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Iron Chef Meets Second City, Round Deux

By Chuck Sudo in Arts & Entertainment on Jan 30, 2006 4:51PM

2006_01_ICA.jpgFans of Food Network's "Iron Chef America" can expect to taste a decidedly Chicagoan flavor when the new season premieres next month. Two episodes to tivo or tape: Tru impressarios Rick Tramonto and Gale Gand (with executive sous chef Stuart Davis) against Mario Batali; and Homaru Cantu's "Team moto" faces of against Chef Morimoto.

It's unknown what the secret ingredient was for each team or when the episodes will air. For those of you who aren't familiar with the show, each culinary team has one hour to prepare a multicourse meal with a secret theme ingredient. The meals are then judged by a panel of three judges to determine a winner. The exposure ganied from participating on the show can do wonders for a chef new to fawning press like Cantu. It can also market their restaurants to new, impressionable diners. Hell, if "Iron Chef America" can make a star out of a douchebag like Bobby Flay, anything is possible.

According to an article in today's Sun-Times, Tramonto and Gand prepped for war in the "Kitchen Stadium" by watching previous episodes and practicing on Tuesdays in the weeks preceding the tapings with a timekeeper. Meanwhile Cantu and his team "wore green clogs to the set and spoke to each other via headsets." One can assume that Cantu also brought his standard complement of surgical instruments, power tools, proprietary utensils, and- one hopes- a spatula, to Kitchen Stadium, as well.

This isn't the first time a Chicago chef has participated in "Iron Chef America." In the series premiere two years ago, Flay went toe-to-toe with Frontera Grill's Rick Bayless, with buffalo meat as the secret ingredient. Bayless lost, attributing his defeat to his "overexplain(ing) his dishes to the judges." Chicagoist isn't so sure. Having sat through enough episodes of Bayless' "Mexico- One Plate At A Time" on rainy Saturdays we think it might have been more that Bayless' deliberate, slow explanation was the culprit:

"Now... look at the... pronounced... marbling... on this... (sigh)bison. That's an... indication... that this... cut of... meat... is just... bursting... with... (sigh)flavor... that you don't... find... in regular... beef(sigh)."

An argument could be made that Flay won simply because the judges didn't have extra time for Bayless to form consecutive sentences.