Living to battle another week in Kitchen Stadium, chef Marc Forgione returns to dish on fish and fishing, hot cherry peppers, and resourcefulness, on season three of The Next Iron Chef.
You have your notebook with you all the time during the challenges. Can you talk about your planning process a little bit for these incredibly brief (in terms of time) challenges?
At least for me, my notebook was not recipes. It was more for ideas and ingredient lists, so that, in the chaos, I could look at my notes and remember, ‘I need carrots.’ Food Network actually has a great feature where you can view the notebook of the contestant that was voted off.
At your restaurant, you make your own pickles. What’s your favorite kind of pickled item?
Right now at my restaurant, we are doing pickled Red Jacket Orchard apples, with braised almonds and candied bacon, in a duck dish. Pickling fruits is a new thing for me — we started pickling peaches and watermelons over the summer. I am quickly falling in love with these new flavors.
What up with the butter lettuce kerfuffle? Chef Estes wanted it and Chef Dumont took it! I thought there wasn’t going to be game playing like that!
I can’t speak for everyone else, but, in my opinion, at this point in the game, we all became more comfortable with each other. The nicey-nicey ‘I will do everything I can to help you’ attitude got lost. I didn’t know that Estes and Dumont incident happened until I watched the show. Dumont had an idea to do lettuce wraps, but she ended up losing with that dish.
Those hot cherry peppers — two chefs used them, one more successfully than the other, but are they THAT hot? And, if so, they don’t seem like a wise choice. Can’t the heat of something like that just run roughshod over your palate and hide delicate flavors?
Those cherry peppers were very hot. If you notice, my favorite snack was Chef Caswell’s dish, or, as he called it “Red Hot.” He meant for his dish to be hot, and I love heat. However, I didn’t judge on heat, I judge on flavors all the time. As far as killing your taste buds, everyone’s taste buds are different.
How hard is it to vote for the least successful dish? Everyone’s egos are on the line, and you all seem to be friendly. Do you feel bad? Or is it like The Godfather — business, not personal?
You can’t feel bad about picking someone; you have to pick someone. You will see as the show goes on that we almost always get lucky, because it seems that one person screws up (for lack of a better word) each time, so it makes it easier to pick someone. Like I said, I name who I think had the best or worst dish in terms of flavor. If I had to, I gave the person a hug after to make good.
Have you been fishing? How would you rate your skills as a fisherman?
I would not consider myself a fisherman. I don’t have the patience for it, although I do enjoy going out on boats, having a beer, relaxing. A great deal of footage was cut from the boat scene. What you don’t see at home is that we all had a lot of fun and banter on the boat. This was one of the first times we were all really bonding and chilling on camera.
If you could have caught any fish (forgetting about geography), what would you have most liked to catch and cook with?
If I could catch any fish, I would want Kona Kompachi. I look at Kona Kompachi as the ocean’s Kobe Beef. It is fatty, buttery, and has a beautiful texture and flavor, whether it is raw or cooked.
Catching the fish seemed easier than having to break it down. What’s the hardest part about taking down a fish?
With the skeleton fish, in particular, there were poisonous barbs all over the fish. Not only did you have to fillet the fish, but you had to debone it and cook it in under an hour, while also avoiding the barbs. It could have been a disaster if someone were stuck with one, but, luckily, we were all fine.
Donatella says your dishes showed more creativity than resourcefulness. Aren’t creativity and resourcefulness linked, in a way?
This is where the competition gets tricky sometimes. A lot of people think, when you are watching at home, that we just get some food and cook it. That was, for me, a wake-up call of needing to really listen to what the judges are looking for. As far as resourcefulness, I thought I was resourceful in only using what I had. I didn’t take anything from the altar – no sardines, shrimp, clams, or some of the other things the other chefs used. I made two dishes, start to finish, using only the fish I had. I thought that was being resourceful. Apparently not! You didn’t get to see my full explanation on camera, but I did try to impart that to the judges.
You won the Secret Ingredient Challenge, so were you surprised to be stuck in the middle in the Chairman’s Challenge?
I was very confident with my dishes, but I also knew there were a lot of other great dishes. It could have been anybody’s game, but if they had sent me home with what I had made, I would have been shocked.