My chat with newly minted Iron Chef Geoffrey Zakarian was scheduled for 1:30 p.m., a few days after the premiere airing of his December victory on "The Next Iron Chef: Super Chefs."
He dialed in at precisely 1:30 p.m.
"How'd I do?" he shouted. "Did I make it in time?" The mock anxiety reduced us both to laughter -- me as a shameless superfan of the "Super Chefs" and Zakarian as the cool-headed culinary wizard who spent three months battling a merciless clock, ever-changing cooking conditions and a veritable carnival of ingredients to best nine of his fellow celebrity chefs to earn the coveted Iron Chef title.
Zakarian, the silver-haired, bespectacled chef known best to Food Network audiences as a judge on "Chopped" and "24 Hour Restaurant Battle," says that as an Iron Chef, he won't change the oft-risky game plan that occasionally won him the jurors' ire on "The Next Iron Chef" but ultimately led to victory.
"Others followed the challenges more than I did, but I don't think anybody followed it exactly," Zakarian says. "I cook the way I know how to cook. I don't wrap myself around someone else's expectations, because I don't find that an honest way to be. I just wanted to stick to my gut and what I know in my heart. Sometimes it worked, and sometimes it didn't.
"And sometimes it worked a little better than others," he says, laughing.
What it didn't do was earn the chef/partner of New York's The Lambs Club and The National and Miami's Tudor House a badly needed break.
" 'Next Iron Chef' taping started last April and ended in July," Zakarian says. "The day I was anointed they said, 'Congratulations! And by the way, filming for "Iron Chef" begins next week, and you have X amount of battles you gotta do!' I was like, 'What? I need a vacation!' and they said, 'You can take a vacation after.' "
"Chopped" fans worried they might not see Zakarian reunited with his fellow "Super Chefs" competitor and good friend Alex Guarnaschelli, take heart. The new Iron Chef has no plans to take a vacation from the show that made him a household name among food TV fans. "They haven't called me yet, but they didn't say no," Zakarian says. "And if they didn't say no, there's a very good chance that I'll be back on 'Chopped.' I really love that show. I can't wait!"
What are you currently reading?" 'The Rational Optimist' by Matt Ridley."
What did you have for dinner last night?"I had canapes from my Iron Chef party and tons of champagne."
What is your next project?"Probably something in Greenwich, Conn."
When was the last vacation you took -- where and why?"My last real vacation was two years ago when my family went to St. Barts for a week."