The theme was a bit different on “The Next Iron Chef” yesterday than it was last week. Last week, you’ll remember, the chefs had to create meals with some, you know, delicacies. Yesterday’s episode featured the idea of making more with less–simplicity. And that’s a theme that a really great chef can do a lot with.

For the initial challenge, each chef had to make something with a cooking vessel that they might not necessarily use normally–tagines, steamer pots, Mongolian hot pot, etc. With what they chose (they had a mad scramble to the table), the chefs could make anything they wanted–the traditional dish for that vessel, or something else unique.

Afterward, the chefs graded each other as they did last week. The favorite was Chef Mehta’s curry and rice dish that he made in a “couscouserie,” a vessel normally used for, well, cous cous. Chef Mehta would have an advantage in the next round because of his win.
The least favorite was Chef Mullen’s risotto with prawns, but he didn’t receive a penalty of any kind for that other than a hit to his pride.

Then for the main challenge, the chefs would be asked by Alton Brown to create a simple classic dish from one of three cuisines–Greek, French or Italian. And since chef Mehta won the initial challenge, he drew first randomly and picked Greek, and the dish was spanokopita–which is a spinach and feta cheese dish with phyllo dough. After that, Brown chose for each of the remaining eight chefs:

Chef Farmerie–Italian, Veal Tonnato
Chef Smith–French, Boulliabaisse
Chef Freitag–French, Coq Au Vin
Chef Mullen–Italian, Pasta Puttanesca
Chef Appleman–French, Ratatouille
Chef Crenn–Greek, Moussaka
Chef Garces–Italian, Minestrone soup
Chef Trevino–Greek, Dolmas (stuffed grape leaves)

The judges tasted and discussed each dish, and they were the same judges as last week–Anya Fernald, Jeffrey Steingarten, and Donatella Arpaia. They loved Mehta’s spanakopita and he made a sorbet to go along with it. Everyone also loved chef Freitag’s Coq au vin and marveled at how she made a version of it in a short amount of time.
They thought Appleman’s ratatouille with added meat was daring and it turned out great. They thought chef Crenn was the most improved from last week and Steingarten commented that he would order chef Garces’ de-constructed minestrone in a restaurant. Trevino made his stuffed grape leaves with cous cous and the judges thought that was a nice and tasty change of pace.

So then Brown started sending chefs to safety in order. Chef Freitag was first, followed by Garces, Appleman and Mehta. Then Trevino and Crenn. That left chefs Mullen, Smith and Farmerie. Chef Mullen was surprised because the judges really seemed to dig his puttanesca, and then he was really surprised when they informed him that his was the favorite dish. I’m not sure why they confused us and him like that, but at least it kept us guessing.

So it was down to chefs Farmerie and Smith. While the veal with tuna sauce that Farmerie de-constructed was not up to par, they liked his dish better than Smith’s boullabaisse, and so she was sent home.

Okay, we’re down to eight now and this season is already whipping by.
There are several of them that appear to be frontrunners–Appleman, Freitag, Mehta and Garces. I don’t think Chef Mullen will win, despite winning the round last night.

Did you see the show? Let me know what you think in the space below, and have a great week!