‘The Next Iron Chef’ Episode 1: Chef Marc Forgione Talks Sammies and Slides

TNIC Episode 1 The Next Iron Chef Episode 1: Chef Marc Forgione Talks Sammies and Slides
Alton confesses that he wouldn't have worn a hat if his hair were as cool as Marc's.

Move over, Mad Men. Sunday nights have even more must-see TV for foodies, thanks to the premiere of season 3 of The Next Iron Chef. Competitor Marc Forgione has signed on to help shepherd OpenTable diners through every episode this season, win, lose, or draw (and we’re going to hold you to that, Chef!). We’ll find out what’s behind Chef Forgione’s thinking as he takes on the world’s best chefs, as well as get a look behind the scenes of this exciting, high-stakes competition.

Thanks for joining us, Chef Forgione!  NYC has become the city of the sammie. And, you had to make one straight out of the gate. Do you have any fave sandwiches in NYC that you eat when you’re not at your restaurant?

The Banh Mi from The Saigon Bakery on Grand Street.

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Top Chef Just Desserts Episode 3: Half-Baked Sale

TCJD Ep 3 Michael Laiskonis Top Chef Just Desserts Episode 3: Half Baked Sale
Chef Michael Laiskonis admits he was nervous about baking a cake for the great Sylvia Weinstock.

The situation on TCJD gets stickier and stickier every week, due to the increasing pressure and clashing personalities of the pastry pros. Thankfully, renowned pastry chef Michael Laiskonis is back to help us navigate what went right and wrong with everything from this week’s wedding cakes to one cheftestant’s dry cupcakes.

My first question tonight is not entirely related to TCJD, BUT I just saw Kings of Pastry and — WOW! Seeing this competition certainly puts TCJD into perspective (insofar as it has NOTHING on the Meilleurs Ouvriers de France). Did you see the film?

I did, of course, get a chance to see the inspiring Kings of Pastry documentary and I’d like to think its theme of intensity, discipline, and quest for perfection is something that will resonate beyond an audience of just pastry chefs. Being awarded the MOF (literally translated, “Best Craftsman of France”) represents the sum total of a candidate’s life work and training, so it is serious business. The judging is ridiculously technical, but it’s a jury of peers — a panel of previous winners — so there is a deep sense of community and support there as well. Sadly, it’s the very spirit of camaraderie that unravels by the end of this week’s episode of TCJD. Whatever the venue, the best competitions manage to reveal the true test — how each individual overcomes his or her own self-imposed obstacles.

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OpenTable Spotlight Offers Hit a Rocky Mountain High in Denver, Starting Tonight!

OT Secret Spotlight Chicago OpenTable Spotlight Offers Hit a Rocky Mountain High in Denver, Starting Tonight!
Can you guess which Chicago restaurant serves up this delicious dish?

Dining out in Denver just got even better, thanks to the launch of OpenTable Spotlight offers in The Mile High City this week. Take advantage of half-off dining with $50 for $25 at popular restaurants in Denver. The name of this week’s featured restaurant will be revealed at 8PM EDT and the offer, along with others in AtlantaBostonChicagoLos AngelesNew York, PhiladelphiaSan Francisco, and Washington, D.C., will launch at 12AM tonight!

If you can’t wait until this evening, try to guess the restaurants in each city with these fun clues on the Spotlight message boards, over on Facebook, or on Twitter.

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50 Foodie Favorites: Congratulations to the OpenTable Diners’ Choice Winners

Fit for Foodies 50 Foodie Favorites: Congratulations to the OpenTable Diners Choice WinnersBecause we’re a nation — and a company — of foodies, we’re thrilled to announce the winners of OpenTable’s second annual Diners’ Choice awards for the restaurants most fit for foodies.

While this year’s list features 22 restaurants that earned the Fit for Foodies distinction in 2009, it also recognizes 28 new ones at which to enjoy outstanding cuisine.  The list of winners is derived from more than 7 million reviews submitted by OpenTable diners for more than 12,000 restaurants in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Honorees include Abbatoir, Blackbird, Cochon, FIG, Primo, Saffron, and Tilth along with many others. Find out if your favorite foodie destination made the list, and share your thoughts on the winners here or over on Facebook.

Daily Dining Poll: Going the Distance to Dine Out

With the proliferation of dining reviews, it’s tempting to take a train, plane, or automobile to satisfy your gastronomic cravings. And, naturally, with OpenTable being in all 50 states in addition to our international presence, we’re wondering about your willingness to go the distance to dine out at the world’s finest restaurants. Click through to take our poll!

Top Chef Just Desserts Episode 2: Boys Don’t Cry…Except for Seth

This episode turned me every which way but loose. There were candy highs and emotional lows, too many tears (I mean, really, Seth! Get a hold of yourself, man!) and too few homeruns. After wading through the many dramas of this week’s episode, I was left with many questions, some of which Le Bernardin pastry chef Michael Laiskonis is going to answer those related to the kitchen. My questions related to Seth’s well-being will have to be referred elsewhere (possibly to a mental-health professional).

TCJD 2 Kids in a Candy Store Top Chef Just Desserts Episode 2: Boys Dont Cry...Except for Seth
To the chagrin of his vegan mom, Zac fulfills his childhood candy fantasies.

Morgan is quick to point out that he and Seth aren’t same-sex oriented (He didn’t add, “Not that there’s anything wrong with that,” so I will.). That’s irrelevant in my opinion, but I wonder about gender in the pastry side of the kitchen… what’s the male to female ratio of pastry chefs in your experiences?

In my own kitchen, men just happen to make up the majority. From experience, however, I’ve found a mix of personalities, temperaments — and yes, gender — just makes for an overall good vibe. For some reason, high-end pastry has historically been a bit of a boys club, but that’s changing. There are a lot of daring, exciting up-and-coming women pastry chefs on the scene. I spend a lot of time working with culinary schools, too, and these days I see the classes skewed heavily toward the feminine!

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Top Chef Just Desserts Episode 1: 20 Questions with Pastry Chef Michael Laiskonis

Michael Laiskonis Top Chef Just Desserts Episode 1: 20 Questions with Pastry Chef Michael Laiskonis
Pastry chef Michael Laiskonis makes 'Top Chef Just Desserts' even sweeter!

Bravo’s fun Top Chef: Just Desserts premiered last week — and it’s back again tonight. The lovechild of Top Chef and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, even the show’s initial ep tested my knowledge of all things sweet. Despite my culinary school training, it turns out that I don’t know a whole heck of a lot about pastry (although I make a fierce tarte aux pomme). So I’ve called in a pro to help me figure out exactly what’s happening with Bravo’s latest confection. James Beard Foundation Award-winning pastry chef, Michael Laiskonis, from New York’s famed Le Bernardin restaurant, will be tuning in with us every week going forward, so check back tomorrow for his take on Episode 2. To kick things off, I asked him 20 questions about the premiere to help set the stage.

When I was in culinary school, the pastry people always seemed much cooler and calmer than my fellow savory chef students and I – or was that just the cool temp in their kitchen?

I think we’re beginning to see that it’s not necessarily all that calm and cool. I like to think we share the same amount of intensity as our savory cook counterparts; we pastry chefs often tend to channel that energy in a different way.

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Purchase $50 for $25: This Week’s OpenTable Spotlight Offers Are Shining Bright

Looking for ways to save big when you dine out? Check out this week’s OpenTable Spotlight offers. Purchase $50 for just $25 at the following restaurants, now through midnight EDT tonight:

Sliders at STK LA Purchase $50 for $25: This Weeks OpenTable Spotlight Offers Are Shining Bright
Don't you want to sink your teeth into the sliders at STK LA?

* Atlanta: Peasant Bistro

* Boston: Club Café

* Chicago: aria

* Los Angeles: STK

* New York: Trattoria Cinque

* Philadelphia: Matyson

* San Francisco: 5A5 Steak Lounge

* Washington, D.C.: Zengo D.C.