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Can Bryan Caswell win Iron Chef? Analyzing the Houston wonder's competition

Can Bryan Caswell win Iron Chef? Analyzing the Houston wonder's competition

You'd think with three successful restaurants under his belt and one more in the works, Bryan Caswell would have enough to do.

But now he's adding another adjective to his many credits: CIA alum, James Beard nominee, Continental Airlines celebrity chef, and ... now, reality star. And  — possibly, just possibly, Iron Chef

Yes, season three of Food Network's The Next Iron Chef has been announced, and Caswell is one of 10 estimable competitors fighting for the prestigious title of Iron Chef, an exclusive club of only a half-dozen numbers, some of the American culinary world's biggest luminaries: Mario Batali, Bobby Flay and Masaharu Morimoto.

Caswell is joined by nine other distinguished restaurateurs vying for the title: they might not have household names — yet — but they have plenty of awards and top tier experience under their chef's hats.

Anything can happen on Iron Chef, but that doesn't mean we can't handicap Caswell's competition:

  • Ming Tsai already has several shows under his belt (and some Emmys on his shelf) as the host of Simply Ming, East Meets West and Ming's Quest. His Asian fusion restaurant near Boston, Blue Ginger, has earned Tsai a multitude of awards. He's got the cred, but has he strayed too far from the kitchen? Odds: 5:1
  • James Beard award winner Celina Tio is known for her comfort food in Kansas City, but her Walt Disney experience gives me doubts. Odds: 10:1
  • Marco Canora's resume reads like a who's who of New York dining: Gramercy Tavern, Craft, and now his own Hearth. You know what they say about making it here.... Odds: 3:1
  • Puerto Rico's star chef, Mario Pagan has three of the best restaurants in San Juan and the passion and drive to introduce the island cuisine to the rest of America. Odds: 20:1
  • Maneet Chauhan, the executive chef of New York's lauded Vermillion has an encyclopedic knowledge of both Indian and Latin cuisines, plus experience as an Iron Chef challenger. Odds: 3:1
  • Food & Wine magazine Best New Chef Mary Dumont also has Iron Chef experience and a combination of Cali SLGT passion and New England determination. Odds: 12:1
  • Duskie Estes is a consummate California artisan, producing food and wine as well as overseeing two restaurants. No one wants to be unfavorably compared, but "the poor man's French Laundry" is not a bad thing to be. Odds: 8:1
  • Are culinary skills hereditary? It seems like it for Marc Forgione, who started out under his legendary father Larry Forgione and cut his teeth with Laurent Tourondel before earning a Michelin star at his own restaurant, Forge. Odds: 5:1
  • Andrew Kirschner has a distinctive mulitcultural Angeleno style and has worked under the likes of Arnold Wong. Could be a dark horse. Odds: 20:1

Though his lips are sealed, we hear Caswell did quite well in the competition (which has already been taped). As he explained the experience to the Chronicle's Greg Morago:

If someone was able to have a full game plan, I don't understand what that could have been. It's a unique experience, a unique feeling and emotion. I can't even put my thumb on it. You don't know what's going to happen. But what I can tell you is when you're cooking, it's as real as it can get. It's more intense than anything you can experience. It's graduation, prom, first date and finals in a basketball tournament all melded together. And then the judgment part, it's like two Mexican wrestlers going at it in your stomach.

With Caswell's dedication to the ingredients, flavors and traditions of Gulf Coast cuisine and his passion for the Houston culinary scene, we can't think of a better Iron Chef.

The Next Iron Chef premieres on The Food Network on Sunday, Oct. 3 at 8 p.m.

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Bryan Caswell Courtesy of The Next Iron Chef
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