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Ricky Moore was working as chef at Agraria when a producer called and asked if he’d like to compete on the Next Iron Chef program. He had no idea why they called him, but he was, of course, interested. Next thing Moore knows, a producer calls back and says, in effect, that the he’s been dropped from consideration—but would he like to be a challenger on Iron Chef America instead?
Which is how Moore ended up competing against Michael Symon—the Cleveland toque who ultimately won the Next Iron Chef contest—as part of Iron Chef America’s “Battle Thanksgiving” on Sunday.
For Moore, however, the surrealism didn’t stop there. The chef watched Sunday night’s show—in which he wore his Agraria whites in gleaming Kitchen Stadium—from the lounge at Indebleu, where Moore was hired last week to replace Vikram Garg. And the hastily pulled together viewing party only came together after Indebleu’s chief of communications, Mark Gundersen, learned about the upcoming Iron Chef episode—by Googling for it late last week.
But the weirdest thing may have been the outcome. The three judges practically drooled over Moore’s Thanksgiving dishes, which the chef says were “inspired by family.” Author and Vogue columnist Jeffrey Steingarten called Moore’s pumpkin soup with bacon and shiitake ragout “the most perfect pumpkin soup I’ve ever had.” Alexandra Guarnaschelli, executive chef at Butter in New York, called Moore’s bacon-wrapped venison “truly delicious,” while Steingarten deemed it “perfectly cooked.” And Guarnaschelli noted that Moore’s sweet-potato streusel with maple-pecan ice cream started its “seduction process with the aroma.”
To which someone at Indebleu screamed: “Seduce her, baby!”
The only negative comment centered on Moore’s deep fried turkey, which one of the judges apparently said tasted like shoe leather. I don’t know if that was true, though. I couldn’t hear the comment. It was too noisy at that moment in Indebleu.
The bottom line, it seemed to me, was that Symon was going down—in his very first competition as an Iron Chef. No doubt my opinion was colored not only by the judges’ comments but also by my indigestion of Moore’s nibbles at Indebleu, including his awesomely savory giblets samosa and his triangles of salty-sweet apricot naan.
Then the Chairman Mark Dacascos announced the winner: Symon, 51-43, which is practically a landslide. Someone shouted to Moore, “You were robbed!” I couldn’t agree more.