"The good stuff always goes to the can," Alton jokes to the rivals before they pick their can of choice from the altar. In this Chairman's Challenge of Transformation, they have just 1 hour to turn less-than-favorable canned meats and seafood into Kitchen Stadium-worthy dishes.
Unsure of what he would find tucked inside his question-mark can, Chef Appleman is "pleasantly surprised" when he sees tuna. He dresses up this flavorless fish with a duo of Italian sauces, puttanesca and basil, but it's his "brilliance," according to Alton, in freezing tuna that saves him from elimination.
Chef Alex's canned ingredient is spiced ham, and while she’s never before tasted it, she admits that she picked it simply "because I thought it was fun" and feels like "going for broke today." She'll feature the ham in herbed ravioli with sugar snap peas, basil pesto and crispy fried sage.
After wasting precious moments trying to open her can, Chef Freitag finally finds "dog-foodish" corned beef inside and must work it in to other, more prominent components of her dish, the mustard greens and roasted potatoes. Iron Chef Zakarian compliments her plate for being "five-star camp food" and "rustic, luxurious and extravagant," but he wonders if the corned beef is merely "garnishy."
Chef Mehta's approach to transforming his canned ingredient is simple: "I will redeem the canned chicken by making it stand out like a lion," he explains. To do so, he prepares a green curry and herbed rice. Although the judges note that the rice is overcooked, Donatella calls his chicken "extremely juicy and transformative."
This proves to be Chef Guarnaschelli's most-difficult day at the judges' table so far. Simon tells her that her ravioli dish was "light and fresh" but ultimately resembled "Kermit in a blender," and Donatella, too, likens her offering to “eating grass.” After presenting, Chef Guarnaschelli predicts, "I don't have a very grassy future."
It's best friends Chefs Spike and Marcel who dish out the bottom-two dishes of the day, a fragmented omelet with Vienna sausage and too-salty clam cakes, respectively, and for that they're heading to the Secret Ingredient Showdown. This particular battle, Chef Guarnaschelli explains, "is not a Showdown. This is a brodown."
Given their long-standing alliance, Chefs Vigneron and Mendelsohn decide to feature both of their dishes on a single plate and present to the judges as a single unit, not individual rivals. "I'm here fighting for my life, but Marcel happens to be one of my great friends, so we both want to be in this together," Chef Spike explains.
The other chefs watch this unprecedented moment in Kitchen Stadium unfold, and most have harsh words for the Showdown rivals. “I think Chef Vigneron and Chef Mendelsohn are making a mockery of this competition. I think it's going to blow up in their faces,” Chef Appleman says, and Chef Falkner agrees, "You don't win Next Iron Chef as a pair."
Chef Mendelsohn presents first and serves a hot laksa with ginger, while Chef Vigneron follows with a cold lobster salad with fresh mango and hibiscus puree. Donatella says that these dishes are both chefs' best so far, but Iron Chef Zakarian notes that the chilled plate should have been served first. Chef Marcel wonders, "Did the bromance backfire on us?"
Despite what Alton calls "a sophomoric stunt," the judges decide to evaluate the chefs individually. Donatella says that both of their dishes are their best offerings so far, but Chef Mendelsohn is ultimately eliminated on account of his dish being less imaginative that his friend’s. "I'm particularly very happy that I lost to Chef Marcel," Chef Mendelsohn says. "My head's up high. I’m not sad."