Iron Chef Gauntlet: “Classic Combos”

We’re playing catch up here for Iron Chef Gauntlet, with an episode that asks the chefs to reimagine “Classic Combos”.

We’re down to four chefs on iron Chef Gauntlet at this point, and the good news is we’ve reached gender parity, as Chef Nakajima picks off the male contestants one by one that Chef Grueneberg has been sending to their doom from her perch as a multi-Chairman’s challenge winner.

This week begins with Alton Brown arriving with four of what he calls “Classic combos” that we find in cuisine. (And let’s be specific these are ones you find in American cuisine specifically.) His challenge to the chefs–to “reinvent” these flavors while “staying true” to the combination. Say what? So reinvent while not reinventing. Got it. Brown seems perfectly aware that he’s asked them to basically do two things at once that are completely opposite of each other, but being Alton Brown, he doesn’t really care. He just wants the things done.

No button bag this week, but the same spirit applies. This time it’s pick a card, any card, and then choose in numerical orders according to the cards you selected.

  • Chef Nakajima: Honey and Mustard
  • Chef Grueneberg: Sour Cream and Onions
  • Chef Izard: Peanut Butter and Chocolate
  • Chef Dady: Lime and Coconut

Somehow each chef got exactly the pairing they were gunning for, which means we will at least be spared anyone groaning on about how they’re trying to work with flavors they didn’t want. Instead we get Chef Izard needlessly telling us she’s rebelling against sweet flavors by making Peanut Butter and Chocolate in a savory dish. Breaking News: Making Sweet Flavors Into Savory Dishes is How The Iron Chef Game Is Played. Even if Alton is less than certain about putting it in a Korean dish and chirps “Good luck with that” as he surveys her station.

Izard also accidentally throws about an episode’s worth of shade at Chef Dady by agreeing with Alton that his Thai curry direction for Lime and Coconut is so totally the most predictable thing ever in the history of things. She maybe shouldn’t have said anything. Dady, upon hearing her, realizes that she is 100% right and goes into total panic mode, trying to come up with ways to fix his dish before time runs out. Grueneberg and Nakajima, having not had their choices questioned, simply continue with their predicted pathways of pasta and asian dishes.

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Iron Chef Gauntlet: Photo by Eddy Chen. Image via Food Network/Scripps Network
  • Sarah Grueneberg Slovenian Dumpling Alton likes her onion sauce on the dumpling, but feels the sour cream topping was a little much with the sour cream filling, and she should have left it off.
  • Stephanie Izard Korean-Style Beef Ribs Alton likes the ribs, and says they’re cooked perfectly–but he says the chocolate flavor is lost among all the meat.
  • Shota Nakajima Sichuan Honey Mustard Shrimp Alton loves how it looks, and likes the honey flavor, but the greens aren’t dressed properly, and the mustard is lost–why didn’t he do mustard greens? Oops.
  • Jason Dady Thai Red Curry with Frozen Coconut The last minute decision to freeze the coconut flakes and have them as a snow next to the hot curry was genius–Alton calls it “fire and ice.” Dady clearly saved himself from the bottom here.

Alton is most impressed with Dady and for the first time in weeks, we have someone who is not female winning the challenge. Meanwhile, yet again Chef Nakajima is sent to the bottom and automatically entered in the Secret Ingredient Showdown

So who will Day send to go against the chef that had yet to lose a Showdown Throwdown? Dady decided to pick Izard, which suggests he’s decided she’s the biggest threat and needs to be removed. (She also hasn’t been in a SIS and is an easier mark than Grueneberg that way.)

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Iron Chef Gauntlet: Photo by Eddy Chen. Image via Food Network/Scripps Network

And this week’s Secret Ingredient for the showdown is….CHICKEN! But not just plain chicken. There’s chicken feet, there’s cornish game hens, large black silkie chickens, black capon chickens, chicken livers…all types of stuff. Izard runs away with chicken feet and the livers–she’s determined not to get taken down like the last two who went up against Nakajima. As she notes, she opened her first restaurant when he was in elementary school. I feel her. She delights Alton by going old school and breaking out the ice cream machine to make chicken liver icecream. You can almost hear him missing Kevin Brauch as he bellows “ICE CREAM MACHINE!” 

This week’s judges for the first time to not feature anyone who was on Next Iron Chef. Instead Cat Cora, who is the only Iron Chef who was added to the pantheon without competing to get there is here. (She was added in Season 2, after someone realized what a sausage fest the lineup was.) She is joined by Ali Bouzari, a “culinary scientist” and someone who has never been on Iron Chef as a judge, or a competitor or anything. oh well, I suppose that was bound to happen at some point.

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Iron Chef Gauntlet: Photo by Eddy Chen. Image via Food Network/Scripps Network

Shota Nakajima Smoked Gizzard Yakitori Skewers/Pickled Silkie Chicken Salad/Chicken Meatballs in Dashi Broth Cora says his first dish feels like she crunching cartilage, but both judges love the flavors. The second dish, they love the chicken flavor, but aren’t impressed by the plating. Cora is not blown away by the last dish, though the newbie judge seems bowled over.

Stephanie Izard Dim Sum Chicken Feet/Kou Shui Sichuan Chicken Thighs/Dessert Chicken Pot Pie with Liver Ice Cream Neither judge is impressed by her plating of the feet, though they love the boldness of it. The newbie judge is not impressed by the second dish, but Cora is like “I would pay for this in a restaurant.” As for the dessert, that seems to be the real winner, as the newbie judge is shocked he doesn’t hate it, while Cora only has tiny nitpicks.

Each judge can award up to 20 points to each competitor. Like on Iron Chef America, the categories are taste, appearance and creativity. As Alton breaks it down: Ten for flavor, Five for plating and Five for “originality”.
The final score:

  • Izard: 33 (16, 9, 8)
  • Nakajima: 24 (11, 6, 7)

And it’s finally happened! Someone took down Nakajima! I’m stunned, and slightly sad–I was half hoping to see him carry this to the end. But his survival last week was dumb luck, and after a while luck runs out.

Next week: the last episode before The Gauntlet.

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