Chefs shouldn’t fear Alex Guarnaschelli anymore

Competitor Alex Guarnaschelli, as seen on Tournament of Champions, Season 1. photo provided by Food Network
Competitor Alex Guarnaschelli, as seen on Tournament of Champions, Season 1. photo provided by Food Network /

Over the years, Alex Guarnaschelli has become one of the most respected and admired chefs to ever turn on a kitchen burner. She was already regarded as one of the best chefs of her generation thanks to her creations at the restaurant Butter in New York before she appeared on Iron Chef America in 2007 and the rest of the world fell in love with her.

After appearing on numerous show on the network she finally became an Iron Chef, a title many say she was destined for, on her second try on The Next Iron Chef Season 5. It was after that win that her reputation as one of the most feared chefs in the world of food competitions began to take shape.

It was later that Guy Fieri gave her the nickname ICAG and helped to build up the reputation that came to define Guarnaschelli on Food Network. That of a food assassin that took no prisoners and could defeat all comers without breaking a sweat.

However, that feared notoriety has taken some hits recently. So much so that chefs have seen that the ICAG is quite beatable. In fact, looking back it might be safe to say that the entire ICAG image might have been a whole lot of flashy style over substance.

Alex Guarnaschelli didn’t win nearly as much as people think.

First, it has to be mentioned that it took Guarnaschelli two tries to win the title Iron Chef, going out in the penultimate episode of The Next Iron Chef Season 4. Then there is the fact she won the title, which is a bit different than earning it like Cat Cora or Bobby Flay.

Then when you look at Guarnaschelli’s record on Iron Chef America, she is 7-4 in 11 battles in Kitchen Stadium. That translates into a 63.3 percent winning percentage and when compared to the records of the other Iron Chefs, it puts her squarely in the bottom of the standings.

And of course there is what happened during the first season of Tournament of Champions. Guarnaschelli came into the series as the No. 1 seed and the overwhelming favorite to win the entire tournament. Instead, she was sent home in the first round by Darnell Ferguson to the shock and dismay of many of her fans.

Guarnaschelli chose not to compete in Tournament of Champions II and some (myself included) thought maybe it had a small amount to do with ego. Due to the truly blind tasting judging format of the show, her reputation played zero role in her winning or losing. If her legions of fans are being honest, many times she won because she was the ICAG, not because she cooked a better dish.

Now it has been revealed that Guarnaschelli will not be competing on Tournament of Champions III either, instead being part of the rotating panel of judges. Am I the only one who thinks that’s a bit odd? Wouldn’t someone as competitive as Alex Guarnaschelli, the feared ICAG, want to prove once and for all what happened on Season 1 was a fluke?

It’s even weirder when you consider she is doing the series Alex vs America and is still cooking competitively. Of course, there she has a greater amount of control than she does on Tournament of Champions, which it would seem makes all the difference when it comes to agreeing to compete.

When taken all together, it’s tough to not conclude that the most feared and intimidating chef on food television may not be Alex Guarnaschelli anymore. Is she still one of the best chefs to ever chop up garlic? Undoubtedly. But should other chefs tremble in fear when she walks into a kitchen? Those days may be over.

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What do you think Guilty Eaters? Do you still think Alex Guarnaschelli deserves her fearsome reputation? Leave a comment below and let us know or join the conversation on our Twitter and Facebook pages.