Amanda Cohen has created a reputation for herself as a chef defiantly supportive of vegetables. When she opened her restaurant Dirt Candy (which is certified Kosher) a few years ago, she received just as much attention for her blog, a thoroughly hilarious and opinionated thread on vegetarianism and debunking the myths surrounding it, as for her incredible food. As the husband of a vegetarian, we dine at a good amount of vegetarian restaurants, Dirt Candy is the only place that left me blown away, and not missing meat at all.
This Sunday at 10PM Amanda will become the first Vegetarian chef to compete on Iron Chef America on The Food Network. Cohen writes on her blogs, “I thought that if someone was going to be the first vegetarian chef on Iron Chef America, if someone was going to go out there representing vegetarian food, I’d rather it be me than anyone else. Part of that is, of course, my giant ego, but part of it is also the fact that vegetarian food has been chained to the animal rights movement and the health food movement for years, which has let the food mainstream dismiss it. There’s nothing wrong with animal rights or health food, but Dirt Candy is just about food, and it’s about vegetarian food as nothing more than cooking vegetables – no politics, no health claims or virtuous living, just giving vegetables a chance to be treated as seriously as chefs treat pork. It’s a point of view that isn’t seen very often, especially on the Food Network and I wanted my chance to put a different face on vegetarian food.”
Cohen admits that she had some reservations about going on Iron Chef, she didn’t want to be represented as a crappy chef, or be exploited to allow Iron Chef Morimoto and easy win, but when she finally agreed to do it, she became fully committed. “The only way to deal with Iron Chef is to go big or go home. You either take it really seriously, or you shouldn’t do it at all. So I started closing the restaurant every Tuesday for four weeks so we could practice, knocking out menu after menu in 60 minutes,” Cohen said.
From her play by play on the Dirt Candy Blog, the filming seems to have been an intense experience, 60 minutes of heart pumping cooking action that truly flies by, in a foreign kitchen, completely surrounded by cameras, with producers constantly screaming directions to get the best shot. Her blog posts make it sound like she might have won, a few months after filming, she admits she was invited to compete in The Next Iron Chef, so maybe she blows Morimoto away. If you live in NYC they are having a viewing party at Angels and Kings, I personally hope she makes Yids and vegetarians everywhere proud and annihilates Morimoto.