"Sanchez vs. Morimoto:
Battle Black Bass" - July 31
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
Aaron Sanchez, a former apprentice of master chef Paul
Prudhomme. He used to work in San Francisco before he
opened his own place, Paladar, in 2001. He draws the OG
of the ICs, Masaharu Morimoto.
Gentlemen... prepare for battle.
The Crib Sheet:
Ariki Omae & Makoto Okuwa, sous-chefs
Michael Cressotti & Colin ?, sous-chefs
The Theme Ingredient:
one dozen black bass.
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: Both
chefs probably would've been happier if they got a
chance to snatch the fish live before it ultimately met
its fate. But oh well. Sous-chef Michael is prepping
plantains, while Sanchez is working on porcini.
Morimoto's sous-chefs are slicing shiitake, ramps, and
wasabe. Sanchez is slicing bacon. Morimoto is saving
heads for some reason. Lots of flavor there if they want
a broth. Sanchez is fileting fish while squeezing sour
oranges and blending achiote paste.
Omae is prepping eggplants
and taro root, while veal stock & soy are being prepped
into a teriyaki sauce. Will Sanchez poach his fish? He's
working frozen banana leaves. Morimoto has blue fin
tuna, meanwhile, as he also salts bones. Omae is also
heating up olive oil. "Fifteen minutes have elapsed."
Which means that it's time to meet, as Aaron knocks open
Author Victoria Abbott Riccardi ("Untangling My
Chopsticks: A Culinary Sojourn in Kyoto")
Musician Paquito D'Rivera
Culinary journalist Akiko Katayama (Food Arts Magazine
Back to Battle:
Plantains are coming to a boil on Sanchez's side, while
he blends chipotle sauce. Morimoto's sous-chef with
veggies dicing. He's got yuzu, sake, soy, rice wine, and
baby chives... together. Very unique. Konbu's coming out
of the wrapper and cheeks are coming out. Very sweet.
Sanchez is cutting taquitos with 39 minutes left. Judge
Victoria sees both chefs pulling a yin-yang approach.
Paquito likes sofrito, the soul of the old food. Akiko
likes the contrasts between the delicate fish and the
ingredients being used.
If you're a fan of IC, you
know that Morimoto loves playing with fire. That's what
he does in the form of a blowtorch. The oil itself is
preparing for a sweat. Will it be a joining of the two?
Alton says no. Morimoto has some daikon out. He'll
probably slow-roast that. Sanchez takes the plantain
mash and rolls it into the frozen banana leaves for
grilling/steaming. Chives and oil in the blender on the
IC's side. The IC torches the fish because he's into
crispy texture. He's also cutting sashimi from that same
fish. Meanwhile, the fresh seaweed is smeared over the
bass over the ramps. How will he finish?
On the challenger's side,
he's measuring oil temp. "One of my sous-chefs is really
gadget oriented. He has these little probes that he
brought that he relies very heavily on. He hasn't made
me a believer yet, but you know..." The perfect temp for
bass: 140. Morimoto, meanwhile, is making nice with
tuna. Meanwhile Colin is brushing ramp with bacon fat
and butter. And he wraps the bass as... "thirty minutes
Challenger has coconut,
coconut juice, mango, and other ingredients in a pot,
while Makoto has rice flour beaten into a fish. As for
poaching the bass, Sanchez is right on. We have deep
frying going on on both sides, and Morimoto is making
noodles from his bass. Bass is also being pan-fried,
while Colin is going for deep-fried bass. Sanchez is
skewering Peruvian corn.
Will Sanchez make a ceviche?
We'll see as he squeezes mild lemons onto red onions.
It's going to be the finish for the tacos. On the IC
side, we have frying jalapenos, and Morimoto is indeed
making noodles to flavor the salted bone broth. The tuna
was seared and simmering in soy sauce. Plantain and
sweet potato sliced on the challenger's side. The
plantains are being deep-fried. "Fifteen minutes to go."
Okay, time to start plating. But on netiher side yet.
Morimoto is pouring cooking
broth onto the chiles. Omae's bass noodles are going
into the deep-fryer. The sashimi's almost done there.
Only to plate on ice. Slow cooking bass is being plated.
The deep-fried taco dish on Sanchez's side is almost
ready as well. Griddle-top tortillas are being made as
well. Morimoto is mixing bamboo skins, raw bass cubes,
and spinach oil. He has two dishes done. Sanchez has no
bass ready, but lots of plates ready. Sanchez's sauce is
ready, too... "Five minutes to go." Better hurry.
Morimoto's noodles are done, that's three. The teriyaki
bass, that's four. Aaron has plated his first, the
ramp-wrapped dish. He's also plated the ceviche and the
taco with pickled onion and mayonnaise. He's got three
down. "Thirty seconds to go." Morimoto needs to get his
fifth. He's got it. Aaron looks like he's done.
"Five seconds... three...
two.. one... Time's up!" The cooking's done, Battle
Black Bass is over! Time to judge.
Judgment (Sanchez): "I just wanted to apply a
variety of different Latin methods that were appropriate
to the ingredient."
Dishes: Black Bass Ceviche with Mango, Tacos de Pescado
Frito, Olive Oil Poached Black Bass, Black Bass in Ramp
Leaves, Banana Leaf Wrapped Black Bass.
It should be noted that
Akiko uses the term "oily" no less than three times
during his judgment.
Judgment (Morimoto): "Black bass was the star
today, but I concentrated the theme of springtime. In
spring, everything is really fresh, but the buds and
sprouts can be bitter, so I tried to incorporate that
idea into all five dishes." Dishes: Black Bass Sashimi,
Slow-Cooked Black Bass, Pan-sauteed Black Bass, Steamed
Bass with Hot Peanut Oil, Noodle Soup with Black Bass
Quote of the night. "I know
Chef Sanchez. I can't do ceviche. I have to do this,"
Morimoto says, referring to his sashimi. Akiko, saying
"oily" at least once, likes the dishes. Victoria needs a
You had some simpatico, but
there can only be one winner. Whose cuisine reigns
supreme? The verdict...
...an Iron Chef America
first.... a TIE at 45 even. Sanchez bested Morimoto on
taste, but the presentation goes to Morimoto. "For there
to be a tie with such a great maestro is an achievement
for Aaron," says D'Rivera. "It's extremely hard to judge
two chefs coming from extremely different backgrounds,"
Riccardi says. "I'd like to see a rematch."
Well, if this was the
original, then there would be a 30-minute overtime
battle, but we're just going to have to wait and see on
this one. Until next time... we bid you good eating.
And no, Senor D'Rivera, the
secret ingredient will not be black beans and rice.
Although that sounds mighty tasty right now.