"Simon vs. Cora: Battle
Hamburger" - July 17
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
Kerry Simon, world-renowned for being "The Rock'n'Roll
Chef", having worked first as a cook in a Little Caesars
to save up for a guitar. From there, he went on to his
own restaurant in the Las Vegas Hard Rock Hotel &
Casino, Simon. He once challenged last week's challenger
to a food fight, but this time, he draws the youngest
Iron Chef, Cat Cora, the latest in a line of Greek
Southerner restauranteurs. Chefs... Prepare for battle.
The Crib Sheet:
Elizabeth Falkner & David Shalleck, sous-chefs
Chris Vaughn & Kim Canteenwalla, sous-chefs
The Theme Ingredient:
80/20 chuck/sirloin hamburger, ground and cubed.
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
with an full heart and an empty stomach, the words of
the Chairman's dear uncle.... "Allez cuisine!"
The Battle: The
bovine battle has begun, and already have the
comparisons been made. Cora's team in the traditional
Gourmet Academy white, while Simon and Co. are the men
in black. Simon starts to grind some burger, as does
sous-chef David. Meatloaf? Salisbury steak? Cora starts
with garlic and onion. Then we go to a pita base.
Aromatics are cooking on the challenger's side.
moment: hamburger comes from ground round. Not a lot of
flavor and very easy to overcook. The best ground meat
for our hamburger comes from chuck for texture and
Cora's opening thoughts: "I
know Kerry. He's got a lot of great presentations. He
does a lot of crazy stuff." Simon's opening thoughts:
"What she does is her thing. Hopefully, I'll do
everything I need to do to win."
Earlier, the ice cream
machines were off, but Simon's working on vanilla beans,
which means... yup. Ice cream in the making, friends.
While he's doing that, sous-chef Kim is working bacon,
while sous-chef Chris is boiling chicken stock, and
prepping egg whites and veggies for a consomme. Gutsy.
Kevin is up in the "VIP
box" (what we'll call for continuity sake "the royal
box"), and in the royal box, cheering Simon on to
victory... Bill Murray! Interesting fact, the two worked
together at the aforementioned Chicago Little Caesars.
Meanwhile, Cora has
meatballs and chorizo sausage, using hamburger. Simon's
sauteing bacon and hamburger, meanwhile it's time for
the voice: "Fifteen minutes have elapsed." David has
added orange zest to his parsley. Let's meet judges...
Writer/chef Martin Yan ("Yan Can Cook")
Culinary journalist Akiko Katayama (Food Arts Magazine
Author John T. Edge ("Hamburgers & Fries: An American
Back to Battle: Beer
on the floor. Is it an ingredient or are Simon's sous-chefs
just thirsty? We have raita on Cora's side with
cucumbers and jalapenos. Meanwhile, Akiko is playing the
role of "giggly woman" today, saying that she could
really go for a hamburger right now. John likes the
bacon, while Martin is awaiting the ice cream... and
there it goes into the machine. It's just vanilla.
Poblanos & tomatillos are being salamandered on the IC's
side, while the beer on the challenger's side is going
into a ground beef mixture. Looks like a tartare. Over
on the IC's side... "Just like a Saturday night, baby.
Few thousand people, no big deal." Corn is prepped,
while Cora is shaking the dough. The challenger is
skewering with sugar cane. The wrap on his side's
consomme is coming together, while the chorizo on Cora's
side is getting the corn and corn starch. She's making
the pizza out of pitas, while Simon is making a pepper
vinaigrette. Souschef Chris is prepping potatoes.
"Thirty minutes have
elapsed." Cora has put her chorizo into tamales. Simon's
meatballs are coming out of the salamanders. Meanwhile,
beef, arugula, tomatoes, ricotta, and fontina is going
into a filling. Cora's pitas are being grilled, while
we're going to turnovers with souschef Elizabeth. As for
the potatoes on the challenger's side? French fries.
Those turnovers on the IC side? Samosas.
Meanwhile, Simon is touting
"the ultimate burger". Elsewhere, Simon is prepping
Japanese sauces and soy sauce for a dipping sauce. And
Chris is blanching potato chips in the deep-fryer.
"Twenty minutes to go." And Cora begins to plate.
Back to the judges. Martin
notes that it smells good. Akiko is curious about the
briosh. John T.: "Burgers usually get short shrimped in
the bun department." Over to the royal box, here's Bill
again. "The Iron Chef has the imagination of a pixie and
the will of an emperor's daughter."
And .. oh crap, Cora's
pitas are burned. "Just slightly." The challenger's
consomme is being drained. "Fifteen minutes to go." Cora
is wrapping her tamales in newspaper and putting them in
a paper bag. Sounds like drive thru. Meanwhile, Simon
has yet to plate any of his dishes. COra has salvaged
her pitas and has topped them with hamburger/fennel
mixtures and Monterey jack cheese (C-Note: My favorite).
Simon is making potato ravioli with the chips from
We have ten on the clocks
and Cora has plated two dishes, plating her third, the
tartare, with a mixture of mustard and creme fraiche.
Sous-chef David is going to sear it before plating...
Fire! Meanwhile, the woman of the house wants ketchup,
damn it. The poblanos and tomatillos from earlier are
blended up, while Simon's ultimate burger gets a nice
slice of cheese.
Simon has begun to plate
his meatsicle and ultimate burger. Cora is frying a
quail egg for the steak tartare. She uses the salamander
for tightening up the membrane. Simon is frying his
ravioli. His souschef is working on soba noodles. And
the ravioli is out, while Cora's samosas are plating.
Simon's working on a milkshake with his ice cream. So we
have burgers, fries, and shakes in shot glasses. The
consomme is being poured off for a beef carpaccio.
Meanwhile, Cora's tomatillo sauce is going into a
squeeze bottle. "One minute to go." And Cora is just
about done, what about Simon? The ravioli is down, while
the IC is prepping a brown/sugar/tamarind/honey sauce at
the last second! Simon is done... Cora is done... The
"Five second... three...
two.. one... Time's up!" The cooking's done, Battle
Hamburger is over! Time to judge.
Judgment (Cora): "It represented the unsung
heroes of the culinary world. The men and women who cook
street food." Dishes:
Ground Beef Samosas and Raita, Beef Tamales in
Newspaper, Steak Tartare Burger with Egg, Pizzetta with
Hamburger, Sizzling Asian Meatball.
Martin notes the texture
contrast of the samosas. Akiko calls it perfect. John
says to the tamale, "You're playing to the crowd."
Apparently both the IC and the judge are from
Mississippi. Akiko calls it "a little oily." Martin
calls the tartare a work of art. Akiko thought the dough
was a little dry, but Martin like "Mama Cora's pizza"
with the beer. He thinks the meatball is tasty, but
could be a bit more moist. Obviously, she had fun doing
Judgment (Simon): "Hamburger is American. You
have to accept it and be proud of it." Dishes: Beef
on Sugarcane Skewer, Tartare with Horseradish, Asian-stule
Consomme with Soba Noodles, Potato Ravioli, Ultimate
Akiko thinks of the
presentation as "zen". Martin likes the consomme and the
shabu-shabu beef. John calls the ravioli "an ethereal
potato chip". All three judges love the ultimate burger.
And Akiko calls a dish "a little oily" for the sixth
time. Martin calls her on that with the burger.
Slight edge to the Iron
Chef, but what do Martin, Akiko, and John have to say?
Whose cuisine reigns supreme? The verdict...
... it's a close one,
but this one goes to Challenger Kerry Simon. Final
score: 49.1-49. Cora outdid Simon in the plating
department, but it seems like originality is where the
challenger made his mark of victory. But if you ask
Alton, the winner today... cows everywhere, as such a
humdrum ingredient gets the Iron Chef treatment that it
rightly deserves. Unfortunately for Cora, though, she's
now 1 and 1. Until next time, I bid you good eating.