Oh, Aaron is gone! Dancing and joy! Anyway. Tonight is in Paris (that was totally said in accent by the way) I’m not the biggest fan of French food, as the French defined pretentious, but if the food is good, it’s good, it doesn’t matter where it came from.

Chris, Besh, Symon. They are all excellent, but if the world goes rightly, Chris will leave tonight. Besh and Symon are better chefs.

An envelope is presented to each of them – each with 2,000 euros and a list of the chairman’s favorite Parisian grocers. They have to create a 3-course American meal for 20 people, in France. They are culinary ambassadors!

As Chris points out, they don’t know what sort of kitchen they have available. Thus, they can’t plan to make sure they have all cold, all hot, whatever. However, I can’t imagine that the chairman is going to put them under that sort of pressure again. After all, the Iron Chef doesn’t have to fight in a mud pit, he has to fight in the Stadium.

Chris doesn’t know what to do with American food. He hasn’t made it in a long time, after all – he’s been too busy being a foreign-food traitor (yeah, I know, I’m such a hypocrite!) Besh is super-excited (has he done non-American yet?) but he debates over pulling in all the regions in or sticking with his tried-and-true. Josh and I are rooting for the former option. Symon plans on modernizing the classics, a terribly American move. Besh v. Symon, last episode, check.

Chris is already lost, confused, and irritated with how slow his transport is. He finds Symon and heads on in to the same shop.

GO BESH! He can speak a bit of french, and he’s talking it up with the locals. Rachel Ray would be so proud.

Chris continues to follow Symon! Bad form. He should have done a little more research before going to Paris? Yeah, it’s not hard to get a street map beforehand, look up a few words of French, stand on your own two feet….

Symon is making a twisted hot-dog with lobster. Sounds good. Oh, and guess what? Chris is using lobster too. He claims it’s not a coincidence. Loser!

Chris is dealing with this super-expensive cheese and he wants to make a sauce out of it. I’m with the man at the fromagerie – that’s a waste!

Besh is not concerned with his competitors. As he should be! I imagine Symon wouldn’t be either, but he has a shadow.

They are cooking in a beautiful location, namely Craig Robert Stapleton’s home, the former Rothschild mansion. So, it’s actually American soil, ironically enough. Craig has told the 20 guests they are serving that the best chefs in the world cooking for them this evening. Well, isn’t that pressure!

As for that leadership and inspiration: they each get sous-chefs, whom they’ve never met, handpicked by the chairman for each contestant. Most excellent!

They get 3 hours for 3 courses for their 20 people. They also have to showcase their vision in some kind of display. The judges will be sitting with the guests, and the guests’ responses will actually matter, for once. This is good. I like the guests getting a say – and if there are only 20 guests, it’s quite likely that they are all extremely qualified to judge the candidates anyway.

John likes to cook next to Chris, as then he feels more organized. Yeah, I can see how that would make you feel better! Symon needs to read the cookbook, “How to Boil Water,” as he’s not doing so hot in that arena. Not a good day to have a bad day, Symon, no.

Carmelized onion puree sounds icky. But that could be a personal thing.

Chris cries out in anguish when Alton calls the first hour over. Hmmm.

Holy. Cow. Truffle mashed potatoes, something with blueberries for dessert – Symon’s meal sounds delicious, and I don’t even know what it is yet.

I have never heard of what Chris is doing – stuffing a bottle of vodka in a watermelon for the fourth of July? Okay, I can see that happening, but it’s not really a tradition I’ve ever heard of. Not like, oh, strawberry shortcake, which Besh is making.

Symon is having to talk himself into not quitting! Oh noes!

Guests are upstairs having cocktails when Next Iron Chef returns, and it is coming down to a madhouse downstairs. Yes, I know I mixed metaphors, but you know what? It makes plenty of since if you’re watching.

They are all now starting to create their table displays, which really just look like your standard banquet displays. What can you say, they’re chefs, not designers. At very least, it’s very American. Symon has this really cool blueberries-and-raspberries on a white tablecloth thing going, so that’s pretty and American, if kind of cliche.

“No more foodie touchy” comes along, and everyone was still working when it came along. Whooo, that’s close!

The guests, by the way, were unspecified dignitaries and important French people – well, except for our old friends Ruhlman, Donatella, and Andrew.

Besh starts with a crab meat BLT sandwich with caviar ranch dressing. Frenchman 1 complains that that caviar shouldn’t be hidden behind bacon, but other Frenchman 2 says it was the best BLT ever.

Chris starts with new england lobster roll, with no real mentions yet.

Symon’s beginning was a spin on the hotdog, the lobster hotdog and chips. He comments that you can “hammer it home” like you were at the stadium. Frenchman 1 complains that potato chips weren’t something like tomato chips.

Besh’s second dish was chicken and dumplings, to no real comment as yet.

Symon presented veal meat loaf over truffle mashed pototo Frenchman 3 liked it, Frenchman 1 is a jerk. He also looks like an older Draco Malfoy, but I’m sure that’s just coincidence.

Chris, Philly cheese steak – with onion puree, instead of the usual carmelized diced or strings. Also, instead of a bun, it was lying on croutons. Frenchman 4 liked the cheesesteak, but an American-sounding dude said it didn’t taste right (unsurprisingly). Donatella wanted more croutons.

Chris’s dessert was melons and moonshine, the “play” off the vodka-filled watermelon, which didn’t get any comments that I heard.

Symon presented a goatcheese ice cream float.  Lots of comments that it’s very American, a float. Weird Americans, liking cream and soda. American dude really liked it!

Besh went for strawberry shortcake with watermelon sorbet, which someone commented was tasty. Also, everyone laughed that each of Besh’s children eats one watermelon each per day, so he had to add the watermelon.

Alton reminds the crowd that they shouldn’t pick a winner at this point – “What we have to do at this point is send somebody home”

Josh and I comment, over the commercial break, that it’s kind of sad that the judging always comes down to whose idea of what makes an Iron more important. They never argue over the chefs, they argue instead that this quality is better or more important than whatever you said is important. Then, whoever wins THAT argument says, without further discussion, who wins or loses the competition. These people need to take a course in fair grading – they should have decided long since what things are important, and should be looking for the chef that fulfills those roles the best!

Final judges! Alton explains that they were to lead and inspire their sous-chefs, but also to inspire the guests to new appreciation of American flavor.

Ruhlman calls out early, saying Besh’s appetizer (the BLT) was superior. He also felt that it was more controversial and caused people to talk more than other dishes did.

Donatella thinks that the lobster roll was heavy handed on the mayo, and the weakest dish. Andrew apparently loved the lobster roll, as he immediately jumps to insult donatella – have you ever HAD a lobster roll?, he asks. Ruhlman and Donatella promptly jump down his throat, Andrew gets rolled and Chris loses that portion.

Andrew starts out with veal meatloaf praise for Symon. He didn’t abandon the nature of meatloaf, while still elevating it. However, all three judges agree Symon’s mashed potatos were not so hot. There was a problem with Chris’ Philly cheesesteak; they complained that there were some plates without cheese. Other plates didn’t have croutons. Problematic.  Alton complains that Besh’s dumpling was not actually a dumpling, it was pasta, after Micheal asks pointedly. However, it was “complex and interesting,” so those qualities might yet save it.

Ruhlman felt that the final dish represented them wholeheartedly. Bold and simple for Chris, playful for Symon, complex from Besh. Andrew doesn’t think that the fruit salad was either American or Iron Chef material. Donatella thought the shortcake was great. Ruhlman thought the fruit salad was technically cool, but he “didn’t like eating it.” Well, that’s not good. Symon’s float was well done, they thought, it made people scoff and then they changed their minds. Looks like Symon might have taken it again.

Alton comments on how all four of them are extremely proud. He says that they also felt they had never represented themselves better – that’s a pretty hard insult for the loser! Also, the decision, he says, was tough, but clean. Chris goes home.

Chris’ loser speech had hints of sore loser. Barest hints, but after watching him for weeks, they kind of glaringly stare at you. Symon and Besh both were sad to see him go – relieved that they stayed, but sad to see him go. Typical for both of them, really. They are both really great sports, if extremely competitive.

Cue Alton speech about the Kitchen Stadium battle. It’s obvious that Alton is trying to sow discord between the two, and it’s also obvious that these two are still great friends – competitive friends, but friends nonetheless. It is that attitude that carried them both this far, and it will be what carries them home.

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