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"Cora vs. Campanaro: Battle Venison" - November 5

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 be shown.

The Challenger: Joey Campanaro, who studied in Italy and France before returning to the US and the Harrison, where he served as executive chef. His latest venture is the Little Owl restaurant in New York City. He has a passion for Mediterranean Cuisine and believes that great food speaks for itself. Today, he tests his skills against the grand dame of Kitchen Stadium, Iron Chef Cat Cora.

The Crib Sheet:
CORA
Lori Lynn Bauer & Eric Takahashi, sous-chefs
VS CAMPANARO
Mike Price & Lou ?, sous-chef
14 years EXPERIENCE 16 years
Greek/Aegean COOKING STYLE American Mediterranean
4-3, won last battle with Elizabeth Falkner BATTLE RECORD Challenger

The Theme Ingredient: Venison.

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 wins.

The Ruby Tuesday 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!"

Semi-educational Jeopardy!-prep moment: Venison comes from the Latin venatio, which means "to hunt", and up until the Middle Ages, any animal that had fur and was hunted was referred to as venison. Today, venison is used to describe the meat of deer, elk, and sometimes antelope.

Looks like one side is preparing a venison sorbet... Yummy...

Tonight's Judges:
Executive producer Michael Gelman ("Live with Regis & Kelly")
Culinary journalist Karine Bakhoum (KB Network News)
Culinary critic/author Jeffrey Steingarten ("The Man Who Ate Everything")

Cora is sniping one of her sous-chef's skillets for a hot second. Her rack is going into the oven now. Halfway done into the battle, Campanaro is giving a venison a roll onto itself. And... there's an incense pot? Well find out more about that later. Right now...

Another semi-educational moment: Another critter guide!

Behold, the deer in its live state. The chefs are using the entire deer today. The chuck is like the chuck on beef, although sometimes it's cut with some of the shoulder and called the saddle. The loin is called the backstrap. Below, the flank and the brisket for spare ribs and flank steak. In the back, the rump and the round. Then the legs are the shank.

Back to battle, in the incense pot was cinnamon, nutmeg, and star anise lit with liquid alcohol. The Iron Chef, though, has cornbread madeleines and venison taquitos. Standing by on the challenger: venison tartare.

Plating has begun on both sides with the Iron Chef making a cherry dish with mole as well as a chili dish, while Campanaro starts with a carpaccio opener. Three minutes left, while Campanaro is frying quince and plating his venison rolls. Cora is plating all five of her dishes at once. We're down to the final 60, and the taquitos, the chili, the tamales, the rack, and the tataki down. The challenger... with 30 to go, he's got the trio, the meatballs, the skewer, the loin chop, and the rolls. Five are done here. The rest is just cosmetic now.

And because it's Iron Chef Cora and that's how she rolls, son, we've got ouzo out. All six chefs partake in a drink (which makes the Chairman happy) as we count down.

"Three... two... one... Time's up." Battle Venison is in the books.

Judgment (Cora): "When I saw venison, I immediately thought of my childhood. My brother's a young deer hunter and we always get venison. The first thing I wanted to do was chili, and I wanted to do a Tex-Mex kind of Southwestern menu built around chili." Dishes: Venison Tataki, Venison and Sweet Potato Tamale, Venison & Black Bean Chili, Venison Rack with Mole, Venison Taquitos.

Judgment (Campanaro): "My inspiration was a Monday night in Manhattan. A situation where you can walk into the tiniest restaurant and not know a thing about the chef, and have food that is straightforward, yet bold; sophisticated, yet fun." Dishes: Venison Trio, Venison Meatball Soup, Grilled Venison Cap Skewer, Venison Braciole, Dijon & Rosemary Roasted Venison Chop.

The channeling of her brother Iron Chef Flay draws raves. One word said though all five tastings: "Delicious." The challenger started rough with the truffles over the trio (Karine noted that it took away from the meat). But he got it back in the end. It's going to be a draw battle today...  But whose cuisine reigns supreme? The verdict...

  IRON CHEF CHALLENGER
Taste 24 18
Plating 11 10
Originality 10 14

... 45-42 in favor of Iron Chef Cat Cora. Campanaro may have had the best scores seen in a while for originality, but taste wins the day for the Iron Chef.

Until next time, we bid you good eating.

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