IRON CHEF GAUNTLET
Season 1, Episode 3
“Sweet and Savory”
AIR DATE: April 30, 2017
When we last left The Other Kitchen Stadium, Chef Nakamura and Chef Sawyer got into a fight to the death over bananas with Nakamura standing tall at the end of it with the best combo of bananas and Something Else on the Plate. We’re in Week 3 and the competition is getting tight…who wins tonight? Who goes home? Let’s find out!
To refresh your memory, your remaining competition consists of…
“LIZARD” WITHOUT AN “L”!
2-TO-1 VEGAS ODDS!
BROS, BEER AND BRAISING!
and SECRET INGREDIENT SEXYPANTS!
The survivors walk into the kitchen as Chef Nakajima says that last week made him realize just how badly he wants to make it to the end. Grueneberg says that it’ still “anyone’s game”. Brilliant analysis of a show that’s been on two weeks and has featured a whopping four competitions — two of which she was in. Thanks, Scott Van Pelt! Izard says that Nakajima is definitely the one to beat. Yup. We’re telegraphing the hell out of the final result.
Alton Brown goes into Evil Host mode and asks if the kitchen is “looking a bit bigger today” and then answers his own rhetorical question, stating that this trend will continue. Alton says that the chefs should be getting to know one another. Alton reveals the first secret ingredient: a bunch of random stuff that has different flavors. It’s time to make something “sweet, yet savory”. Also, every single ingredient on the table is first come, first serve, meaning that once a certain ingredient is taken, no other chef can use it.
Two dishes must be made. One sweet, one savory.
Alton starts our 45-minute timer.
Grueneberg has no idea where to begin while (fucking SURPRISE!), Gulotta is gonna have fun with “fish sauce and caramel” because he’s from NEW ORLEANS GUIZE — but, ruh-roh, Nakajima muscles Gulotta away and takes the fish sauce. Gulotta’s got the Blue Cheese, though. Don’t worry. Dady’s got sesame seeds. Grueneberg has the beets. Izard grabs the Black Beans, the only thing left and I’m left wondering how any of this stuff constitutes as “sweet” or “savory” without obvious help from the nearby pantry.
Izard says her mind is “blown” by only having Black Beans. Nakajima rubs this in by asking her “what it’s like to have Black Beans”. Izard laughs, the perfect rational substitute for not making the little shit wear them. Gulotta is going for an ice cream made of the cheese and cardamom. Nakajima is doing clams. AGAIN. With Sake marinade. AGAIN. Then he declares Grueneberg will “beat them all”. She’s shocked — until Nakajima explains he meant “beet us all”. Little shit’s got jokes.
Grueneberg has a dairy mixture with beets in it. Dady is making a white sesame cheesecake with black sesame sauce. He’s not at all nervous. Izard has ZERO idea where she’s going so…time for ice cream! Alton warns her that if he thinks her black beans are chocolate chips and he tastes her ice cream and it isnt — she’s doomed. Helluva pep talk, Alton. It works, however, and suddenly, Izard’s all over the place, tossing together Chaat.
With fifteen minutes left, Dady’s turning Japanese with some Dashi and Kobu ingredients. Gulotta starts melting sugar over the cheese he picked out. Nakajima has clams going with Rice Wine as Alton yells that people MUST come up with two dishes…you know, in case they thought the amount of dishes needed multiplied. Finally, the time’s up and it’s time for a tasting…
CHEF GRUENEBERG (Beets)
- DISH #1: Fried Beet Schnitzel – Alton has no idea how in the hell Grueneberg came up with beets fried in Panko and he’s never eaten something like that before…but he says it’s an awesome dish, nonetheless.
- DISH #2: Red Beet Panna Cotta – Alton says it’s very “beet-forward” but that she needs to “work on the set”…whatever the hell that means. In any case, Alton says it’s risky and “Iron Chef-y”.
CHEF IZARD (Black Beans)
- DISH #1: Black Bean Ice Cream – Alton likes it…but says her plating sucks. The dish is curved downward on two sides, propping the dessert up in the middle. This causes unwanted melting…or as Alton puts it: “Bad! BAD!!!”
- DISH #2: Black Bean Chaat with Tomato Chutney – Alton says the dish is “very sour” and needed more noodles.
CHEF NAKAJIMA (Fish Sauce)
- DISH #1: Yogurt with Berries & Fish Sauce – Nakajima’s very proud of his dessert. Alton loves it. The yogurt is of perfect consistency and melds well with the Fish Sauce.
- DISH #2: Braised Shellfish with Fish Sauce – Alton says it’s too salty which just throws everything else off.
CHEF DADY (Sesame Seeds)
- DISH #1: Soba Noodles with Black & White Sesame Sauces – Dady’s being cute, using two “yin/yang” sytle dishes for his white and black sauces. Alton Alton-splains “the danger of the ‘yin/yang'”, saying it’s now a “binary plate” that he can now count as “two dishes”. Therefore, the black sauce is great and fantastic with good flavor. The white sauce is too bland.
- DISH #2: White Sesame Cheesecake with Black Sesame Coulis – Black sesame sauce is great, says Alton. White sauce had too much coconut and not enough sesame. Alton says that Dady sucked with the white sesame seeds.
CHEF GULOTTA (Blue Cheese)
- DISH #1: Carmelized Blue Cheese with Crab Meat Salad – Alton says that the seafood mixes well with the Blue Cheese…but the plate’s too greasy. Too much oil. It’s the first thing he gets when he tastes anything.
- DISH #2: Blue Chesse & Cardamom Ice Cream – Alton loves the ice cream and the spice counters the Gorgonzola well. Alton says that the bacon, however, injects things with too much salt.
Alton announces today’s First Round winner…
Sigh…the most boring chef in the kitchen but Alton loves her because she fried a beet in Panko.
The losing chef?
And, of course, Grueneberg gets shrewd and picks his opponent:
Just. Fuck. This. Unless I’m being far too negative, there’s no way the kid wins two straight Final Round challenges here and picking him is uber-cheap. Grueneberg says that it’s because “Nakajima’s clam dish was unservable” as opposed to Izard’s “too sour Chutney” and Dady’s “bland white sesame sauce”, but here we are.
Grueneberg puts on an Anne Burrell-style phony grin and says, “I’m sorry”. Nakajima looks annoyed — but says he’s going to win this because he won last week. With wins come confidence.
Gulotta says that Nakajima isn’t to be underestimated.
Alton then reveals the Secret Ingredient…
Alton: “RELEASE THE KRAKEN!!!”
Nakajima’s grinning from ear to ear while Grueneberg’s eyes light up. “Great ingredient,” she says. Nakajima’s nervousness all but vanishes. Gulotta admits that this is up Nakajima’s alley but that he’s going to do the best he can.
Alton sets the timer for 60 minutes and three dishes.
Nakajima breaks down fibers with cloth and a Sake bottle. The chefs waiting in the Peanut Gallery are VERY impressed with this technique. Nakajima’s skills are incredible and he stands there, calmly mixing things up while narrating like he’s on his own cooking show. Gulotta is pressure cooking one Octopus with garlic and ginger. Gulotta says he’s making some sort of salad. The Peanut Gallery giggles as Nakajima runs back and forth — then they start worrying because Nakajima isn’t cooking the larger octopus he picked out.
Playing to the audience, we get this exchange:
NAKAJIMA: Chef Gulotta…how do you feel about doing seafood against me?
GULOTTA: Oh…you know, I’m only marginally terrified…but…I’ve spent most of my life being “marginally terrified”.
This is good television.
Whereas Nakajima attempts to work his magic, Gulotta goes Asian with some Chinese and Indian flair.
All this while Grueneberg says things like:
- “I love Potatoes and Octopus.”
- “What a good idea.”
Nakajima wraps Octopus around freakin’ MUSHROOMS and goes to fry them in Tempura, something that gets high marks from Dady and Grueneberg and a frozen stare from Izard who just looks crestfallen no matter what happens to her. Finally, she manages a reductive “When all else fails, make it a tempura.” But cutting the octopus’s suckers off the tentacle and making a cucumber salad with that? Dady can’t believe he didn’t think of that calling it, “Friggin’ original.”
Finally, the final round ends with Nakajima and Gulotta hugging.
The Peanut Gallery cheers, calling both men’s work “impressive”…while Chef Izard says (and I’m not making this up, I swear), “I want a hug…”
Jesus, that’s fucking depressing.
It’s time for the tasting and our guest tasters are Iron Chef Marc Forgione (someone Gulotta calls “a legend” when he’s anything but – dude hasn’t been an Iron Chef but for a decade, for crying outloud) and Giada De Laurentiis. I can’t find anything I can say about her except I love watching her cook.T
- The first course is Octopus Salad with Fresh Tomato Curry. Forgione and Giada like it but feel like the Artichoke and Tomatoes were the highlights of the dish. Forgione says it tasted like Gazpacho and not Curry. Giada calls Gulotta’s octopus “pretty basic”. Forgione agrees, saying that it feels like the octopus just kinda wandered into the dish by accident. Forgione says that the star has to be the secret ingredient and this dish isn’t octopus-based.
- The second course is Grilled Baby Octopus with Cuttlefish Ink Aioli. Forgione and Giada each love this dish saying that it tastes so fresh that it just hits you as soon as you taste it. Giada says that she admires what Gulotta can do with tomatoes, adding “It’s quite fantastic” in the same tone and demeanor somebody gives when they remember a great former lover. Giada says that the octopus was the big highlight here. Forgione complains that Gulotta left an octopus beak on his plate. Oops.
- The final course is Paella Negra with Octopus and Shellfish. Giada loves the plating that makes the food glow. They taste the octopus and it’s fantastic but Giada says there should have been “more octopus” which makes no sense since there was so much octopus on the plate, it could have picked up the table and thrown it against the wall. Forgione loves the shrimp paste — but it doesn’t belong with the dish.
Giada remarks that she’s never eaten three dishes that have made her say “wow” before. Yeah, they’re pouring it on thick here.
- The first course is Tempura-Fried Octopus and Shimeji Mushrooms. I shit you not, Nakajima tells both judges to squeeze “just a little bit of lemon on the dish”. Giada doesn’t listen, squeezes ALL of it in there, ruining the dish — then complains when the lemon overpowers everything and makes her octopus “too chewy”. Then Nakajima actually has to explain what “a little lemon” means, leaving Giada stunned. Alton looks at Nakajima, then Giada…and just half-shrugs as if he’s afraid that if he sides with Nakajima, Giada will pick him up and snap him in half like an angry Jose Canseco. Forgione loves the chewiness and the tempura. Giada says the dish was too chewy, then criticizes Nakajima for “not controlling the seasoning” — except he kinda did that and she didn’t listen.
- The second course is Fried Octopus Suckers with Pickled Cucumbers. Both judges love the crunch and they say it’s fun to eat. Forgione and Giada praise him for his ingenuity in turning the octopus into a pickle. They say this dish was “outside the box”.
- The final course is Braised Baby Octopus with Turnips. Nakajima doesn’t know when to shut up and tells them that the dish has chicken stock instead of his preferred liquid, Dashi. Forgione tells Nakajima never to tell a judge what he “would have” put in a dish. Regardless, they love the dish, saying it’s delicious and savory. Forgione says that this was a study in simplicity without being boring while Giada says that the entire menu was full of finesse and that nobody sees that type of finesse often. Forgione says that takes confidence.
The judges say that this is tough and they don’t know who to vote off the show.
The two get in the kitchen where Alton tells them that the judges have a “split decision” and the winner was somebody who was really “not decided by the judges” but that they “go by the numbers”. So there IS a winner and the judges decided it using the numbers? Isn’t that ALWAYS the way this is done?
The winner of the Secret Ingredient Challenge is…
Nakajima takes a deep breath and it’s revealed he won by five points.
The two shake hands and Gulotta says he cooks what he cooks but it sucks to go home.
Nakajima says he’s ready for the Gauntlet – whatever it takes.
That’s it for the third episode. Join us next week for the fourth episode recap where the chefs “re-invent classic food combos”.
Or, in other words, cook something a different way.
See ya’ then!