Guarnaschelli challenges culinary masters in ‘Alex vs. America’

'Alex vs. America' - Guarnaschelli takes on the best

Alex Guarnaschelli

Alex Guarnaschelli’s reputation as a fierce competitor on shows such as “Iron Chef America,” “Food Network Challenge” and “Beat Bobby Flay” is legendary. But now she’s willing to put herself at a competitive disadvantage in a new show airing on Food Network.

In “Alex vs. America,” airing Sundays, the chef and cookbook author invites in culinary masters from across the country to compete in their given specialty, be it chocolate, shellfish or sugar.

The catch here is that these areas may or may not be Guarnaschelli’s strong suit, thus forcing her to up her game and perhaps stretch her culinary boundaries. The final products undergo a blind tasting and a winner is declared. Eric Adjepong (“Top Chef”) is the host.

“It makes me feel like what would normally come into my head to do is not going to cut it here …,” Guarnaschelli explains. “I have a lot of pride when it comes to competing. And does that always means that the pride only comes when you win? No. I think the pride comes, too, when you make a good dish and you’re proud of it even if it’s not the best dish.

“And then there’s the other side of it,” she continues, “which is you don’t always win. Did you learn? Did you grow? Did you interface with people that you wouldn’t have and did you see interpretations of these ingredients or techniques that you didn’t know? Absolutely. So the question is, somehow how can you be the master of your universe and a student of it at the same time? And I think viewers might feel a little bit of the same, I’m hoping.”

And learning is what it is all about for Guarnaschelli. An executive chef at New York’s Butter restaurant with more than 30 years of experience, Guarnaschelli is always ready to add another weapon to her culinary arsenal. And competing against people who are considered to be masters at what they do is a great way to learn — and be humbled.

“Cooking has a way of always cutting you down to size,” she says. “There’s always another piece of humble pie available for consumption. I like the learning. I like winning. I don’t mind that I don’t always win. And I love the learning of it. And I love the energy. I didn’t know so many people wanted to come and try and beat me.”

George Dickie

George Dickie has been a features writer for Gracenote/Tribune Media Services since 1989, when “Hee-Haw” was still on the air and George “Goober” Lindsay was his first interview. His early interviews ranged from Jim Henson and Dick Van Dyke to Phil Collins and the Dixie Chicks.

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