"Campbell vs. Batali:
Battle Cheese" - March 20
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
The Challenger: New
Yorker Scott Q. Campbell, an internationalist in
cuisine. He heads the kitchen at @SQC, having worked at
three esteemed eateries beforehand. He is paired with
Iron Chef Batali, a cross-cuisine battle in theory.
The Crib Sheet:
Mark Ladner & Anne Burrell, sous-chefs
Seli Ortiz &
Roger ?, sous-chef
The Theme Ingredient:
Cheese, several variations including gorgonzola,
mozzarella, ricotta, mascarpone, etc.
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
The words of
the Chairman's dear uncle.... "Allez cuisine!"
The Battle: Alton
notices that each cheese is Italian in origin. Sounds
like a tip of the scales to the Iron Chef, but let's see
what the challenger can do. Campbell is working with
veal, as he's pulling apart connective tissue for a
sauce for ravioli. On the Iron Chef's side, he's working
with fillings. Sous-chef Anne is slicing fennel in a
mandoline. Meanwhile, Campbell is slicing truffles as
Batali pulls out prosciutto. Campbell is prepping lemon
juice, rather quickly for someone doing prepwork. "You
have an objective. You have to march the ball down the
field. Score the point. you have two athletes in top
shape, going at each other with unbelievable odds. It's
a very very fun feat."
Over on Batali's side, we
have a meatball of veal, egg, ricotta, and... something
else as sous-chef Seli is disassembling artichokes. And
did I hear veal sorbet? I think we have a topper for
Sakai's trout ice cream.
The meatballs are coated
with panko for frying. Sous-chef Roger is roasting red
peppers, while Anne is slicing some for parmesan cheese,
milk, fennel, and other ingredients. And we have glass
down... broken. Meanwhile, Campbell wants to work with
some of the fatty marrow. "Fifteen minutes have
elapsed." And Campbell's sorbet is churning.
Ted Allen (food writer; food & wine expert, "Queer Eye
for the Straight Guy").
Barbara Fairchild (editor-in-chief, Bon Appetit
Peter Elliot (food writer/culinary critic)
Back to Battle:
Campbell is shaving said veal bones clean, while
mascarpone and ricotta is joined with spinach, green
pepper, and onion.
Roger is making mascarpone
and gorgonzola mousse, as Campbell is plating it on
slate, alongside buffalo mozzarella. Mark is making a
Bechamel sauce for the pacchari. Anne is making a sweet
bread-stick with mascarpone.
The veal sorbet is out on
Campbell's side. It's been churned but not hardened.
That's what the freezer is for, and we have time for
that. The Iron Chef is planning a folded device, while
Campbell is countering with wonton wrappers.
Tube pasta being filled on
Batali's side, while Campbell is preparing a cheese
frito, a cracker. Batali has a mini-calzone going on
with the cheese-and-veggies mix from earlier. Seli is
wrapping prosciutto with figs (or the other way round)
for an artichoke salad alongside parmesan and avocado.
And are you ready for some
wings? Looks like Batali is. "Thirty minutes have
elapsed." And what a half that has been. More like
Now for your
semi-educational moment. Parmesan arreggiano cheese is
very hard because most of its moisture was pressed out
of it. Gorgonzola is aged a few months, but unlike other
cheeses today, it is essentially infected with
penicillin for flavor and aroma. Mozzarella is made by
taking soft cheese, knotting it, and pouring boiling hot
water on it. Ricotta is made from the whey of other
cheeses. Mascarpone is very creamy, because, well...
it's mostly cream.
And while we were listening
to Alton, veal sausage was done, veal meatball was
fried, and a roast was done. All on Batali's side.
Campbell is making sausage dumplings in veal stock.
Batali is making cheese sauce with fontina cheese, while
Campbell has started to plate with a salad.
Batali's making a panchetta-fat-based
tomato sauce. Campbell's making a red-pepper cannoli.
Zeppole is being deep-fried on Batali's side. Campbell's
making a curry with mascarpone to be plated with the
Batali is conically sieving
his fontina sauce. A first for Batali. "Fifteen minutes to go."
And plating continues. Campbell has his first cheese
plate down, finished. More black-truffles on Batali's
fondutta. His veal fillet is being plates, while Roger
is working on beet chips. Ted Allen thinks this is the
most intense IC battle anywhere.
Veal for ravioli is being
sliced with a little over a dime on the clock. Batali is
deconstructing a salad while Anne is working with figs
Campbell... "Okay, guys...
Fun is over." Time to pick it up. Vincotto on top of the
sweet mascarpone is next on Batali's side, as he
finished a meatball sandwich... "It's a sub." Oh, my
bad. And we have a calzone in the deep-frier. Weird to
Kevin, but not to Alton, because as Batali says... "He's
from the South!" This as he finishes plating another
dish... and cleans up after himself.
Campbell is finished
plating three stuffed treats. And Batali's got the five
down, all cheesy, all playful. Campbell is getting his
five down... and we have a minute to clean. That's it,
really. All we have to do is wait until... Wait a
minute, Batali with the white truffle at the fondutta...
Playing dirty! But this is Iron Chef, not Iron
"Five seconds.. Three...
two... One... Time's up." Battle Cheese is OVER! Now to
Judgment (Campbell): "We tried to do is take a
contemporary American approach to using Italian products
with as greatest dignity as possible." Dishes:
Artichoke Salad, Gorgonzola Mousse on a Sausage
Quenelle; Gorgonzola Cannoli, Gaufrette Ravioli, Cheese
Stuffed Beet; Salad with Gorgonzola and Mascarpone Curry
Sauce; Cheese Ravioli with Veal and Veal Marrow; Italian
Cheese Plate with Lemon Veal Sorbet.
Barbara notices the
contrasts in dish one. Ted disagrees, as they do go
together. "As you can see, I hate it," Peter says, as he
shows an empty plate. Barbara thinks his
"outside-the-box" salad needs to go back into the box.
Ow... Ted isn't a fan of the gold leaf. Dish 4: "If
you've got the fever for the flavor of a femur, this is
your dish. But where's the cheese?" Dish #5: "Praise
cheesus!" Points for Campbell with originality. Points
to Ted for writing his own material.
Judgment (Batali): "Cheese is one of my
favorite things. It's rarely the only thing that goes
into a dish, so my inspiration is to see how we can use
it in the vernacular of the Italian kitchen with some
Italian-American and just American influences." Dishes:
Three-Cheese Calzone with Spicy Green Tomato Sauce;
Buffalo Chicken Wing with Gorgonzola Quenelle; Pacchari
Ripieni with Mozzarella and Ricotta; Gorgonzola Zeppole,
Parmigiano Sausage, Ricotta Meatball; Lemon Mascarpone
with Brown Sugar-Glazed Figs
Judges like the calzones,
the wings ("It's the Super Bowl snack gone upscale"),
the pasta ("I'm having a foodgasm."), the threesome of
cheese dishes, and the mascarpone stick. Ted asks for a
And now, whose cuisine
reigns supreme? The verdict....
... 53-40 in favor of
Iron Chef Mario Batali. Plating and originality were
strong on both sides, but it was taste that gave the
Iron Chef his margin of victory. As for the challenger,
all his hard work... not for naught, but for
submission... to the Iron Chef. Until next
time, we bid you good eating.