things to happen at once, for the first battle! It was fun. I love the competition. My favorite part other than meeting all those guys is the competition. Chefs don't usually get to say, "Let's see who's better today." There’s no chance to do that in this business other than Iron Chef.
Do you know any of the Iron Chefs on a personal level? Have you gotten advice from them about what you’re getting into?
I've met Bobby a couple times. I worked with Patricia Yeo and she's one of his protégés. The other guys, I’d never met before. Michael Symon has kind of taken me under his wing so far. I haven’t heard from the other guys, but I think that’s because it’s not official yet! (At the time of this interview, the finale had not aired.)
For more about Chef Forgione, check out our behind-the-scenes tour of his New York City restaurant kitchen.