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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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Moore vs. Symon: Battle Thanksgiving
November 23

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.

First, a bit of backstory. Eight star chefs were chosen by the Chairman to compete for one spot among the ranks of Iron Chef. After a fierce test of creativity, skill, and taste that spanned the entire globe, only two were left standing, Michael Symon and John Besh. After one final twist that saw three of the Iron Chefs judging (Flay, Morimoto, and Cora) alongside the judges, the decision was a 4-2 victory with the ICs voting unanimously to have the Chairman to appoint Michael Symon, having attained greatness, as the next Iron Chef.

Today, he faces his first challenge. "I feel like I earned that coat and the right to wear that coat, so it's important for me to get out 1-0.

The Challenger: Ricky Moore, a chef who grew up in North Carolina, where his role models ranged from Sidney Poitier to Grandmaster Flash. He graduated from the Culinary Institute of America, and moved to Chicago, New York, Paris, and eventually Washington, DC, where he heads the kitchen at Agraria, a family-owned eatery known for their high-quality product. The Chairman has chosen him to be Iron Chef Symon's first test of greatness.

Prepare for battle...

The Crib Sheet:
Derek Clayton & Cory Barrett, sous-chefs
Todd Miller & Aaron Scales, sous-chefs
Mediterranean COOKING STYLE Farm fresh
First battle BATTLE RECORD Challenger

The Theme Ingredient: Thanksgiving... Potatoes, turkeys, cranberries, various gourds, and a whole slew of fall harvest items.

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 Thanksgiving is on!

About the ingredient: Thanksgiving is the first holiday to be given its own battle at Kitchen Stadium America (the first ever "day" battle was "Battle Girl's Festival" on the original "Iron Chef"). the first Thanksgiving was held in 1621. Some of the ingredients shown, like sweet potatoes, were not at the original Thanksgiving, but they have become classics since. Other meats like venison were at the first Thanksgiving.

The first target of the chefs' ires are the turkeys, which probably will not get a traditional tackling, because it takes longer than an hour to prepare.

Notes from the challenger: "Both Michael and I should be very nervous. This is kind of a momentous occasion. I'm the opening challenger to the new Iron Chef. This is groundbreaking."

Opening gambits: the challenger has venison, turkey, and sweet potatoes. The Iron Chef has turkey, homemade bread crumbs, and and apple-fennel mixture.

Tonight's Judges:
Food author/wine expert Ted Allen ("The Food You Want to Eat")
Executive chef at Butter Alexandra Guarnaschelli
Food author/critic Jeffrey Steingarten ("The Man Who Ate Everything")

Iron Symon is soaking various acorn squash in soy, ginger, chickenstock, and olive oil for roasting. And both sides will have ice cream. Ted loves Thanksgiving, calling this battle a dream for food editors. "If I don't have stuffing with butter and sage in it, I'm not a happy camper." Alexandra thinks Thanksgiving has a place in American history, and that it has meaning in American cuisine. Jeff is thankful for crispy skins.

Halfway into the battle, both sides are making cranberries, sweet potatoes, turkey, and ice cream. Symon's got turkey in the over and cracklins on a sheet. Moore has cornbread stuffing, pressurized turkey, and simmering pumpkins.

"Twenty minutes to go." Ricky Moore is calling for plates. The Iron Chef's apple-fennel crisp is almost done. Moore is plating fried turkey and the stuffing and sweet potato casserole. Symon has many many Thanksgiving fixtures awaiting final applications.

"Ten minutes to go." Derek is pureeing giblets for a mousse or a sauce while putting cracklins back in the oven. Moore is making pumpkin soup, but with 8 minutes to puree it, cook it, and plate it, will he have the time? The challenger has no plating done. Symon is busy plating all of his plates, or at least beginning to. "Five minutes to go." Lots of food working on the challenger's side, but no plating! Sweet potato casseroles are awaiting their final destination, and the pumpkin soup is down. And Iron Chef Symon just broke out the Grappa. Someone's getting drunk tonight.

Oops, Grappa spilled on the apple-fennel mix. That may cost him. Meanwhile, Moore is not happy with his venison with three on the clock.

We have on the challengers' side a soup, smoked turkey ragout, sweet potato casserole, ice cream, and waiting on venison.

Symon has duck, turkey, ice cream, apple-fennel crisp, and an oyster-corn salad.

Now to the count.  "Three... two... one...." Done. Put it down, walk away, Battle Thanksgiving is history. Let's judge...

Judgment (Moore): "Growing up, food was very straightforward. For me, this was inspired by my family."

- Pumpkin Soup with Bacon and Shiitake Ragout
- Cornbread Dressing and Braised Turkey
- Deep-Fried Turkey with Cranberry Sauce
- Bacon-wrapped Venison with Potato-Rutabaga Robuchon
- Sweet Potato Streusel with Maple-Pecan Ice Cream and hot apple cider

Jeff was a fan of the "liquid Thanksgiving."  Ted called it "earthy". Alexandra thought it was bold of him to cook a thick slice of turkey breast meat.

Judgment (Symon): "My strategy today was to just bring those comfortable flavors and feelings of beautiful farm-fresh Thanksgiving food."

- Fried Oyster Crab, Corn and Sweet Potato Salad with Grappa cocktail
- Turducken (poached duck egg with chicken liver sauce and turkey cracklins)
- Fried Turkey Livers with Mashed Potatoes
- Braised Turkey with Squash and Cranberry
- Apple Fennel Crisp with Crème Fraiche Ice Cream

He wanted to start light and acidic, something the judges appreciated. Ted likes the richness of the dishes. Alexandra doesn't care about the liver. Jeff liked the blend of flavors.

But whose cuisine reigns supreme? The verdict...

Taste 26 22
Plating 11 11
Originality 14 10

... 51-43 in favor of Iron Chef Michael Symon. With winning scores in taste and originality, Mike Symon proved to the world and to himself that he has what it takes to wear the denim mantle that is... Iron Chef America. "We're just ready to keep winning now." Will his record stand? Stay tuned...

Until next time, we bid you good eating...