Victory tastes so delicious!
After a hard-fought battle in Kitchen Stadium, Alex Guarnaschelli beat out fellow Chopped judge Amanda Freitag to win this season of The Next Iron Chef. This cycle was all about redemption, which makes her title as Iron Chef that much sweeter since Guarnaschelli was eliminated last season right before the finale.
We hopped on the phone with the new Iron Chef to talk about her favorite moments from this past season, and what it really feels like to go head to head in Kitchen Stadium.
Congratulations! How does it feel after two installments of Next Iron Chef to finally be the winner?
Alex Guarnaschelli: [Host] Alton [Brown] was like, 'at this point, this is it for you. It's here or never.' It was amazing. I feel so lucky.
You had to battle fellow Chopped judge Amanda Freitag in Kitchen Stadium. What was that like?
I don't think either of us expected it to be that way, so I think we were surprised. The situation is so complex no matter who it is. For example, had it been Nate [Appleman] and Amanda, they go way back. So I think you enter into a situation like this knowing that part of the deal is that you might end up [battling your friend]. What's nice is that Amanda and I really like each other. And I can't explain it, but somehow that makes it kind of cool.
Do you agree that it was time to have another female Iron Chef back in Kitchen Stadium?
I have to tell you, I try not to look at these things as gender based. [Judge] Simon Majumdar said it best. He said: "these are not two women that made it into the finale. These are two chefs who cooked all the way to the finale, and they happen to be women." I really liked that.
What was your reaction when you saw the three different alters of food during the final battle?
The real problem, like in most of Next Iron Chef's, culminated in the finale, which is it's harder to not choose to make things then to make something. Like, when you finally commit to something, you second-guess yourself so much. Especially for two Chopped judges to be judged by a pantheon of the highest order of judges in Kitchen Stadium. I went through about a thousand things before I settled on something. Nothing made me feel comfortable in that scenario. It's like getting dressed for the prom with like an 80,000 mile long closet and trying every dress on and thinking none of them is right.
The last winner of The Next Iron Chef was Geoffrey Zakarian, who is another fellow Chopped judge. Did he give you any advice on how to get to the end?
No. Amanda did not have any interaction with Geoffrey during the show. We've all judged each other. I judged Geoffrey during Chopped Champions. Geoffrey has judged Amanda and me before. Amanda's judged Nate. There's no room to add that to the equation. I think Geoffrey considers his own credibility, his own objectiviety, above anything else, just as Amanda and I do.
You are Geoffrey's sous chef when he competes on Iron Chef. Do you think that helped you to prepare for this season?
No, it made no difference. Because it doesn't matter what you do. It only matters how you feel inside.
What was your favorite moment from the season?
I really enjoyed the cook off with chef [Marcel] Vigneron when I was in the bottom. He turned to me right before he cooked and he said: "I plan to cook my heart out. And I expect you to do the same." I really liked that. He's a really great cook.
Do you have a least favorite moment or least favorite dish?
I mean, how long do you have? [Laughs] I was not happy with my canned food dish. I don't feel I honored the ingredient. And I really didn't like it when chef [Elizabeth] Falkner got eliminated. Don't get me wrong, Nate's amazing. It was just surprising.
Have you already filmed your first Iron Chef battle?
Yes. I filmed it right after finishing Next Iron Chef so I couldn't have been more depleted. But I was so happy and so grateful, like I won the lotto. That's kind of how I feel.
Guarnachelli's first Iron Chef battle airs Sunday, Dec. 30 at 9 p.m. on Food Network. Her first cookbook comes out in April 2013, which includes, in her words, "all the stuff I love."