The Eat Sheet: Victor Casanova on His Appearance in the Christmas Day Premiere of 'Iron Chef America'

"It was emotional, I was overwhelmed," the chef of Culina said of the experience.

The melodiously named Victor Casanova serves a constant stream of actors, entertainers and myriad TV personalities as the chef of Culina, the sleek modern Italian restaurant at the Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills. Now, on Dec. 25, he will be getting a camera close-up of his own as a contestant on the premiere episode of Iron Chef America’s tenth season.

“I’ve always wanted to be on,” says the Bronx-born Casanova, 35. “It’s 60 minutes, no-nonsense. Other shows [that have aired in its wake] do retakes. But once the clock starts on this one, there’s no stopping. It’s for real.”

Casanova will compete against top toque Geoffrey Zakarian, of New York City’s the National and Lambs Club, who just won The Next Iron Chef: Super Chefs on Dec. 18. And as for the episode’s secret ingredient? Explains Casanova: “The only thing I can say about it is that it’s alive.”

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A longtime Iron Chef fan since the early U.S. broadcasts of the Japanese version, Casanova found it surreal to finally be cooking in Kitchen Stadium under the watch of show commentator Alton Brown and “chairman” Mark Dacascos. “It was emotional—I was overwhelmed,” he says.

“I felt like a little kid. My wife and my baby were sitting in the green room. I was shaking before I went out there.” But not for long: “Once things got started, I got over [the nerves] pretty quick. It was time to compete.”