Allergy warning: This blog contains dairy, nuts, and spoilers.
On Next Iron Chef: Super Chefs (Sun, 9 p.m. ET, Food Network), the remaining chefs -- Geoffrey Zakarian, Michael Chiarello, Elizabeth Falkner, and Alex Guarnaschelli -- faced freaky chefonomics: each got $500 and two hours to make a three-course seafood menu for 20 Hamptons residents. The result would subtract not one but two chefs.
To make the challenge a little more, well, challenging, the chefs had to cook outdoors. Chiarello got burned, Falkner worried about losing a finger due to jostling, Guarnaschelli tore a lobster limb from spiny limb, and Zakarian sported a number of Hello Kitty bandages.
Guarnaschelli presented the judges with raw fluke with tomato jam, smoked clam chowder, and lobster hollandaise, which showed her passion for nose to tail cooking. The judges -- Iron Chef Michael Symon, Iron Chef America Judy Joo, and Simon Majumdar -- served warm praise and light hand-smacking: Majumdar said there was too much salt, Symon said there was too little, and Joo was over-hollandaised.
Falkner's passion for her surroundings was reflected in smoked scallops on corn puree; cioppino; and Vichyssoise chowder. Majumdar literally licked his soup bowl, but Falkner looked concerned that his dissatisfaction over "flaccid" bass skin could mean premature ejection, or failure to achieve an election to go all the way.
Zakarian's menu showed passion for his family via the beaches they've visited: a St. Bart's-themed sea bass salad; a Mediterranean-inspired blackfish minute steak with lemon tapenade; and a Brittany-influenced roast scallop sausage sandwich with spicy clam risotto. The consensus was sensational flavors, un-pretty presentation.
Chiarello took the passion theme through the ages, starting with Venus for his scallop with carrot caponata; forbidden fruit with tuna crudo arrabiata; and how meeting his wife was a fluke (get it?) for his smoked fluke with gribiche. Symon pronounced the scallop slightly overcooked; ouch! Zakarian, can you spare a Hello Kitty bandage?
The highlight of judgment was Majumdar declaring, "I'd rather eat a dish where she fails interesting than someone else's dish where they achieve mediocre." That needs to be on a T-shirt.
Proceed if you like roasted spoiler: The winner of the passion challenge was... Zakarian! Chiarello came in second, and the eliminated chef was... Guarnaschelli.
The Secret Ingredient Showdown challenge was creating three one-bite offerings from wine and crackers. Chiarello's chicken liver mousse with cabernet mustard, sardine escabeche with panzanella, and goat cheese with cabernet caviar did canapé combat with Falkner's chicken liver mousse with red wine syrup, shrimp and grits, and curried lamb meatball.
Decision time. If only our congresspeople looked as concerned about matters affecting our nation as the Iron Chef judges did in choosing a winner -- and we're not even at the finale. Spoiler hors d'oeuvre, anyone? The winner was... Falkner!
In light of the stakes -- culinary immortality, as Alton put it -- the chefs threw down their oven mitt-shaped gauntlets. Falkner: "I'm going to kill it." Zakarian: "You will go down." We need another Hello Kitty bandage over here, stat!
Teaser highlights for next week's finale: The eliminated chefs return to assist the challengers! The Chairman finally shows up! And a new Iron Chef will reign supreme ...