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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 Cat Cora
Bobby Flay
Jose Garces
Masaharu Morimoto
Michael Symon
Culinary Commentator Alton Brown
Floor Reporter Kevin Brauch
Creator Keiichi Tanaka (based upon "Ryori no Tetsujin/Iron Chef")
EP Eytan Keller
Stephen Kroopnick
Stu Schreiberg
Packager Triage Entertainment & Fuji TV for Food Network
Origins Kitchen Stadium America, Food Network Studios New York
Web foodnetwork.com/ica
Airs 10p Sun, Food
Available In High-Definition Where AvailableStreaming Online

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Garces vs. Yang & Chirchi: Battle Hawaiian Moi
January 17

In the search for the next Iron Chef, one man rose above all others to inherit the mantle of iron in Kitchen Stadium, Philadelphia based Latin chef Jose Garces. But everything before tonight was only preparation for this moment, as he faces his first challenger... Or should we say, challengers...

The Challengers: only the second husband-and-wife team to battle in Kitchen Stadium, chef Rachel Yang, a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education who worked her way up the New York culinary scene, and her husband chef Seif Chirchi, who met her working at such a place. Together, they moved west to open Joule in Seattle, where their love is put into their Korean-French-American fusion cooking. This will be Jose Garces' inaugural battle as an Iron Chef.

Prepare for battle.

The Crib Sheet:
Dave Conn & MacGregor Mann, sous-chefs
Dan Osser, sous-chefs
Latin American COOKING STYLE Korean-French Fusion

The Theme Ingredient: fresh Hawaiian moi fish.

The Rules: Each team of chefs 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 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 Polydactylus sexfilis is on and poppin'! If you're from Hawaii, you know of the moi as "the fish of kings", as commoners were allowed to fish for these, but not eat them. It's hard to get them outside of Hawaii, because they're just now bouncing back from near extinction. They're farmed in the healthiest way possible in ocean pens outside of Hawaii, where the currents keep them in the idea set for wild fish. It's a mild-flavored fish, and they probably don't want to bring any strong flavors to the party.

The challenging side of the kitchen today... is the entire restaurant. Meanwhile, Garces is going to dome roast his fish while Chirchi is making an aromatic stock to go with fish stock. Two styles of butchery at work here. Yang is working on whole fish, while Garces is working on fingers. This fish has firm flesh, which makes it perfect for poaching, steaming, and searing, but don't be surprised if there is a ceviche as well. Chirchi is also breaking out jujubes, mixing with pear, apple, and onions. Yang is cutting her fish in a sashimi crudites cut.

"Fifteen minutes have elapsed." Garces has quail eggs cooking in the immersion circulator, moi bones cooking in fish stock, and sweet potatoes on the heat on oil. The challengers have diced vegetables, moi in a pressure cooker, and rice.

Tonight's Judges...
- Restauranteur and lifestyle expert Donatella Arpaia
- Spanish chef Jose Andres
- President of Bullfrog & Baum Jennifer Baum

Yang has a lot of diced veg on her board. Wonder what they're going to go into. "It's a quick kimchi." Thanks for that. Garces is countering with a takoyaki pan full of moi balls.

"Thirty minutes have elapsed." Garces has scooped out his diced potatoes in oil and set them aside, worked a cake flour, and blanched a Chinese broccoli. The challengers counter with toasted sesame seeds, yolks soaking in soy sauce, and that broth of fish and aromatics is being strained and going back on the heat. And also on Garces' side... a lot of heat in the form of spices... AND cajeta, a dulce de leche. A strong chili flavor combined with a milky caramel goodness. Dan is also making some dumplings, Korean-style.  Garces has a fumet. And Chirchi is wilting at the face of the time.

And what may become a thing... Garces has 15 tubs of various ingredients, and he's going to incorporate all of them into his menu.

"Fifteen minutes to go." The pieces are beginning to come together. Garces has sliced banana leaves, put corn nuts into another plastic tub, and the salt-crust moi is out. The challengers are steaming hot pots, slicing nori, and smoking fish. And it looks like Garces is starting on a ceviche, and he's starting to plate his leche de tigre with ceviche on a banana leaf on an ice tray. Challengers have a bibimbap in the works. That's one plate each. Garces is making a moi yaki AND a fish-and-chips plate. That'll be three for him. Dan is plating a start of a soup, while Yang is making a trio of wraps. That's three on each side.

"Three minutes to go." Garces is making a chupe with the quail egg, while Chirchi is in trouble. He has no turnips. He also has no time left. MacGregor is cracking the salt-crust grill. Yang is plating her gochujang covered moi... That's four. And the smoke will be five. Over on the Iron Chef's side, he's got the seared moi.

"Five seconds... three... two... one..." And Battle Hawaiian Moi is history. Put it down, walk away.

Judgment (Yang/Chirchi): Yang: "It's got a rich flavor and a really delicate texture. My background is Korean, so I wanted to introduce five different dishes using Korean ingredients."

- Moi Ssam Trio (Moi Tartare, Seared Moi, Fried Moi)
- Smoked Moi with White Kimchi
- Spicy Moi Soup
- Moi "Bibimbap"
- Moi with Gochujang Viennoise

Judgment (Garces): "My inspiration was recent culinary travels to Lima and Tokyo. And I thought it was appropriate because these are two cultures that really hold fish in high esteem."

- Moi Ceviche with Leche de Tigre
- Moi Yaki
- Moi "Chupe"
- Moi Fish & Chips with Recoto Chile Aioli
- Salt-Baked Moi

So now we've seen what our new Iron Chef can do. This decision is not going to be an easy one, but nevertheless, it is one that has to be made. Whose cuisine reigns supreme?

Taste 26 26
Plating 13 13
Originality 12 11

... 51-50 in favor of Iron Chef Jose Garces. This was indeed very close, as the challengers kept pace all the way. But it was in originality where the newest Tetsujin earned his razor-thin margin of victory and his first W. Hopefully the first of many more.

Until next battle, we bid you good eating.

To see this episode in its entirety, go to www.foodnetwork.com/ica.