It was clear from the very first taste of Chef Freitag’s Lusty Lemon Chicken that she was going to be the first rival chef to reach Kitchen Stadium. It really was that good. But deciding who would be joining her would prove to be much more difficult.
I very much liked Chef Appleman’s use of haddock (chosen by me because of my love for fish and chips) in his chowder, but agreed with my colleagues that it lacked the advertised smoked element. Similarly, while we all thought that Chef Guarnaschelli’s dish of sea urchin was elegant, it definitely lacked the acidity that it needed to bring out the depth of flavor of the seafood. It was close, but in the end Chef Guarnaschelli took the second spot in Kitchen Stadium.
Both these chefs deserved their places in the finale, and to make sure that the long-standing Iron Chefs had their say in the final decision, Bobby Flay, Michael Symon and Masaharu Morimoto helped swell the ranks at the judges’ table. In honor of the Iron Chefs, the Chairman revealed the Secret Ingredients on the altar, which represented each of them and the cuisines they specialize in.
With only three dishes with which to shine, there was no room for complacency, and the final two combatants brought some of their very best work to the tasting table. Chef Freitag’s feta burrata was creamy and delicious, while her puree of eggplant beneath perfectly cooked lamb was one of the highlights of the day. Chef Guarnaschelli’s starter of scallops showed real respect for the ingredients chosen by Iron Chef Morimoto and her cherry tart with pasilla chiles, with its crumbly almond crust, was considered by many the very best bite of the finale.
My vote went to Chef Guarnaschelli by a whisker. Although I know that it was not by any means unanimous, the majority of the judges agreed that it was her name that would be called out by the Chairman as he announced the winner.
Iron Chef Guarnaschelli, as she will now always be known, has definitely earned her place among the pantheon of the culinary greats, and I look forward to judging her in Kitchen Stadium.
What did you think of the finale? Tell me in the comments below.
Relive the final episode (click the play button):
- The All-Star Academy Mentors Talk Competitive Strategy — and Some Serious Smack
- One of These Things Is Not Like the Other — Chopped After Hours
- Home Cook Cheat Sheet: Measurement Conversion Guide [INFOGRAPHIC] — All-Star Academy
- Celebrate the New Kids Baking Champion with a Cake — Cook Along with the Winner