Season 5, Episode 6

Fusion

The chefs arrive in Las Vegas for the challenge of fusion. As in many a past classic NIC challenges, the chefs are asked to bring together and fuse unusual ingredients into something new and Iron Chef worthy. In this challenge, odd ingredients are randomly paired and the chefs must prove that opposites do attract ... even in the kitchen.
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Appleman vs. Mehta

Ultimately, it's Chefs Nate and Jehangir who've made the weakest dishes of the day, and neither one is pleased to be cooking for his survival this late in the competition. "Two Secret Ingredient Showdowns in a row — this is not where I wanted to be," Chef Nate explains. "I was quite upset," Chef Jehangir adds.

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What Happens in Vegas

The rivals meet Alton in Las Vegas for a mystery wedding, but it turns out that the blissful union they're expecting to find doesn't exist. Instead, the Chairman cooks up a test of fusion that will challenge them to pair culinary odd couples on one plate. "The problem with fusion is that you can easily end up with confusion," Chef Alex Guarnaschelli explains.

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Taking Advantage

Putting his advantage to work, Chef Marcel chooses for himself the easiest ingredient match: peanut butter and blue cheese. "I want to save myself, and then just, like, murder everybody else," he says of his strategy. He assigns bone marrow and fruit candies to Chef Mehta, chicken livers and peppermint to Chef Guarnaschelli, clams and strawberries to Chef Appleman and squid and marshmallows to Chef Freitag.

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Crazy Clams

Chef Nate opts for an acqua pazza, which translates to crazy water in Italian, to showcase his clams and strawberries. It's traditionally prepared with tomatoes, but today he's letting ripe berries be the star of the dish. "They both have a really nice sweetness and nice acidity," he says, comparing tomatoes and strawberries.

Photo By: Eddy Chen/Creel Films ©2012, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Mint Condition

Even with the disparate ingredient combination of chicken livers and peppermints, Chef Alex finds one of her greatest challenges to be cooking in a small kitchen. She manages to score a few stovetop burners to reduce peppermints in balsamic vinegar, which she'll serve with a salad and chicken liver mousse. "I tried to imagine what would happen if a mint-candy truck crashed into a French bistro," she explains.

Photo By: Eddy Chen/Creel Films ©2012, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Sweet and Savory Seafood

"I don't ever think seafood should be paired with marshmallows," Chef Freitag says, but nevertheless, she's tasked with marrying calamari with these soft, sweet bites. She adds a bit of horseradish to marshmallow cream to strip it of its sweetness, and serves the mixture with grilled squid, fried tentacles and a warm, smoky Hungarian paprika sauce.

Photo By: Eddy Chen/Creel Films ©2012, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Match Made in Culinary Heaven

Although he's not impressed with Chef Marcel's tawny port sauce, Iron Chef Zakarian is utterly wowed by the pairing of blue cheese ice cream with peanut butter brittle and praline. "I would give this a 50-year marriage probability," he remarks.

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Candy Man

Although he's never before tasted flavored fruit candies, Chef Mehta devises a plan to strip them of their traditional candy flavor and feature them in a chimichurri sauce alongside grilled bone marrow. Not completely satisfied with the lime candies as they are, however, Chef Mehta uses them to make new candies, this time rolled in chili salt and deep-fried.

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Squid Meets Marshmallows

"This is the one I've been dreading," Simon Majumdar tells Chef Freitag of her mismatched ingredients. He and the rest of the panel, however, are pleasantly surprised by what he calls an "incredibly successful" marriage, and her dish is named the best of the day. "I'm the only chef that has won two challenges," Chef Freitag says excitedly.

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Narrow Escape

Despite a potential lack of fusion in her dish, Chef Alex is deemed safe from the Secret Ingredient Showdown on account of its standout taste, and while she's overcome with relief, she knows she needs to bring her A-game in the future. "While I don't want to be on the bottom, I certainly would like to win," she notes. "I think it's time for me to deliver some really refined dishes to the judges."

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Battle Shrimp

Instead of battling in a traditional kitchen, Chefs Appleman and Mehta meet Alton at Shibuya, a Japanese restaurant, for a shrimp showdown teppanyaki-style. In this head-to-head cook-off, they have access to only a flattop griddle and limited pantry ingredients, but both are confident in working with shrimp.

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Last-Chance Pancake

Chef Appleman sets off to make okonomiyaki, a Japanese pancake, with shrimp and fresh peas, although on his first attempt at flipping the pancake, it falls apart. "It's a disaster," he admits. "I start to panic at this moment." Luckily, he's able to change his pancake preparation and successfully flip enough okonomiyaki for the judges.

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Love On a Plate

"I am cooking for survival," Chef Mehta explains, "so the most important thing was to bring my love, the emotions, everything that I have onto this plate." He ultimately looks to prepare seared shrimp with cumin and mustard seeds and a mung bean salad.

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Head First

Despite the effort Chef Appleman puts into his pancake, it's deemed the weakest element of his dish. The lemon-scented shrimp head, however, which he decides to feature with just minutes left to cook, is the star of the plate, with Simon calling it "a delivery system for some extra flavor."

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Comfort Zone

Donatella compliments Chef Mehta for cooking within his "happy place" of Indian cuisine, but Iron Chef Zakarian finds the cumin to be too intense in the dish.

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Chef Mehta's Graceful Exit

Iron Chef Zakarian calls both rivals' dishes "average," but in the end, Chef Mehta is eliminated just two weeks short of the finale. Looking back on his road to redemption, Chef Mehta reflects, "I did this to win. Being The Next Iron Chef is the only redemption."

Photo By: Eddy Chen/Creel Films ©2012, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

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