In our final episode before The Gauntlet, two chefs are eliminated, one right after the other to get to our winner.
Last week, Chef Nakajima finally met his match as Chef Izard knocked him out of the Secret Ingredient Showdown. This week, the rules are changing though. We only have one week until the finale, where one lucky soul goes up against three Iron Chefs in The Gauntlet. And we still have three contestants left. That means we have to get rid of one. Stat.
So the way this week works is that the Chairman’s Challenge won’t have a winner and a bottom dweller. It will simply have a loser, giving Alton Brown the ultimate say in the Top Two. Those two will then go against each other in the Secret Ingredient Showdown, which, as always will be judged by previous Next Iron Chef contestants and judges. Whoever comes out on top will be the ultimate competitor in the finale.
The final Chairman’s Challenge is called “Five Ingredients”, which means that the chefs have to pick five ingredients. ONLY five ingredients, to make any dish they want, which will determine who goes to the final Secret Ingredient Showdown.
- Chef Grueneberg: Eggs, Flour, Milk, Lemon, Parm (She had to put back butter, because apparently she couldn’t count)
- Chef Dady: Salmon, Salmon Eggs, Egg, Asparagus, Lemon
- Chef Izard: Eggs, Soy, Lemon, Crab Meat, Mirin
No surprise, Chef Grueneberg is making pasta, as she does. But actually wait! There is a surprise. Because, due to the putting back of the butter, Grueneberg is using whey–homemade whey that she rung from the cheese herself, using the lemon juice. What is she doing with the whey as she mixes it with the parm? Why, as a binder for her pasta filling.
Alton Brown is floored. So floored, he leaves his station and comes down to see this up close and personal. It’s rare that we see Alton discover something new, and he is clearly not only delighted to have discovered this, but hella impatient to try it. Meanwhile Izard is also making a really simply looking custard dish, while over on his station Dady seems to have made an entire meal of five ingredients.
- Stephanie Izard Chawanmushi with Crab Salad Sabayon & Meringue For the first time in several episode, Alton is floored by the perfection of a dish. He literally can find no fault in it. All that–and she never tasted it before serving. Baller.
- Sarah Grueneberg Parmigiano Raviolini Alton practically runs up to her dish to try it. There’s a sense that as long as this dish is not an utter failure that Grueneberg is through just for trying this. And it’s not a failure. Alton has quibbles with her sauce, but the pasta himself he loves.
- Jason Dady Smoked Salmon & Egg Salad with Asparagus & Fried Egg Aioli His dish is so different from everyone else’s. Their dishes are simple, as the brief demands. His is trying too hard. Alton doesn’t call him out for that, but he does question why the Salmon eggs are there at all.
With Izard having made a perfect dish, it’s down to Dady and Grueneberg as to who is out. And though Alton has other reasons for his reason for choosing Dady as the one to go home, I think we can all agree it’s really that Grueneberg got herself in by introducing him to a totally new way of making pasta filling with whey. No way? Yes, whey.
And by the way? ALL FEMALE CHEF FINALE! This is huge, since one of the major issues that Iron Chef has had is a lack of gender parity. As I mentioned last week, Cat Cora was added in Season 2 when someone at the network realized they had failed to include a female Iron Chef when the show started. And all through Next Iron Chef, each season, no matter how the breakdown happened, a male won every single year–until the final season, where it was very obvious that the show was working to make sure both finalists would be women so that they could finally bring in a female Iron Chef. So this is not just a major accomplishment to have two women finalists, but that they did so without it feeling like they were forcing that to be the outcome.
Last week, the Secret Ingredient was chicken. I guess there must have been a sale, since this week the Secret Ingredient is EGGS. (Which came first/ The chicken, obviously, in Episode 4.) Chicken eggs, duck Eggs, speckled eggs, tiny little quail eggs, even enormous emu eggs. All the eggs–though only Grueneberg takes an Emu egg back to her station. She’s making pasta of course–she even steals both mixers to do so, which causes Izard to call her out–really, hogging both mixers is a bit much.
Grueneberg’s double mixers turns out not to be the only problem, as becomes clear in the first ten minutes. Once she drills into the emu egg, the yolk is already broken. Thinking at first it was bad luck, she runs back to the altar and gets another….which is *also* broken. Alton flinches, realizing that the Emu eggs (which obviously traveled a long way to get here) must have been damaged in transit. He apologizes to the chefs for this terrible accident, and says to Grueneberg that she’ll have to figure out something else. (Don’t worry, by the time he says it she’s already frantically cracking duck eggs to get as many yolks as possible to make up for the loss of the Emu egg yolk she can’t use.)
Our last two judges for Gauntlet heading into the finale judging these two women are also a pair of women. The first is the only Female Iron Chef to win Next Iron Chef (yes the same season that I mentioned earlier), Alex Guarnaschelli. Joining her at the table is a face that actually doesn’t have much to do with Iron Chef, but is someone from Cooking Channel that the network is trying to push, Ching-He Huang.
Sarah Grueneberg Stracciatella Egg Drop Soup/Duck Egg Raviolo/Green Cardamom Ice Cream The first dish, Alex, says is Iron Chef texture worthy. Huang is less impressed. The second “green eggs and ham” dish gets major points for presentation. Both agree it’s a delight, with Alex calling it a “Mermaid on a couch.” They are blown over by her dessert, and that she made meringue in the time allotted.
Stephanie Izard Fried Quail Egg Salad with Nuoc Cham/Okonomiyaki Savory Japanese Pancake/ Yuzu Lemon Curd with Burnt&Cocoa Meringue Izard’s first dish is tasty, but Alex says it’s like a veggie dish that invited an egg along, instead of a egg party that invited the veg. The pancake stuns both judges, Alex is thrilled by it. Her dessert has two meringues, showing up Grueneberg, who made one. Alex shakes her head–she wouldn’t have even attempted this in the time given.
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:
- Grueneberg: 24 (9, 9, 6)
- Izard: 29 (12, 10, 7)
As Alex admits, she voted for Izard because Izard made dishes she wouldn’t have even attempted in the time allowed. And considering that Brown is looking for someone who won’t “get run over” when faced by the Iron Chefs next week, that’s the proper way to think about it.
Let’s just hope Izard has what it takes when she walks into face the Three Iron Chef Bros of Food Network next week.