The competition kicks off with Alton Brown's Chairman's Challenge that forces the seven chefs to show their resourcefulness by using a single protein in as many ways as possible. When one chef takes too many risks and another isn't risky enough, one of them ends up in the bottom. Then, things get real when two chefs fight to avoid elimination in a fishy first Secret Ingredient Showdown, and judges Iron Chef Geoffrey Zakarian and Ching-He Huang send one chef packing.
The six remaining chefs are breaking bread together as they're tasked with crafting an innovative sandwich in the Chairman's Challenge. An underdog impresses the other chefs, and the winner of the challenge hones their strategy by pitting two front-runners against each other in a Secret Ingredient Showdown featuring a colorful root vegetable. Their dishes are presented to judges Iron Chef Marc Forgione and Judy Joo, and one chef is sent home.
The five chefs must prove their versatility as they take on the Chairman's Challenge to create a dish that epitomizes the cuisine of one of five countries: Thailand, India, Spain, Greece or Japan. It's clear that no one is safe when a previous week's winner lands on the bottom. Then, the competition is neck and neck when two chefs face a particularly tough Secret Ingredient Showdown featuring a game meat, and judges Iron Chef Jose Garces and Anne Burrell send one chef home.
The final four chefs are tasked with showing their ingenuity by creating an inventive breakfast for the Chairman's Challenge. One chef reimagines steak and eggs with a modern Asian twist, while another competitor might not have made their dish ingenious enough. Then it's on to a Secret Ingredient Showdown with shellfish, where a solid contender must go up against one of the most creative chefs in the competition. Iron Chef Alex Guarnaschelli and Simon Majumdar judge their dishes and decide which chef gets eliminated.
Three chefs remain, but only one can survive to face the Gauntlet. The Chairman's Challenge narrows the field by forcing the chefs to adapt when they get to choose two difficult ingredients for their competitors to create one unified dish. Then, the two remaining chefs head to Kitchen Stadium for their last Secret Ingredient Showdown, and judges Iron Chef Cat Cora and Rocco DiSpirito decide who has the chops to enter the Gauntlet.
The last chef standing faces almost insurmountable odds when they must cook their way through the three-round Gauntlet against Iron Chefs Alex Guarnaschelli, Stephanie Izard and Michael Symon. But in a surprise twist, the Chairman allows the challenger to decide which ingredient they'll battle each Iron Chef with, and judges Donatella Arpaia and Marcus Samuelsson decide whether the competitor leaves in defeat or joins the coveted ranks of the Iron Chefs.