"Whose cuisine will reign supreme?"
The familiar words ring out across Kitchen Stadium, spoken by Alton Brown himself, back for another round of culinary competition in the series premiere of Iron Chef Gauntlet. Gleefully, Brown introduces himself to the new competitors, saying, "I'm the chairman now."
Gauntlet, which returns about three years after Iron Chef America's final episodes, changes up the format with a group of seven new competitors, each vying for the title of Iron Chef. Here's everything you need to know about the premiere and beyond.
① The talented challengers this season are Jonathon Sawyer, Stephanie Izard, Jason Dady, Michael Gulotta, Nyesha Arrington, Sarah Grueneberg and Shota Nakajima. They represent a diverse group of culinary backgrounds and expertise, from traditional Japanese to Texas and Louisiana comfort food to new Italian.
② Each episode consists of two separate battles: the Chairman's Challenge, devised by Brown and given to all seven competitors at once, followed by the Secret Ingredient Showdown, where the loser of the first round competes against one other chef in a sudden-death competition.
In the premiere episode, Brown immediately sets the competitors to work on the Chairman's Challenge, providing them with a variety of "wild ingredients" found in the forest, like elk, duck, squab, maitake mushrooms and salsify.
③ The win in the first round goes to Chicago's chef Izard for her duck tartare with creamy gochujang mayonnaise, which Brown loves. Chef Grueneberg falls to the bottom of the pack and is forced to compete in the Secret Ingredient Showdown. As the winner, Izard is given the chance to pick Grueneberg's competitor, nominating Arrington, who is the chef with Brown's other least favorite dish.
④ The secret ingredient this week is lobster to the challengers' excitement, and they each prepare the ingredient in three unique ways, from fresh pasta to lobster sausage. Beloved Iron Chef alums Geoffrey Zakarian and Donatella Arpaia Stewart are brought in to judge the dishes, and, ultimately, Arrington is the first chef to go home.
⑤ This time around, the show brings the focus back to the food, with Alton critiquing the first-round dishes in an informed and elevated way, and with challengers showcasing complex techniques. Brown runs a one-man show in this iteration, playing the role of host, floor reporter, commentator and judge.
⑥ Although some elements of the original show remain, like the fanfare of the ingredient reveal and the level of talent of the competitors, the show feels a bit more like an episode of Chopped than a retelling of Iron Chef America. This iteration isn't as grand, kitschy or (frankly) strange as the original show, but hearing Brown's studied commentary booming over the contestants as they prepare their dishes certainly takes us back to those early days.
The Gauntlet portion of the program, in which the winner of the seven new challengers must go head-to-head against veteran Iron Chefs Bobby Flay, Michael Symon and Masaharu Morimoto, is bound to harken back more closely to the original with its higher-stakes competition.
All in all, we'll certainly be watching along as the season unfolds.
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