"Lo vs. Batali: Battle
Mushroom" - April 3
Editor's Note: What follows is a
televised-move-by-televised-move recap. Because a
sixty-minute battle, intro, and judgment has to be
edited into 45 minutes of airtime, not every move will
Voted one of the best new chefs of 2001, our first
female challenger, Anita Lo, enters the fray. Lo studied
in some of the finest French kitchens before opening
Annisa, a restaurant specializing in contemporary
American cuisine with an all-female staff. She is paired with
Iron Chef Batali, who is just getting off his fourth
career win as an Iron Chef.
The Crib Sheet:
Mark Ladner & Anne Burrell, sous-chefs
Jennifer Scism & Sawaka Okochi, sous-chefs
The Theme Ingredient:
Mushrooms, several varieties including chanterelles,
Honshimeijis, porcinis, lobsters, and white truffles.
The Rules: Each chef
must create a five-course meal, with each course
utilizing the theme ingredient, within 60 minutes. The
judges will score the dishes on a 20-point scale: 10
points taste, 5 points plating and presentation, 5
points creativity and use of ingredient. The chef who
best articulates the theme ingredient through his or her dishes
with an full heart and an empty stomach, the words of
the Chairman's dear uncle.... "Allez cuisine!"
The Battle: A note
of clarification for IC fans that Lo may be the first
woman to do battle in KSA, but she is at least the fifth
female challenger in IC history, dating back to 1993.
Lo's team is, though, the first all-female team in any
Kitchen Stadium anywhere. Batali's view: "She is
probably the one on which I stand the most to lose.
She's a tremendous, great chef." Lo's view: "I think I'm
worried about not knowing the space. I'm worried that I
might be running around, not knowing where my
Lots of action as Batali's
side are grinding duck, while Lo's side is preparing
lobster for the lobster 'shrooms. Lots of the fungi on
Batali's pans as he's frying and grilling. Both teams
are frenetic and flawless to start. Batali: "We are
dancing at the feet of our fungal lord!"
Meanwhile Lo is working
from the back of her counter, citing her height
problems. She's straining corn puree for flan.
Back to the theme.
Mushrooms aren't meats per se (in fact, it's one of the
rare times when the theme isn't a meat), but meat is
going down to act as a framework. Batali is working on a
duck meatloaf, while Lo is skewering lobster. Sous-chef
Anne is working on cheese wafers. For what, I'm not sure
While sous-chef Jennifer is
cleaning dirty mushrooms, Batali is adding duck comfit
to a saute pan with onions and lobster 'shrooms. Anne's
working on mushroom crepes. And to it, we add smoked
paprika for a paella variant using uncooked spaghetti.
"Fifteen minutes have
elapsed." While Lo prepares bread cubes for roasting,
Batali opens pequillos, perhaps for a setup.
Dana Cowin (editor-in-chief, Food & Wine Magazine)
Peter Elliot (food writer/culinary critic)
Victoria Reccardi (author, "Untangling My Chopsticks")
Back to Battle:
Batali is breaking out sausage for his paella.
Meanwhile, Lo has guinea hen, pan roasted. Batali is
cracking open duck eggs. Lots of duck, this guy has. The
paella is going down in the pepper crocks. Meanwhile, Lo
has water chestnuts for her bread salad while the paella
is going into the convection oven. Lo is prepping konbu
and bonito flakes for broth. They're making dashi.
Batali's making a "duck meatloaf beef Wellington" with a
Lo's peeling edamame and
prepping honshimeiji. "Thirty minutes have
elapsed." Anne's giving the meatloaf an eggwash. Lo has
a problem with wood and fire. She needs a smolder, but
she doesn't have the BTUs. "I need firepower.
While Lo attempts her
firepower, we go to the semi-educational moment.
Chanterelles grow wild in America. Porcini stems are
bigger than the heads, and they grow in Italy. Lobster
mushrooms grow red due to a fungal parasite growing
outside. And finally, we have white truffles. Very
Dashi's ready on Lo's side,
while Batali is whisking with both hands for a sabayon
(a foam with egg yolks) for the crepes. Lo's bread
pudding is going into the oven now. And the wood chips
are on fire. Great. Mark is working on rice balls with
mushrooms. Lo is grilling porcinis, while Batali breaks
out the truffles. The first of the season, lighter in
flavor. With 21:39 left, Sawaka is just getting around
to frying as Jen is borrowing one of Batali's burners.
"He said 'okay.'"
The chanterelles are now
smoking. Mark is frying his rice balls, while the cheese
crisps are out. Batali's breaking out ragout of lobster,
while Sawaka's pans aren't hot enough!
"Twenty minutes to go." Lo
is going to have to hurry to get that Mailliard factor
going. Rice balls are out on Batali's side. Batali has
plates and the advantage with 15 minutes to go. Dish
#1... done. Lo's corn flan... done. No time to pan fry
the guinea hen, Sawaka fries it. The bread dish is done
"Ten minutes to go." "Ten
minutes to go!" Batali mocks. "I am not mocking your
time clock, sir." Whatever, boss. The spaghetti dish is
out. Batali is shaving truffles over a hot pot of some
sort. It's the duck egg and porcini. Lo has sunchokes
and mushrooms down. Jennifer sauces. And Batali is
announcing an extra course! We're going to have a sixth
course, and it involves Mark's rice balls. The
meatloaf's done. Buckwheat noodles down on Lo's side.
Less than five to go. The chestnut crepe is done. The
guinea hen is down. "One minute to go!" Tempura is
frying, but you know the deal. At 60 minutes, cooking
must cease. "Thirty seconds to go." Batali is just
garnishing at this point, while Lo has plated her five.
"Five seconds.. Three...
two... One... Time's up." Battle Mushroom is history!
The combatants rejoice. Now to
Judgment (Batali): "Mushrooms are very much a
part of Italy's culture. We decided to try to make a
meal that would include an appetizer, a basic antipasto,
a breakfast course, a pasta dish inspired by Spain, a
main course inspired by France, and a dessert inspired
by Bologna." Dishes:
Chanterelle Arancina, Porcini & Duck Egg Antipasto,
Frico with Lobster Mushroom Ragout; Duck, Honshimeiji &
Lobster Mushroom Fideau; Saucisson en Croute with Oyster
& Honshimeji Mushrooms, Porcini & Chestnut Crepe
The appetizer was
appealing, save for the absence of the mushroom. The
breakfast goes over well, as Batali notes that at least
$1000 of truffles are shaved on top. Victoria calls the
frico "a play on each bite." The fideau was "sticking a
spoon into the taste of Spain". The duck meatloaf is
very simple. The bonus dish (the crepe) goes over well.
Judgment (Lo): "I did want to treat individual
mushroom as an individual mushroom. They all have
different qualities." Dishes:
Honshimeji Mushrooms with Buckwheat Noodles in Broth,
Smoked Chanterelle Mushroom with Sweet Corn Flan,
Grilled Porcini with Porcini Bread Pudding, Lobster and
Braised Lobster Mushrooms with Sunchokes, Crispy Guinea
Hen with White Truffles.
Victoria calls the noodles
very delicate, while Peter likes it cold. The flan is a
winner, although some would say that the mushroom was
smoked too much. "Naked porcini.. is the ultimate."
Victoria noticed that her lobster was "Sashimi-ed". The
hen that was supposed to be seared garners props in its
And now, whose cuisine
reigns supreme? The verdict....
... 54-45 in favor of
Challenger Anita Lo. She was struggling early on, but we
see that it was not for naught as Lo sweeps Batali in
all aspects of judging. For the first time in KSA, we
have a female victor over the Iron Chef, no less...
But lo, revenge is a dish
best served in Kitchen Stadium...
CLICK HERE TO CONTINUE