vs. Okuwa: Battle Uni
Chef Makoto Okuwa, no stranger to Kitchen Stadium, as he
has battled as one of Morimoto's sous-chefs many a time.
He did not go to culinary school, rather he was trained
on the job starting at age 15 in his native Japan.
Having moved from Morimoto's in Philly, he now heads the
kitchen at Sashi in Manhattan Beach, CA. This time, he's
facing up AGAINST one of the Chairman's divas, namely
Iron Chef Michael Symon.
Gentlemen... Prepare for battle.
The Crib Sheet:
Nikolai Trigueros & Jeffrey Lunak, sous-chefs
Cory Barrett & Derek Clayton, sous-chefs
The Theme Ingredient: Uni sea
urchin, both fresh and harvested.
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 Uni is on! Uni is actually an
organ found inside the sea urchin. It's not meat, technically it's... a
gonad. It's best served fresh.
Both chefs have their fair share of both
fresh and harvested. Okuwa is making a custard of uni, eggs, and crab
guts. Symon has some bones for marrow and lobsters for... well, lobster.
Will he make a chowder? Cory is making a mix of uni, Greek yogurt, and
honey. And Jeff is putting some uni in the blast chiller. For what, we
"Fifteen minutes have elapsed."
Over the break, Okuwa has been taking advantage of the ingredient,
having torched and blended some of it. Also, he has some abalone
trimmed, and a corn-peekytoed crab mix is in the blast chiller. Symon
counters with the boxed variety for risotto, bone marrow, a watermelon
sorbet, and a corn chowder. The only uni? In yogurt.
And Chef Okuwa cuts his abalone into
ribbons while Symon subs out frying oil for duck fat... Duck fat fries.
- Food critic Nina Griscom
- Author Sam Haskell
- Actress/singer Tia Carrere ("Ikena")
Okuwa has his own version of surf & turf
with toro and wagyu beef, while Symon has an uni-mayonnaise and uni-yogurt.
"Thirty minutes have elapsed."
The student knows how it feels to be the master now. Symon has lobster,
pancetta, and uni mixes of mayo, yogurt, and bone marrow mousse. Okuwa
has yet to infuse anything into his uni aside from a custard. Meanwhile
he has toro, wagyu beef, and abalone.
Okuwa is going to fry up a shiso-nori
tempura with uni, while Symon is making uni brulee. Symon also looks
like he's making his mise en place on his side as well as a risotto and
uni butter. Okuwa is ricing potatoes, while he's also grabbing some more
uni. Okuwa is making a croquette tempura, but he's wrapping it in
shredded phyllo dough. So when it comes out, it'll look like... a sea
"Fifteen minutes to go."
Okuwa has the croquette, tempura ravioli, and a bit of trouble with the
wagyu in the vacuum machine. Symon has a corn chowder, lobster with uni
butter, and wagyu with horseradish. And he's starting to plate the
"Five minutes to go." Makoto got the
vacuum to work. But will he has enough time to cook it? Okuwa is also
plating marsh crabs, abalone, and chimichurri, not together, but the
frozen uni... still a mystery. Symon has five dishes: surf & turf,
risotto, chowder with scallop & shrimp, watermelon sorbet, and a
wrap-up. So we have an idea what he's doing, but what will the
challenger do? Uni with grapefruit foam, surf & turf... "Three minutes
to go." Uni custard with fried rice with frozen uni, tempura two ways,
and the potato/daikon/uni number.
Both chefs still tweaking with "Five
seconds.... three... two... one..." Put it down, walk away. Battle Uni
Judgment (Symon): "Uni is an
ingredient that is sometimes very intimidating. We're showing it in a completely
new light, completely un-Japanese, maybe not so normal way of looking at it."
- Uni Surf & Turf
- Uni Risotto with Clams
- Lobster Roll with Uni Mayonnaise and duck fat fries.
- Uni Chowder
- Prosciutto and Melon with Uni Brulee
Judgment (Okuwa): "I try to create a
way you've never seen before, sea urchin dish."
- Uni Tempura Two Ways (sea urchin stuffed shiso
leaves and tempura with nori) and California Abalone Noodles
- Sugar Cured Uni Gelee
- Uni Croquette
- Uni Surf & Turf
- Frozen Uni Fried Rice
Having served under the master has given
Chef Okuwa an advantage against the Iron Chef, but how much of an
advantage is completely up to the judges? So who takes it? Whose cuisine
reigns supreme this day?
... 56-43 in favor of
Iron Chef Michael Symon. Taste rules the day as the
incorporation of uni into non-Japanese dishes gives the
Iron Chef the victory. Which just goes to show you that
even the wisest man has something to learn yet.
Until next battle, we bid
you good eating.
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