Iron Chefs Talk Returning to Battle and Running the Gauntlet

Hear from Iron Chefs Bobby Flay, Masaharu Morimoto and Michael Symon about what it's like to return to the work of competition, and find out the advice they have for their challenger, Chef Stephanie Izard.

Photo By: Eddy Chen , Eddy Chen

Photo By: Todd Plitt

Photo By: Eddy Chen , Eddy Chen

Photo By: Eddy Chen , Eddy Chen

Photo By: Anders Krusberg

Photo By: Todd Plitt

Photo By: Anders Krusberg

Photo By: Eddy Chen , Eddy Chen

On Returning to the World of Iron Chef

Flay: It's nice. Iron Chef is such an institution. Not many people are lucky enough to have that title.

Symon: It feels good. It’s interesting.

Morimoto: The format is a little bit easier, but I cook myself. And I’m getting old. I need help to cook. That’s a problem.

On the Pressures to Succeed

Flay: There’s a lot of pressure, but the one thing about it is that I’m only one third of it. So if I don’t perform the way I need to, I can rely on my other two guys.

Symon: It’s so different than what we’ve done in the past because we’re actually getting to compete as a team. So, I feel that there’s much more pressure on Stephanie than there is on us.

Morimoto: Nervous and a bit excited. I don’t know. 50/50. Back and forth.

On Their Perceptions of Chef Izard

Symon: She’s an incredibly talented chef. I won against her on Iron Chef America. I’ve eaten at her restaurant a number of times. Her food’s really lusty and bold and, she’s not afraid of flavor.

Flay: She’s a great chef. I love her food. When I go to her restaurant, I eat everything on the menu. My table is filled with her plates.

Morimoto: She is so strong, and, of course, she has strong skills and is clever.

On Advice for Chef Izard

Morimoto: I just say good luck.

Flay: Doing something that is simple, something really well-executed is important, cause these judges know what they’re tasting, so taste, taste, taste.

Symon: Stay true to yourself. I think the people who tend to do best in Kitchen Stadium are the ones who don’t overthink things. And they do the food that got them there, not the food they think the judges want to see.

On What It Takes to Win

Symon: Keep your flavors very simple and clean, but remember that the judges are only going to take maybe one or two bites of your dish, so I don’t think it is a competition that you can’t cook subtly in.

Flay: Time management’s really important. Also, not trying to overachieve.

Morimoto: Of course focus, much focus, but don’t focus too much and forget about normal potential. Genius and crazy — just a thin paper in between.

On the Title of Iron Chef

Symon: For me, it was so flattering because I got to cook against other great chefs to become an Iron Chef. And once I became one, there was a lot of pressure to maintain or exceed the expectation from the Iron Chefs that have come before me, like Bobby, Morimoto and Mario.

Flay: I think it gives you street cred in the places that we really want it, which is with our contemporaries.

Morimoto: How many Iron Chefs are in the world? Very few. And the people watching the TV, especially kids, are like, "I want to be a chef like Iron Chef Bobby Flay and Masaharu Morimoto and Mike Symon and any others." So, we have to really be the example.

On Their Most-Memorable Battle

Symon: I loved Battle Offal because I liked going against Chris [Cosentino], and I liked doing an ingredient that a lot of America is maybe not comfortable with, maybe to open their eyes to some things to try to cook with that they haven’t tried to cook with before. Also, the Iron Chef America: Tournament of Champions was a lot of fun for me going against fellow Iron Chefs, and being able to come out on top of that was pretty special. And even though I lost, I really loved doing Battle Veal against Marc Vetri.

Morimoto: With Bobby in the first one. ... That’s the most memorable, tough battle.

Flay: My tie with The Too Hot Tamales — it was great. My tie with Susur Lee. And the win over Rick Bayless with bison, I mean I think I beat him by like one point. But my favorite of all time was the White House theme.

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Head to Food Network's Iron Chef Gauntlet headquarters for more insider coverage of the competition, including behind-the-scenes photos, exclusive interviews with the challengers and old-school clips of Iron Chef America.

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