Chef Marc Forgione

Chef Marc Forgion

Hmmm, technical difficulties with both DirecTV and my computer, making me miss some of Next Iron Chef and lose the first draft of my initial commentary. Let’s try this again.

The theme of this show is RESPECT. For the mini-challenge, the chefs must make a great dish from potatoes. I was surprised to see yams as they are not potatoes, completely different species. But, no matter, the playing field is level.

They are having the horrible chef judging again, guess we are stuck with that, but added a guest chef, Lt Colonel Barnes, chief of the Joint Culinary Institute (Joint means all services). They tried to relate potatoes to Army kitchen duty (KP, for short). Most people outside the military know nothing about the military and invariably show their ignorance when they try to use it in a theme or show. No exception here.

I’m an old soldier. They don’t have KP now, haven’t for many years. I do remember KP, mostly it really was about peeling potatoes, as well as “making” French Toast Army style and cleaning grease traps. Even though you only got 2 hours sleep before having to report, KP was actually not bad, the cooks were usually nice and we were allowed to smoke and hang out as long as we did a decent job. Plus we stayed warm (I went to Basic in Jan-Feb, coldest winter Fort Leonardwood, MO, ever had, never been so cold in my life). I would have done KP every frigging day.

I got off active duty a long time ago and, after 17 years, went into the National Guard after 911 (I needed to kick

Chef Bryan Caswell

Chef Bryan Caswel

some ass, I had to do something). There are a few things that have really gone downhill in the Army I discovered and my long break really provides a great opportunity to compare the Army in what is effectively two completely separate cohorts (you statisticians know what I am talking about). I am an anthropologist, after all, observation is what we do. Despite it all, the Army still manages to get the job done like they always have, I just wish they would lighten up a bit and take care of soldiers better.

A couple things that have changed to the detriment of the Army:

  • No more KP. Basic Training has been made so easy it is pathetic. If a Basic Trainee had to do KP today, he would probably lodge a complaint and win.
  • The use of the term “Hooah.” WTF? In today’s Army, we are expected to scream Hooah all the time. I feel like a complete dork when I do it. Soldiers of long past are turning in their graves. Back in the day, only an Airborne unit could get away with using something like Hooah and only when they were very drunk. I remember the time at a gasthaus in Germany when all the guys got on the tables and were patted on the ass by the battalion commander (yes, I said battalion commander, who is a Lt COL, same as LTC Barnes) as they “jumped” off the table. Today, that battalion commander would be relieved of duty and the soldiers would all get Article 15s. Back then, it was espirit de corps and morale building, something today’s Army doesn’t have or permit. It was perhaps the only time I ever heard a term anything like Hooah used in eight years of active duty.
  • No alcohol allowed in a combat zone. This is the number one most stupid thing the Army ever did. Send guys into the most stressful situations of their lives and don’t let them even have a couple of beers to relax. If someone can’t handle their liquor, deal with them, don’t punish the 99% who will not cause any problem. CENTCOM located their forward headquarters in Qatar, a good distance from the combat zones of Iraq and Afghanistan. Why not Kuwait? Saudi Arabia? Hmmm, maybe because the top brass can’t get a legal drink in Kuwait or Saudi? Or Iraq or Afghanistan? Well, you could get alcohol in the Green Zone and there was a booming black market all over. I spent a year in Iraq, anyone in that environment should be allowed to have a drink now and then to relax if they want it. I recall a firefight at the east gate, about 200 ft from our tents. It was just getting dark and there was a nice light show from tracers going both directions, parachute flares, and incredible sound effects, machine guns and especially when one of our tanks fired (talk about loud). We were sitting outside smoking and enjoying the lightshow and the only thing missing was a martini or five. I am dead serious, this really happened and we weren’t the least bit worried. And, yes, a martini would have been very welcome and I hate martinis.

Oops, got off on a major tangent, back to the show.

Mini-challenge, create a dish that respects the potato

Here is what the chefs came up with:

  • Tsai: hooah sweet potato, other chefs tore him up, he should be shot for using the word “hooah,” but he didn’t know any better. The chef criticisms were a bit off base
  • Canora: butter poached potaoe, The LTC liked it, Forgione said it was cutsey, not really a compliment in my book, Tio loved it
  • Tio: Sweet potato and goat cheese terrine, Canora critized it for masking the potato, Tsai disagreed
  • Chauhan: Potato ravioli with lemon grass sauce, Forgione and Caswell loved it, Barnes said it was “singing to him”
  • Caswell: Truffle tater tot with Potato vinegarette, Tsai was critical, Canora was also, but said it respected the potato. Canora is playing games, I think, the reason the chefs should not be involved in judging at all
  • Forgione: Gnudi with potato brown butter, Tsai and Caswell thought it was too starchy, Canora compliments him on the respect component. I am not sure I like this respect thing, it sounds like BS and only Canora is talking about it.

Bottom line on this is that, while I am sure there is some strategy in all the chef’s comments, Canora is blatant in his bias, going after the chefs posing him the biggest threat. I see some alliances emerging, as well. This chef judging could very well result in a next Iron Chef who should not be the next Iron Chef. Forgione was a real man and voted for himself as worst, you have to respect that.

Chef results: tie between Canora and Chauhan, Barnes breaks tie with Canora

Top: Canora
Bottom: Forgione

I didn’t get to taste any of the dishes, of course, but I’m not sure Canora should have come out on top.

Main Challenge: Respect for four regions of the United States, N, S, E, W

They have to create four dishes, one each to reflect each region. Canora gets to pick ingredients first.

The other chefs hated it, Canora was taking stuff others wanted. Forgione had to wait another 60 seconds before he started. He did get clams he wanted.

Caswell:
North: Waldorf salad
South: Roasted snapper and collard greens
East: Crawfish and grits
West: Watermelon gazpacho

Tsai:
North: Veal rib and potatoes
South: BBQ quail
East: Butter poached scallops
West: Gazpacho with Kombu smoked halibut

Canora:
North: Rosemary and lavender lamb chop
South: Fried soft shell crab
East: Snapper Crudo
West: Raw vegetable salad

Tio:
North: Lobster roll
South: Dirty rice with crawfish
East: Butterscotch cake
West: Pork belly pot roast

Forgione:
North: New England clam chowder
South: Corn meal crusted halibut and braised collard greens
East: Steak tartare
West: Chinois chicken salad
Fifth: Strawberry shortcake

Chauhan:
North: Buffalo tenderloin and fingerling potatoes
South: Louisiana style bread pudding
East: New England clam chowder
West:Fruit salad in avocado cup

Jose Garces is a a judge (last year’s winner)

Chauhan: overall, not very good
Tsai: did very well
Canora: did very well, except one dish that was overly salty
Forgione: some great comments, some horrible, they like his fifth dish, hated dry fish
Caswell: not the greatest
Tio: only one dish got rave reviews

It is going to be a tough decision.

Worst dishes were Forgione’s fish and Chauhan’s avocado, and bottom two this week were Chauhan and Forgione. I am not sure that one fish dish should have put Forgione at the bottom. Top two were Tsai and Canora. Finally Tsai has a strong night with the judges.

My take on the remaining chefs:
Chefs to beat: Canora and Tsai
Strong contender: Forgione
On thin ice: Tio
Next to go if a weak showing next time: Caswell


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