Critical Moments: On The Next Iron Chef, Tio Shines and Estes Serves One Bad Apple
I am sure my heart sank as fast as those of the chefs when we were told that the next elimination challenge would take place at the San Diego State Fair. Fairs can be fun, but they are hardly renowned for providing memorable culinary moments, unless you are intrigued by what the food stands can possibly find to deep fry next. The thought of trying seven assorted plates of fair fare had me rummaging in the bathroom cabinet for the extra-strength antacid as I packed to head South.
That the chefs managed to produce anything worth eating was remarkable; that some of them managed to create delicious dishes was truly astonishing. Among the highlights were Chef Forgione's deep fried root beer, Chef Caswell's frogs legs and Chef Chauhan's “who knew?” avocado and chocolate beignet.
For once, it was Chef Tio who came out of her favorite hiding place, in the middle of the pack, to produce the three dishes that really met the Chairman's challenge head on. Particular mention should go to her stunning fish taco and to a funnel cake which removed all the bad memories of my previous ghastly experience of the fryer's art. If she keeps up this level of cooking, she is still very much in the game to be the Next Iron Chef.
The game was well and truly up for quirky Chef Estes, however. It was apt that a state fair was the location for her last stand, as her performances so far had been up and down like a roller coaster. When she was good, the judges admired her spirit. When she was bad, however, all the shouting in the world about “seasonal” and “local” produce was unlikely to save her. One bad apple, in this case one that resembled The Creature From the Black Lagoon, was enough for the judges to decide to send her scurrying back to Sonoma.