Smith: Battle Grape
Chef Holly Smith of Monkton, MD. A graduate of the
Baltimore International Culinary College, she now heads
the kitchen at Cafe Juanita in Kirkland, WA. She was one
of the ten finalists in the second series of "The Next
Iron Chef", ultimately losing out to Iron Chef Jose
Garces. But rather than challenge him for vindication,
she's going after someone her own size... Iron Chef Cat
Ladies... Prepare for battle.
The Crib Sheet:
Richard Blais & Ed Cotton, sous-chefs
David Solis & Stuart Lane, sous-chefs
The Theme Ingredient: Old World
Cabernet, Merlot & Zinfandel, New World Concord, Thompson, Red & Black
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, empty stomach, and
apparently his dancing shoes on,
utters the words of his dear uncle.... "Allez cuisine!"
And Battle Grape begins! Old world grapes
are picked young, as they are used typically in wine making, whereas new
world table grapes come to full maturity and are thus very very sweet.
Cora begins with juicing seeded and seedless grapes. Smith starts with
butternut squash and wine grapes. Cora and her team of sous chefs are
breaking down quail and venison, both gamey proteins to match with the
sweet grapes. Smith is mixing her grapes with squash and Anjou pears.
Both sides are using juice. Cora is juicing, saucing, and marinating
with the theme ingredient. Smith is roasting grapes, perhaps for a
really bold dish. She is also deglazing her squash/grape mix with some
booze. Smith... is making a sorbet by analyzing the sugar content in her
BOTH ice cream makers are active. Smith,
meanwhile, is adding mostarda to her squash mix.
"Fifteen minutes have elapsed."
Over the break, Cora is roasting Thompson grapes, prepping Swiss chard,
and mixing pistachio. Smith counters with brioche, a grape sorbet, and a
- Restaurateur Donatella Arpaia ("The Next Iron Chef")
- Actress Eva LaRue ("CSI: Miami")
- Sustainable food expert Anya Fernald ("The Next Iron Chef")
The IC is going to toast some French
bread, while Richard is going to be foaming... angel food cake in the
microwave, while Smith is stewing grapes in rabbit stock. Stuart is
stuffing rabbit with that squash mixture. Cora is stuffing grape leaves
with goat cheese. Both sides of the kitchen now have grape leaves.
"Thirty minutes have elapsed."
And there's a situation in the Smith kitchen with the pressure cooker. "Stu,
I burned the pressure cooker." This from Chef Smith. That takes time...
Time that they don't have. Meanwhile, Cora is unleashing the grapes she
vacu-sealed earlier. Meanwhile, David is working on a peanut butter
powder... Peanut butter... Could jelly be far behind?
And Team Smith has to redo another dish.
The roasted grapes.. no, they're burnt.
"Twenty minutes to go." Cora's souschefs
are making up some quail, while Smith's are making grapes out of gelato.
No, that isn't backwards. They're also making French toast. Smith starts
to plate her fennel with yellowtail, while Cora has taken out her
"Fifteen minutes to go."
A few plates down, but nothing on them as of yet. Cora is grilling her
stuffed grape leaves, slicing more grapes, and waiting for something on
which to put venison. Meanwhile, Smith has frozen grapes, foamy grapes,
and French toast.
Cora has plated her venison with mushroom
and zinfandel sauce. She's also plating her roasted Thompson grapes,
while Smith is plating her risotto with her la Tur cheese and hazelnuts.
Cora is plating that stuffed grape leaf on a salad. Smith's yellowtail
is going down on a pickled grape salad. David has got agar agar grape
jelly... Smith has.... a grappa cocktail. Ed now garnishing his gazpacho
with grapes. Smith has crab on her sorbet. Cora is making more grape
juice. Smith just got her rabbit out of the pressure cooker.
"Five minutes to go." To
review... fried, pickled, frozen, gelatinized, handmade, with nuts, with
fish, with rabbit, with risotto, with venison. And now torched! Cora is
now plating her angel food cake with grape fennel milk and the homemade
grape. Smith finishes her pain perdu with peanut butter and jelly. She
has roasted risotto, sorbet with crab, opening with the yellowtail crudo,
and the stuffed rabbit and grape cream sauce. That's five. Cora has
quail with Swiss chard, venison smoked, gazpacho, grape trio, and ...
the sponge cake. Now it's all a matter of the five for presentation.
"Five seconds... Three ... two... one...
" Battle Grape is history.
Judgment (Cora): "What I wanted to
show was obviously the versatility of grapes and all the things you can do with
- Chilled White Grape Gazpacho
- Stuffed Grape Leaf and Grape Trio (Fried Grape Cluster, Grape Olives, and
- Grape-Marinated Quail with Grape Swiss Chard Rolls
- Veni-Zin with Chestnuts
- PB & J with Cracked Grapes (that's pistachio butter)
Judgment (Smith): "What want
you to show you is all the way from the seed to the leaf to the fruit."
- Yellowtail Crudo with Pickled Grapes and a
- Roasted Grape Risotto
- Green Grape Sorbet with King Crab
- Stuffed Rabbit with Grape Salad
- Pain Perdu with Grape Gelatina
Both chefs with their shares of hits and
misses. But for whom will the verdict deliver sour grapes? Whose cuisine
... 50-49 in favor of
Challenger Holly Smith. This wasn't a matter of the
challenger winning it, but the Iron Chef losing it, by
taking risks with flavor and originality that didn't
quite measure up to par, we have the razor thin margin
of one and the sweet taste of vindication for Holly
Smith, who lost to an Iron Chef, only to come back and
Until next battle, we bid
you good eating.
To see this episode in its entirety, go to