The Next Iron Chef Redemption 2012 continued December 9 on The Food Network as the contestants tackled a tastebud-bending Fusion themed challenge. Which finalist rose to the top and who headed home?
The episode opened as the five remaining finalists joined show host Alton Brown in Las Vegas at the MGM Grand. Alton led them to what he termed "the chapel of culinary love", where a number of very different food items awaited them. He revealed that the Chairman's Challenge theme of the week was Fusion, and that they'd be responsible for creating beautiful food "marriages" with some unlikely pairs. He termed himself the matchmaker and paired up the foods; the finalists cringed.
As the winner of last week's challenge, Chef Marcel Vigneron was given the right to assign the ingredient pairs. He selected peanut butter and blue cheese for himself, and tossed bone marrow and rainbow candy to Chef Jehangir Mehta. Clams and strawberries went to Chef Nate Appleman, while chicken liver and peppermints went to Chef Alex Guarnaschelli, leaving calamari and marshmallows for Chef Amanda Freitag.
With 45 minutes on the clock, Alton dismissed the chefs to the kitchen to work their culinary magic. While Chefs Freitag and Appleman were friendly in small quarters, Chef Vigneron annoyed Chef Guarnaschelli by hogging burners and keeping a messy station. Chef Mehta called his combination "pretty harsh," so he opted to "strip down" the ingredients and reuse the components in a clever fashion.
After time expired, the chefs joined panelists Simon Majumdar, Donatella Arpaia, and Geoffrey Zakarian for the week's challenge tasting. Up first was Chef Freitag. Her grilled squid with marshmallow and horseradish cream was termed "incredibly successful" by Simon, though he didn't care for the barley treat on the side. Geoffrey loved her use of paprika. Chef Mehta's grilled bone marrow with fruit candies drew criticism from Donatella, who wished for more acid and sweet, and from Geoffrey, but Simon disagreed and found it a successful pairing.
Chef Guarnaschelli presented her chicken liver mousse with bistro salad, and drew praise from Simon, but Donatella thought she'd played it too safe. Chef Vigneron's blue cheese ice cream with peanut butter textures elicited praise from Donatella and Simon, and Geoffrey said he "adored" it. Chef Appleman finished the tasting with his clam and strawberry acqua pazza, which the judges liked but criticized for featuring what they considered to be tough pasta.
A little later, the five chefs re-joined the judges to find out who'd be heading to the Secret Ingredient Showdown. Chefs Vigneron and Freitag were saved to cook again, with Chef Freitag taking the win based on her work with an extremely difficult flavor combination. Chef Vigneron was annoyed that his rival took the win "just because her ingredients were harder," but the two moved happily out of the room. Thanks to the good flavor in her dish, Chef Guarnaschelli joined Chefs Vigneron and Freitag in safety, leaving Chefs Appleman and Mehta to do battle in the cook-off.
The two men met Alton inside a traditional Japanese restaurant where they learned that they'd be cooking with just a hot slab of metal—no blenders, ice cream makers, or other machinery found in traditional kitchens. When the cloth was lifted from the secret ingredient, Chef Mehta was delighted to see shrimp; Chef Appleman seemed less pleased, but mused it would be easier to deal with than "a whole pig."
Although Chef Appleman struggled to make his pancake hold together, he eventually revamped his strategy and made it work. Chef Mehta, conversely, worked with cumin to bring the spice to his dish, remaining confident in his culinary abilities.
After time expired, the two hopefuls presented their dishes to the judges. Chef Appleman's shrimp and pea pancake with roasted shrimp head was deemed "so well-balanced" by Geoffrey, but too "dense and slightly chewy" by Simon. Chef Mehta's mustard and cumin shrimp with mung bean salad was declared "beautifully cooked" by Simon, but Geoffrey thought the cumin was "a bit too pronounced."
During deliberations, both dishes were deemed just average, and the judges opted to figure out which was "the least forgettable" rather than picking the better one. So which chef got the boot?
The two men re-joined the panelists for final judgment. Thanks to Chef Appleman's clever use of a shrimp head as a sauce packet, Chef Jehangir Mehta was eliminated from the competition. He was very unhappy to get the news, opining that his only redemption was winning, an end which could no longer happen.
The Next Iron Chef Redemption 2012 continues December 16 with more from Las Vegas.