After Sunday night's epic holiday meal battle in Kitchen Stadium against chef Elizabeth Falkner, Geoffrey Zakarian -- who recently opened the Tudor House restaurant in South Beach -- prevailed using the secret ingredients as his allies (beef crown roast, candy canes, clementines, acorn and butternut squash, salt cod, Brussels sprouts, unfiltered apple cider, and parsnips) and three surprises from the Chairman (cranberries, use of the ice-cream machine, and a holiday-themed cocktail in a martini glass).
Zakarian spoke with New Times about his recent victory. But before we start: Which one of you is doing Next Iron Chef Season 4: The Remake? We here at Short Order are hungry and ready.
New Times: What was your gut feeling walking into your first Next
Iron Chef challenge?
Geoffrey Zakarian: Oh, my God... Well, they told me we had to go out to the
mountains and we were like, "Really?"... I was shocked when they told us what
the geography was, but I was like, "OK, carry on."
If it weren't you, who do you think could've been the
There were three people who I thought had a really good
shot at it, and that was Mr. Chiarello, Ms. Falkner, and Alex Guarnaschelli.
What's the one secret ingredient you'd fear working with
There really wasn't anything that scared me. They
surprised me, but... I'll transform anything as long as it's edible.
Which of the current Iron Chefs do you think would be
your biggest challenge?
Oh, they're all great. I mean, you know... you got the
three guys there -- Flay, Symon, and Morimoto -- who've been doing it for so long that
their motor skills are like insane, you know what I mean? And Morimoto is just
off the charts so... I don't know. Those three, to me, are like killers.
If your career as a chef hadn't flourished, what would
you be doing right now?
I'd probably be a professional golfer or a piano player.
Could you briefly take us through your daily routine?
My daughters come first, so I do breakfast and lunch for
them and send them to school. I walk them to school, I come back, I start
working from my home, which is pretty close to both restaurants, which is
convenient so I can hop back and forth between the Lamb's Club and the
National. I head down to Florida once a month and try to make it to Atlantic City
once a month, so, you know, it works.
Name three edible staples in your home kitchen.
Pecorino-Romano cheese; chicken soup that my mother
makes -- always on hand -- it's the best;... and probably yogurt -- low-fat yogurt.
Name three appliance staples in your home kitchen.
Espresso machine, a hand wand, and let me see what else
is always on hand... I'd say I use it a lot... the microwave.
Nothing wrong with an Iron Chef using a microwave!
Oh, they're amazing, are you kidding me?
What did you have for breakfast this morning?
I had a double espresso and a cheese omelet that I made
for my kids.
Could you give us a nibble of what to expect for the December
25 airing of Iron Chef America?
You can expect me to be cooking.
Let's say you wrote for New Times and interviewed us on our recent victory on NIC. What would you be
interested in if you could ask us just one question?
I would ask how do they
come up with their ideas with the dishes they do so quickly?
So, how do you
come up with your ideas and dishes so quickly?
You see, I knew you were gonna do that, you know, so I
have an answer ready. I always go to the lowest common denominator for that
ingredient. So if I think squash, I try to think what it means to me -- and if it
doesn't mean anything to me, I'm not gonna do well when I cook it. So [squash] means
to me: fall, maple syrup, cinnamon, and things just come into your head so you
can narrow the vortex and make it a bit smaller and you go with something
because there's no time.
Where do you get your iconic glasses?
There's a gentleman
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on 44th Street named Meyrowitz... I mean, I have like 12 pairs from him.
In celebration of his shiny new badge, Tudor House is offering specials inspired by Zakarian's Next Iron Chef creations through December 31. Caramel pork belly with artichoke barigoule ($24), anyone?