Ming Tsai: You still got it

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I’m outdating myself, writing this post at 6:21 on Sunday night, because I can’t stand the suspense. Food Network’s “Next Iron Chef” airs at 7, and I haven’t found a single update on Google, Yahoo or even Bing telling me whether Ming Tsai survives tonight’s double elimination to make it to next week’s finale.

So I’m calling it: Ming will survive.

(This of course has nothing to do with my signing up to see the great Ming himself whip up his East-meets-West magic at Macy’s this Tuesday, and to pass my own personal judgment: Will his cuisine reign supreme?)

I never realized I was a fan until a few weeks ago, when Season 3 of “Next Iron Chef” premiered and there he was, a James Beard winner and veteran of three national TV cooking shows (“East Meets West,” “Ming’s Quest” and the ongoing “Simply Ming”), towering over the nine other restaurant chef/owner contestants and making them more nervous.

What on earth does he have left to prove? Said Ming: “I wanna see if I still got it.”

That I get.

Ming Tsai: Phillips Andover Academy, mechanical engineering degree from Yale, summer at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, masters from Cornell.

Ming Tsai: All-Ivy League squash player, former pro on the French circuit.

Ming Tsai, up against Bobby Flay on Iron Chef America in 2005, mesmerizes Kitchen Stadium by whipping out a mechanized air pump and subcutaneously inflating a duck in four seconds, ultimately reigning supreme in Battle Duck.

Ming Tsai, asked years ago why he didn’t want to be an Iron Chef, replying simply: “I don’t like to lose.”

He’s clearly an insatiably competitive adrenalin junkie who’s programmed to win. At age 46, having won the game, creamed the competition, looked around and realized there aren’t many more titles to go after, Ming chooses the one challenge that will repeatedly put his skills to the test under intense time pressure in front of three judges and an audience of millions.

He’s not retiring to celebrity squash tournaments or dishing out criticism from behind the judges’ table at cooking competitions like “Next Iron Chef.”

He’s a James Beard winner who’s rolling up his sleeves, taking snipes from other contestants and harsh words from the judges about being “so 80s,” and thanking them for the criticism.

Ming’s going for the gold. If this is his mid-life crisis, I love it. I feel for the nine fresh young hopefuls who have gone up against him. And I hope he creams them.

Ming Tsai FTW!

(Stay tuned for the update after the show.)

UPDATE:

Sigh. Ming, Ming, Ming. You must be exhausted. I know I am, and light-headed, after watching your heart-breaking elimination over the texture of your lardon. (And such an elite, expensive pig, too.)

And you’re PO’d. I think that’s what you said, because you thought you deserved the title of Next Iron Chef. To me, you did, but maybe that’s not because you’re the best chef.

Go look for another mountain to conquer, Ming. I’ll be rooting for you.

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