"Flay vs. Bowles:
Battle Chocolate" - February 11
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
Graham Elliott Bowles creates contemporary American
cuisine at the Peninsula Hotel in Chicago, more
specifically his restaurant Avenues. his signature
dishes read like a surreal gourmet shopping list at a
candy store. For good luck, this chef always wears red
socks in the kitchen. Today, Mr. Red Socks takes on the
Blue Tetsujin. Bobby Flay. And the gloves are off.
Prepare for battle...
The Crib Sheet:
Brian Ray & Vicki Wells, sous-chefs
Alexander Martinez & Amy Sutton, sous-chefs
12-5-2, won last battle
against David Bull
The Theme Ingredient:
white, milk, and dark chocolates and nibs from
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!" And Battle
Theobromine cacao is on!
Thoughts from the
challenger: "We don't have the home court advantage.
Well, I definitely have youth on my side, and that could
be for better or for worse, you know--the immaturity
aspect versus--but you know, I'm not set in my ways."
Alexander is working on some apples and onions while
watching some Mexican chocolate (a grainy chocolate with
a hint of cinnamon).
Thoughts from the Iron Chef:
"It's basically you against the ingredient in the
kitchen. You can only do basically in my opinion the
best you can do with that ingredient. What we always do
is go with our gut." That as he grinds canela (Mexican
cinnamon). The challenger is working a huge hunk of
white chocolate, which is nothing more than cocoa butter
with sweetener added to it.
And at the top of battle, we
heard "Slay Flay" from the VIP Box.
It is a very real
possibility that we may have ice cream on both sides of
the kitchen. Broth is going down on Bowles' side while
he gets some early plating out of the way. And sure
enough while that is happening, Amy is firing up the ice
cream maker of death. Brian's giving some pomegranates
the smackdown. Bowles is adding milk to the strongly
spiced broth, while Amy readies the CO2 gun for some
frothing of some sort.
Flay, meanwhile, is working
on a chocolate/blue cornmeal batter, pureed pumpkin, and
a dark chocolate cream mix. Bowles is reducing apples,
onions, and carrots in red wine, and he's plated a
melted white chocolate mixture. And he's boiling lobster
quarter out of the way, it's time to meet...
Culinary author Ted Allen ("Queer Eye for the Straight
Culinary/lifestyle journalist Karine Bakhoum (KB Network
Culinary critic Jeffrey Steingarten ("The Man Who
The closest we've seen to
protein thus far is sushi-grade tuna for the challenger.
Jeopardy!-prep moment: Let's talk chocolate. We have
bittersweet, unsweetened baker's chocolate, coverture
chocolate, and white chocolate. They all come from one
source: the dried cocoa bean. The beans are ground into
cocoa nibs. It can be separated into cocoa butter and
cocoa powder. Combine them with sugar and milk solids in
varying concentrations... and you get various amounts of
chocolate, except for white chocolate, which is only
made from cocoa butter, sugar, and vanilla.
Back to battle, as Vicki is
working some caramel, while Bowles adds chocolate to the
red wine reduction. Bowles is working spice-encrusted
"Thirty minutes have
elapsed." Flay's custard is where he wants it. Vicki has
spread melted chocolate on the back of a baking sheet.
Flay's also working on some duck. Bowles has made
chocolate & goat-cheese beignets.
Those caramel sheets have
been broken into shards, while Bowles has poblano soup
with Mexican chocolate, and ground corn nuts. Vicki just
turned on her ice cream maker, while Amy is making some
guacamole. Meanwhile, the Chairman is trying to silence
the crowd with some chocolate. The chocolate-rubbed duck
is down on Flay's grill. Bowles has sliced his lobsters.
Flay is working on his
chocolate Johnny cakes. Bowles plates his first dish:
the seafood and pickles on white chocolate. Under 15
left, and the ice cream machine on Flay's side is not
working... The challenger's lobster carpaccio is down.
The tuna's down on bok choy, while plantain chips get
dusted with chocolate. He's also plated cocoa nibs in a
chocolate essence and some more chocolate in a mesquite
The challenger offers his
ice cream maker to resolve the cream quagmire. Brian
blowtorches his figs, caramelizing them. "The blowtorch
will get you on TV every time." Vicki's making chocolate
Plating now underway on both
corners. Chocolate pumpkin soup on Flay's side, while
the chocolate duck breasts are resting on Brian's
barbecue sauce. The beignets on Bowles' side are down as
well. Vicki is making a parfait, while the Iron Chef has
plated all five dishes with two minutes remaining. The
challenger is also almost done. The rest is now in
presentation. Bowles has plated his bison with his
beignets. And now Flay races the clock to complete his
souffle... and "three... two... one...." Done. Put it
down, walk away, Battle Chocolate is history.
Bowles: "Obviously we didn't
really have any home field advantage. It was very
intimidating." Flay: "Chocolate is a very challenging
ingredient. That makes it much more interesting."
Judgment (Bowles): "One of the philosophies
that I always carry is let food taste like itself, try
to put it in a new different, whimsical way and let
those true flavors shine."
Dishes: Lobster Carpaccio with White Chocolate Panna
Cotta, Savory Mexican Chocolate Soup, Grilled Ahi Tuna
with Chocolate Essence, Cocoa Dusted Bison Tenderloin
with Chocolate BBQ Sauce; Chocolate Ice Cream,
Plantains, Chocolate Soda Pop.
Judgment (Flay): "I thought chocolate was very
very difficult. In my flavors, which tend to be on a
spicier side, I'm going to try to use it to balance and
at the same time become an important flavor component." Dishes:
Mexican Chocolate Pumpkin Soup, Chocolate Espresso Duck
Breast, Chocolate Blue Corn Johnnycakes, Dark Chocolate
Caramel Parfait with Cranberry-Raspberry Compote,
Bittersweet Chocolate Souffle with Blackberry-White
Jeff likes the combination of flavors on the
challenger's end. Ted believes his savory dishes
succeed. Karine finds the dishes surprising on both
ends. Ted cites interplay. Jeff disagrees with Karine
and a judge fight almost ensues.
But whose cuisine reigns
supreme? The verdict...
... 49-47 in favor of
Iron Chef Bobby Flay. The challenger's creativity is
offset by the flavors of the Iron Chef's dishes. Despite
skills, talent, a giant gob of chocolate, and a vocal
set of fans, Graham Elliott Bowles was not able to wrest
victory from the Iron Chef.
Until next time, we bid you