"Douglas vs. Morimoto:
Battle Salmon" - November 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
The Challenger: Tom
Douglas, a James Beard Award-winning author of "Seattle
Kitchen". He owns four of Seattle's top restaurants
including the Palace Kitchen. Today, he draws Iron Chef
Masaharu Morimoto, fresh off of a win in Battle
Asparagus. Different sides of the Pacific, and different
levels of training. Morimoto was formally trained in his
hometown of Hiroshima, while Douglas was... not trained
at all. Gentlemen, prepare for battle...
The Crib Sheet:
Ariki Omae & Makoto Okuwa, sous-chefs
Mark Fuller & Eric Tanaka, sous-chefs
Northwest Pan Pacific
The Theme Ingredient:
wild king salmon, predispatched, three for each
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: Morimoto
starts by doing what he does best to salmon... filleting
it. Interesting fact about Morimoto: he never copies
himself. Every dish in Kitchen Stadium is one of a kind,
so those expecting a reprise of "Battle Unisex Salmon"
from 1998? Forget about it. Meanwhile, the challenger
does some filleting of his own, saving the collars for
later. Going inside the players' heads for a moment...
Douglas: "If we get fish
for the secret ingredient, I think Morimoto would have
the edge because of his... the Japanese culture is all
about fish. Hopefully my edge is letting the natural
flavor out and not doing too much to it."
Mark is working with young
coconuts, while Eric is working on a cure for the
salmon, salt and brown sugar. (C-Note: a cure is nothing
more than a salt/sugar mix). Makoto is slicing red beets
for a juice, while Morimoto is deboning his fish.
Douglas is stewing his heads, while star anise is being
sauteed. Salmon skin is also being spiced up. Morimoto
fillets his fillet further, while the challenger is
milking coconuts, and salting/peppering a side of salmon
for the convection oven. And it looks like we're smoking
with pearwood. Pressure cookers are out and potatoes are
in on the IC's side. Morimoto's looking to make some
sashimi, while Douglas is making a stock with lemon
grass. Meanwhile, Morimoto is literally shooting up his
salmon with some truffle juice, and Makoto is smoldering
woodchips for the seasoned fillets. Dueling smokers!
Eric has fava beans and a yogurt mix. Not together.
Douglas has cured his salmon, now he's sending smoke
signals to Alton. This before the actual smoking. Omae,
meanwhile, is blanching and pureeing mint. "Fifteen
minutes to go." Time to meet...
Culinary reviewer for Oliveandpeach.com Katie Lee Joel
Author Victoria Abbott Riccardi ("Untangling My
Chopsticks: A Culinary Sojourn in Kyoto")
Culinary journalist Akiko Katayama (Food Arts Magazine
Back to Battle: Omae
is peeling potatoes, while working with carrots,
asparagus, and maitake mushrooms. Douglas is putting his
quick cure salmon to smoke and on the IC side...
Everyone say it with me now... ICE CREAM MAKER! In it,
the beet juice with gelatin and simple syrup. So we have
a beet sorbet in the offing, while the challenger is
making salmon spine. The IC has some crystallized
ginger, star anise, peppercorns, and cassia (cinnamon).
The sashimi slices were dipped into brandy and buried in
this for curing. Now to the slab bacon while salt,
pepper, heavy cream, and salmon get grounded...
The collars on Douglas'
side are currently under the salamander, and the spines
are coming out of the fryer. Morimoto is making spine
and bacon into soup on his side. The red beet sorbet is
starting to leak. A little wipedown... we're okay.
Douglas is strikingly calm while Morimoto's side is as
tight as ever... Douglas is squeezing limes as...
"Thirty minutes have elapsed." And we have beet sorbet!
And mashed potatoes! Not together.
Morimoto has some limes of
his own (sudachi to be exact) with some Japanese
tomatoes. Douglas has blood oranges and fava beans to
work with, all with 23 and change left. Morimoto's
potato mixture was mixed with squid ink, and the results
are... you guessed it, a black potato ball. Sounds like
a roll or a gnocchi. Meanwhile, Douglas' team is
seasoning salmon belly to be seared later. Mark is
pureeing the fava beans. Douglas has fish sauce for nuoc
cham. Makoto is wrapping his salmon puree into
blanched cabbage. Morimoto is slicing his smoked salmon,
while Douglas takes out his spine, reconstructing his
fish. Seriously. The potatoes on teh IC side are being
rolled into gnocchi. The challenger is making poached
eggs. The salmon skin is done, while the collars are
still cooking. Will they go into the "Franken-fish?"
Morimoto is trying to crisp
up his salmon skin, while Omae is making crenelles out
of salmon. Mark is working on aromatics as 15 ticks
remain. Omae's crenelles are going into the stew on
Morimoto's side. Morimoto continues to ladle his salmon
injection. Ten to go, as spinach and rice come out of
the IC kitchen, while the smoked salmon are being cooked
into a consommé. The collars on the challenger's side
are out and he's begun to plate his "Franken-salmon."
Back to the ladle, as Morimoto calls it his version of a
Peking duck. While Douglas slices, Makoto is foaming
broth and yuzu juice. Morimoto's done with his Peking
salmon, and he's very happy about it. The Iron Sous-Chefs
are plating from the center station. Very different.
Douglas is plating the
poached egg and fava puree. The collar is down, and both
teams are having timing concerns. Douglas has plated his
cured salmon. Morimoto has ladled his soup on top of
rice. Douglas plated his coconut bowl dish. Omae is now
working on the beet sorbet. Douglas is done with his
five dishes. Morimoto still has the beet canale to
finish. The sorbet is paired with the brandied salmon.
Now it's all about finishing up the plating. Both chefs
are on track. The challenger is still cooking salmon,
however. Cutting it close, though. We're under a minute,
and the dishes are starting to come together... six on
the challenger's side. Morimoto has five.
"Five seconds... Three...
Two... One..." Put it down, walk away, Battle Salmon is
history. And Morimoto is dog tired.
Now to judge...
Judgment (Douglas): "I come from the land of
salmon. Everything about salmon is you want to celebrate
the beauty. My job is to get out of the way of the fish,
let the fish shine."
Dishes: Butter-poached Salmon with Sea Salt, Quick-cured
Salmon with Shiso Yogurt, Chardonnay Marinated Salmon
Collar with Ginger, Toasted Rice Salmon in Young Coconut
Curried Broth, Smoked Salmon with Poached Egg and Favas,
Whole Salmon and Lettuce Cups
Judgment (Morimoto): "This is very fresh salmon, and
it's high-quality, so I decided to make salmon in very
different ways to showcase its various textures." Dishes:
Smoked Salmon with Salmon Gnocchi, Truffle-Infused
Salmon Salad, Salmon Soup Pot, Salmon Braised in
Pressure Cooker, Sugar-cured Salmon with Beet Sorbet.
Douglas' approach was
mad-scientist gone genteel in approach and creativity,
while the Iron Chef is very pristine and clean, as
always. And Katie? She gets the award for BDJ. Tetsujin
fans know what I mean (for those who don't.... "bimbo du
jour"). But one question remains... Whose cuisine reigns
supreme? The verdict...
... 48-45 in favor of
Challenger Tom Douglas. The judges were tied on plating
and originality. Today, taste told the tale, and while
both chefs are certainly on the high mark, Tom Douglas
was higher. Let's look further into that category...
... Clearly, Katie was a
fan of Douglas' dishes more so than those of Morimoto.
Well, just goes to show you that you can't please all of
the people all of the time. But there are no losers in
the Kitchen Stadium... because losers don't even get
through the front door. Until next time, I bid you good