"Lee vs. Cora: Battle
Potato" - 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
a note of background... The central story of the
original Iron Chef was the legacy of Rosanjin, a
Japanese scholar who taught of food as art. To this end,
Kaga created his Kitchen Stadium and equipped it with
the three original Tetsujin. In order to fulfill his
master's legacy, Kaga eventually added a fourth Iron
nephew is prepared to fulfill his uncle's legacy by
adding a fourth Iron Chef to the mantle of Kitchen
Stadium America, the first female Iron Chef ever to be
installed. Cat Cora, "a Greek goddess from Mississippi
who has a flare for California cuisine." Having been
born into a family of Greek restauranteurs and trained
under two of France's leading chefs, she views cooking
as an art and an adventure.
But this is not a
coronation. This is a battle. Every Iron Chef must prove
themselves worthy, and this is no exception, as we
The Challenger: A
contemporary French student, Alex Lee. A strong eye for
exploration with a strong foothold in tradition. A
former executive chef at Danielle, one of the top French
restaurants in the world, it seems that the Chairman is
not cutting the newbie any slack.
The Crib Sheet:
Lorilynn Bauer & David Shalleck, sous-chefs
James Wilcox & Cyrille Allannic, sous-chefs
The Theme Ingredient:
Potato, five varieties: russet Burbank, red, ruby
crescents, yellow Finns, and purple Peruvians.
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: Taters
are just time consuming, and that's just the collecting!
Cora's view going into KSA: "I think some of the
greatest challenges that I have are the pressure of
being the first female Iron Chef. Women in their
own right can cook and battle as fierce as men can." Lee
has also trained in France. "I've seen a lot of [women
cooks] in my travels."
Cheese, milk, and cream
mixing in Lee's side. Potatoes are a new-world food
which was very slow accepting in Europe due to them
being "nightshades". Let's just say they were their
version of a trout-being-wrapped-in-newspaper. Today,
it's America's most popular vegetable. Cora is using a
lesser known variety, the purple Peruvian, in a dish
with cream, sugar, and vanilla beans. Purple potato
James is working potatoes,
olives, and goat cheese Cyrille is also working with
vanilla. Cora is chopping mushrooms, gnocchi and maitake,
it looks like. Lorilynn has fennel seeds and sugar syrup
for a brittle. Cora is also pureeing more purples for
the "ice cream." Yellowfin slices are prepped on Lee's
side. Cora is pan-frying mushrooms. That was an hour
ago, though. Ice cream machine is in motion. Cyrille is
making crepes with russets.
Meanwhile, the Chairman is
prowling, checking out his newest acquisition.
Aaron Brown (CNN news anchor, "Newsnight")
Karine Bakhoum (culinary consultant, KB Network News)
Jeffrey Steingarten (culinary critic/writer, "It Must've
Been Something I Ate"; America's answer to Asako Kishi)
Back to Battle: The
potatoes that looked to be a tart on Lee's side are now
being fried, while his sous-chef James is caramelizing
apples with peels. Now peels have a bit of pectin which
could help in setting the solution as a gelatin or a
gelee. Baby octopus courtesy of sous-chef David, while
Cora works on a vinaigrette of mirin, yuzu, ponzu, and
sesame oil. Lorilynn is working on a pepper potato
Cyrille has a batter... a
cake? Eggs, flour, butter... Cora has "Japanese basil"
on her side. Both chefs are calling for hot dishes as
they move round the kitchen. David has ground duck
livers in with the duck meat. That and octopi are very
prominent in Greek cooking, Cora's specialty. Lee has an
omelet with potatoes, a frittata, if you will. The
challenger has his cake molds out, while Lorilynn on the
IC side has her ice cream out. "Thirty minutes have
David has added chicken
stock to the duck, while Lee has hollowed out yellowfins.
And it looks like we have an issue with the oven on the
challenger's side. Cora has garlic chives, while she
rents out the oven to Cyrille for his mini-cakes. "Fine,
share and share alike," she says.
And it looks like the duck
is being used as a layer for moussaka. Cora also has
phyllo out. Lee has the bell peppers julienned, while
Cyrille has caviar wrapped in sablefish. Only on IC,
folks. Of course, the sablefish is farm-bred in America,
because Caspian sea bass is endangered and it is not the
policy of Kitchen Stadium or this recapper to support
Lots of vegetation is being
deep-fried... because Cat Cora's from the South =p Lee
has a fondue going on, as he's correcting James' course.
The deep-fried items are garnishes for the gazpacho,
while Cora is filling her phyllo with some potato
concoction. David is cutting veggies for the octopus,
meanwhile. "Twenty minutes to go."
Going to the judges for a
bit... Aaron has hash browns on the brain. Karine likes
cake, and Jeffrey... "If any one of them makes french
fries, they win."
A bit of turnabout as
Cora's convection oven doesn't work properly, forcing
her to borrow Lee's. But with 15 left, can they get
Sous-chef David is working
on a potato puree for a dip with yogurt, while Cora is
flambeeing her octopus. "Ten minutes to go" and Cora
wants plates. Her first, the brittle and ice cream. The
challenger... far behind with his sous-chefs. The cake
and apples are down on Lee's side. The phyllo dumplings
are down. "Now it's time to make it sexy. It tastes
good, let's make it look good." Good call. Cyrille sets
his sablefish and crepe down. The potato and garlic
puree is down. White truffles are thinly sliced with
prosciutto on Lee's side, while Cora uses yuzu and
edamame. Lee has three of his dishes done, with one on
the way. Cora has all five. Now it's a matter of
presentation... although Cora is unhappy with the duck.
Little time to do something about it. "One minute to
go." Lee is almost done here, while Cora is replating
the moussaka as the Chairman looms near. Now it's all
presentation... "Hey, you guys? We're done!" And with 15
ticks to spare. Opa! And Lee is close behind. Sure
you're done, but how will the judges take it? The final
countdown to judgment in...
"Five seconds.. Three...
two... One... Your time is up." That is Battle Potato!
Judgment (Cora): "I come from a Greek family. I
have a love for Asian cuisine. I combined the two, Asian
and Greek cuisine." Dishes:
Potato Gazpacho, Potato Phyllo with Mushroom Ragout,
Potato Skordalia, Potato Moussaka, Purple Peruvian
The gazpacho gets high
marks, but Jeffrey is skeptical in calling it a potato
dish. The phyllo was the dish to beat. The skordalia, or
the potato dip thingy I earlier referred, is not
overpowering, just like Karine likes it. Jeffrey finds
the octopus hard to chew. The moussaka isn't as
exciting, and Jeffrey isn't wowed. For the gelato, "A
plus for imagination."
Judgment (Lee): "Whatever I cook, there has to
be a reason for the food. Today, I interpreted new
Potato Pancake Stuffed with Smoked Sable, Red Bliss
Potato Provencal Salad, Tortilla de Papas; Potato Skins
with Fontina, Prosciutto, and White Truffles, Potato
Cake with Calvados Caramelized Apples.
"The potato here is out of
control," Karine says of the pancake. She also likes the
salad, but doesn't think it's as creative. She also
thinks the tortilla is very dry as she tastes the egg
more. Aaron is "a potato skins guy." The cake as a whole
is his best dish.
Looks like both chefs were, at least to Jeffrey, equally
lacking. But there has to be one winner. Whose cuisine
reigns supreme? The verdict....
... 47-46 in favor of
Iron Chef Cat Cora. A stalemate in taste and plating, it
was originality where the new Iron Chef notched her
first W. But by the razor-thin margin of one, she's
hardly the Iron Chef that Kobe was. But every legend has
to have a respectable beginning, and this is hers to
cherish, as she has proven her title of Iron Chef.
Thank you for joining us
this season. Hope to see you for the next. Until then,
on behalf of everyone here at Kitchen Stadium, I bid you