Top Moments of the Iron Chef Gauntlet Premiere

Join Alton Brown, the challengers and the judges on set to see what it takes to make a bid for the most-revered title in the culinary industry.

Episode: Into the Wild

Photo By: Eddy Chen , Eddy Chen

Photo By: Eddy Chen , Eddy Chen

Photo By: Eddy Chen , Eddy Chen

Photo By: Patrick Wymore

Photo By: Patrick Wymore

Photo By: Eddy Chen , Eddy Chen

Photo By: Patrick Wymore

Photo By: Eddy Chen , Eddy Chen

Photo By: Eddy Chen , Eddy Chen

Photo By: Eddy Chen , Eddy Chen

Photo By: Patrick Wymore

Photo By: Patrick Wymore

Photo By: Eddy Chen , Eddy Chen

Photo By: Patrick Wymore

Photo By: Eddy Chen , Eddy Chen

Photo By: Eddy Chen , Eddy Chen

Ready, Set, Get Wild

True to form, Alton, the new Chairman in town, wastes no time in dishing out a doozy of a test to the rivals. For the first Chairman's Challenge of the competition, he reveals an altar of wild Secret Ingredients — think pine, squab, elk and currants — with which all seven hopefuls must prepare a single dish. "Take me into the wild with your dish," Alton tells them.

Bringing the Forest to Life

It's the first cook of the competition, and, of course, the nerves are high. Chef Dady grabs an elk loin from the table, opting to coat it in crushed porcini mushrooms and serve it with a duo of sauces: one with blackberries and another inspired by a classic bordelaise. The offering goes over well with Alton, who tells the challenger, "I think the sauces work. ... They're perfectly seasoned."

Dinner and a Drink (Maybe)

"Nice try, Chef," Alton jokes to Chef Sawyer after the challenger tries to sell him a glass of red wine with his Sicilian-inspired squab dish. Nevertheless, Alton is pleased with what he tastes, telling him, "You have a happy family here."

Making an Impression

As Chef Izard notes, "I think Chef Nakajima's a wild card. He is kind of quiet. He is younger. But just looking at the type of food that he does, it's going to be tough." Chef Nakajima's first showing in the competition is mostly a success, though Alton notes that there's room for improvement. "The dressing's where you lose me. It's awfully salty," Alton explains.

Early Success

Though Chef Izard has never before made the duck tartar she prepares for Alton, her rival Chef Sawyer deems the dish "safe." For Alton, though, it's a runaway hit, and he deems her the winner of the premiere Chairman's Challenge.

Strong Showing

"I would buy that in just a box and eat in the back of my car in a dark alley at night," Alton tells Chef Gulotta, lauding the challenger's fried quail. Alton is particularly smitten with Chef Gulotta's treatment of the buttermilk soak — there's a splash of fish sauce in the liquid too. "From now on, I put fish sauce in my buttermilk," Alton says definitively. 

An Anxious Beginning

Much to her horror, Chef Grueneberg's rabbit roulade is underdone with just minutes left to cook, and she's forced to resort to her earlier plan of serving the meat as a scaloppini. Lucky for her, she finishes on it with the meat properly cooked, but ultimately Alton isn't pleased with the presentation. "I think you should have plated it on a more open plate," he tells her. "I think you should have given some things some space for contrast." 

A Powerful Choice

Fresh off her victory in the Chairman's Challenge, Chef Izard gets to choose who Chef Grueneberg, deemed the least-successful by Alton, will battle in the Secret Ingredient Showdown. "This is serious," noting her potential strategies and the magnitude of her decision. She ultimately selects Chef Arrington, who just barely edged out Chef Grueneberg with a squab dish in the first round.

Battle Lobster

Lobster is the name of the game in the first Secret Ingredient Showdown. Both traditional Maine lobsters and California spiny lobsters are up for grabs on the altar.

A Worldly Approach

Happy to see lobster on the altar, Chef Arrington gets cracking on her trio of dishes, in which she plans "to bring [her] global inspiration to this challenge," she explains, later noting of the Thai and Spanish elements in her dishes. 

Italy and Beyond

Chef Grueneberg wastes no time in getting to work on a homemade pasta dough — she is an Italian chef, after all — but she goes one step further to bring Mexican, Asian and Mediterranean flavors to her offerings as well.

The Chefs' Gallery

As Chefs Arrington and Grueneberg work on their all-important Secret Ingredient Showdown dishes with lobster at the forefront, their rivals — all safe from having to compete in this elimination battle — watch from the sidelines, offering support to their competitors from afar. Some can't help but remark on the techniques they witness, as Chef Sawyer noted of Chef Arrington's lobster sausage: "That's a big risk. All that water coming out."

Welcome, Judges

No strangers to the world of Iron Chef, both Iron Chef Zakarian and restaurateur Donatella Arpaia took over the judges' table to evaluate the lobster offerings from Chefs Arrington and Grueneberg. "It tastes Italian even though the flavors are not. And turmeric is a very tricky spice, but I think it works really well," Donatella notes of Chef Grueneberg's scratchmade pasta, which is studded with both turmeric and black pepper. Iron Chef Zakarian, though, can't help but note, "I think it's less of a lobster dish than the [Spiny Lobster Aguachile]."

Mixed Results

"This is a very successful dish in my opinion, and very lobster-y," Iron Chef Zakarian says, praising Chef Arrington's coconut naje, made with spiny lobster. Donatella too is pleased with this second offering, though both she and the Iron Chef note a lack of acid in her butter-poached lobster in Chef Arrington's third and final dish.

Pure Relief

By a mere two-point margin, Chef Grueneberg scores a win over Chef Arrington and earns the right to advance to next week. Still, though, she notes the struggles she's experienced thus far. "It's the hardest thing I've ever done in my life," she revealed to Alton and the judges later on.

Want More Iron Chef Gauntlet?

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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