Iron Chef Gauntlet recap: Breakfast ingenuity brings bold flavors


How can chefs show ingenuity in the most important meal of the day? In this Iron Chef Gauntlet recap, ingenuity isn’t as simple as it seems.

Each week’s Iron Chef Gauntlet recap builds on another Iron Chef quality. This week’s quality is ingenuity. That broad concept is somewhat difficult to grasp. What could be ingenious to one person can be mundane to another. With limited time, can these final four chefs create a dish that impresses Alton Brown?

The Chairman’s Challenge had the chefs tackle breakfast. Since the challenge was a meal, the chefs had a broad concept to handle. While Alton mentioned don’t make pancakes, there was no mention of the ever popular avocado toast. Still, the chefs had so many directions to choose from.

Breakfast is an interesting idea for Iron Chef. For the home cook, breakfast isn’t just the first meal of the day. Breakfast for dinner is a popular trend. Also, bolder breakfast flavors and creative twists on the traditional are more common.

Host Alton Brown at the Special Ingredient Altar, as seen on Iron Chef Gauntlet, Season 2., photo from Food Network

For these chefs, breakfast may not be their top choice of challenges. Sure, chefs can be creative in many ways. The key to this challenge would be to show a creative take on a breakfast dish, while pushing beyond their comfort zone.

With only four chefs remaining in this Iron Chef Gauntlet recap, the chefs cannot be just mediocre or hope that someone else messes up. This episode shows that the chefs need to execute. Unfortunately, one chef was still stuck in a rut.

Chef Thaimee can cook delicious Thai dishes, but an Iron Chef needs to cook more than just a singular cuisine. Again this week, she didn’t push herself beyond her comfort zone. While her breakfast dish was ok, the dish didn’t show more. Alton definitely wants more from Chef Thaimee.

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Additionally, Chef Thaimee’s plating wasn’t good. The multiple plates were just a mistake. It was like a bunch of dishes just put on one big plate. The whole presentation was clunky. An Iron Chef dish needs to be beautiful, creative and picture perfect.

The biggest surprise of this season of Iron Chef Gauntlet is Chef Gomez. Last week, Chef Gomez showed her knowledge of Indian cuisine and won the Chairman’s Challenge. This week, she succeeded again with the breakfast challenge.

Her spin on an Asian pancake turned burrito-like breakfast sandwich was really ingenious. The combination of flavors was spot on while she presented the dish in a different way. There was some whimsy to the dish while the flavors remained elevated. She seems to fully understand the sweet spot of an Iron Chef dish.

Chef Gomez won the Chairman’s Challenge. It is her second win. Could Chef Gomez go on a winning streak? It is quite possible that she is on a roll to the finale.

Unfortunately, Chef Thaimee had the least favorite dish. Her cooking isn’t showing growth. She wants to be the first Thai Iron Chef, but that title isn’t the competition. An Iron Chef needs to know all types of cuisines, techniques and flavors.

The two chefs battling in the Secret Ingredient Challenge were Chef Thaimee and Chef LeFevre (chosen by Chef Gomez). The secret ingredient was scallops. The altar was filled with all types of scallops. It was a seafood dream.

Contestants Hong Thaimee and David LeFevre, as seen on Iron Chef Gauntlet, Season 2.

Like all Secret Ingredient Challenges, the chefs have to make scallops the star of a dish. In previous challenges, the chefs let the secret ingredient be overshadowed by the other components. The chef who can make the best scallop dish has the chance to battle the Iron Chefs in the Gauntlet.

Scallops are an interesting choice for a secret ingredient. The seafood can be prepared many ways. From raw to slightly cooked to a perfect sear, the scallop can be transformed in so many different ways. One chef seemed to embrace the scallops in more ways.

From the start of this Secret Ingredient Challenge, Chef LeFevre made one smart, almost pivotal choice. He tasted all the scallops on the altar. By knowing the scallops’ flavors, he could better balance his dishes. From the sweetness to the brightness, his dishes had a lovely progression.

If I were choosing a three course meal of scallops, my preferred meal would have been Chef LeFevre’s dishes. The first course of a raw scallops with grapefruit sounds like a bright, palate awakening dish. With a little dash of heat, the bite sounded delightful.

His second dish that used warm herb oil to slightly cook the scallops sounded intriguing. While I have seen this technique before, it is always impressive. I would have thought that the dish could have used a little more texture. Still, it sounds that it would have been very aromatic.

The final dish, pairing scallops with butternut squash, was interesting. The key to this dish’s success was the various textures. By using the butternut squash in multiple ways, with multiple textures, this dish was a big win.

Chef Thaimee again stayed within her Thai comfort zone. While she can cook amazing Thai food, she should have pushed herself beyond the same cuisine over and over. One style or one note cooking won’t earn a chef the title of Iron Chef.

One dish stood out as extremely creative. Chef Thaimee’s first course featured a blue tea sorbet. The bright, bold cold was extremely unusual. Blue is not a naturally occurring color in food. This sorbet was definitely a new, captivating plating choice.

While the color was stunning, her balance of scallops to sorbet was off. Unfortunately, there was too much sorbet for the delicate scallop. It made the dish slightly disappointing.

For her other two courses, the flavors were too similar. There wasn’t a progression. Both courses had coconut flavors. Overall, her progression was more one note.

Since Chef Thaimee didn’t show progression, growth or depth, she was eliminated. If she had tried to push herself to anything beyond Thai food, she could have done better.

Looking at the three remaining chefs, each one seems to have a great chance at winning. I think that Chef Balloo needs to be tested. He hasn’t been on the top nor the bottom yet. With only three chefs left, there is no more middle. He needs to step it up.

Next: Iron Chef America returns

With only a few more episodes left, any of these chefs could make it to the Gauntlet. Another Iron Chef Gauntlet recap has come to a close. Do you have a prediction on next week’s chef to go home?