An Iron Chef must adapt to a secret ingredient that is revealed just moments before cooking. For their next test, host Alton Brown asks the remaining seven chefs endure a tough test of Adaptability. The chefs have 90 minutes to prepare a savory and sweet duo of Mexican-inspired dishes and a creative beverage that successfully utilizes a secret ingredient flown in from Mexico on American Airlines. At the iconic Grand Central Market, the chefs shop for additional indigenous ingredients to effectively capture the heart and soul of Mexican cooking. They are judged on how well they adapt the secret ingredient to their culinary creations. One chef is eliminated.
The six remaining competitors meet acclaimed Indian chef, Suvir Saran, and begin their next test: Pressure. First, the chefs have 30 minutes to capture the essence and balance of Indian fare in just one bite. Then, the chefs attend a Bollywood-style gala to gain a true understanding of the traditional foods and culture of India. With this knowledge, they then have two hours to prepare a five-course Indian feast judged for the authenticity, flavor, drama, and theatrical presentation of the food. Two chefs are eliminated, and the remaining chefs learn they will head to the airport and travel on American Airlines to one of the great culinary hotspots in the world – Tokyo, Japan.
The four remaining chefs board an American Airlines flight and travel to Tokyo, Japan. The chefs begin a culinary adventure into the world of umami (a Japanese term for 'delicious' that is used to describe the fifth taste). First the chefs arrive at a traditional Japanese yakitori grill restaurant where they are asked to use Kikkoman soy sauce to infuse umami into their dishes and enhance the flavor profiles of a variety of ingredients. Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto arrives as a surprise judge for this test. Then the chefs travel through Tokyo to the most renowned culinary academy in the city where they meet Dr. Yukio Hattori, the original Iron Chef Japanese culinary commentator. Dr. Hattori opens the doors to his academy where the chefs are challenged to use different cooking styles in a test that highlights the five tastes: sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and umami. The next chef is eliminated.
The final three chefs undergo a test of Integrity, and how they can honor both personal integrity and integrity of ingredients. At the most famous fish market in the world, Tokyo's Tsukiji fish market, the chefs race to gather ingredients to prepare their version of the most revered and traditional Japanese meal known as kaiseki. This kaiseki meal is filtered through each chef’s unique culinary personality. This traditional Japanese cooking style consists of an elaborately choreographed tasting menu with extreme attention focused on the beauty of each plate and the seasonality of the ingredients. One chef is eliminated, and the last two standing prepare for the final battle in Kitchen Stadium.
The remaining two chefs walk into the hallowed halls of Kitchen Stadium to complete their final test: Imagination. With the Chairman looking on and host Alton Brown (Iron Chef America) commentating from the side, the two finalists compete in a head-to-head battle. Using everything they have learned, they must take the secret ingredient and create a five course meal that reflects the melting pot that is the American culinary experience. One of the chefs will then be selected as the winner and become the new Iron Chef!
The theme this season is “American Cuisine” as 10 esteemed Chefs arrive in Los Angeles ready to prove to the Chairman they have what it takes to become The Next Iron Chef. The Chairman’s charge for this episode is ingenuity and for the Secret Ingredient Challenge, the secret ingredient is bread. The chefs must make a sandwich that represents their personality in 30 minutes. Ingenuity is vital in the Chairman’s Challenge, because the threat of elimination looms as the chefs find themselves on a beach cooking with the one ingredient they said they would want if stranded on a desert island.
After seeing their first fellow chef sent home, the competition among the remaining 9 chefs escalates. In this episode, the Chairman’s charge is INNOVATION and for the Secret Ingredient Challenge, the chefs arrive at a coffee shop where they learn the secret ingredient is COFFEE AND DONUTS. The chefs must create two dishes featuring coffee and donuts in 30 mins. The cooking is fast and furious as the chefs struggle to innovate these American breakfast favorites. The Chairman’s Challenge, builds upon the coffee shop theme by demanding that the chefs INNOVATE classic diner foods like meatloaf, hamburgers and corned beef hash to Iron Chef level in 60 minutes.
In this episode, the remaining 8 chefs grapple with the Chairman’s charge of RESOURCEFULNESS. For the Secret Ingredient Challenge, the secret ingredient is all kinds of pickles. The chefs have 30 minutes to be resourceful in turning pickles into a snack for a field trip. The reason the chefs made portable pickle snacks is that they are going on a fishing field trip. Back in the kitchen with their catch, the Chairman’s Challenge is to cook two fish dishes in 60 minutes using the fish they so resourcefully caught. They can also use the bait from the boat – fresh sardines.
In this episode, the remaining 7 chefs undertake the Chairman’s charge of TRANSFORMATION. In the Secret Ingredient challenge, the secret ingredients are American condiments and sauces like ketchup, ranch dressing and mayonnaise. The chefs have 30 minutes to transform these condiments into a dish of their choosing. The Chairman ups the ante by sending the chefs to the San Diego County Fair where they must gather ingredients from the concession stands in a mad dash and transform fair food (1 fried item, 1 grilled item, 1 item on a stick) into Iron Chef level dishes in 60 minutes. Their cook station: the world’s largest grill “The Outlaw Grill” weighing 27 tons and covering nearly 100 feet of turf this massive piece of equipment can cook 1,000 sausages at once. At one point during this difficult battle, the grill becomes a FIERY INFERNO that torches all the food on it.
And now there are 6 chefs remaining. In this “all-American” episode, the Chairman’s charge is RESPECT. Today’s secret ingredient challenge is to show respect for the potato (the peeling of which was formerly military punishment) by creating a potato dish in 45 minutes. In the Chairman’s Challenge, the chefs are asked to show respect for America by cooking 4 dishes that represent the 4 main regions on the map of the US – north, south, east and west.
Host Alton Brown and the Chairman welcome the remaining five chefs to Las Vegas on the CityCenter promenade and present them with a test of inspiration. World-champion pastry chef Jean-Phlippe Maury meets the contestants in a pastry kitchen with his dessert showpiece collection and reveals chocolate as their secret ingredient. The contenders must then create a wedding-worthy chocolate dessert. For the Chairman's Challenge, the chefs prepare a buffet inspired by the modern Las Vegas surroundings in just three hours, with the threat of a double elimination adding to the pressure.
Stress levels skyrocket as the remaining chefs face the test of seduction. In the Secret Ingredient Challenge, the competitors find themselves at the bar inside Jean-Georges Steakhouse at the Aria Hotel, where they have 30 minutes to create a cocktail and snack using liquor that seduces the judges' taste buds, including guest judge and renowned mixologist Charlotte Voisey. Next, the chefs meet host Alton Brown in a posh Sky Villa on Aria Hotel's 59th floor for the Chairman's Challenge. They have only 90 minutes to create an elaborate three-dish meal using luxurious ingredients gathered from restaurants in the hotel. Two chefs leave in an intense double elimination, and the last two standing prepare for the final battle in Kitchen Stadium.
After a season packed with grueling challenges, only two chefs remain to battle it out for the ultimate culinary title of Iron Chef. The challengers head to New York for a Thanksgiving-themed showdown in legendary Kitchen Stadium, where they face a true Iron Chef challenge: prepare five creative and delicious dishes in 60 minutes using the always-feared Secret Ingredient. In addition to the season's three judges, the finalists also try to impress special guest judges, Iron Chefs Bobby Flay and Masaharu Morimoto. In the end, only one chef will reign supreme to earn the title of The Next Iron Chef.