The Next Iron Chef 2011 Super Chefs resumed November 13 on the Food Network. Charged with showing their Ingenuity, the eight remaining hopefuls duked it out in a movie theater confections challenge before the bottom two went head-to-head for their competition lives. Here's a complete recap.
The eight remaining finalists met up with show host Alton Brown inside an ornate old theater. Alton introduced the week's Chairman's Challenge, as presented by Mark Dacascos himself via video. Following the brief video, Alton stood on the stage in front of a covered table labeled "Concessions." When the cloth was lifted, jars of movie theater candy and sweets were revealed. The contestants were charged with employing Ingenuity in creating two dishes—one sweet, one savory—using a single ingredient.
As winner of last week's Chairman's Challenge, Alex Guarnaschelli was allowed to choose her own poison: Chocolate covered raisins. Then, she was given the right to assign her opponents' confections. Chef Alex strategically assigned the sweets as follows: Malt Balls for Elizabeth Falkner, Popcorn for Chuck Hughes, Gummy candy for Michael Chiarello (who called it "a silly ingredient for me to work with"), Cinnamon candy for Geoffrey Zakarian (who Chef Alex viewed as her prime Next Iron Chef competition), Root Beer for Anne Burrell, Chocolate covered caramels for Marcus Samuelsson, and Sour candy for Beau MacMillan.
The contestants made their way out of the theater and into kitchen stadium. They were given 60 minutes to "propel" their given ingredients "into superstardom." And then wham, they were off. While Chef Hughes found popcorn an easier food to work with than he'd previously thought, Chef Zakarian struggled to get his equipment to work properly. Chef Burrell noted that root beer was her mom's favorite drink and that she felt fortunate to have been given the gift of using it. In talking with Chef MacMillan, Alton confessed that the sour candy was the ingredient he "most feared," but the Chef hoped that his attempt at replicating fruit flavors would pan out. With time running out, Chef Guarnaschelli's ice cream was a mess, but the inventive cook tried her best to fix it.
Sixty minutes ended almost as soon as it began, and the contestants found themselves awaiting their presentations to judges Michael Symon, Judy Joo, and Simon Majumdar. Up first to face the firing squad with Anne Burrell, who hoped to step up her game with a sausage stuffed quail and root beer chocolate spice cake. Michael enjoyed the dishes, while Simon said "this is the Chef Burrell I've been longing to see." Second to go was Chuck Hughes, who presented a popcorn and seafood cream, which Simon called "a bit of a trainwreck for me," and vanilla popcorn pudding, which Michael "very much" enjoyed.
Up third was Elizabeth Falkner. She presented a malted stout fish and chips, which Simon called "very successful" and Judy deemed "fantastic," and a chiffon cake and ice cream. Judy called the cake "beautiful" and thought the ice cream was "the best thing I've had yet." Michael declared "this is how you cook if you want to win Iron Chef." Fourth to go was Marcus Samuelsson, who presented a seared duck breast and a chocolate cake. Judy enjoyed the "bitter notes" of the duck, but Simon found a "slight execution problem" with the cake.
The confident Michael Chiarello followed with a gummy marinated lamb dish and an orange gummy candy panna cotta. Michael found the lamb "very successful," and Judy called it "succulent." Simon likened the panna cotta to "a funeral in my mouth." Sixth in line was Beau MacMillan with his sour candy creations: A ceviche and a melon coconut soup. The judges knocked him for not using the ingredient in the ceviche, and Michael said the taste of the soup "didn't work for me." Geoffrey Zakarian followed seventh with cinnamon chicken, which Judy called "really tasty," and a cinnamon candy that Simon called "fantastic." Last to face the judges was Alex Guarnaschelli, who presented a lamb dish and ice cream. Michael enjoyed the "saltiness of the anchovies" used in the lamb dish, but Judy found the ice cream "texturally a bit off."
When the contestants faced the judges as a group, Chefs Burrell, Falkner, and Zakarian were deemed the top three. Chef Falkner was named the winner of the challenge. Judy told her that she'd given her the first "foodgasm" of the competition, and the three were dismissed to cook again.
The middle of the packers, Chefs Samuelsson and Chiarello, were then released to join the top three, leaving the bottom three competitors to sweat it out. Thanks to the way she "embraced" her ingredient, Chef Guarnaschelli was saved to cook again, leaving Chuck Hughes and Beau MacMillan to fight it out for a berth in next week's edition of The Next Iron Chef 2011 Super Chefs.
The two nervous chefs, flanked by their fellow competitors, joined Alton for the week's winner take all 30-minute Secret Ingredient Showdown. Neither chef was thrilled to see tofu under the sheet, but Chef MacMillan seemed more confident about his chances at creating a single stellar dish. Chef Hughes planned to "keep it simple" with a "one bite wonder": A crispy silken tofu. Chef MacMillan went for a trio: A tempura, a pickled tofu and veggie summer roll, and a silken tofu.
Time flew by, and bam, Chef MacMillan stood before the judges with his trio of dishes. Judy said "it wasn't a disaster but there were too many ingredients," but Simon praised him for respecting the types of tofu used. Moments later, Chef Hughes appeared with his dish. Judy thought there was "a lot going on" with his dipping sauce, but Michael praised him for making an impression.
After reviewing the two dishes, Chefs MacMillan and Hughes stood for the final Next Iron Chef 2011 Super Chefs week 3 elimination. When the gavel fell, Chef Chuck Hughes was booted from the competition, thanks to his "confusing" dipping sauce. Chef Hughes was disappointed to go, but noted "there's a million cooks that would kill to be where I am today. I lose, but I win."
So which chef will be the next to fall on The Next Iron Chef 2011 Super Chefs edition? Watch the Food Network November 20 to find out.