"Morimoto vs. Cantu:
Battle Beet" - January 21
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
Homaro Cantu, a science-obsessed child who once built a
rocket car out of a soda bottle. Today, he heads the
kitchen at Moto, where his menus are printed on edible
paper and his entrees are cooked with liquid nitrogen.
Today, he challenges a man who has a few dirty tricks of
his own, Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto.
Prepare for battle...
The Crib Sheet:
Ariki Omae & Makoto Okuwa, sous-chefs
Ben Roche & Darrell Nemeth, sous-chefs
70-12-1, won last battle
against Patricia Yeo
The Theme Ingredient:
beets, red, golden and Chioggia varieties
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 that
best articulates the theme ingredient through their dishes
The Kia battle
clock is set at 60 minutes, which will start when the
Chairman, with full heart and empty stomach, utters the words of
his dear uncle.... "Allez cuisine!"
Opening thoughts from the
challenger: "For me, it's an opportunity to show the
world that we can bring different things to the table,
and it doesn't have to be something that's totally
scary." Rebuttal from the Iron Chef: "I'm going to be
doing my own style. I don't copy anybody. Maybe people
are thinking he knows a few techniques and that I don't
know anything, but I know a little bit." Remember, this
is a man who once stewed natto in Coke.
And in case you didn't
notice, on their scrolling light boxes, Cantu's team has
"Courage plus humility plus respect."
And while Morimoto is
working with proteins (wagyu (American Kobe) beef,
Atlantic salmon, and fatty tuna), Cantu is working with
juices. Makoto is also juicing beets.
"Fifteen minutes have
elapsed." Morimoto has broken down a lot of beets while
working with sushi rice. Meanwhile, Cantu has deflating
nitrogen balloons. To compete, the IC has napkins
tie-dyed with beet juice.
Jeopardy!-prep moment: Beets (beta vulgaris)
is a very ancient plant, harvested around the seashores
Culinary journalist Melissa Clark ("Chef Interrupted")
Author Naomi Moriyama ("Japanese Women Don't Get
Old or Fat: Secrets of My Mother's Tokyo Kitchen")
Culinary critic Jeffrey Steingarten ("The Man Who
The beet balloons are being
rolled into liquid nitrogen. Needless to say, kids...
don't try this at home. Looks like Morimoto will open up
with sushi. And it looks like he's got a baby shrimp and
fatty tuna mousse. Halfway into the battle, and Cantu is
working miso paste into mayonnaise. And over on the
challenger's side again... pipettes, edible packaging
materials, edible paper, and balloon frozen beet paste.
You know, nothing surprises me anymore.
And he's using a laser to
caramelize the powdered sugar on his wontons.
Morimoto is beginning to
plate his beet sushi. After a picture with a horchata,
they make a picture of the picture on the horchata. "Ten
minutes to go." Morimoto's ramekins are being filled
with the beet puree.
Beet tempura is in the
offing on the IC's side. Challenger is making maki rolls
covered in edible paper. And the Iron Chef is breaking
out some liquid nitrogen.
"Three minutes to go."
Challenger is squeezing red beets and eggs into the
liquid nitrogen. And back with the maki rolls, this
warning... "Confidential property of and copyright h.
Cantu. No farther use or disclosure is permitted without
prior approval of H. Cantu."
Beet souffles out on the IC
side. Soup, tartare, sushi, and ice cream are also
plated. With a minute left, it looks like both chefs are
just working on final touches.
three... two... one... "Time's up." Battle Beet is over!
Put it down... Walk away.
Cantu thinks he's just nuts.
Morimoto says he can roll with the challenger no
Judgment (Cantu): "Our inspiration was really
USB cables and personal computers. We also like to
accentuate the beauty and naturalness of beets."
Dishes: Beet Maki Rolls with Synthetic Champagne, Hot
and Cold Beet Soup, Surf & Turf Prepared Tableside,
Frozen Sphere of Beet, Mascarpone with Beets and Liquid
Delivery System, Chocolate Pudding with Julienned Beet
and Horchata Paper.
Judgment (Morimoto): "Beets are not in the
family of Japanese cooking, so I had my work cut out for
me. I'm honoring the judges, as you can see, by wearing
traditional Japanese clothing. Also to honor the judges,
we dyed the napkins with beet juice." Dishes: 3
Kinds of Beet Sushi, Toro Tartare with Pureed Beets,
Cold Beet Soup with Beet Foam, Beets Cooked in Miso;
Tempura, Udon & Rice; Beet Souffle with Yellow Beet Ice
dishes are delicious, but hard to understand. And
where's the beet? His dishes are very... user friendly.
Morimoto, however, took a non-traditional Japanese
ingredient and made it his own by incorporating
traditional and non-traditional means. But whose cuisine reigns
supreme? The verdict...
... 52-51 in favor of
Challenger Homaro Cantu. This could've gone either way,
but slim leads in plating and taste give the challenger
Until next time, we bid you