Competition heats up with another Philly ‘Iron Chef’

It had to happen. When Jose Garces, owner of eight restaurants, including Amada and Whiskey Village, became a regular competitor on the TV show “Iron Chef,” it was inevitable that another cook from his back yard would challenge him.

That person is Michael Solomonov, the owner of the award-winning Israeli restaurant Zahav.

The two have known each other, and each other’s food, for years. There’s no rivalry, according to Solomonov, “not as far as I know.”

Garces sees things differently.

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“I think there’s always a competitive rivalry among restaurateurs, especially in your home city,” said Garces. “There’s something there, but … end of day, it’s great to be friends at the same time.”

Garces is an old hand at television competition, having been an Iron Chef for more than a year. Solomonov is new to it, and had to get used to a kitchen with a roving film crew and studio audience.

“We have an audience here — they are usually concentrated on each other. They’re not all staring at you,” said Solomonov, whose kitchen at Zahav is separated from the dining room by glass. “I thought I would wind up cutting myself or something stupid that you’d like to believe you don’t do, but I can’t tell you whether that happened or not.”

Solomonov is sworn to secrecy about the outcome of the pre-taped show as well as the secret ingredient he has to incorporate into each dish. He will be hosting a viewing party at his Percy Street Barbecue during the broadcast.

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