Given how often the secret ingredient on Iron Chef America ends up being a vegetable, it's a wonder we haven't seen more vegetarian chefs plying their trade. Sure, Bobby Flay can grill a lime like nobody's business, and at this point, there are few things that come out of the ground that Chef Morimoto hasn't oh-so-delicately tempura-ed.
So we were looking forward to Amanda Cohen's challenge to the throne this week. Would the proprietor of Manhattan's tiny, inventive vegetarian restaurant Dirt Candy show the meat boys a thing or two? Would she show solidarity for her patrons by refusing to wade into the carnivorous, pescetarian waters judges like grump-o Jeffrey Steingarten are so used to treading? Would a vegetarian chef -- gasp! -- win the title of Iron Chef?
Granted, after the past two guests ruthlessly defeated, respectively, Chefs Symon and Morimoto, we thought it unlikely that another win was in the cards, for anyone. And the Shelley Duvall-esque Cohen looked like she was going to break out laughing when The Chairman barked out her introduction ("you walk to the beat of a different drummer!").
But when broccoli's the secret ingredient, and when the rules say no meat or fish, as they did this week, it's anyone's game. For Cohen, it was all about color: blazing, kelly green broccoli pasta. Lime-colored broccoli ice cream next to -- oh joy -- a Rice Krispie treat. Broccoli stalks layered with avocado strips for a two-tone look. Chowder set off with a deep-orange, smoked cheddar biscuit.
Morimoto, on the other hand, was all about richness via miso, seaweed and dashi. A broccoli soup was styled to look like a "garden," with little edible flowers sprouting up out of it. Cross-sections of broccoli stalk were grilled up like steak. And his broccoli-flavored shaved ice dessert was served in an earthenware bowl that looked like something out of The Flintstones.
The judges were polite as ever -- even Steingarten, who alternately mumbled that he hated the flavor of raw broccoli and then criticized the chefs for not highlighting the ingredient enough. It was like asking a finicky child to review a brussels sprout smorgasbord.
In the fight against creamy, buttery florets and intricate Asian vegetarian cooking, the judges went for the latter, and Cohen was sent home defeated. But her plucky, distinctly American, down-home take on veggies is something we'd love to see featured on future episodes.
Filed Under: Television/Film
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