I was settling in for the evening when, on a whim, I decided to watch the latest episode of Iron Chef America. Mind you, this is something I do very rarely these days because I don’t think the latest crop of contest-chosen alleged “iron chefs” are actually worthy of the title (Marc Forgione on the same plateau as Masaharu Morimoto?? Please).
This episode happens to feature challenger Cesare Casella going up against Jose Garces in “Battle Hawaiian Snapper” (AKA opakapaka). I was more interested in the secret ingredient than the chefs — I love opakapaka — and was only half paying attention when they started announcing the judges, the third of which was introduced as “a Grammy award-winning musician whose piano concerts have been enjoyed by audiences all over the world: this is Yefim Bronfman!”
Fima! I’ve seen him in interviews, so I know that he’s got an unexpectedly dry sense of humor which would make him a fun judge. He’s been on ICA before back in 2009, judging Michael Symon vs. former Spago executive chef Francois Kwaku-Dongo, though I had missed that episode. A couple of his fun moments this time around:
- Shortly after being introduced:
Yefim Bronfman: “What is amazing is that I think musicians and chefs have a lot in common: I think that they work under stress, so do we; you know, they’re working strange hours like musicians do. And also some us are prima donas, and I’m sure some chefs . . . ”
Restauranteur and fellow judge Donatella Arpaia quickly interjects: “All of them are! All of them!!”
- When being introduced to one of the dishes by Chef Jose Garces:
Chef Jose Garces: “A scallop sausage which has a scallop and snapper mousse that has pieces of snapper folded into it, served over basically a lentil porridge at the bottom.”
Donatella Arpaia: “You’re confusing me — but not in a bad way.”
Yefim Bronfman: “I like the fact that you’re confused because it’s a sign of a true professional. When I play music, I’m very confused.”
Overall, he was notably easier on the contestants than the other two judges, but his comments on their dishes were generally insightful. I was not familiar with Chef Casella before the show, and his Italian-styled take on opakapaka certainly looked interesting and appetizing. Chef Garces took a more Asian-inspired approach, incorporating some Hawaiian ingredients without tryng to mimic Hawaiian cuisine. They both came up with successful dishes, but without spoiling the final result for those of you who may watch the many repeat broadcasts, there was one clear winner.
As for Mr. Bronfman, he looked like he had a great time. It was nice to see him in a different setting than normal, and I can’t wait to see him in more typical environs: sitting at the keyboard of the Model D Steinway at Walt Disney Concert Hall playing the Bartok 3rd Piano Concerto with the Los Angeles Philharmonic in mid-October.
- Yefim Bronfman: Dario Acosta, http://www.yefimbronfman.com
- Iron Chef America logo: http://www.foodnetwork.com/iron-chef-america/index.html