Next Iron Chef: Inside Chef Tsai's Journal

Peek inside an eliminated chef's top-secret journal from The Next Iron Chef Season 3.
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Photo By: Leanna Creel ©Leanna Creel Inc.

Photo By: Leanna Creel ©Leanna Creel Inc.

Photo By: Leanna Creel ©Leanna Creel Inc.

Photo By: Leanna Creel ©Leanna Creel Inc.

Photo By: Leanna Creel ©Leanna Creel Inc.

Photo By: Leanna Creel ©Leanna Creel Inc.

Photo By: Leanna Creel ©Leanna Creel Inc.

Photo By: EDWARDCHEN

Photo By: EDWARDCHEN

Photo By: EDWARDCHEN

Photo By: EDWARDCHEN

Photo By: EDWARDCHEN

Photo By: EDWARDCHEN

Photo By: EDWARDCHEN

Chef Ming Tsai's Next Iron Chef Journal

Upon arrival in L.A., many chefs were shocked to see the well-known Chef Tsai among the rivals. "Ming Tsai? Come on, is that fair?" — Chef Caswell

Motivation to Win

"I'm not trying to prove to the world that I can cook; I'm doing this to prove to myself that I've still got game." — Chef Tsai

East-Meets-West Sandwich

Chef Tsai showed off his signature cooking style in the first challenge, creating a sandwich with Asian and French elements.

First Dish

Grilled Rare Teriyaki Tuna With Fennel Salad and Leek Shiitake Truffle Fondue, Mini Potato Chips and Pickled Daikon and Onions

Desert Island Battle

Chef Tsai was one of three chefs who chose suckling pig as their desert island ingredient, which added another level of competition to the already-intense beach challenge.

Staying Focused

Chef Tsai had two goals: to use as much of the pig as possible and to use the flavors of the tropics.

Sketching the Dish

"I visualize everything I do, and I visualized how I would do in this competition."

Early Front-Runner

The judges called Chef Tsai's Chile and Garlic Marinated Pork Loin With Coconut Kidney Clam Stew, Mango-Avocado-Sea Bean Parfait and Lychee Sambal "beautifully composed" and gave him the first elimination challenge win.

Pub Food?

When the chefs learned the location of their next challenge, many — including Chef Tsai — began brainstorming gastropub-inspired dishes. The challenge turned out to be a bit different ...

Breakfast

At L.A.'s John O'Groats, the chefs were charged with making breakfast dishes with coffee and doughnuts. "Breakfast is really its own genre. Only certain people are good at cooking it." — Chef Tsai

Diner Dishes

Next, the chefs were assigned classic diner dishes to transform into Iron Chef-worthy fare. Chef Tsai ended up with corned beef hash and eggs.

Keep It Simple

The judges found Chef Tsai's East-West Corned Beef Hash and Egg Two Ways overwrought: "Was there an ingredient in the pantry that you didn't use?" — Simon Majumdar

Humbled

Chef Tsai ended up in the bottom two: "I dodged a missile, not just a bullet. I guarantee this will be the closest I come to getting eliminated."

Lessons Learned

Chef Tsai recapped the close call in his journal: "Need to simplify. Cook MY food!!"

Resourcefulness

With renewed energy, Chef Tsai embraced the fish challenge: "In Chinese culture, serving more parts of the fish would be defined as being resourceful." He used the fish head and carcass in his dishes.

Welcome Back to the Top

"What I learned from the two previous challenges is keep it simple, stupid. I never want to come in last again." — Chef Tsai

Chef Tsai's Catch

The Fish 'n Dip With Tempura Scorpion Fish and Yuzu White Asparagus was a hit: "I think you have an evil doppelganger because this bears no relation to the dish we were served in the innovation challenge." — Simon Majumdar

Condiments Transformed

Chef Tsai was tasked with transforming steak sauce and decided to turn it into a carpaccio.

Deconstructing Steak Sauce

Using elements of molecular gastronomy — gelatin, xanthan gum, liquid nitrogen — Chef Tsai transformed steak sauce. "The sauce was the steak, the steak was the cheese and the cheese was the sauce."

Day at the Fair

At the San Diego State Fair, Chef Tsai wrote out his ideas for chicken and pork gyros, shrimp tacos and a deconstructed banana split.

Final Planning

After shopping at the concession stands, the chefs took a moment to reevaluate their dish ideas with the limited ingredients they had to work with.

Banana Split Visualized

Chef Tsai layered all of the flavors of a banana split in a straw: whipped cream, chocolate sauce, ice cream and banana.

Peel Problems

Chef Tsai got negative feedback for using part of a banana peel on his plate, especially after Donatella accidentally tasted it: "Inedible garnishes went away in 1985." — Michael Symon

American Inspiration

Chef Tsai is full of ideas for dishes representing the North, South, East and West: "These four regions of America, I have lived in."

Another Win

Chef Tsai's winning dishes: Frozen Garden Gazpacho (West); Butter-Poached Day Boat Scallop (East); Hoisin Barbecue Quail (South); Black Bean Glazed Veal Rib (North)

Pastry Intimidation

"Even if they gave us four hours, we're not trained pastry chefs like Jean-Philippe. This is not going to be an easy challenge." — Chef Tsai

Croquembouche Success

Chef Tsai's Chocolate Creameux With a Flambéed Banana Croquembouche was voted best wedding dessert: "It's the first time that I've won with my peers voting for me, so it feels really good."

Buffet Advantage

As the Secret Ingredient Challenge winner, Chef Tsai gets to select his buffet ingredients first. He plans an ambitious Asian-inspired spread.

Tour of Asia

Chef Tsai's dishes span the continent: He ultimately decides to pay homage to China, Japan, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Chef Tsai's Buffet

Japan: Soy Smoked Salmon and Avocado Parfait; Thailand: Thai Scallop Ceviche; Singapore: Garlic Black Pepper Lobster; Vietnam: Ribeye Pho; China: Sweet and Sour Baby Back Ribs

Anybody's Game

The judges called Chef Tsai's buffet creations inspired, but also found major flaws. He survived to cook another day — but the next challenge would be the last for the chef everyone was out to beat.

Final Plates

For the last challenge in Vegas, Chef Tsai's luxury menu was centered around the rare and expensive Mangalitsa pork. His riskiest dish: Slow Poached Thyme Lardo With Grilled Cepes, Summer Truffles and Fresh Wasabi Yuzu Vinaigrette.

Final Plates

Mangalitsa Pork and Prawn Shumai in a Hot and Sour Broth With Edamame, Chanterelles and Pickled Shallot; Soy Grilled Mangalitsa Pork Steak With Yuzu Potato-Celery Puree, Morel Bordelaise Sauce, Mustard Cream, and Bok Choy Fondue

Parting Words

"I've not cooked like this on a line in quite awhile, so it was so fun to get back in the center. It didn't turn out the way I wanted it to, but it really was a great experience." — Chef Tsai

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