When last we checked in with Eric Greenspan, chef-owner of The Foundry on Melrose and the first chef (and only Los Angeles contestant) to be eliminated in The Next Iron Chef, there were seven contestants. Now there are four (imagine an Agatha Christie story, in a locked kitchen). Last week, Dominique Crenn (San Francisco's Luce) was asked to leave. And last night, in a double elimination, chefs Roberto Treviño (Budati in San Juan) and Nate Appleman (Pulino's Bar and Pizzeria in New York), the chef many picked to win the whole thing, were asked to go. That culls the field to four. What did Greenspan make of all this? Read on.
Squid Ink: So, the pack is dwindling. Do you see any patterns here?
Eric Greenspan: The only pattern that I see is that there are no patterns. Seems like Chef Mullen was on the rise for a while and now Chef Freitag is looking confident. It will be interesting to see how jet lag affects everyone next week. [In the next episode, the four remaining chefs head to Japan.]
SI: What is it with Chef Mehta and ice cream? Is the guy opening an ice cream shop in NY?
EG: Ha! He's actually a trained pastry chef. That's definitely his comfort zone.
SI: When you were eliminated, it was either you or Chef Crenn, who was eliminated that week. Were you surprised that she lasted this long?
EG: I wasn't surprised because she's a very talented chef, but she did seem to end up one of the anti-finalist every time. She whooped me though, so who's talking? What shocked me more was Chef Appleman's departure this week.
SI: Do you watch reality cooking shows in real life, and would you be watching this one if you hadn't been involved in it?
EG: While I can't say that I watch a ton of reality food shows, I would definitely have been watching this show even if I wasn't involved in it because I love the fact that it features talented young chefs from around the country who I consider my peers.
SI: What do you think of these shows as art, as entertainment?
EG: Art? Not so sure. It's no Rodin sculpture. But it is most definitely entertaining. The clock keeps the tension high and viewers on the edge of their seats. As additional chefs get eliminated each week, the competition continues to get even more interesting as we see heightened focus on the food.
SI: Do you think they capture what chefs really do or it all artifice?
EG: These tough challenges are definitely meant to see who could succeed in Kitchen Stadium — each week, you never know what's going to be presented to you, just like on Iron Chef America. While it's not necessarily what we do as chefs on a daily basis (I don't remember the last time I had to fight another chef for a cooking vessel or ran through a market to do my shopping. Or run at all, to be honest.), it's definitely a great preparation for the chops needed to be an Iron Chef.
SI: It seems like the clock is the biggest factor in these competitions. How important is it behind the real stoves?
EG: Surprisingly, the clock is always a huge factor in real cooking, although not so absolute. Perhaps not as forgiving either. Most customers who claimed they waited a half an hour for this or that could use an atomic clock, methinks.
SI: Do you ever run around The Foundry kitchen like that?
EG: I try not to run, period. Plus, The Foundry's kitchen is not nearly as big as Kitchen Stadium.
SI: Who's your favorite judge?
EG: Donatella. She tells it how it is.
SI: Why does it seem like reality TV cooking judges are getting, um, bitchier? Or is that just me?
EG: Judging food is definitely a… qualitative experience. And diverse points of views create diverse opinions.