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"Our ultimate competition is with ourselves. That is what my uncle told me when I would visit him as a young boy... 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"): Mark Dacascos
Iron Chefs: Mario Batali, Cat Cora, Bobby Flay, Masaharu Morimoto, Michael Symon
Culinary Commentator: Alton Brown
Kitchen Reporter: Kevin Brauch
Creator: Keiichi Tanaka (based upon "Ryori no Tetsujin/Iron Chef")
EP: Eytan Keller, Stephen Kroopnick, Stu Schreiberg
Origin: Kitchen Stadium America, Food Network Studios, New York City
Packager: Triage Entertainment and Fuji TV for Food Network
Airs: Sundays at 10p ET on Food Network


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Cora vs. Stupak: Battle Chocolate
February 10

The challenger: Alex Stupak, a young chef with an impressive resume. While a student at the Culinary Institute of America, he served an internship at Cleo in Boston. Today, he now shares his culinary confections at WD50 in New York City. Tonight, he challenges the grand dame of Kitchen Stadium, Iron Chef Cat Cora.

The Crib Sheet:
Ed Cotton & Lorilynn Bauer, sous-chefs
Kevin Heston & Rosio Sanchez, sous-chefs
Greek/Aegean COOKING STYLE Confectionary

The Theme Ingredient: White, milk, & dark chocolate in bars, nibs, and cocoa powder.

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 his dishes wins.

The 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 Theobroma cacao is on! Stupak is more of a science fan than anything else, as he starts out with low methoxy pectin. What he'll do with that is anyone's guess. Cora has... food. Carrots, celery and onion. And lobster. Fresh.

Stupak is blending white chocolate with the pectin. And that's only one of the blends that he's working on. One of many. Stupak also has liquid nitrogen and other chemicals. Lucky for him, we have a scale.

Opening words from the IC: "To me, taste is first and absolutely first. You can have the most beautiful plate in the world, and if it doesn't have a taste there, forget it. You're done."

"fifteen minutes have elapsed." So far, we know the challenger has a blend of strawberries, white chocolate & cocoa powder and a white chocolate gel. The Iron Chef has a mole, cocoa-poached lobster, and a chocolate dough.

Opening words from the challenger: "I've only been competitive in one thing in my life. I've never played sports. I've never been all that interested in school. But for some reason, cooking is the one thing I want to win at." He's got celery root, various chemicals, and pumpernickel... not together. The IC counters with yuzu vinaigrette, butternut squash, and a chocolate curd.

Tonight's Judges:
Culinary author Ted Allen ("Top Chef")
Chef/author Domenica Catelli
Food author Jeffrey Steingarten ("The Man Who Ate Everything")

"Thirty minutes have elapsed." Cora is plating already starting with the yuzu vinaigrette. So far, she's also good for a cherry brittle, a chocolate-graham-cookie batter, and a mole. As far as actual food, she has a rabbit, seabass, and a lobster. Stupak has a soy-chicory mix in the ice cream maker. Iron Chef is spreading basmati rice and seltzer water with chocolate syrup. Challenger's Chicory Ice Cream is out. Rum sauce is simmering, and bananas are cooking.

"Fifteen minutes to go." Would you believe Iron Chef Cora has cotton candy? She also has chocolate pasta as well. Stupak has scallops & stuffed quail to go with little cakes, chicory ice cream, and chocolate pudding.

"Ten minutes to go." Iron Chef has pureed her butternut squash, made little peanut butter & banana sandwiches to deep-fry, and will convert her chocolate pasta into ravioli. Stupak has a lime vinaigrette in the works, quail frying under the salamander, and a plate for his peanut-butter-chocolate puree. What's going on it, though?

Rosio's chocolate tubes have to be frozen with liquid nitro. Ed, though, is stuffing his rabbit with more rabbit meat, eggs, herbs, and raisins while Lorilynn is making what looks to be a fancy-pants s'more. Cora is plating her lobster while Stupak is plating his quail. He's not happy with his vinaigrette as he has only seven minutes to get it right. Ed is filling his chocolate pasta with the butternut squash puree. Lorilynn finishes said pasta in record time.

Time for a rundown. Stupak has marinated bay scallops, quail, white chocolate noodles with strawberries, ice cream, and malted milk-chocolate pudding with some sort of capsules. Cora has a s'more, rabbit with mole, sea bass, pasta, and lobster.

"One minute to go." Now Cora has a sixth plate for dessert. Both sides are racing to the finish! "Five seconds... three... two..." Ouzo's out on Cora's side. You know what that means... "One..." Put it down and walk away, Battle Chocolate is history.

Judgment (Stupak): "We wanted to prepare five dishes for you and one way or another, we hope that you think about either a texture or a technique or a flavor pairing that you wouldn't have thought of with chocolate."

- Marinated Bay Scallops with Cocoa Lime Vinaigrette
- Chocolate Stuffed Quail
- Milk Chocolate Pudding
- Soft White Chocolate with Strawberries
- Chocolate Capsule with Chocolate Cake

Different textures are the highlights to Stupak's dishes. Jeff thinks that his choices are daring. Ted thinks the final dessert goes together well.

Judgment (Cora): "What I wanted to do was show the versatility of savory food. Obviously I did some sweets as well, but I really wanted to show what chocolate could go with as far as fish and rabbit."

- Seabass Tartare with Caviar Chocolate Ganache
- Butternut Squash with Chocolate Anglotti
- Cocoa & Vanila Bean Poached Lobster
- Rabbit Mole
- Chocolate Passion Fruit S'more
- Chocolate Medley (cherry cotton candy, cherry brittle, chocolate curd, egg cream, curried peanut-butter-chocolate banana)

Domenica thinks the sweet of chocolate goes well with some savory flavors, adding depth. Ted thinks that the pasta does justice to the ingredient.

But whose cuisine reigns supreme? The verdict...

Taste 23 23
Plating 12 12
Originality 11 14

... 49-46 in favor of Challenger Alex Stupak. Both chefs were dead even in taste and presentation, but the creative presentation of the challenger's dishes is where he achieved his margin of victory. Moral of the story: in the right hands, science can taste pretty good.

Until next time, we bid you good eating.