Owner of ZAZU Restaurant + Farm in Sonoma, Calif., Chef Duskie Estes competed on The Next Iron Chef Season 3 and most recently won the Road to Redemption. Each rival was given a scrapbook to use during the Next Iron Chef competition, and Chef Estes filled hers with notes on challenges, go-to recipes and points to make when presenting to the judges.
For her Redemption ingredient, Chef Estes was gifted calamari by the Chairman and a second opportunity to let this fateful ingredient shine after it proved to be her downfall in Season 3. "Now I know I can cook it right," she said after serving a disappointing calamari gyro in the past.
Chef Estes showed off her pan of sautéed calamari to host Alton Brown, who collected behind-the-scenes footage of the rivals during challenges with his own miniature camera. This was one of her two preparations of calamari (the other was deep-fried), an example of her resourcefulness, she said.
In a surprise mid-elimination twist, Alton told the bottom-four chefs to head back to the kitchen so that he could discuss further with the judges. Lucky for Chef Estes, she and Chef Vigneron ultimately survived to cook another day and did not have to face off in the premiere Secret Ingredient Showdown.
Despite her planning of other dishes, Chef Estes ultimately cooked up a taco-inspired take on the classic soup-and-salad combo, this time featuring tortilla-style soup with corn and a panzanella salad with fried duck skin. "I'm going to do what it takes to become The Next Iron Chef," she said of her challenge strategy.
In Battle White Bread, Chef Estes put the humble slices to work in a dish inspired by a classic breakfast platter of bacon, eggs and toast. In just 30 quick minutes, she stuffed freshly made pasta with ricotta cheese and an egg yolk and served it with buttery croutons. "I glorified that bread," she said after the Showdown.
The judges appreciated Chef Estes' runny-egg ravioli, but they questioned whether or not bread, the Secret Ingredient, was the primary focus of her dish. In the end, Alton announced that she had fallen to Chef Freitag and would not be The Next Iron Chef. "In that moment, I was completely numb," Chef Estes reflected after the Showdown.