The Demand to Perform: A Newbie’s Dilemma in ‘Iron Chef America’



MintBattle Mint was the second cooking melee and win for Geoffrey Zakarian, the newest member of “Iron Chef America.” While he prepped and cooked like the rest of the maven chefs and won over the challenger, Jonathon Sawyer, Zakarian’s newbie-ness was webbed through the episode’s structure.

At the onset of the show, Chairman Mark Dacasos welcomed the competing chefs with a challenge question heaved at Zakarian, “Iron Chef Zakarian, you are my newest Iron Chef, did you enjoy the hazy ritual?” As if the pressure to make palatable dishes out of mints within 60 minutes was not enough, Dacascos reminded Zakarian his being an abecedarian of the kitchen stadium, hence, still is in the course of making a mark as an Iron Chef. The interplay between being a newbie and the demand to perform was already laid down that early.

Zakarian’s dilemma echoed Winston Churchill’s saying about success and its lack of finality. Though Zakarian was able to secure a sought-after post, he needed to struggle and prove his acumen over and over. His acing out of nine other fellow chefs in “The Next Iron Chef” is just the beginning of a nobler process: being able to win every battle thrown at him. Nevertheless, Zakarian seemed to have internalized this reality and appeared to be ready for the challenge. He even came up with dishes, which according to him were in avoidance of the obvious. Zakarian embraced the demand of Iron Chef’s trade and pushed himself to labor for favorable outcomes.

Zakarian’s effective technique of avoiding the obvious was corroborated by Commentator Alton Brown’s statement, “I don’t know his pattern” referring to the new Iron Chef’s approach to cooking. On the one hand, the statement implied, yet again, Zakarian’s newbie-ness, but on a hinge, it also showed how the Chef managed to pull off unpredictability under his belt. This same unpredictability, I believe, steered Zakarian to the cradle of “sweet, minty aroma of success” in his first two battles.

It is pertinent to note, however, that Zakarian’s dishes were not all in knockout category. In David Rocco’s own words, Zakarian served a dish, which was “good but not great.” Yet again, Zakarian’s bravado to continue and to capitalize on relatively greater in number positive remarks proved his constructive handling of failure. Like success, failure is also without finality and may bring off eventual feat provided it is dealt with a learner’s spirit. Zakarian’s learner spirit was evident on his leap from a terrible loss to Masaharu Morimoto in one of the show’s episode in 2010 to his gain of a spot at the kitchen stadium in 2011. It prompted the viewers to realize the interdependence of success and failure and their continuous toil to highlight any craft’s ripeness.

The demand to perform is a stressful challenge to any newbie of a given field. The trick, however, is to address it with unpredictability, display of courage, and commitment to favorable outcomes. As Churchill put it, “success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” The said saying rings true to Zakarian’s road to success.



Photo Credit: FoeNyx

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