Symon: Battle Thanksgiving
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
gambits: the challenger has venison, turkey, and sweet
potatoes. The Iron Chef has turkey, homemade bread
crumbs, and and apple-fennel mixture.
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
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...
... 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
Until next time, we bid you