The latest installment of ‘The Next Iron Chef‘ was the biggest episode yet. The claws came out as chefs elbowed each other for choice meats, suffered a verbal slamming from the judges for under-cooked food, and faced the threat of a double elimination. The challenge: Create a five-course Indian feast in only two hours.
Ultimately, Alton Brown denied chefs Roberto Treviño and Nate Appleman boarding passes to the next round, which will fly the final four to Japan for next week’s competition. We spoke with chef Treviño on Monday about his experiences on the show, the challenge of cooking a foreign cuisine, and having an entire island population in his corner.
Your elimination was very quick. The audience was told we’d get a double elimination but instead of having you in the bottom three, they told Chef Freitag she was going through to the next round and then just sent you home.
I think that’s a positive for me personally, because I don’t think I would’ve liked enjoyed that moment, that last two standing. I think I was very fortunate to go early and get eliminated like this in a double elimination, as opposed to Chef Appleman who had to stick that out. That was a little rough. I was lucky.
What did you think of your dish for that challenge?
Well, first of all, Indian food is really foreign to me. I just shot from the hip and just went for it. It was really tough to remember the names from my head and the flavor is not something I’m too familiar with-so I just went for it. Being a chef is a day-to-day thing and you learn everyday. Some days are more challenging than others and that particular challenge was a bit over me-so it took me down.
Did you have any experience before that challenge cooking Indian food?
Nah, just you’re typical “let’s make some curry” or “let’s make some basmati rice.” Nothing further than that. No kitchen experience or any kind of professional training in that.
What did you think of your overall performance on the show? You didn’t get to win any of the other competitions.
[Laughs.] Well I don’t know. The show is incredible. I think the Food Network does an incredible job and the production company-they’re such professionals. They made it very easy and a lot of fun to work with them.
Win or lose, the challenges to be ‘The Next Iron Chef’ I think it was an incredible experience for me personally and professionally; so I have no complaints. I think I went out there to do battle with these other chefs. I learned a lot of what’s going on in the states. Out here in Puerto Rico, we’re kind of isolated from what’s going down. It was really exciting for me and very professionally gratifying.
What did you learn about yourself from being in the competition?
Well, I think I take that-being a chef as long as I’ve been-you have to be open to different things. You can’t be so just set in your ways that you can’t see outside the box. I learned to open up a little more and be a little more adventurous.
Did you take away any culinary tricks you might’ve learned from the show?
Well, I give all my guests chicken feet now [laughs]. All experience whether it’s opening a new restaurant, being in the competition, or even with just working with other chefs, you always take great ideas and try to improve them all the time.
Did everyone back home in Puerto Rico watch the show? Have you gotten feedback from friends, family and customers?
Oh yeah! Let’s see, we’re an island of four million people and I think 3.5 million people watched it last night [laughs]. I think the island has been totally into it. The people of Puerto Rico are not only big fans of their contenders going for whatever competition, but also of the Food Network as well. It’s very popular down here.
Did you have any viewing parties or did you just watch the episodes by yourself?
Yes, last night I watched it in a dark closet [laughs]. Yeah we had viewing parties here at work and they were always fun. People just have a blast with it and I think this is what it’s all about, having a good time. Ultimately it’s about entertainment and I think it pulls that off.