Will Stephanie Izard conquer Iron Chef Gauntlet? A chat with chef


The finale of Iron Chef Gauntlet airs Sunday. Chef Stephanie Izard will battle three Iron Chefs for her chance for culinary supremacy.

Iron Chef is synonymous with culinary greatness. The title Iron Chef is held by few chefs, yet coveted by many. Over the years, many celebrity chefs have entered kitchen stadium seeking the glory. Chef Stephanie Izard earned her spot in the finale of Iron Chef Gauntlet. But, will she conquer the Gauntlet?

Stephanie Izard, photo from Food Network

Sunday night, the Food Network airs the season finale of Iron Chef Gauntlet. The show offered seven chefs the chance to earn the title Iron Chef. After a series of Chairman’s Challenges and elimination challenges, Chef Stephanie Izard is the last chef standing.

Chef Izard is the creative force behind three Chicago restaurants, Girl and the Goat, Little Goat Dinner and Duck Duck Goat. Izard received a James Beard Award, Food and Wine awards and was the first female winner of Top Chef. Her list of credentials is long and exemplary, but one is missing, Iron Chef.

Recently, I had the opportunity to speak with Chef Izard. While Iron Chef Gauntlet was taped in January (no she didn’t spill any results), we did talk about Iron Chef, flavor trends and what the home cook should try next.

A synopsis of my chat with Stephanie Izard.

Since Chef Izard previously appeared on Iron Chef, we talked about that experience and any advantage that it could have given her. While Izard didn’t win battle bread against Iron Chef Symon, the familiarity with the process was beneficial. According to her, the filming of these cooking shows is chaotic. Cameras in your face, limited time to create a dish and the interruptions can be nerve racking. Previous experience helped some. But, she needed to be prepared for anything that the Iron Chef Gauntlet put in her path.

Iron Chef Gauntlet Episode 5, photo by Food Network

The decision to return to Iron Chef was based on the chance to become an Iron Chef. The title holds a ton of weight in the culinary world, especially since there are very few Iron Chefs. The opportunity to cook against the likes of Morimoto, Flay and Symon and potentially join their ranks was hard to turn down.

Throughout the Iron Chef Gauntlet season, Chef Izard focused on Asian flavors. Over her culinary career, Asian flavors have played a major role. Many of her mentors, like Chefs Beau MacMillan and Shawn McClain, helped her develop this point of view. Her culinary style, both on the show and in life, shows an attention to building and developing flavors. From Korean influences to Chinese authenticity, her attention to food’s flavor is always clear. The combinations may be unlikely, but the outcome is outstanding.

The more unusual, the more we love

Even though viewers love the crazy, unusual ingredients, Chef Izard thought the more common ingredients were more intriguing. To make an Iron Chef worthy chicken dish or egg dish can be challenging. Creating a dish that makes the simple ingredient the star while showing inventiveness, creativity and beautiful plating isn’t easy. Throughout the season, Chef Izard achieved that balance in all her dishes.

As a successful women in a demanding profession, Chef Izard is a great example to women in the industry. Occasionally, she gets letters from women who she has inspired. Having had great women chef role models, like Chef Carrie Nahabedian, she is touched that others look up to her. Personally, I hope that more women chefs get recognized for the hard work, creativity and dedication they have to their profession.

Iron Chef Gauntlet episode 5, photo by Food Network

The two finalist of Iron Chef Gauntlet were women, both from Chicago. While only one could continue on, the bond between the competitors grew. Chef Izard was proud to share the very unique experience with Chef Sara Grueneberg. The two Chicago chefs, with two other competitors, are even hosting a charity event together in Chicago on May 25.

Time to discover tamarind

Since many foodies watch Iron Chef intently, I asked Chef Izard what ingredient the home cook add to their culinary basket. She recommended tamarind. Tamarind offers a sweet and sour flavor to food. The fruit is found in Indian, Mexican and African cuisines. Available in various forms, it can tenderize food, add a tart component to a dish or even can be found in candies.

For the home cook, tamarind can be added to sauces, chutneys and marinades. While viewers may not have seen tamarind on the show, home cooks can work this flavor into any dish at home. Experiment with flavors. Start an Iron Chef style competition in your home and impress your friends with your culinary knowledge.

Next: Iron Chef Gauntlet episode 5 recap, ready to face the gauntlet

While we will have to wait to see if Chef Stephanie Izard will be crowned Iron Chef, I will be watching and routing for her Sunday night. Tune into the Food Network, Sunday, May 21 at 9 p.m. ET to watch the finale. My glass of bubbles will be waiting. And, hopefully I will be toasting the new Iron Chef.