One clue that Alex Guarnaschelli was destined to win Season 5 of Food Network’s “The Next Iron Chef” last Sunday? When her competitors were asked to cook a passionate “last supper” meal for the judges. The first two mystery ingredients were doled out: chicken and haddock. Third in line, Guarnaschelli ended up with sea urchin.
While fellow finalists Nate Appleman appeared to smirk at the ingredient and Amanda Freitag appeared to recoil, Guarnaschelli appraised the ingredient confidently with a nod, and you could already see the gears turning in her head.
“I’m really excited about it,” she said. “Briny, sweet, light, cold, refreshing. Love it.”
Her sea urchin flan helped her sail into a finale that pitted her against Freitag in the hallowed Kitchen Stadium.
The first two rounds of the competition seemed somewhat even. But it was Guarnaschelli’s dessert — a pasilla chile cherry tart — that “crushed” the dessert round, handing her the victory.
“I feel like you can really clean up in the dessert round,” the New York City native said.
“I learned so much from ‘Iron Chef’ about ingredients, about the courage to put yourself out there,” she said. “I don’t mean to sound like a cliche, but it’s like a dream come true.”
Guarnaschelli, like most of the other nine competitors this season, had been eliminated in an earlier season and was given a shot to come back and seek redemption.
“I went into this with a 10 percent chance of winning,” she said. “There were times I was thinking, am I crazy?”
She said her confidence grew with each twist and turn of the game.
“The worse it got, the calmer I got. There was just nothing else to do.”
She said watching the show has been like an “out-of-body” experience, because the competition was so intense and grueling she can barely remember parts of it.
“I’m watching it and I’m thinking, ‘I did that? I made that? I said that?’”
Guarnaschelli added: “I feel like princess with a knife. I’ve wanted to be an ‘Iron Chef’ forever.”