vs. Yang & Chirchi: Battle Hawaiian Moi
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
Prepare for battle.
The Crib Sheet:
Dave Conn & MacGregor Mann, sous-chefs
Dan Osser, sous-chefs
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.
- 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
"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
- 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?
... 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.
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