The title of Iron Chef is synonymous with the world's foremost culinary masters; and with the announcement of eight finalists, Food Network has begun production for The Next Iron Chef, the newest reality competition created to identify the next master to join the existing exclusive club of superstar chefs Mario Batali, Cat Cora, Bobby Flay and Masaharu Morimoto. Representing some of the nation's best culinary talent, the finalists will battle for the chance to be crowned the next Iron Chef America. Hosted by Alton Brown (Good Eats, Iron Chef America), The Next Iron Chef will premiere Sunday, October 7th at 9pm ET/PT on Food Network.

After an extensive coast-to-coast search for the most celebrated culinary stars, Bob Tuschman, Senior Vice President, Programming and Production, Food Network, today announces the list of finalists. "We have chosen a group of chefs who we believe to be at the forefront of the culinary landscape, each of whom could stand proudly beside Bobby, Mario, Morimoto and Cat as a new Iron Chef," says Tuschman. "In our quest, we are looking for an individual to complement the current group and bring a unique blend of innovation, creativity and passion to the show, which is currently the highest-rated program on the network."

Each boasting years of culinary experience and numerous media accolades and awards from such prestigious organizations as the James Beard Foundation, the eight competitors vying for the Iron Chef title are:

-- John Besh (New Orleans, LA) Executive Chef, Restaurant August, Besh Steak, Luke and La Provence.

-- Chris Cosentino (San Francisco, CA) Executive Chef, Incanto

-- Jill Davie (Santa Monica, CA) Executive Chef, JOSIE

-- Traci Des Jardins (San Francisco, CA) Executive Chef & Co-Owner, Jardiniere, Mijita and Acme Chophouse

-- Gavin Kaysen (San Diego, CA) Chef de Cuisine, El Bizcocho at the Rancho Bernardo Inn

-- Morou Ouattara (Washington, DC) Executive Chef & Owner, Farrah Olivia

-- Aaron Sanchez (New York, NY) Executive Chef & Owner, Centrico and Paladar

-- Michael Symon (Cleveland, OH) Executive Chef & Owner, Lola and Lolita

Judging this fierce competition will be Michael Ruhlman (James Beard Foundation Award-winning author, cookbook author and food writer), Andrew Knowlton (Restaurant Editor of Bon Appetit magazine) and Donatella Arpaia (restaurateur and owner of acclaimed New York City restaurants davidburke&donatella and Anthos). Judges will narrow the field until the last chef standing is deemed an Iron Chef and he or she will then take their place behind the counter in the famed Kitchen Stadium to compete in the newest season of Iron Chef America.