Iron Chef Showdown recap: Italian themed holidays reign supreme


Iron Chef Showdown is ready for the holidays. In this Iron Chef Showdown recap, Italian themed holidays go from sweet to the sea.

Over the years, Iron Chef holiday themed battles have been epic. From entire feasts to peculiar ingredients, the holiday themes have proved legendary for the ultimate culinary competition. In this Iron Chef Showdown recap, Kitchen Stadium is aglow with traditional holiday foods.

Before the Iron Chef takes to the floor, two challengers must battle for the right to take on the culinary great. The Chairman’s Challenge featured Chef Kate Williams versus Ted Hopson. These two chefs focus on New American cuisine. While both chefs are quite accomplished, only one chef will move onto the Secret Ingredient Challenge.

For the first dual, both chefs had to transform gingerbread into a savory dish. Yes, the same gingerbread that everyone uses in the traditional gingerbread house. Does anyone ever really eat that gingerbread? Luckily, this gingerbread is a fresher, great tasting version.

Iron Chef Showdown recap, Italian themed holidays, photo from Food Network

The two chef took very different approaches to this secret ingredient, gingerbread. Chef Williams took a more traditional spin on the gingerbread. Her dish, lamb meatballs with butternut squash soup, was a more traditional choice. Gingerbread and butternut squash are classic holiday flavors.

According to Alton Brown, he enjoyed the dish overall. While the soup and meatballs were good, the dish suffered from the addition of the basil microgreens. Sometimes a bright element can help a dish. Unfortunately, this ingredient hurt the dish.

Chef Hopson’s dish was rather inventive. In addition to using the gingerbread, Chef Hobson used the flavors of gingerbread as components of his dish. The cinnamon, clove and spice flavored the leeks, which made the dish quite robust.

By using the flavors throughout the dish, Chef Hopson elevated his gingerbread dish. The gingerbread romesco was a smart choice. Although his fish was a little too large, the dish truly highlighted the gingerbread in many ways.

Although the gingerbread bread battle was close, Alton chose Chef Hopson’s dish as the winner. Overall, Chef Hopson’s dish was a better representation of gingerbread. While he may have won the first battle, one victory doesn’t mean that he can take down an Iron Chef.

Iron Chef Showdown recap, Italian themed holidays, photo from Food Network

The Iron Chef that Chef Hopson had to face was Iron Chef Alex Guarnaschelli. Chef Guarnaschelli has been a fierce competitor in Kitchen Stadium. Her competitive spirit as well as her vast experience has made her a formidable Iron Chef. The challenger had a tough road ahead of him.

Heading into the secret ingredient battle, the holiday theme seemed likely. In many Iron Chef episodes, the altar has held all types of holiday themed cuisines. This secret ingredient challenge gave the two combatants a huge array of secret ingredients to use. The secret ingredient was the Italian feast of the seven fishes.

For many Italian American families, the feast of the seven fishes is a traditional Christmas Eve event. The idea is to serve multiple courses of just fish. Previously, many Catholic homes would abstain from eating meat at certain times. This meal was seen as a huge feast, almost a celebration, with fish as the star.

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For the Secret Ingredient Challenge, the two chefs had a bounty of fish on the altar. While each chef had to create five dishes, they could use as many fishes as they chose. Since creativity and originality is important in Iron Chef Showdown, the more fish, the merrier.

Looking at the first dish challenge, the edge was given to Iron Chef Guarnaschelli. Although she just the time constraint, Iron Chef Guarnaschelli’s baked clams was a well-executed dish. While not a heavily Italian dish, the baked clams were crunchy, buttery and delicious.

Chef Hopson’s dish wasn’t bad. The pickling was a smart choice. Still, the dish needed a bit more brightness to push it forward. He did well, just not well enough.

The challenger, Chef Hopson, presented his dishes first. While each of his dishes pushed the creatitivity level, the plates were slightly muddled. A little bit of editing could have helped. Too many ingredients on a single plate lead to flavors competiting against one another.

Chef Hopson won huge creavitiy points for this seafood dessert, an uni crème brulee. Before people run in disgust, the concept is inventive and smart. Uni is sweet and works well with crème. Since Chef Hopson found the perfect balance between the flavors, his dish was successful.

Iron Chef Showdown recap, Italian themed holidays, photo from Food Network

Even though Chef Hopson presented a well composed course menu, Chef Guarnaschelli wasn’t going down without a fight. Overall, Chef Guarnaschelli’s dishes were flavorful, visually stunning and creative. All these elements are expected from an Iron Chef.

Even still, an Iron Chef can falter. Chef Guarnaschelli’s wasn’t the dish that would win over the judges. It is tough to cook octopus within these time constraints. Even with a pressure cooker, another fish might have been a better choice. No one likes chewy octopus.

Iron Chef Showdown recap, Italian themed holidays, photo from Food Network

Still, the Iron Chef had the advantage. From presentation to taste, Chef Guarnaschelli pulled out another victory for the Iron Chef group. Does anyone else wonder if a challenger will ever win?

So far in each Iron Chef Showdown recap, the Iron Chef has won every single battle. Granted, the Iron Chefs are skilled, talented chefs, but can’t any chef put up a reasonable fight? The many challengers are celebrated chefs in their own right. Still, the margins of victory are substantial.

What would it take for a challenger to win? It is hard to determine a specific item. So far, the secret ingredients have given a slight edge to the Iron Chefs. Maybe a totally off the wall ingredient, maybe plain white bread, could be a blank slate to propel a challenger to victory.

Still, even though the Iron Chefs dominate, fans will keep tuning into the show. It’s about the food, not necessarily the winner. Watching chefs be creative and engaging is good food television. Winning is just a side note.

Next: Holiday Baking Champsionhip: Ignite holiday desserts

Will you be tuning into next week’s Iron Chef Showdown? Do you think that the Iron Chefs will win every episode? Does it make a difference to you?