‘Iron Chef Gauntlet’ recap: ‘Classic Combos’

Iron Chef Gauntlet

IRON CHEF GAUNTLET
Season 1, Episode 4
“Classic Combos”
AIR DATE: May 7, 2017
GRADE: —

Welcome back to the Iron Chef Gauntlet recap series at Matt’s Entertainment! When we last left The Stadium de Kitchen, Chef Nakajima had beaten his second opponent in a row, knocking Chef Gulotta out of the game. Who’s next on the chopping blo–oh, sorry. Wrong show. Let’s see who goes next…

Let’s recap the Final Four:

S TO THE STEZZO, I TO THE IZZO!

Iron Chef Gauntlet

THE COME-AT-ME KID!

Iron Chef Gauntlet

PASTAFARIAN!

Iron Chef Guantlet

and THE LONE WINGMAN!

Iron Chef Gauntlet

Alton welcomes the Final Four into the kitchen as Nakajima declares he’s exhausted — but confident. He’s ready to win this thing and become the youngest Iron Chef in America. Anyone have that feeling that Nakajima’s going home soon? I’m feeling it, too.

Chef Izard says that this whole thing is “getting real”. Oh, honey…it was real weeks ago.

Alton springs his latest trap: “classic combinations which each chef must re-invent”. Because Iron Chefs do that all the time or else they’re not Iron Chefs. The combos are as follows:

  • Peanut Butter & Chocolate
  • Honey & Mustard
  • Lime & Coconut
  • Sour Cream & Onion

Grueneberg: “These ingredients go together so well, but re-inventing them is hard.”

We’re basically finding ways for these people to say the same thing over and over again.

Secondly, yes, these are “classic combos” if your diet consists of swilling Pina Coladas by the glass at a bar in Cabo San Lucas and then trying to sober yourself up with whatever’s in the vending machine next to your room.

Alton says that it won’t be a tackle fight this time: he has four cards and the ingredients will be chosen “democratically”: each chef will choose a card from his grasp and this will determine the order in which they get to pick their ingredient. Until Russia hacks the process and sour cream ends up with peanut butter. Can’t wait. I think somebody needs to explain what “democracy” is to Alton.

Dady wants lime and coconut — but picks spot #4. What luck. Izard wants peanut butter and chocolate — but not for a dessert. She wants to cook it with beef. She’s #3. M-kay. Grueneberg has #2 which means that Nakajima is #1.

He chooses Honey & Mustard and will make something shrimpy.

Grueneberg wants Sour Cream & Onion. She’s making Chinese food. Just kidding. She’s making pasta because she’s that freakin’ boring.

Izard gets her Peanut Butter & Chocolate. Izard’s making Korean beef ribs.

And Dady gets his Lime and Coconut. Dady’s making Thai Red Curry.

Iron Chef Gauntlet

Alton’s already being nosy and asking Dady if his dish is “re-inventing anything” to which Dady responds, “You’ll love it.” Alton’s like “That isn’t an answer.” Izard trashes Dady and says that “Curry isn’t re-inventing anything”. Dady’s a touch peeved, so Alton mocks her Reese’s Ribs. Izard’s like “whatever” and we move on.

Dady’s trying to be all re-inventy but can’t get his “coconut foam” to work. So, he makes “coconut ice” made with liquid nitrogen.

Nakajima just fries the shit out of shrimp and dunks it in honey and mustard. “Because I don’t think anyone has used honey and mustard in a Sichuan dish before”. Yeah, they have, dude. It’s called Google. Also, a restaurant right down the street from me does it to their prawns.

Let’s skip ahead to the first tasting:

CHEF GRUENEBERG (Sour Cream & Onion)

  • She has a “Slovenian Dumpling. Alton likes the grilled onion inside the dish and the potato (also inside) is cooked extremely well, balancing things out. The bottarga, however, makes the dish uneven, so…

CHEF IZARD (Peanut Butter & Chocolate)

  • Korean-Style Beef Ribs. Alton likes her plating which is ribs mixed with chocolate and peanut butter and herbs and nuts and…the ribs are perfect. He likes the sauce and stuff. Chocolate is absent. Izard’s actual response (on the interview camera so Izard doesn’t sound like that one guy who gets the last word in): “There’s chocolate all over this dish. I’m gonna say you’re wrong on this one, Alton.” Somebody needs a hug…

Iron Chef Gauntlet

CHEF NAKAJIMA (Honey & Mustard)

  • Sichuan Honey Mustard Shrimp. Alton loves the plating. There are undressed herbs surrounding the shrimp. Alton likes the honey flavor. There’s no real mustard flavor thanks to the over-abundance of greens. Nakajima: “Damn…”

CHEF DADY (Lime & Coconut)

  • Thai Red Curry. It’s basically just curry served in a coconut with a scallop in it. The only “brilliance” was that Dady froze some coconut so, yay, Alton loves it. He thinks it’s brilliant. It’s awesome. It’s wonderful. It’s epic. Alton can’t get enough. And Dady looks like he’s going to cry tears of joy.

Iron Chef Gauntlet

Alton announces the first round winner:

CHEF DADY, of course.

And your first round loser? Sigh…

CHEF NAKAJIMA, of course.

And Dady, of course, gets to choose Nakajima’s Secret Ingredient Challenge opponent which is…

CHEF IZARD.

Nakajima’s on the verge of being knocked out again…I can’t fucking watch…(hides face behind hands…opens up fingers slightly, looks through them)…

Alton reveals our Secret Ingredient…

CHICKEN!!!

Both competitors are thrilled: Nakajima says there are “too many dishes” one can make. Izard feels the same way, calling the food “a blank canvas”. We’re off and running…Izard is apparently working with chicken liver and chicken feet while Nakajima picks up a couple chickens, one of which is completely black in color.

Meanwhile, Chef Dady is nervous watching, hovering, glaring at the chefs and he just talks and talks…and talks:

  • “I’ve never eaten or cooked black chicken before.” — on Nakajima’s choice of selection
  • “Doing chicken feet is risky. You don’t know who the judges are…not everybody loves chicken feet.” — on Izard’s choices
  • “He’s doing Yakatori so he can use those skewers on the grill.” — on Nakajima’s Yakatori
  • “KEEP IT UP, CHEFS! KEEP IT UP!”
  • “She seems a little rattled…” — on Izard, while she chops stuff
  • “I just feel like time is already slipping away.” — That’s kind of the point, dude.
  • “He’s made it through two elimination rounds already and it’s hard to count him out.” — on Nakajima
  • “GREAT JOB, CHEFS! VERY IMPRESSIVE STUFF!” — as Nakajima pours flours into a bowl, for crying outloud
  • “Chicken liver ice cream. If you take a big risk, it can pay off.” — on Izard’s dessert
  • “That is a frickin’ GENIUS technique…and I’m definitely gonna steal it…” — on Nakajima’s glaze grilling process which is comprised of grilling chicken with glaze on it
  • “This is gonna be a close frickin’ battle…this is gonna come down to the absolute wire.” — For the fourth straight episode

Nakajima gets cocky (as he always seems to) and says that Izard might “deliver”…but it’s more like she’ll “deliver him to the next round”.

All the while, Izard is ready to go home and beats herself up for not being as great as Nakajima…and I’m telling you this isn’t ending well.

Iron Chef Gauntlet

Nakajima does meatballs and a pickled chicken salad and skewers while Izard does the chicken feet and her ice cream.

When it’s finally over, we go to the tasting with this week’s judges: Iron Chef Cat Cora and Culinary Scientist Ali Bouzari. We begin with…

CHEF NAKAJIMA

  • FIRST COURSE – Smoked Gizzard Yakitori Skewers with Pickled Lotus Root: Bouzari loves the textures and the dichotomy between flavors. Cora loves it, too, and commends him on the added spice. Bouzari also commends him for using the Secret Ingredient so well.
  • SECOND COURSE – Pickled Silkie Chicken Salad: Cora says that the way Nakajima tackled chicken is amazing. Both judges think it’s delicious. Bouzari is amazed that the chicken has been “velveted”, which makes for an incredible texture. Cora loves it. Bouzari especially loves the presentation.
  • FINAL COURSE – Chicken Meatballs in Dashi Broth: Bouzari calls Nakajima’s idea to put dry morel mushrooms inside the Dashi “brilliant”. Cora just calls it “ok”, saying that the meatball is “too dense” due to the lack of egg yolk and exclusive inclusion of egg whites. Bouzari completely disagrees and says that the dish was delicious even though it might have been “better” to include egg yolk in the meatball.

CHEF IZARD

  • FIRST COURSE – Dim Sum Chicken Feet: Cora says that the choice to do chicken feet is bold and she loves the addition of the jalapeno slices…but the plating is boring and looks like chicken feet in a bowl with some sauce and sliced jalapeno. Bouzari agrees that it was boring but the food is good.
  • SECOND COURSE – “Kou Shui” Sichuan Chicken Thighs: Bouzari says the choice to make something like this was hardly adventurous or inventive. They ask her to explain seasoning on the dish which Bouzari likes because it’s something he uses in Iran. Cora says they use the same seasoning in Greece.
  • FINAL COURSE – Dessert Chicken Pot Pie with Liver Ice Cream: They both seem to like the dish but say that Izard should have rendered some fat to use in the dish but, even without it, the ice cream is smooth and the dish works well.

Izard feels as though Nakajima got much higher marks for his dishes and that he’s been eating everyone as of late. She hopes to still be here when this is over.

Both chefs return for final judgement.

Alton announces that the score was 33-24…and the winner is…

CHEF IZARD

Iron Chef Gauntlet

Yeah. That happened.

So, Nakajima is going home. And that’s that.

THOUGHTS: Wow. Just wow.

Let’s recap here: Shota Nakajima, one of the most creative and Iron Chef-worthy chefs on the show just lost to one of the most meek and boring chefs on the show. The judges, Alton Brown and every other chef look at him with their jaws on the floor. Yeah, he’s basically Morimoto: The Second Coming, but that’s not the point. He’s inspired. That’s what’s supposed to count here. Tonight, the judges called his ideas brilliant and were blown away by his originality and technique with making a couple of his dishes while dumping all over Izard for her lack of originality and vision with her “bowl full of chicken feet” and her “lack of adventure” with her chicken thighs. They commended his plating and crapped on hers. They thought his dishes were flavorful while hers were so-so.

How in the holy hell did Izard beat Nakajima? Seriously. I took some heat a couple weeks back for saying that this thing was “rigged”. This episode puts some weight behind my accusation.

Dady won his first contest today with a totally unoriginal dish that was plated nicely. Izard covered a fucking rib in chocolate and peanut butter, then piled a bunch of crap on top of that as if that would make it more special. Grueneberg sits there making pasta all day and all night while grinning as if she’s being held at gunpoint and proclaiming that she’s “the queen of pasta”. And, yes, Nakajima basically made something you’d find at Wingstop, only with shrimp — but he made up for it with three incredible dishes at the end. Izard threw chicken feet in a bowl and called it a day. She made chicken thighs and just piled them on a dish like she was working at P.F. Chang’s. The only thing done right was her ice cream — and she wins?!

This is why Iron Chef America became boring: the complete lack of creativity with regard to technique, flavor and presentation. The Food Network has slowly become the Chopped Channel. Every single show is some convoluted competition thing. It’s become a network where chefs flail around a kitchen for an hour, while Guy Fieri is obnoxious, Alton glares and pretends to be overly quirky and tells people that they suck if they can’t make meals out of rice noodles and bubble gum and snotty judges, with their needless snobbery on overload, crap all over dishes for not being perfect when they can’t possibly be perfect given the shitty ingredients these people are forced to use.

If the show’s editing and judge opinions are to be believed, Nakajima should have won this contest.

By eliminating Nakajima, Food Network continues to go for their usual safe, bullshit-blah garbage.

Nobody remaining makes me say “wow”, except when I’m saying it while I shake my head at them.

I will finish these recaps (there are only two left) but I sincerely hope none of the three chefs go on to join Iron Chef America because nearly all my interest in this show has just died.

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