Iron Chef Gauntlet Ep 2 Nose to Tail Challenge and Going Bananas


In Iron Chef Gauntlet episode 2, chefs face nose to tail challenge followed by a banana elimination challenge.

Kitchen stadium opened its doors to the remaining chef challengers. In this week’s episode, the chefs had to face a nose to tail challenge. After sending the first chef home last week, the six remaining chefs pushed themselves in with difficulty.

Iron Chef Gauntlet episode 2 opened with the Chairman’s Challenge. Alton Brown unveiled the secret ingredient, an entire pig. The pig was butchered various parts. Each chef was randomly given the pig parts. The chefs had to cook loin, shoulder, belly, ham, trotter and head.

Iron Chef Gauntlet Nose to Tail Challenge, photo from Food Network

For the majority of chefs, time proved to be the biggest challenge. The most used kitchen tool was the pressure cooker. Many of the pork ingredients benefit from long, slow cooking. With only 45 minutes to present a final dish, the pressure cooker is the only way to break down the protein.

This little piggy went to kitchen stadium.

Going from worst to first was Chef Grueneberg. In the first episode, she was faced elimination. In this week’s episode, Grueneberg was the winner of the Chairman’s Challenge.

Cooking the pig head, Gruenberg used several parts in her wonton dish. Although her flavors and use of the pig head was strong, the pre-made wonton wrappers were sub-par. I would have expected the pasta queen of Chicago to make her own dough. Still the dish won the Chairman’s Challenge.

The other chefs’ dishes proved problematic. While some dishes weren’t bad, like Chef Izard’s pork belly and Asian noodles, the pork was the star of the dish. In these challenges, the secret ingredient needs to be the star. While many of the dishes were delicious as a whole, the pork wasn’t the star.

Unfortunately, Chef Nakajima’s ham dish was the worst dish of the day. The chef admitted that pork isn’t usually a protein that he uses. His dish failed on many levels. Alton put chef Nakajima’s in the secret ingredient showdown.

Where’s the offal?

Personally, I would have liked for the chefs to have had to cook with the more difficult pig parts in the nose to tail challenge. Let’s be honest, this show is Iron Chef. Fans don’t turn in to see pork shoulder dishes. They want something that doesn’t often appear on the family dinner table. Yes, the limited time is challenging, Still, I was hoping that all the chefs would have to cook with trotters, pig ears or sweetbreads.

Iron Chef Gauntlet Ep 2, photo from Food Network

Using the whole pig isn’t a novel concept. More and more restaurants are using the whole animal in their cooking. Diners aren’t opposed to offal dishes anymore. These “other” parts of the animal are full of flavor and texture. With a nose to tail challenge, seeing how these celebrated chefs handled the more difficult ingredients would have been entertaining.

As this week’s winning nose to tail challenge chef, chef Grueneberg was able to nominate a chef to battle chef Nakajima. She chose Chef Sawyer, whose dish was unsuccessful, too. Chef Sawyer’s Chairman’s Challenge dish suffered from an underdone pork loin. But, he was thought to be a strong competitor. Unfortunately, his numerous cooking accolades cannot help him in this competition.

Chefs are going bananas.

With Chefs Sawyer and Nakajima preparing for battle, they awaited the secret ingredient unveiling. Under the giant cloche was bananas. Not just the regular yellow bananas that you eat with breakfast. The table was filled with bananas, plantains, and even banana flowers. Neither chef seemed excited to cook with bananas nor they don’t cook usually cook with bananas.

Iron Chef Gauntlet Ep 2 Bananas, photo from Food Network

Bananas can be a difficult ingredient for kitchen stadium. These chefs can’t whip up a banana smoothie and call it a day. They must incorporate these ingredients in a creative way while still making banana the star ingredient. This challenge is definitely not an easy one.

With 60 minutes on the clocks, the chefs start cooking. Nakajima used seafood in all three of his dishes. Using seafood was expected from this chef. But, he was able to let the banana stand out in each dish.

Chef Sawyer went a more creative route. He used several different types of bananas in his three dishes. From banana flowers, similar to an artichoke, to a dessert, Sawyer showcased his versatility in this secret ingredient showdown.

Banana flowers and leaves, but where’s the fruit?

The chef’s secret ingredient showdown challenge dishes were judged by Anne Burrell and Iron Chef Jose Garces. Both judges have experience in kitchen stadium battles. Still, neither chef was going to go easy on the challengers.

Chef Sawyer presented a ceviche, banana flowers in a banana leaf and a chocolate banana cake for dessert. His most successful dish was the ceviche with leche de tigre. This “tiger’s blood” Peruvian sauce is a fiery, coconut combination that awakens the palate. While taste was good, Chef Sawyer’s plating was chaotic and messy. To be an Iron Chef, all three components, taste, creativity and plating, must be stellar.

Chef Nakajima presented three seafood inspired dishes. While banana seemed to be an unlikely pairing to seafood, the combinations were successful. Specifically, the plantain miso sauce, plated with scallops and prawns, was a huge win. Overall, Nakajima’s plating won over the judges.

Nakajima won battle banana with an impressive eight point spread. He goes on to next week’s competition.

Next: Iron Chef Gauntlet Episode 1 Into the Woods

Who will ultimately win the right to face the three Iron Chefs in the gauntlet? That answer is unknown. Five chefs remain for next week’s challenge. The kitchen is closed until next Sunday at 9 p.m. ET when Iron Chef Gauntlet airs on the Food Network.