Garces is the next Iron Chef

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Chef Jose Garces watching The Next Iron Chef with his wife, Beatriz, at Distrito.

Jose Garces, Philadelphia's "it" chef-restaurateur, was announced Sunday as the newest member of the Food Network's Iron Chef America team -- not only earning him bragging rights, but also directing an international spotlight on his fast-growing empire run out of Old City.

On The Next Iron Chef, Garces, 37, won a cooking duel against New York chef Jehangir Mehta, capping a season that began Oct. 4 with 10 contestants.

Garces hosted a viewing party last night at his West Philadelphia Mexican restaurant, Distrito, that attracted hundreds of fans and members of his close-knit staff. Chef Seamus Mullen, who was eliminated on last week's show, came down from New York to see Garces and Mehta create a multicourse meal out of various ribs.

The show, hosted by Alton Brown and "The Chairman" (played to a campy hilt by actor Mark Dacascos), was taped last spring, around the time that Garces was a no-show at a James Beard Awards ceremony at which he won best chef in the Mid-Atlantic region. Whispers began that Garces could not attend because he was working on something substantial.

As an Iron Chef, Garces joins the roster of Mario Batali, Cat Cora, Bobby Flay, Masaharu Morimoto, and relative newcomer Michael Symon, who won the first season of The Next Iron Chef in 2007.

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