What is in this article?:
- Are you top chef material?
- Dealing with critics
This is part of Restaurant Hospitality’s special coverage of the 2013 South Beach Wine & Food Festival held in Miami Beach, Fla., Feb. 21-24.
There may be no cooking contests more grueling than those surrounding Food Network’s Iron Chef competitions. Those who are eventually crowned an Iron Chef are arguably among the elite of the country’s chefs. So, what does it take to become an Iron Chef? Four who have achieved fame as Iron Chefs answered that question at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival. The trade panel, presented by Bullfrog & Baum, included Iron Chefs Marc Forgione, Michael Symon, Geoffrey Zakarian and Alex Guarnaschelli. The moderator was a fellow Iron Chef, Bobby Flay.
Flay: How has Iron Chef helped your career?
Symon: After winning Iron Chef, business at my two restaurants went up 25 percent. But it also opened doors for me. I now have 13 restaurants that I wouldn't have likely had without that exposure. It also opened the doors to The Chew cooking show on ABC. No other cooking show can equal the power that Iron Chef delivers for a chef.
Flay: If you had to give up The Chew or Iron Chef, what would it be?
Symon: I'd keep The Chew and drop Iron Chef. Most chefs spend a good part of their time teaching the chefs under them how to cook their style of food. Now on The Chew, I teach America how to cook, and many of those people watching are people who can't afford to eat in our restaurants. The Chew draws three million viewers a day. That's incredible.
Flay: Marc, would you have had the opportunity to open your Atlantic City restaurant, American Cut, without Iron Chef?
Forgione: Maybe, but the best thing about Iron Chef is that it lets everyone know what people who eat in your restaurants already know: that you're a good chef. The exposure is incredible. With that said, people won't come back to my restaurants because I'm an Iron Chef. They'll come back because I'm a good chef and they had an enjoyable experience.
Flay: Alex, the first time you competed on Iron Chef as a guest chef, you lost. Then you placed fourth in the Next Iron Chef competition. Were you discouraged?
Guarnaschelli: I was asked to compete a second time on Next Iron Chef and I didn't want to do it. But Bobby [Flay] talked me into doing it one more time. He said that if you do it again and win, it will change your career. He was right.
Flay: Now you are the only woman Iron Chef.
Guarnaschelli: I find that annoying. Iron Chef battles are multi-level warfare and you have to be scrappy to win, whether you're a woman or not.