Love to Interrupt
The DiGeorge Files
Our ultimate competition is with
ourselves. That is what my uncle told me when I would visit
him as a young boy. Now I prepare myself for my most savory
challenge. My uncle, the man the world knows as Kaga the
Chairman, has decided that although America is a young
country, we now possess the proper palate to host our own Iron
Chef competition, an American celebration of the world's high
art of cuisine.
Recaps by Chico Alexander, GSNN
Host ("The Chairman"):
Culinary Commentator: Alton Brown
Iron Chefs: Mario Batali, Bobby Flay, Wolfgang Puck
Creator: Keiichi Tanaka (based upon "Ryori no Tetsujin/Iron
EP: Steve Kroopnick
Packager: Triage Entertainment, Fuji Television
Network, Food Network
Aired: April 2004
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Flay vs. Sakai - April 23
If memory serves me right, Chairman Takeshi Kaga has
commissioned that America be granted its own Gourmet
Academy and that it would be headed by his nephew. In
order to christen the new arena of battle, Chairman Kaga
has dispatched two of his Iron Chefs, Iron Japanese III
Masaharu Morimoto and Iron French II Hiroyuki Sakai, to
do battle against the three Iron Chefs of America,
California cuisine grand master Wolfgang Puck, Italian
gourmet Mario Batali, and southwest chef Bobby Flay, in
what promises to be "a most tantalizing Battle of the
Masters." The first battle would be Iron Chef Flay vs.
Sakai. "Gentlemen... prepare for battle."
This should be an interesting match, as the Iron Chefs
of Japan still have unfinished business to settle with
Flay, a Southwestern chef of 20 years training and a 1-1
record in battle. Sakai, on the other hand, is the
winningest of the Iron Chefs with an 83-7 record and 41
years of French cuisine under his apron. Credentials and
focus that made him the King of Iron Chefs at the
original series' finale in 1999.
The theme ingredient for this battle is TROUT, gold and
brown varieties. Reminder: both chefs have one hour to
come up with at least five unique dishes that present
trout. The chef that does so the best as judged by a
panel of gourmands/writers/celebs wins.
"And now, the moment of truth," Chairman Dacascos
decrees. "I stand before you with a full heart and
proudly proclaim the words of Kaga, a phrase that now
resounds through all of food history.
"I say unto you... ALLEZ CUISINE!"
And battle is on. Both chefs spend the first few seconds
figuring out how to catch the live trout, catching the
live trout, watching the live trout wriggle its way onto
the stadium floor, resecuring the live trout, trying to
keep the live trout from knocking over the precious
salt, and then promptly de-live-ning the live trout.
Flay goes for the decapitation method, while Sakai goes
for his ring mold, possibly for custard or a tartare.
Floor reporter Kevin Brauch says that Sakai wanted the
gold ones, which have been bred with rainbow trout. His
sous-chef goes for the foie gras while Flay goes for
ginger. The foie gras just got blended, and we're led to
believe that he's going to do a custard.
Sakai's glad he got trout with two colors that represent
health and good luck in Japan. And some good luck right
away with skilled knifework in the cucumber department.
Over on Flay's side, it looks like soup and a vinegar
reduction. Periodically, we'll go to online votes from
Foodnetwork.com. This first one says that Flay is a 60.2
Sakai has just molded his cucumbers in the rings, while
Flay is maple smoking his fish and preparing crawfish
for saut and some avocado for guacamole, possibly for
the smoked item. Sakai just put some marinated steaks in
the deep fryolator. Meanwhile, Sakai slices some daikon
and starts frying some sharkfin.
"Fifteen minutes have elapsed." We go to Kevin Brauch
with today's judges: restaurateur of Simon, Kerry Simon
(who, if you remember, did battle against Todd English
in ICUSA - again, OOC); executive editor of Bon Appetit,
Victoria von Biel; and comedian Brian Unger. Flay's team
is making a mean masa while we go to a live poll. The
fans have turned Flay from a 2-to-1 favorite to a 2-to-1
dog. Sakai's team have a broth going into the wok with
the shark fin. Meanwhile, heavy cream goes into Flay's
Alton has Iron Chef Morimoto on the sidelines, thinking
that he's going to integrate some Asian flavor. "He has
an open mind." As far as predictions go, Morimoto's not
playing favorites. How diplomatic.
Back to the action, Flay is straining some while Sakai
is searing the oil out of the freshly-caught fish. So
this is definitely going to be a tartare. Flay's going
to the four cast-iron skillets with trout on tarragon
with a little butter.
"Thirty minutes have elapsed." Half of the first ICA
battle is in the books, and Sakai is a little taken, but
not that much. He's been in 26 battles with seafood, and
has only lost one (to San Francisco chef Ron Siegel -
Battle Lobster). Flay thinks that Sakai is the crme de
la crme of the Iron Chefs. "He can adapt to anything.
Whatever ingredient they put up there, he's going to
have 500 ideas in his head as to what he's going to do."
Sakai will face him believing in his own victory.
Twenty minutes to go, and some milk, sugar, and trout is
in the blender on Sakai's side. Could be ice cream.
Kerry Simon notices a difference from the first five
minutes and now, especially in the chatter department.
Victoria von Biel is following Sakai as closely as she
was following Flay. Brian Unger loves the smell.
Over on Sakai's side, we see shiitakes, pepper sauce,
and Chinese cabbage going into the wok for another soup.
The sugar/milk concoction is going into the ice cream
maker, while Flay starts on a tamale dish and... grits?
They think they'll harmonize. Only time will tell. Right
now, after a live vote that puts Sakai as the 2-to-1
favorite, we see more sugar milk going into the
favorite's ice cream maker. And yes, Alton, they did
have an ice cream maker, but it was a toploader. Sakai
makes time to joke about not being a friend to Bobby
Flay, at least not in Kitchen Stadium.
Flay's making a serious chile rub. It's a wet rub, and
if he's smart, he'll go for a little bit at a time.
"Fifteen minutes to go." Guacamole and trout are going
together, while Sakai is prepping garnishes of
watercress. Flay cracks a coconut and saves the juice.
Looks like he may be using them for bowls. But he uses
the juice to stew crab meat.
Sakai is going for the caviar to finish his tartare.
That kicks off our plating. Very important, as we eat
with our eyes before eating with our mouths. Flay starts
prepping his colorful blue corn tortilla tacos, while
the live vote has not changed. Sakai preps parsley and
olive oil for plating.
Flay has battered and fried an entire fish, while there
might be a bit of a break. It seems that Sakai and his
chefs forgot one dish. Can he finish it in the 12 or so
Flay hopes not. He's got his crayfish sauce on the fish
while Sakai is busy preparing kambu kelp for broth. Or
maybe not. He's making his fish with that and the olive
"Ten minutes to go." Okay, it's used for a visual. And
Sakai is done with at least two. Honey and berries are
accompanying the ice cream with 6:45 to go. Judges are
ready to eat, and they're pretty curious about the ice
cream. "Give it to Brian, he'll eat anything." Flay has
the cast-iron skillets out and they'll be used as
"Five minutes to go." And we go into Sakai's trademark
apple-peeling. A favorite of any Iron Chef fan.
Meanwhile Flay is going for his soup presentation, as
he's using the coconut for a bowl and several aromatic
spices as garnishes. He's pouring it on rather
generously. I think I know why.
"Three minutes to go." The ice cream is done with the
trout-skin wafer. Flay is still pouring his soup. Sakai
is pointing to a bottle of grapeseed oil with his
picture on it. Ninety seconds to go, and we're going
into the finishing touches. For Sakai, it's giftwrap.
For Flay, it's tapas. Looks like both chefs will make
"Five seconds... three... two... one... Your time is
up." It's all over but the tasting and judgment. Each
judge is allocated up to 20 points for each chef. Of
those 20, ten will be awarded for taste, five for
presentation and plating, and five for originality and
Flay thought that the trout was bigger than he is used
to. Flay's dishes: four tapas, trout and crab coconut
soup, Yucatan-grilled trout tacos, cast-iron cooked
trout fillets with grits, and crispy whole trout with
Brian loves the harmony in the tapas. Flay based his
soup on the "overflowing affection" of being served sake
in Japanese sushi bars - like "you give us your
business, we give you more than what you had hoped for."
Kerry likes the tacos, while Victoria appreciates the
simplicity of the trout fillets and the flavor of the
Live vote before going to Sakai's dishes. Flay's still a
dog. Sakai knew he would have a good time cooking.
Sakai's dishes: trout custard in Chinese soup, trout
tartare with ginger sauce and lime, spicy homestyle
trout soup, trout with parsley sauce and bell peppers,
and golden trout ice cream.
He used the sharkfin in the soup to honor Iron Chinese
Chen, who couldn't make the trip due to being ill.
Victoria loves how the delicateness of the fish goes
through the first two dishes. Brian enjoys the contrast
of textures. Kerry likes the simplicity. Brian thinks
the ice cream is subtle, and Kerry thinks it works well
with the fruit. "This is what we call extreme cuisine."
Now comes the all-important question: whose cuisine
reigns supreme? Here's the Chairman.
"In the battle royale of Sakai and Flay, today's winning
master is... Iron Chef Bobby Flay!" The two congratulate
each other, as well they should, judging from the point
FLAY: Taste 24, Plating - 14, Originality - 17,
Total - 55
SAKAI: Taste - 22, Plating - 13, Originality -
16, Total - 51
Flay may have doubted a bit in the battle (and so did
the viewers as the final tally gives the nod to Sakai).
"When you go against the Babe Ruth of the Iron Chefs,
you're just lucky to be there."
Congratulations to Bobby Flay, whose cuisine reigns
My take, well, as an Iron Chef fan from the first time I
saw the show on a bootleg tape at a COUp meeting in
1998, it's hard to me to remain unbiased... so I'm not
even going to bother. An excellent addition to the
ongoing legacy. Of course, the shift of the spotlight to
food as opposed to just recreating pro wrestling results
in something that honors the original series. Of course,
the addition of Alton Brown and the subtraction of
William Shatner doesn't hurt either.
But one episode doesn't a favorite make. I have to watch
at least three more. Oh, you have three more. Cool! Next
time: Batali vs. Morimoto.
April 23 - The Making Of...