Iron Chef Gauntlet finale: Is there a new Iron Chef?


In the Iron Chef Gauntlet finale, Chef Lefevre battled to become the new Iron Chef. Did he succeed or fall just short of the glory?

Kitchen Stadium was ready for the Iron Chef Gauntlet finale. At the end of this Food Network episode a new Iron Chef could be crowned. Throughout Iron Chef Gauntlet Season 2, Chef LeFevre has battled his way to these final secret ingredient showdowns. Did he have the ingenuity, adaptability, resourcefulness and versatility to conqueror three Iron Chefs?

In last year’s Iron Chef Gauntlet season, Stephanie Izard earned the title of Iron Chef. After a valent season, she was able to achieve a cumulative score that beat all three of the Iron Chefs in the secret ingredient challenges. That feat isn’t an easy one, which Chef LeFevre quickly found out.

For the first of the three Iron Chef battles, Chef LeFevre had to take on the newest Iron Chef, Stephanie Izard. Since the challenger had the tougher road, the Chairman allowed the challenger to choose the secret ingredient. In each challenge, Chef LeFevre could choose from the two potential secret ingredients. Did his choice help him earn the title or at least some respect from Iron Chef fans?

In the first battle, Chef LeFevre had to choose between chocolate and goat. He stepped up to the plate and choose goat. Since Stephanie Izard’s Chicago restaurants feature goat (all her restaurants have goat in their names), it was the bolder choice. Side note -if you’re ever in Chicago, definitely go to Girl and the Goat and order pig face. It is a dish that you will remember for a long time.

Iron Chefs Stephanie Izard, Michael Symon and Alex Guarnaschelli, as seen on Iron Chef Gauntlet, Season 2. photo provided by Food Network

The two chefs had very different approaches to battle goat. Chef LeFevre went for a more traditional goat dish. The Morrocan style goat had strong, pronounced flavors. The dish’s presentation was visually stunning. More importantly, the dish had various textures. The biggest downside to his dish was that it was traditional. To be an Iron Chef, he needs to push himself more or think out of the box more. An expertly cooked dish is expected. A creative dish or unusual dish can set a chef apart.

Chef Izard went for a very unusual dish. She made a goat ice cream with a sweet goat sausage, goat caramel and goat whip. This dish was extremely creative. Who would think of a sweet goat sausage? In last season’s Iron Chef Gauntlet, Chef Izard exceled with ice creams. This dish got high praise for creativity, but the judges didn’t appreciate the presentation. The color was a little one note.

Moving onto the second round, Chef LeFevre took on Michael Symon. The two secret ingredients were bacon or sturgeon. Everyone knows that Michael Symon is the king of bacon (have you read his book Carnivore or watched him on The Chew). In a previous Iron Chef battle, Chef Symon didn’t win a sturgeon battle. With Chef LeFevre’s expertise with fish, his choice was obvious. It was battle sturgeon.

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Chef LeFevre was very thoughtful with his sturgeon dish. The puffed sturgeon skin added a lovely texture element and offered some creativity. The poached fish might have been a little overcooked, but overall the dish was successful.

One criticism was his use of citrus. Having used grapefruit in the first dish, he shouldn’t have used it again in the second dish. Iron Chefs need to use many ingredients and need to avoid repetition. Using the same ingredient, not the secret ingredient, in multiple dishes wasn’t a smart move.

Chef Symon’s dish was Asian forward. That flavor profile was a little unusual for this chef. Usually, people think of Chef Symon with Mediterranean influences or big, bold meat dishes. Still, his dish was very sturgeon forward. He used the fish in various ways and that flavor came through the dish.

One major criticism was that the smoke flavor was a little too much. Since the dish got a little too much smoke, there was a bitter quality to the flavor. When a dish gets too much smoke, the lingering taste is bitter. It can be a fine balance to create the perfect smoke level.

The final secret ingredient battle had Chef LeFevre take on Alex Guarnaschelli. This battle was going to be the most competitive of the three because Chef Guarnaschelli judged Chef LeFevre earlier this season. She was quite critical of his scallop meal.

The two secret ingredient options for this battle were eggplant or sea urchin. The obvious choice was sea urchin. Who doesn’t love this succulent ingredient? Granted, no one wants to call it gonads, but sea urchin is definitely yummy. If Chef LeFevre chose eggplant, everyone would have been shocked.

Chef Guarnaschelli took a risk by preparing a duo, which often doesn’t go well for a chef. The highlight was her presentation her sea urchin toast. The sea urchin flavor was everywhere. Using fried sea urchin like a ghetto bottarga (salted, cured fish roe) was genius. Those little crispy bites of fried sea urchin made the dish stand out.

Also, Chef Guarnaschelli had sea urchin flavor presented in many ways. From raw to cooked, her dishes were all about the secret ingredient.

The biggest criticism for her presentation was that the sea urchin soup wasn’t the prettiest color. The flavor was on point, but the color was a little off putting. Maybe the judges could have eaten with their eyes closed.

Host Alton Brown, with contestant David LeFevre, working with the secret ingredient, goat, in the kitchen, as seen on Iron Chef Gauntlet, Season 2. photo from Food Network

Chef LeFevre presented a sea urchin risotto. This dish was a little predictable. While visually stunning, the dish didn’t push the envelope, like an Iron Chef dish should. Overall, the flavor and textures were impressive, but the creativity was lacking.

Also, this dish could have had more sea urchin flavor. By using chicken stock to flavor the risotto, Chef LeFevre lost an opportunity to add even more sea urchin flavor. While this dish could be spectacular in one of his restaurants, Kitchen Stadium is a different venue. Here, the judges want to be knocked over with the secret ingredient flavor.

After all three battles, the scores were revealed. This Iron Chef Gauntlet finale was about the cumulative score. Even though Chef LeFevre beat Chef Izard and tied Chef Symon, he got beat handily by Chef Guarnaschelli.

Unfortunately, this Iron Chef Gauntlet Season 2 did not crown a new Iron Chef. Sorry, Chef LeFevre but today was not your day in Kitchen Stadium. Could he have redemption another time? Quite possibly. Maybe he will return in this summer’s Iron Chef America. Remember Chef Guarnaschelli competed several times before earning her Iron Chef title.

Next: Best Baker in America premiere: Vanilla cake

What was your favorite part of Iron Chef Gauntlet Season 2? Did the judges make the right choice in the Iron Chef Gauntlet finale?