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"Our ultimate competition is with ourselves. That is what my uncle told me when I would visit him as a young boy... My uncle, the man the world knows as Kaga the Chairman, has decided that although America is a young country, we now possess the proper palate to host our own Iron Chef competition, an American celebration of the world's high art of cuisine."

Recaps by Chico Alexander, GSNN


Host ("The Chairman"):
Mark Dacascos
Culinary Commentator: Alton Brown
Iron Chefs: Mario Batali, Bobby Flay, Masaharu Morimoto
Kitchen Reporter: Kevin Brauch
Creator: Keiichi Tanaka (based upon "Ryori no Tetsujin/Iron Chef")
EP: Steve Kroopnick
Packager: Triage Entertainment, Fuji Television Network, Food Network
Airs: Sundays at 9p ET on Food Network

Copyright Statement

No infringement of copyright is intended by these fan pages; production companies of shows this site covers retain all rights to the sounds, images, and information contained herein. No challenge to copyright is implied. 

Web design by Jason Elliott. Logo by Chico Alexander. 

"Laiskonis vs. Batali: Battle Chocolate & Coconut" - February 13

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 be shown.

The Challenger: One of America's greatest pastry chefs and the top-rated pastry chef per Bon Appetit Magazine, Michael Laiskonis. According to show notes, he is "living proof that you don't need a formal culinary education to kick butt in the kitchen." The Chairman detects an air of confidence as he calls out his warrior... Mario Batali. Gentlemen... prepare for battle.

The Crib Sheet:
Anne Burrell & Mark Ladner, sous-chefs
Heather Carlucci & Pichet Ong, sous-chefs
19 years EXPERIENCE 11 years
Italian COOKING STYLE Neo-classical
2-1 BATTLE RECORD Challenger

The Theme Ingredient: A dual theme: with chocolate (professional grade semi-sweet and white blocks and disks, cocoa beans, cocoa powder, cocoa butter, ) and coconuts (pre-shredded and fresh).

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 dishes wins.

The words of the Chairman's dear uncle.... "Allez cuisine!"

The Battle: So we have two themes and two different approaches as we start the battle. While sous-chef Heather uses a giant knife to cut her chocolate brick into chips, Batali is using a drill to get inside a fresh coconut. Remember, go for the monkey face.

Semi-educational moment #1: coconut milk is a sterile liquid that was used during WWII as an IV fluid.

About the battle: Michael: "I think we both come to the table with certain advantages and disadvantages. My training as a savory chef has taught me to be more spontaneous as a pastry chef." Mario: "Michael was a sous-chef before, so I'm particularly frightened at the potential disastrous results, being that I've never made great desserts before."

Mario is aiming to add some Asian flavors as Laiskonis doesn't see a lot of theme ingredients up on his side yet. Over with Anne, the cocoa is meeting with flour and water. A dough? We'll see. Michael has a marble slab out with some plastic sheeting, meaning that chocolate will be melted and tempered for a dish later. Added to the chocolate: butter, vanilla, and cinnamon.

Mario has coconut milk in a soup while Michael is tempering the chocolate (seating crystals by aligning them on the cold marble. Hot chocolate, cold marble. Get it? Good). His strategy: keep it simple, elegant, and refined. Then we're going with red mullet and some shellfish.

Meanwhile, Alton gets a note from the Chairman: in this battle, the requirements are three savory dishes and two desserts.

Heather is working on a biscui (a twice baked ... well, biscuit). Michael; is setting his chocolate sheet on the slab to cool and harden, while Mark on Batali's side is playing with potato slices, and filling ring moulds with fillo. Michael is capping eggs on his side to preserve the shape of the shell.

The Judges: Karine Bakhoum: culinary consultant and founder of KB Network News.
Katrina Markoff: founder/CEO of Vosges Haut Chocolat.
Jeffrey Steingarten: author, "It Must Have Been Something I Ate"; culinary critic for Vogue magazine; the resident Asako Kishi.

Back to Battle: Duck thighs are stuffed on Batali's side, while mullets are scaled on Laiskonis' side. Anne is making chocolate pasta, while Laiskonis is making creme brulee inside the eggshells and a dredging of flour & cocoa powder for the fish. And do I sense some frothed milk? That's why the cappuccino machine is there. Back to the potatoes, they're being sandwiched with truffles and taragon. On another side, Anne is making chocolate pici. On the other side, Laiskonis is using a full ancho chile for his creme brulee mix while Pichet is cleaning shrimp and Heather is working... cereal. "Thirty minutes have elapsed."

Batali breaks out the foie gras to score. Never been done before. Also, a black truffle vinaigrette. Where's it all headed? Got me... Next, scallops being sauteed with salt and pepper.

Semi-educational moment #2: white chocolate... not chocolate at all. It contains no cocoa powder. Only cocoa butter and sugar.

"Twenty minutes to go." Anne's making churros with coconut milk while Michael is preparing a diced prune dish. Batali's duck thighs are done, but where will they go next? And then a fire. Where that goes, I don't know either.

Pichet is making popcorn for Laiskonis. "Fifteen minutes to go." And while Alton is talking with the judges, Anne is making her churros, Batali is searing scallops, and Heather was making white chocolate truffles.

Revisiting the sheet chocolate, Laiskonis is battling fiercely, so it's back to the blast freezer. Less than ten to go, and plating has started. And we have mashed potatoes? That's on Michael's side, but there's no coconut that we can see! That may come back to hurt him.

"Five minutes to go." And the sheet of chocolate is a bust, what to do about it. Anne is getting deep-fried herself, and Mario is rescuing her eyes with some eyewear. The fillo-nest is going in top of some meat, and it looks to be Moroccan in origin. Laiskonis' red mullet is going down now. The pici is coupled with raw broccoli. That's plated. The foie gras's done. "Three minutes to go." The milk chocolate brulee's done. And we have sea salt? That's going into the brulee as well. The churros are done. Everything's coming into place into these last moments. Looking at the mashed potatoes... and Laiskonis has a sauce on it. We are down to...

"Five seconds... three... two... one... Time's up" And Battle Chocolate and Coconut is over! Laiskonis: "I'm satisfied." Now to judge.

Judgment (Laiskonis): "I wanted to use chocolate in all its forms, the coconut as well. I also wanted to touch a few things historical, and wanted to make everything pure, clean, & simple, and that the portions were small." Dishes: poached prawns with white chocolate sauce; coconut mashed potato with chocolate ganache; cocoa-dusted red mullet; chocolate biscuit & chocolate mousse dessert; white chocolate truffle, chocolate creme brulee, & hot chocolate.

Karine though the poached dish was surprising. Katrina likes the hint of coconut in the potato. The fish dish had a "lovely flavor", but it was hard to taste the chocolate. The biscuit was going to have the tempered chocolate, but it didn't pan out so well. The judges don't seem to mind.

Judgment (Batali): "Chocolate and coconut are things that I used as a child, but very rarely use in reality at this point." Dishes: coconut soup and scallop with white chocolate puree, foie gras with cocoa caponata, cocoa Tuscan pici, duck "bisteeya" with coconut & chocolate, churros y chocolate.

The soup is an original, never made before, and it goes over well with the judges. Karine "feels the chocolate" in the foie gras.  Katrina likes the "bisteeya". Jeffrey, though he enjoys the dishes, reams the other judges on not being harsh on "the other guy".

And now, whose cuisine reigns supreme? The verdict....
Taste 23 24
Plating 12 13
Originality 10 13

... 50-45 in favor of Iron Chef Mario Batali. Just goes to show you that life is like chocolate. "Without the bitterness, the sweetness don't mean a thing." Until next time... I bid you good eating.

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