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There are no easy tests in Kitchen Stadium. The first battle for any newly crowned Iron Chef, however, is perhaps the toughest of all. The glory of winning The Next Iron Chef competition is all but forgotten and the winner now has to prove themselves worthy in the world’s toughest culinary arena.
It also doesn’t make any difference that Iron Chef Guarnaschelli has become familiar with Kitchen Stadium over the last year, as Iron Chef Zakarian’s sous chef. This time around, she was master, not servant, and any defeat would be associated directly with her name.
It was ironic that her first opponent would be Judy Joo, who — along with Iron Chef Michael Symon and I — was responsible for eliminating her in Season 4 of The Next Iron Chef: Super Chefs. She not only battled to win, but also had a very definite point to prove.
The Secret Ingredient was mortadella (something her fellow rival chef, Chef Nate Appleman, is now very familiar with) and both chefs managed to get their first dish in front of the judges within the 20-minute time frame. Neither was declared a great success, but Iron Chef Guarnaschelli came away with a slender lead of two points to take into the rest of the battle.
Both chefs wisely decided to treat the mortadella almost as if it were bacon. Highlights from Chef’s Joo’s offerings for the judges included Korean fried chicken and scallops prepared using the Chairman’s culinary curveball and a Danish aebleskiver pan. For Iron Chef Guarnaschelli, the standouts were her mortadella popovers and a silky pasta dish of tortellini that used the Secret Ingredient.
Those dishes were just enough for the judges to award Iron Chef Guarnaschelli a narrow five-point lead, and ensured that she left Kitchen Stadium with the first tick in the win box on her battle card.
I look forward to having the opportunity to judge her as an Iron Chef soon.