Behind the Scenes of the Next Iron Chef: Super Chefs Finale

Get a closer look at the Kitchen Stadium holiday battle faced by the final two Super Chefs on this season of The Next Iron Chef

Photo By: Edward Chen/Creel Films ©2011, Television Food Network, G.P.

Photo By: Edward Chen/Creel Films ©2011, Television Food Network, G.P.

Photo By: Edward Chen/Creel Films ©2011, Television Food Network, G.P.

Photo By: Edward Chen/Creel Films ©2011, Television Food Network, G.P.

Photo By: Edward Chen/Creel Films ©2011, Television Food Network, G.P.

Photo By: Edward Chen/Creel Films ©2011, Television Food Network, G.P.

Photo By: Edward Chen/Creel Films ©2011, Television Food Network, G.P.

Photo By: Edward Chen/Creel Films ©2011, Television Food Network, G.P.

Photo By: Edward Chen/Creel Films ©2011, Television Food Network, G.P.

Photo By: Edward Chen/Creel Films ©2011, Television Food Network, G.P.

Photo By: Edward Chen/Creel Films ©2011, Television Food Network, G.P.

Photo By: Edward Chen/Creel Films ©2011, Television Food Network, G.P.

Photo By: Edward Chen/Creel Films ©2011, Television Food Network, G.P.

Photo By: Leanna Creel/Creel Films ©2011, Television Food Network, G.P.

Photo By: Edward Chen/Creel Films ©2011, Television Food Network, G.P.

Photo By: Edward Chen/Creel Films ©2011, Television Food Network, G.P.

Photo By: Edward Chen/Creel Films ©2011, Television Food Network, G.P.

Photo By: Edward Chen/Creel Films ©2011, Television Food Network, G.P.

Photo By: Edward Chen/Creel Films ©2011, Television Food Network, G.P.

Photo By: Edward Chen/Creel Films ©2011, Television Food Network, G.P.

Photo By: Edward Chen/Creel Films ©2011, Television Food Network, G.P.

Photo By: Edward Chen/Creel Films ©2011, Television Food Network, G.P.

Photo By: Edward Chen/Creel Films ©2011, Television Food Network, G.P.

Photo By: Edward Chen/Creel Films ©2011, Television Food Network, G.P.

Photo By: Edward Chen/Creel Films ©2011, Television Food Network, G.P.

Photo By: Edward Chen/Creel Films ©2011, Television Food Network, G.P.

Photo By: Edward Chen/Creel Films ©2011, Television Food Network, G.P.

Photo By: Edward Chen/Creel Films ©2011, Television Food Network, G.P.

Photo By: Edward Chen/Creel Films ©2011, Television Food Network, G.P.

Photo By: Edward Chen/Creel Films ©2011, Television Food Network, G.P.

Photo By: Edward Chen/Creel Films ©2011, Television Food Network, G.P.

Photo By: Edward Chen/Creel Films ©2011, Television Food Network, G.P.

Winning Moment

Chef Geoffrey Zakarian, after winning his final battle against Chef Falkner, is the newest member of a pantheon of culinary talent: the Iron Chefs.

The Contenders

Both extremely talented, motivated and confident, the final two arrived ready to throw down in Kitchen Stadium.

A Festive Battle

The Chairman revealed a special battle with not just one Secret Ingredient, but a buffet of holiday favorites to create "a life-changing holiday meal."

Quick Brainstorm

With this holiday extravaganza as the theme, Chef Zakarian scribbled a few notes for his five-course progression, which he called a "fanciful modern Christmas."

Diving In

Chef Falkner huddled quickly with her sous chefs — each rival got to bring two along to Kitchen Stadium. "My strategy is to use classic and modern techniques, using sweet and savory," she said.

Gift From the Chairman

Of course, no finale would be complete without a few twists from the Chairman. These came in the form of three "gifts" — the first of which was cranberries, which the chefs had to incorporate into a dish.

The Chosen One

The Chairman also gave Chef Falkner and Chef Zakarian a choice of one sous chef from the eliminated finalists who could help on each side for 15 minutes. They chose Chef Guarnaschelli: "I can't believe they picked me," she said. "It's very challenging but very rewarding to take some of the intense feelings I have about this competition and pour them into some good work for these guys."

Chef Zakarian's First Course

Chef Guarnaschelli helped Chef Zakarian execute his cranberry dish, a Cranberry Sake Risotto With Sicilian Sweet and Sour Strawberries, which he served first. "When I saw strawberries and cranberries in risotto, I was a little skeptical, but it's so well balanced," said an impressed Iron Chef Flay.

Taste Test

Chef Zakarian sampled some Armagnac, which he used in his cocktail to accompany the first dish. Martini glasses were another gift from the Chairman.

Under Pressure

In addition to cooking five dishes and adapting to the Chairman's surprises, the finalists also had to answer questions from floor commentator Kevin Brauch. Both did a great job of juggling it all.

Chef Falkner's First Course

For her first plate, Chef Falkner presented Brandade Fritters With Caper Tomato Balsamic Reduction and Black Garlic Aioli. "I like everything that you made here," said Iron Chef Flay. "I just would have liked to see some cohesiveness. [The components] seem very separate."

Multitasking

Chef Zakarian had components of multiple dishes going on his stove: "It's like Chopped on steroids, times two, all in one hour."

Chef Zakarian's Second Course

Though Iron Chef Morimoto criticized the lack of protein in the dish, Chef Zakarian's Creamy and Crispy Brussels Sprouts With Apple Cider, Mustard and Ginger was proclaimed "spectacular" by Simon Majumdar.

Extra Hands

After completing her 15 minutes with Chef Zakarian, Chef Guarnaschelli moved over to Chef Falkner's side of Kitchen Stadium. Chef Falkner "needs me to gather up all the bits and bring it home," said Chef Guarnaschelli.

Chef Falkner's Second Course

The highlight of Chef Falkner's Winter Squash Agnolotti With a Brown Cider Butter, Brussels Sprouts With Goat Cheese, Fried Brussels Sprout Leaves, Pancetta and Amaretti Cookies was the ingenious Brussels sprouts-goat cheese puree: "You've given us something that I've never seen," said Simon Majumdar.

Soup's On

Chef Zakarian knew he wanted to serve an elegant soup course, which he poured tableside for the judges. Here he takes a quick taste to make sure the flavor and consistency are perfect.

Chef Zakarian's Third Course

This Parsnip-Cardamom Bisque With Sausage Stuffing Frittata was one of Chef Zakarian's unanimous hits. Judy Joo likened it to a great symphony: "It was a harmonious chord. I loved this dish."

Bring On the Beef

Both chefs went for the rib roast, but prepared it in very different ways. "When I see Zakarian I think precision, when I see Falkner I think surprise. So I think it's a clash of two different styles," said Iron Chef Flay.

Chef Falkner's Third Course

Chef Falkner prepared her modern take on a very classic dish: Beef Wellington, Parsnip Puree, Watercress and Beets With Bordelaise and Horseradish Cream. It was one of her highest points: "I admire your chutzpah. I think it's your best of the day so far," said Simon Majumdar.

Distractions

Chef Zakarian kept his focus throughout the battle, keeping his eye on the prize. "I have a lot of experience and my technique is flawless. I think this would be a terrific cap to a pretty good career."

Chef Zakarian's Fourth Course

Chef Zakarian really got into the holiday spirit with this dish: "Wisemen Bringing Gifts" of Caper Cinnamon Wrapped Beef, Potatoes Cooked in Lemon Broth, Turnips Roasted With Anise and Butternut Squash Poached in Maple Syrup. Despite the creative presentation, he was marked down a bit because Simon Majumdar's beef was dry.

Battle Highlight

Iron Chef Morimoto proclaimed Chef Falkner's next course, a palate cleanser between her Beef Wellington and dessert, his favorite dish of the entire day.

Chef Falkner's Fourth Course

Chef Falkner's Fennel, Clementine, Frisee Salad With Cranberry Sorbet and a Kaffir Lime, Mint and Tarragon Gelee was an unusual salad that was "a surprise in a good way," said Iron Chef Symon.

Sweet Finish

As another "gift," the Chairman presented the chefs with an ice cream machine and requested a frozen treat. Chef Zakarian had planned a pot de creme to end his meal but had to recalculate a bit.

Chef Zakarian's Fifth Course

Chef Zakarian served Buttermilk Pot de Crème With Frozen Peppermint Snow, which he reworked into a frozen custard using the ice cream machine. Iron Chef Morimoto's remarks were simple: "I love it."

Strong Finale

"I feel good about my dishes, but I'm also so nervous because I just want to cook better than Geoffrey today," said Chef Falkner. As a pastry chef, she knew she could wow the judges with her final dessert course.

Chef Falkner's Fifth Course

And she did. This Chocolate Peppermint Cake With Chocolate Sauce and Chocolate Black Sesame Streusel Served with a Boozy Eggnog and Cider Float was a "smash hit," according to Iron Chef Symon. "I wasn't expecting anything less from you. You created something that I will remember forever," said Simon Majumdar.

Spectators' Section

With the battle complete, everyone was on the edge of their seats waiting for the big reveal — including the eliminated rivals who got to watch the entire battle unfold.

The Moment of Truth

Alton prepared the chefs for that intense final moment, when the curtain would come down and unveil the image of the Next Iron Chef.

Iron Chef Zakarian

Chef Zakarian was all but speechless when he saw his picture on the Kitchen Stadium wall: "I don't know what to say. I'm so thrilled. I'm so proud of myself right now. It's a big deal. It's a culmination of everything I've done in the last 30 years working hard as a chef."

Gracious Defeat

Chef Falkner embraced her competitor and friend. "I'm happy for him, but felt totally devastated and shocked. I wanted it so badly. I really played hard and I didn't come here to lose. I learned a lot about myself and I made a lot of great friends. It's been a great ride. I wouldn't change anything — except that it would be Iron Chef Falkner."

Ready for His Next Battle

Chef Zakarian takes in the moment: "To be in this group is very gratifying to me. It's good stuff."

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