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Screen Test: The Next Iron Chef

By Sunday night, when you are in post-Hardly Strictly Bluegrass or LoveFest recovery mode, you'll be ready to cozy up to the couch and watch the season premiere of the second season of Food Network's The Next Iron Chef. Given that many Americans appear to have an obsession with contest-based reality shows, and given that here in San Francisco we have a particular interest in food-focused competitions, we're guessing that the show, featuring local chef Dominique Crenn of Luce and once-local-and-now-oft-missed chef Nate Appleman, will have a strong local following.

I watched a preview of the first episode and are here to tell you that this is some good, clean fun. This season, the 10 contestants will compete in a variety of challenges aimed to determine the "god of the kitchen." Over the course of the season, the chefs will prepare an Indian feast, travel to Tokyo, Japan, where they'll prepare a kaiseki meal and even be charged with preparing a family-style one-pot meal, using an ethnic cooking vessel from some part of the world (would America's be the crock pot?). Along the way, there will be cuts, fires and, we predict, a lot of ego, with judging provided by the inimitable Jeffrey Steingarten, Oakland resident and Slow Food Nation organizer Anya Fernald and New York restauranteur Donatella Arpaia, with occasional help from Morimoto, Bobby Flay and Michael Symon. Appleman comes out swinging in the first episode, saying he's going to "fight fire with fire"—how far will he make it? \

Who will reign supreme in kitchen stadium? Tune in Sunday night at 9 p.m. to find out.