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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
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
Airs 10p Sun, Food
Available In High-Definition Where AvailableStreaming Online

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Symon vs. Culinary Students: Battle Balsamic
September 27

Over 100 challengers have entered Kitchen Stadium America to do culinary battle with the Chairman and his army of supercooks, the Iron Chefs. To open the field for season 8, the first season to be shot in high definition, he has invited very special guests to take on the newest of his mantle... Submitted for the approval of Tetsujin fans the world over..

The challengers: A group of culinary students from the International Culinary Schools of the Art Institutes, Student Chef Katelyn Remick and her two sous-chefs Tyler Burke & Julie Fiedler. They are the super chefs of tomorrow, or maybe the Iron Chefs of the future. But today, they'll face the harsh reality of trial by fire as the Chairman summons Iron Chef Michael Symon to do battle with them. And to make things even more interesting, Symon will level the playing field by taking on two of his own apprentices.

Prepare for battle.

The Crib Sheet:
Emily Tillman & Jacob Micale, apprentices
student chefs
Mediterranean COOKING STYLE Various

The Theme Ingredient: Balsamic vinegar, aged in bottles and barrels.

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 or her 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!"

Battle Balsamico is on in Kitchen Stadium. A very unique battle with a very unique ingredient. Today, we're working with four varieties, a three-year commercial grade vinegar, eight-year must with the grape skins left on, 25-year bottles, and 50-year bottles. Real vinegar is aged and bottled in two areas in northern-central Italy. It's aged in different types of wood. By the end of the 12 year process, it's rich, thick, and amazingly complex.

The challengers start by reducing the stuff, and there's also a balsamico-fig mixture and a roux for a parmesan souffle, and... ICE CREAM MACHINE! Symon forgets about the meat he's supposed to be braising in the pressure sugar. He's also simmering star anise, balsamico, and orange juice. Balsamic is also in a pasta dough, while the challengers are stewing figs, apricots, and quail in separate pots.

"Fifteen minutes have elapsed." Both sides have combined cherries, but while the challengers work on a homemade ricotta, Symon has chilies, parmesan polenta, and eggplant.

Tonight's Judges:
- Culinary journalist Karine Bakhoum (KB Network News)
- Actor Anthony Anderson ("Law & Order")
- Sustainable food expert Anya Fernwald ("The Next Iron Chef" judge)

The challengers have difiiculty with their phyllo dough as their Chef/instructor Eric Watson can only stand on the sidelines and watch. He can only count on their idea of teamwork.

The Iron Chef has chocolate cake out of the oven and balsamic sorbet in the ICE CREAM MACHINE! Challengers also have balsamic-cherry pork chops and their souffle in the oven.

"Thirty minutes have elapsed." Symon has prosciutto heading to the oven. cherries are simmering, and pasta balsamico has been rolled and cut. Challengers are countering with a strawberry-rhubarb mixture and phyllo rounds are out. They look burned, but according to Katelyn, they're perfect. And porkchops are on the grill. Symon counters with balsamic-coffee pork bellies.

Challengers have watermelons juiced for... a cocktail? Symon, on the other hand, is breaking out the good stuff, the 50-year bottle is mixed with ricotta. Coming up on the 15 minute mark, nothing's plated yet. That changes as Katelyn starts plating her phyllo rounds.

And Jorge... fried green plantains. JC counters with sauced bananas, Flay is working on a banana curry... and we have a problem on the challenger's side, as overcooked pork goes in the bin. Flay continues to work on his curry, while Vicki adds caramelized hazelnuts onto her ice cream.

"Fifteen minutes to go." Both sides are plating in reverse. Life is short, plate dessert first. Symon's polenta looks like it's heading for the fryer. His pasta is almost done. The challengers are rolling mozzarella and balsamic figs into a sausage of sorts. The three-years are going into basic usage like stewing fruits and vegetables. The 50-years are going into Symon's cheese and Katelyn's dessert dish. Also, Julie is dropping shoestring onion fries, and Tyler has created a smoking rig. Symon's chilling his sorbet and finishing his pork belly.

Symon's ricotta balsamico is going onto that deep fried polenta, while the challengers' is going on an apricot for a quartet of sorts. Julie's working on a watermelon soup, while the Iron Chef is plating his pork belly. So two dishes done on both sides. Katelyn has to clean and cook shrimp in six minutes, while the rest of the students are doing a quick stir fry. "Five minutes to go." Shrimp are getting smoked. Symon's short ribs are done.

To review, the student have a cheese quartet, a quail, a gazpacho, a pork loin, and the black-pepper-phyllo napoleon. The Iron Chef has a short rib with carrots, polenta, pork belly, chicken-liver spaghetti, and the cake & sorbet dessert duo. So now it's all fine tuning as the shrimp that was speed cooked on the challengers' side is going into the gazpacho. And Symon wants his ice cream with... "One minute to go." Same on the students' side. But it's a little less than frozen. As in... not. They're going to bin it with ten seconds.

"Five seconds.... Three... two... one..." Put it down, walk away, Battle Balsamic is in the books. Now to the judging.

Judgment (Students): "Our strategy was to cook not only with the balsamic, but for the balsamic."

- Balsamic-Glazed Crispy Quail
- Smoked Balsamic Melon Soup with Smoked Shrimp
- BBQ Balsamic Glazed Pork Chop
- Cheese Plate with 50-Year Balsamic
- Phyllo Napoleonic with Balsamic

Judgment (Symon): "The trick about balsamic vinegar is it could overpower things. It sometimes tends to be cloyingly sweet. I tried to find a balance with a little bit of acidity and salt and things to cut through the richness, but still really show off the balsamic."

- Crispy Polenta with Balsamic Ricotta
- Balsamic Spaghetti
- Balsamic & Coffee Pork Belly Confit
- Balsamic & Orange Braised Shortribs
- Chocolate Cake with Chocolate & Balsamic Sorbet.

The students are preparing for judgment as Symon comes to them with an offer of apprenticeship at his restaurant at Lola, so whatever the outcome, both sides are going home winners.

But whose cuisine reigns supreme tonight? The verdict...

Taste 27 22
Plating 14 12
Originality 13 10

... 54-44 in favor of Iron Chef Michael Symon & his apprentices. Goes to show you that sometimes the underdog triumphs, and sometimes the overwhelming odds are just that. But that's just today. Sometime down the line, perhaps one of them will return to Kitchen Stadium America, and the result may be very different indeed.

Until next time, we bid you good eating.

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