The final challenge: a Thanksgiving battle between two New York chefs for the Iron Chef title. The winner? The chef who didn’t make a turkey, Marc Forgione. Read about his regrets, fear of the judges’ table and the new season of Iron Chef America.
You and Marco Canora seem to have a good relationship; what was it like battling him?
You know, honest to god, I’m not just saying this, but if it were anyone that I wanted to go up against in the final, it would be him. He was such a good cook the whole time; he didn’t make any mistakes. It was kind of like going up against Iceman, and when I think about it, I was like Maverick. I always said that if I wanted to win, I wanted to go up against the best, and that was Marco.
How did you feel about judging your peers on the show?
I liked it actually. It helped us to get to know each other, and not just in a personality way. You can really get to know someone by tasting their food.
Did you find the Secret Ingredient Challenges or the Chairman's Challenges to be more difficult?
It depended; the Chairman’s Challenges had a different kind of energy, because you knew you could go home. But they are all difficult in their own way.
If you could rewind time, which challenge would you like to do over and what would you make instead?
That’s easy actually, in the four corners challenge, I had a great story for the east with Delmonico’s steak tartare, and for the west, but then for some reason I stopped my story. I have no idea why; I should have gone to the north and picked someone like Jasper White and done a lobster bisque, and then gone south for someone like Paul Prudhomme and done a blackened fish. I should I have stuck with the classics, but for some reason I just stopped.
Which of the dishes you made would you re-create in your restaurant?
There were a couple. The chicken pot pie, the bread crumbs and fish dish that I made on the fishing battle are ones that we do here now. My take on the niçoise salad for the same battle is sometimes used for specials, and the fried root beer too. On the show, I was influenced a lot by what we do in the restaurant so it makes sense to overlap.
The whole process is a huge test of character, is there something new that you learned about yourself?
Yeah, I think I learned that whatever the odds are, that no matter how tired you are, and when you think you can’t do it anymore, you can. I didn’t know that about myself before.
For the new season of Iron Chef America that airs this Sunday, how does competing on that show differ from The Next Iron Chef?
Well, on Iron Chef you are just battling to win, and in the other you are battling to not go home. I try to describe this to people, but when you are standing up there for judgement, waiting to find out if you are going to go home or not, it’s like you’re waiting for a jail sentence. If someone tells you that you’re going home, it’s like being sent to jail. At least that’s how it feels for me.
Is there anyone that you are looking forward to battling that you haven’t yet?
Anyone who thinks I’m not that good.
If you could pick your top three secret ingredients for your upcoming battles, what would they be?
How did your father, Larry Forgione, feel about you winning the title?
I sat with my family last night, watching it at the restaurant. It takes a lot to make my old man cry, and I’m pretty sure I saw tears in his eyes.
At home, what’s a go-to dish that you like to make for yourself?
Not to use a cliché, but a roasted chicken. I try to change it up, but usually the base is a little herb butter between the skin and the flesh, so that it gets nice and crispy.