IRON CHEF GAUNTLET
Season 1, Episode 1
“Into the Wild”
AIR DATE: April 16, 2017
Iron Chef has been MIA for a good three years or so, lost in a haze of “Chopped” championships and the sound of Guy Fieri yelling about groceries. Not to be outdone, Iron Chef has chosen to re-enter the food fray with a total departure from the norm: changing the title of The Next Iron Chef to Iron Chef Gauntlet, reducing the number of Iron Chefs to three (Bobby Flay, Michael Symon and the great Masaharu Morimoto) and putting Alton Brown in the “Chairman” seat since original “Chairman”, Wo Fat, was killed in action on Hawaii Five-0. The winner will run “The Gauntlet” and face all three Iron Chefs for the privilege of becoming an actual “Iron Chef”…and, hopefully, that means that all this will lead us to a NEW Iron Chef series where nobody cares about the new guy, everyone continues to detest Bobby Flay and wonders when Morimoto or Michael Symon will cook again.
Our contestants are pretty cool people, stepping through the giant Star Trek doors that only exist if you’re on this show or at Disneyland and they’re all dressed like they’re commanding the North Korean army. Alton Brown runs down the rules and the goals in case their hearts weren’t beating fast enough. The first theme Chairman Alton wants to explore is “In the Wild” where all the different food stuffs the new crew will be working with are various types of wild game and pine needles…in case they want to rub themselves with pheromones for moose breeding season, I guess. Lo and behold, some of the chefs use the pine needles to season and marinate their food. And while all this is going on, we get our chef introductions. They are…
Jada Pinkett-Smith’s autobiographical Oscar role!
Sarah Froman: The
Sausage Pasta Queen of Chicago!
and Your Ex-Boyfriend!
I kid, of course. Each one of these contestants is amazing:
- Jonathan Sawyer has won the Beard Award, the Food and Wine Award, Bon Appetit and the Forbes Award.
- Stephanie Izard has won the Beard Award, Food and Wine and was a winner on Top Chef.
- Nyesha Arrington has won the Best 30 Under 30 by Zagat and 2015 Eater’s Chef of the Year.
- Jason Dady is from Texas and runs six different restaurants.
- Shota Nakajima is only 27 and has a chance to become the youngest Iron Chef in the show’s history. He has his own restaurant in Seattle.
- Sarah Grueneberg is actually the self-proclaimed “Pasta Queen of Chicago” (in case you thought I was being overly snarky) and she’s had Best Chef/Restaurant by GQ, Bon Appetit and Food & Wine Magazine.
- Michael Gulotta was 2016’s Best Chef in Food & Wine Magazine.
They all have 30 minutes to cook something from all the meats they were given.
Alton watches the action from a Best Buy Geek Squad test lab even though he’s ten feet away from everyone.
We learn that Elk is really, really hard. Dady picked that. Grueneberg picked rabbit but she has no idea if it will be cooked in 30 minutes. Gulotta’s got quail and some sort of wine sauce. Nakajima also has quail soaked in a combo of Sake and Soy Sauce. Arrington’s got squad and wants a certain texture. Soon, time runs out and it’s time for a tasting.
- CHEF DADY: He has a Porcini-Crusted Elk Loin that has a nice pink center. Dady gets high marks on the done-ness of his elk and the sauce topping it.
- CHEF GULOTTA: has a Buttermilk Fried Quail in a Red Currant Vindaloo Curry. Alton Brown says it’s the best friend quail he’s ever had, stating that even though the sauce nearly gets in the way, the quail overpowers that and Brown jokes that he’d eat it out of a box “at night in a dark alley in the back of his car”.
- CHEF ARRINGTON: She chose to make a Roast Squab with Salsify Purée. Brown says the meat is seasoned lightly but that it’s not mixing well with the rest of the ingredients.
- CHEF GRUENEBERG: Forest Rabbit with Bacon and Rabbit Sausage. Brown says the rabbit is nicely cooked but that the ingredients are not mixing and there’s no “forest” theme. Also, the plating sucked.
- CHEF SAWYER: Sicilian-Style Hunter’s Pasta with Squab. The chili overpowers everything and there isn’t really an “herbal finish” indicative of a “wild” theme. So, Sawyer LITERALLY bribes Brown with a glass of wine used in the braise. Brown: “Nice try, Chef.”
- CHEF IZARD: Duck Tartare with Gochujang Mayonnaise. Brown is curious as to why the currants weren’t included with the main meat. Izard says that she eats Duck Tartare that way. BROWN: “So do I…NOW.”
- CHEF NAKAJIMA: Grilled Quail with Mushrooms. Brown says the dish is clean and balanced and has great plating. The dressing is too salty. The braise isn’t great.
Brown says the best dish in the lot was…Chef Izard and her Duck Tartare.
The worst? Chef Grueneberg and her Forest Rabbit.
Grueneberg freaks out during the camera interview, coming to tears. She WANTS to be here, dammit!
Brown tells Chef Izard to pick a chef for Grueneberg to face for the right to go to the next round — and hold the phone. What’s the deal here? This is a strange rule. What if you choose the best chef and he/she doesn’t plate something correctly and they lose on a technicality. I don’t understand the logic here. But, whatever — let’s move on. Izard picks Chef Arrington and, already, I’m wincing at the possible outcome.
Brown announces the Secret Ingredient which IS…LOBSTER!!!
So, they waited for this moment to imitate the TV show?
Grueneberg is suddenly confident! So is Arrington! Gureneberg says she’s gonna go Italian and be Italian because she specializes in Italian while Arrington’s gonna “take us around the world” like Daft freakin’ Punk. The wannabe Iron Chefs sit there an offer hot takes. Arrington’s going nuts and putting together a sous vide lobster dish? “I wouldn’t do that,” they lament. Gureneberg makes pasta noodles. “Whoa! Nice move! That’s what she’s known for!” She’s known for making pasta noodles? Well, I should be rich then!
60 minutes are up and it’s time to judge.
The familiar Donatelle Arpaia Stewart and Iron Chef Geoffrey Zakaraian are our judges…
- She starts with the Spiny Lobster Aguachile. Arpaia coughs obnoxiously and finds it to be kinda spicy. Like her dress. Zakarian loves it because the sweeter stuff offsets the spice.
- 2nd dish is a Turmeric Black Pepper Pasta with Spiny Lobster. Arpaia is impressed with this because the noodles are homemade and the flavors seems to be Italian but aren’t. She thinks Grueneberg has really used Turmeric well. Zakarian wants more pepper. Arpaia disagrees.
- Final dish is the Butter-Poached Lobster with Charred Eggplant Purée. Arpaia says that all her dishes “make sense”. Zakarian doesn’t understand the marriage between the eggplant and lobster. Personally working with eggplant and being Italian, I don’t understand anyone who includes it in any dish.
- First dish is Lobster Boudin Wrapped in Swiss Chard with Lobster Broth. Holy. Shit. This dish is a work of art.
- That’s Morimoto-esque right there. There’s Lobster Mousse and broth and WOW. Arpaia loves it but Zakarian is not impressed. He says the “mousse isn’t cooked” and feels like the dish is “very lobster forward”, a phrase I’m SURE I will never hear in my life again.
- 2nd dish is Spiny Lobster Coconut Nage, a dish that Zakarian calls “very lobster-y” (he’s either drunk or mailing it in at this point) while Arpaia thinks that it might need heat or some sort of herb. Then she admits to being “picky”, for crying outloud and I’m suddenly reminded of why I hate TV cooking competition shows.
- Final dish: Spanish-Style Main Lobster with Chorize & Corn Purée. Arpaia says that the dish works very well but there’s not heat. Zakarian says that the dish is “sweet” and overpowers everything.
It’s time to be all judgy.
We get the “here’s-how-we-scored” spiel. Brown says one dish was more lobster-y than the other.
The winner is…
You’ve got to be kidding me. Grueneberg cooks a bunch of not-Italian Italian slop that’s “lobster-y” while Arrington designs one of the best plates I’ve seen since Morimoto’s “stained glass sushi” and Arpaia finally admits that she’s “picky” and Arrington loses? Sheesh.
Anyhow, that’s our show.
Join us next week for more bullshit, er, fun.