There's a Texan in the House
The Next Iron Chef premieres to an appreciative crowd at contender BryanCaswell's Stella Sola
A devoted band of foodie fans made their way to Stella Sola Sunday night to watch the premiere of The Next Iron Chef, with the man of the hour, chef-owner and Iron Chef contender Bryan Caswell, appearing just after the first commercial break.
They were audibly appreciative of any Caswell airtime, due in part, perhaps, to the privacy of the upstairs private party room and its accompanying bar. It was Caswell's first time seeing the edited episode, and there was much buzz among his friends and employees over who knew how far he made it in the competition, although no one dared dish.
Caswell came off like a charming, down-to-earth Texan, making a few hometown references that outsiders might not have gotten. During the first challenge, for example, when contestants were asked to craft the perfect sandwich, Caswell blended Cajun and Vietnamese cuisine, explaining that the culture "is big where I come from." His peer judges probably thought he was referring to the prevalence of Cajun food in Houston, but we natives know he was paying tribute to our Vietnamese contingent.
We sensed a bit of tension between Caswell and TV-vet Ming Tsai — Tsai lobbed back Caswell's charge that his sandwich had too much bread — but Tsai's self-assurance promises to rub most contestants the wrong way eventually.
Caswell was in and out throughout his show's airing, and we didn't get a chance to ask what he really thought about Chef Duskie Estes, an early favorite who seemed to sign her own exit papers when she declared her own dish her favorite, despite being warned by host Alton Brown that doing so would be "hideously obnoxious." She also hogged ingredients in the second, beach-side challenge, which ended up being her undoing. As expected, Caswell was right at home in that setting, serving up raw-cured Amberjack with cactus pears and a lime-coconut broth.
When it came time to send Andrew Kirschner packing, Caswell was right where you want to be — comfortably in the middle.
We don't know how it ends, but we do know that tension between Caswell and Tsai didn't make it past the taping — Caswell said Tsai texted him just after the episode aired.