The communal groan that erupted from the crowd gathered at Shuck Shack
was heartbreaking. Chef Jason Dady
had been eliminated from Iron Chef Gauntlet
. For at least five minutes, Dady was only surrounded by his two eldest children and wife Crystal. The viewing party at Shuck Shack was letting chef deal.
Eventually, Dady took the mic and talked the audience through our collective grief. The San Antonio chef was done. Reality TV is obviously produced, and he stood by his last dish — an ode to smoked salmon and eggs made during the Chairman's Challenge that ditched a secret ingredient or theme and instead opened up the pantry doors in Iron Chef Stadium to five items of each chef's choice. Neighboring chefs Stephanie Izard and Sarah Grueneberg, both from Chicago, were Dady's competition.
To those watching Sunday's episode, Dady had it in the bag. But Alton Brown, the show's host and Chairman, thought otherwise.
Dady, far right, watching his exit from Iron Chef Gauntlet.
Prior to last Sunday's episode (where Dady indeed won the Chairman's Challenge and secured a spot in the top three), and after dining at chef Shota Nakajima's Adana in Seattle, a friend and I had a conversation as to how Dady would fair these last few episodes. We've seen The Hills.
We know reality TV is anything but, and that shows are meant to tell stories. We speculated wildly: Did Dady have a chance at the top two? Did the Food Network want to tell the story of a tall, handsome chef hailing from not-so-sleepy San Antonio with a slew of restaurants to his name? Or did the network want to pit two fierce women — who live in the same city where the James Beard Awards Gala will be held for the third time in a row in 2018, by the way — against each other? Were they going to keep a similar format to the other episodes? (They didn't.) Was it time for another female Iron Chef? Was Stephanie Izard really that stone-faced?
All that to say, TV happens. Dady, who by the by, was never up for elimination before this episode, took it in stride. Of course, he asked that the audience forgo any recording, but still his answers were tempered. He knew the outcome long before we did.
Does Jason Dady have what it takes to earn the title of Iron Chef? My very biased opinion that roots for our hometown guy says yes. So do my recent travels that showed me San Antonio isn't as far behind in catching up to national dining trends as we once were.
According to Dady's post-mortum Facebook Live recording, there's still hope for his own show on the Food Network. The man-bun hasn't seen the end of its time in the spotlight.
So where do we, as diners, go from here? Last night's crowd indulged in tequila shots to ease the pain. And all will likely still patronize chef's establishments, including the upcoming chophouse, Range, inside the former home of Lüke for years to come.
But as a city, as the dining destination San Antonio knows it can be, it'd behoove diners, servers, cooks and restaurant owners alike to step up our game. With Iron Chef Gauntlet
and Dady's dominance through most of the show, the nation's eyes and ears got a sampling of what the city can offer beyond the best damn tacos and Tex-Mex in the United States.
“2017 is San Antonio’s year. Mark my words," Dady said in early January.
The year's far from over.