Iron Chef Gauntlet recap: Versatility is a game changer


In this week’s Iron Chef Gauntlet recap, the chefs tackle the quality of versatility. Could chefs push beyond their comfort zone?

To become an Iron Chef, the five contenders must prove that they have the qualities of an Iron Chef. Versatility is a key component to becoming an Iron Chef. In this Iron Chef Gauntlet recap, the chefs had to expand their culinary point of view to include a very specific cuisine.

Host Alton Brown, as seen on Iron Chef Gauntlet, Season 2. photo provided by Food Network

Many chefs are knowledge about various types of cuisines, ingredients and cooking styles. While they may be familiar, most chefs have a particular style or comfort zone. Asking a chef to cook a very specific cuisine can cause chaos in the Gauntlet kitchen.

For the Chairman’s Challenge in this week’s Iron Chef Gauntlet recap, the chefs were randomly assigned a country. To showcase their versatility, the chefs had to create a dish that epitomizes a particular country. This challenge was must harder than it sounds.

The five countries were Japan, Spain, Greece, Thailand and India. Looking at the five chefs, a few chefs were hoping and wishing that they would get a particular country. For example, if Chef Thaimme got Thailand, that challenge wouldn’t show versatility because her specialty is Thai food. Luckily, every chef got a country that pushed their culinary prowess.

The Chairman’s Challenge saw one chef emerge after flying below the radar for the first two challenges. Chef Gomez had India, probably the hardest cuisine, and she impressed Alton Brown the most. She found a way to get all the complex Indian spices and flavors into the dish. Accomplishing that feat in such a short amount of time was extremely impressive.

Even though Chef Gomez had the toughest challenge, she succeeded. Her Indian dish was superb. The complex spices came through on the lamb. The charred eggplant was the right texture. Overall, her dish clearly earned her the win.

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  • Another surprise was Chef Balloo. He unveiled his knowledge of Thai cuisine. While his spice level was a little extreme and his plating was slightly off, the dish showed his versatility. Chef Balloo could be a strong contender in Iron Chef Gauntlet.

    Unfortunately, one chef floundered greatly. Chef Thaimee received Greek food. She struggled greatly. Even more concerning, she made an ice cream, again. Yes, last week’s ice cream won her the Chairman’s Challenge, but a golden rule of Iron Chef is to never repeat yourself. Her Greek salad ice cream was a huge mistake.

    Also, Chef Thaimee didn’t use one of the ingredients on the altar. She skipped the lamb, another big mistake for an Iron Chef competition. Avoidance doesn’t earn any chef the title.

    Chef Thaimee was sent into the Secret Ingredient Showdown. Her competitor, chosen by Chef Gomez, was Chef Tien. Choosing Chef Tien was an interesting idea. Would his previous Secret ingredient Showdown experience help him?

    As Alton Brown unveiled the altar, there was a collective gasp from all the chefs. The secret ingredient was wild boar. Sure, game meat can be delicious, but this potentially tougher meat could be difficult to prepare well in such a short time frame.

    For an Iron Chef Gauntlet episode on versatility, this secret ingredient was a great one for these two chefs. Since the two chefs specialize in primarily Asian cuisine. Incorporating wild boar into their flavor profiles could be a significant challenge.

    From the start of the Secret Ingredient Showdown, it was clear that Chef Thaimme was uncomfortable with wild boar. The idea of doing a wild boar tartare was scary. I can’t think of anytime that I’ve eaten raw pork product. Luckily, she rethought that dish and scrapped it.

    Host Alton Brown with Judge Anne Burrell, as seen on Iron Chef Gauntlet, Season 2, photo provided by Food Network.

    Comparing the two chefs’ dishes, there were many similarities between the two chefs. Both Chef Thaimme and Chef Tien offered a rib dish. That choice was both good and bad. Again, time needs to be a consideration in Iron Chef Gauntlet. Ribs, especially a tougher meat, cooked in an hour is problematic.

    Overall, both chefs did not perform at their best. It was quite clear that neither chef was comfortable cooking wild boar. Taste, plating and originality were all lacking in this Secret Ingredient Showdown. Alton Brown even said that this challenge was the lowest scoring challenge.

    Listening to the judges Anne Burrell and Jose Garces, they were struggling to find some positive feedback. Burrell was more direct on her criticism, which seemed warranted. Garces sounded like the teacher who didn’t want to make the students feel even worse about their performance. Truthfully, both judges got a hard episode to judge.

    Before the eliminated chef is revealed, the bigger question is could either of these chefs really become an Iron Chef. Throughout Iron Chef Gauntlet, the challenger chefs must show that they exhibit the qualities of an Iron Chef. If a chef can’t cook a particular protein, should she even be in the running to be an Iron Chef.

    While both Chef Thaimme and Chef Tien are exceptional chefs in their particular cuisines, an Iron Chef needs to be more. Look at last year’s Iron Chef Gauntlet winner, Stephanie Izard. She can cook all types of cuisines, entice the palate with bold flavors and be creative. Have any of the chefs this year accomplished any of these feats?

    The chef leaving the Gauntlet kitchen was Chef Tien. While Chef Tien is an accomplished chef, he is a little brash. Of course, chefs need confidence, and sometime arrogance, in the kitchen, but his cooking commentary showed his immaturity. It may not be his time for Iron Chef, but he will be a force in the culinary world.

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    Chef Thaimme needs to step up her game in the Gauntlet Kitchen. If she can’t show more depth than just Thai food and ice cream, she could be the next chef leaving the kitchen. The question remains, can she step out of her comfort zone.

    As this Iron Chef Gauntlet recap comes to a close, can one chef become a force in the Gauntlet Kitchen? Next week’s episode features ingenuity. Let’s hope that these chefs up their game next week.