Behind the Scenes of Season 2

Go on set with Alton Brown, the judges and the competitors.

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Photo By: Michael Moriatis

Photo By: Michael Moriatis

Photo By: Michael Moriatis

Photo By: Michael Moriatis

Photo By: Michael Moriatis

Photo By: Michael Moriatis

Photo By: Mark Hill

Photo By: Jace Downs

Photo By: Michael Moriatis

Photo By: Michael Moriatis

Photo By: Michael Moriatis

Photo By: Michael Moriatis

Photo By: Mark Hill

Photo By: Mark Hill

Photo By: Jace Downs

Photo By: Jace Downs

Photo By: Jace Downs

Photo By: Mark Hill

Photo By: Mark Hill

Photo By: Mark Hill

Photo By: Jace Downs

Photo By: Jace Downs

Photo By: Mark Hill

Photo By: Mark Hill

Photo By: Jace Downs

Photo By: Steve Dietl

Photo By: Mark Hill

Photo By: Mark Hill

Photo By: Mark Hill

Photo By: Steve Dietl

Photo By: Jace Downs

Photo By: Mark Hill

Photo By: Mark Hill

Photo By: Mark Hill

Photo By: Jace Downs

Photo By: Mark Hill

Photo By: Mark Hill

Photo By: Jace Downs

Photo By: Mark Hill

Photo By: Jace Downs

Week 6: Let the Gauntlet Begin

After weeks of competition, Chef LeFevre earned his place in the gauntlet — and now the real competition began. Iron Chef Stephanie Izard, who won this competition last year, was his first rival, and it was up to him to pick the Secret Ingredient. In a risky move, he chose goat, which happens to be her signature ingredient.

Savory vs. Sweet (Kind Of)

True to her style, Iron Chef Izard opted for an oddball ice cream concept. This time it was a goat’s-milk ice cream with crumbled sausage in the ultimate mash-up of savory and sweet. For Chef LeFevre, the approach was more traditional – a deeply savory preparation of goat loin atop couscous. While the judges loved his plating, they were less impressed with the look of hers.

Fishing for a Win

Come the second battle, Chef LeFevre opted for seafood — his signature ingredient — instead of bacon, which is his challenger, Iron Chef Michael Symon, surely loves. This time around, the Iron Chef smoked his fish, while Chef LeFevre brought the heat with a grilled presentation. For judge Marcus Samuelsson, though, some of those flavors were lost when Chef LeFevre used avocado and citrus so freely.

Third and Final Chance

In the last battle, this time against Iron Chef Alex Guarnaschelli, Chef LeFevre once again chose the ingredient he’d like to use most — uni — when faced with both eggplant and uni on the altar in this all-important showdown.

Looks vs. Flavor

Though Iron Chef Guarnaschelli’s soup was not the most visually stunning, the toast she paired with it was a knockout, and even Chef LeFevre’s risotto dish couldn’t best it.

So, So Close

Despite a strong and impressive showing over three intense battles, Chef LeFevre ultimately did not best the team of Iron Chefs, though he did out-cook Iron Chef Izard in the first battle and tie with Iron Chef Symon in the second. The Iron Chefs earned just two more points than he did, which means that his quest for the title of Iron Chef ended here.

Week 5: Now or Never

In the final Chairman’s Challenge of the season, Alton unveils a test of adaptability, tasking the remaining three to make a single dish out of not one but two tricky ingredients. And to raise the stakes even more, he announces that one person will be going home before the Secret Ingredient Showdown.

High Hopes, Dashed

Chef Balloo proclaims, “Today is the day I’m going to win a challenge.” Unfortunately, though, this doesn’t pan out, as he’s sent home following a dish that failed to showcase one of his ingredients — beer — thoroughly.

Welcome to Kitchen Stadium

Alton moves the competition to Kitchen Stadium for this all-important Secret Ingredient Showdown, and true to form, the grand arena brings out all the nerves in Chefs Gomes and LeFevre. Their mission: chops.

Mission: Simplicity

Chef LeFevre’s plan is simple — literally. He opts to do a trio of pretty classic preparations for his chop dishes, including a grilled tomahawk ribeye. He’s worried, however, that the approach might be too simple.

Intricate Approach

If Chef LeFevre is staying reserved in this battle, Chef Gomes is going for broke. She not only takes some meat off the chop and preps a tartare, but she also stuffs chorizo patties in caul fat-wrapped lamb chops.

Gauntlet-Bound

Both challengers get rave reviews from judges Rocco DiSpirito and Iron Chef Cat Cora, but ultimately it’s Chef LeFevre who earns the coveted ticket into the gauntlet. He out-performed his rival by six points, which means his sights are now set on rivals of a different league: Iron Chefs Guarnaschelli, Izard and Symon.

Week 4: A Genius Approach

The stage was set for an ingenious showdown this week, and the episode started the way most days begin: with breakfast. But in true Iron Chef fashion, the challengers’ dishes went above and beyond cereal and toast.

Celebratory Crepes

After several flopped attempts, Chef Gomes finally managed to turn out Asian-style savory crepes, and Alton was so pleased with her efforts that he awarded her the win this week — for the season week in a row, that is.

Quality Feedback

When Alton reviews challengers’ dishes, he does so with the utmost care, thought and respect of what the chef has offered him. Just look at his focus!

All-in-One Breakfast

Chef LeFevre combined what felt like every breakfast item in the world into one little glass, and while the approach was risky, it was a hit with Alton. But despite his success — and likely because of it — he ended up in the Secret Ingredient Showdown against Chef Thaimee, after Chef Gomes selects him as her opponent.

The Middle of the Pack

This week marks the midpoint of the competition, and still Chef Balloo hasn’t landed in the Secret Ingredient Showdown. Though he hasn’t lost a challenge yet, he hasn’t won one either. If he wants to step up and wow Alton ahead of the gauntlet, the time to showcase his strengths is now.

Battle Scallops

It’s no secret that Chef LeFevre has a penchant for seafood, so this week’s Showdown altar was all but a gift for him. His trio of offerings showcased scallops’ ability to be served both raw and cooked, and the judges appreciated his techniques.

An Impressive Exit

For the second week in a row, Chef Thaimee cooked in the Secret Ingredient Showdown, but ultimately, her luck ran out this time as she failed to best Chef LeFevre. With a four-point lead, he earned the right to continue to next week’s penultimate episode, while Chef Thaimee was sent home.

Week 3: A World of Versatility

Alton Brown unveiled an altar with global implications this week; not one but five internally focused sets of Secret Ingredients were up for grabs, one representing a different country around the world, and each challenger was tasked with bringing that cuisine to life through the lens of versatility. Though Chefs Thaimee and Tien were hoping to land Thailand and Japan, respectively, as they’re both naturally familiar with those styles of cooking, neither one was fortunate enough.

Getting There

For Chef LeFevre, the challenge to cook Japanese food was a test in restraint. He opted to do a simple ahi tuna presentation, but such a classic dish demanded that every element be just right. He manages to pull it off — mostly — though Alton notes that there’s a lack of salt in his sauce.

Choices and Consequences

Feta, eggplant and lamb were on the Greek altar for Chef Thaimee, though the challenger chose to use only feta and pair it with sweetened tomatoes for yet another ice cream dish. Alton pressed her on her plan to forgo the lamb, but she was intent in her decision. Ultimately, her offering didn’t give Alton the Greek vibes he needed, and she headed into the Secret Ingredient Showdown.

A Strong Showing

Though Chef Gomes was worried about running of time while prepping her Indian dish—even Alton told her that she had the hardest job this week—the challenger managed to present an impressive offering. And she won. The host awarded her top honors this week, and she earned the right to choose who Chef Thiamee would battle in the Secret Ingredient Showdown.

Ready, Set, Wild Boar

Chef Tien, who faced off in the Secret Ingredient Showdown just last week, returned as Chef Thaimee’s challenger this week with a meaty altar: wild boar. Like his competitor, he too opted to stay with what he knew, opting for a trio of Asian-inspired dishes.

Safe, Barely

As both challengers were relatively unfamiliar with boar, their dishes weren’t as strong as they’d likely otherwise be — and the judges noticed. Both Chefs Thaimee and Tien received low scores from Iron Chef Jose Garces and Anne Burrell, but ultimately Chef Thaimee out-battled her rival by just one point to advance to next week’s contest.

Week 2: Innovate and Entice

When Alton unveils an altar of bread with which the challengers innovate sandwiches, chefs react with both sweet and savory intentions.

Plan B

When Alton questions Chef Balloo’s plans to make a simple toad-in-the-hole egg sandwich, the challengers upends his prep and starts his dish over again, this time opting to make a deconstructed sandwich. Though unusual, his dish goes over well with Alton, though the host warns him and all challengers to stand by their food.

Dessert Admiration

Chef Thaimee’s ice cream sandwich — smeared with Thai iced team ice cream — is the best of the day, according to Alton. She’s given an automatic pass to next week and the advantage of choosing which chef will battle Chef McKay in the Secret Ingredient Showdown. Her pick? Chef LeFevre, whose Mediterranean-inspired flatbread wasn’t a hit with Alton.

Mission: Beets

Chef LeFevre admits that beets, the Secret Ingredient awaiting him and Chef McKay on the altar, are a love-them-or-hate-them kind of ingredient. His plan is to showcase them alongside seafood in a trio of offerings, similar to Chef McKay who’s featuring a duo of seafood as well.

Chef LeFevre Lives

Though both chefs present impressive beet plates, ultimately it’s Chef LeFevre who survives to next week, as judges Iron Chef Marc Forgione and Judy Joo award him four more points than his rival.

Week 1: A Resourceful Start

In the Chairman’s Challenge battle of resourcefulness, each of the competitors found themselves working with a specific protein, meat like chicken and duck and seafood like lobster and salmon.

Meeting the Demands

Chef Balloo, who wound up with octopus, took the challenge to heart, recreating a classic spaghetti and meatballs presentation in the form of seafood: octopus noodles, octopus meatballs and a squid-ink sauce. According to Alton, it was GOOD!

Alton Sees All

Thanks to his perch in the Gauntlet arena, which features multiple monitors displaying every camera in the kitchen, Alton is keenly aware of what goes on at each person’s station at all time. Nothing is getting past him.

Risotto Plus Plastic

Though Chef LeFevre wasn’t thrilled to be working with chicken, he made the best of it and managed to plate up an impressive risotto dish — complete with a piece of plastic. Alton, of course, was not pleased, though the host admitted that the dish was still the best-tasting of the day.

Quick Check-In

Alton dropped by each competitor’s station as the Chairman’s Challenge unfolded and questioned them about their plans of attack for the battle.

Keeping Track

All the challengers were given notebooks at the start of production, and they’re theirs to use as they please. Most chefs opted to make in-challenge notes and jot down quick ideas in the heat of battle.

Highs and Lows

“It’s a mess,” Alton told Chef Thaimee rather bluntly of her salmon-focused plate. However, when it comes to the flavor of her offering, it was indeed spot-on. She survived to cook another day, but Alton warned her, “Clean up your station.”

Panna Cotta Conundrum

Despite Chef Roland’s best intentions for her lobster-studded panna cotta, the dish proved to be too loose, and ultimately the misstep landed her in the Secret Ingredient Showdown. Her rival, Chef Tien, joined her in this face-off with a particularly fishy Secret Ingredient: Spanish Mackerel.

Early-Round Loss

Chef Tien admitted to being the youngest chef in this competition, and while others perhaps guessed that they’d struggle because of that, he proved them wrong with a win over Chef Roland in the Secret Ingredient Showdown. He ousted his competitor 35-24 following a tally of scores from this week’s judges, Iron Chef Geoffrey Zakarian and Ching-He Huang.

Contestants Kevin Tien and Hong Thaimee stand before Judges Jose Garces and Anne Burrell, as seen on Iron Chef Gauntlet, Season 2.