Chef Jose Garces was not new to the Iron Chef brand before he was cast as a contestant on Season 2 of “The Next Iron Chef” on Food Network. He had competed against Iron Chef Bobby Flay in an episode of “Iron Chef America” and had defeated Flay in Kitchen Stadium, something that may have spring-boarded him into his role as the newest Iron Chef after winning Season 2 last week. Garces defeated Jehangir Mehta of New York City in the battle of ribs and racks to win the crown, and he owns and operates several restaurants in both Philadelphia and Chicago.

We had the chance to ask Chef Garces a few questions after his big win last weekend….

Premium Hollywood: From the start of this season, you appeared to be a frontrunner….I remember everyone picking your dish as a favorite in the first episode. Did you feel you could win right from the start, or did the competition make you nervous?

Jose Garces: That was definitely a boost to my ego and my psyche in terms on winning the competition. Getting that first victory was huge and kind of springboarded me into the rest of the competition. But there were some solid competitors there, and they say that on any given day a chef can have a bad day…so there’s always that nervousness that played itself in as well.

PH: Last (Sunday night) judge Jeffrey Steingarten commented that he wouldn’t pay to eat your food. I’m not so sure I believe him, but what was your feeling when he said that?

JG: Well honestly, I am a little insulted by it. He seemed to be enjoying the food, and he had good comments while I was there in front of the judges. So it just seemed a little more biased and kind of reactionary that he said that.

PH: Looking back on this past season, what moment or what dish of yours made you most proud?

JG: Oh wow….well, I was actually very proud of the finale food we put together. My team and I worked very hard. And it may have seemed like a safe menu, but it was very difficult to get all of those cuts of meat tender and perfect for the finale, so I was really proud overall for that particular menu.

“Iron Chef America” airs on Sunday nights on The Food Network. Check your local listings or visit www.foodnetwork.com for more information.