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'Iron Chef America' Challenger Lee Hillson Heads to The Phoenician

'Iron Chef America' Challenger Lee Hillson Heads to The Phoenician

The celebrity chef to oversee the hotel’s culinary program starting Sept. 17

Former Iron Chef America challenger Lee Hillson has been named executive sous chef at The Phoenician in Scottsdale, Ariz. Hillson was the executive chef at T. Cook's at the Royal Palms Resort and Spa in Phoenix and had a notable battle with Iron Chef Cat Cora on the Food Network show Iron Chef America.

Hillson has cooked at the James Beard House in New York, created meals for former President George W. Bush, singer Barbra Streisand, the late Princess Diana, and singer Billy Joel, and created the First Class menu for British Airways’ Phoenix to London flights.

Hillson will oversee the 150-member culinary staff and contribute to menu creation and preparation at resort restaurants Il Terrazzo, Relish Burger Bistro, the Café and Ice Cream Parlor, and the Oasis Grill. Hillson begins his post Sept. 17.

Located at the base of Camelback Mountain, the Phoenician includes the 583-room resort and 60-room Canyon Suites plus nine kitchens. Hillson is known for creating house-made products while maintaining a commitment to sustainability.

Lauren Mack is the Travel Editor at The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @lmack.

The Untold Truth Of Iron Chef

Many an American movie or television program originated in another country. The Office, The Departed, and House of Cards are just a few. Food Network drew its inspiration from a hit Japanese show to mold an American version. But adapted foreign ideas aren't always a sure hit. Iron Chef had a cult following prior to the American version hitting the airwaves. The shows are similar but also vastly different. So what was really happening? Let's take a look at Iron Chef and break it all down.

Bobby Flay Explains Why He Quit Iron Chef During Filming&mdashand Why Food Network Was 'Not Thrilled'

"I&rsquove done over 100 Iron Chef competitions, and frankly they are exhausting," the celebrity chef says.

After reports surfaced that Bobby Flay abruptly quit Iron Chef Showdown during filming, the celebrity chef initially brushed off the incident as a joke. Now, Flay has confirmed he indeed will no longer be competing on the show𠅊nd is explaining his decision.

“I’ve done over 100 Iron Chef competitions, and frankly they are exhausting,” Flay said on Saturday during the South Beach Wine & Food Festival. “They are exhausting physically but, even moreso, they are exhausting emotionally.”

“When I do a season, I do between 6 and 8 [battles] in a week and it crushes me because it’s 60 minutes of pure energy, creativity and execution,” he said during an “In Conversation” discussion moderated by Michael Symon. 𠇊nd so at some point I was like, ‘I’ve been doing this for a long time and I want to go out on a high note.&apos”

During his final competition over the summer, Flay removed his chef’s coat 20 minutes in to reveal a shirt that read: “THIS IS MY LAST IRON CHEF BATTLE EVER.” Flay explained that the drama of the stunt was precisely why he did it. “I wanted everyone to know that this is my last Iron Chef battle,” he said. 𠇊nd my objective, though it was probably not the best idea, was that that’s what would be filmed. When the camera’s on you, that’s what the viewer would see. So I did it.”

Though he said the Food Network has been “incredibly supportive of everything that I do,” Flay acknowledged that this was one exception. “The network was not thrilled,” he said. “I thought it would be good TV. They didn’t think of it that way, and that’s obviously their prerogative.”

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“[Food Network] said to me, ‘Why didn’t you tell us?’, and I was like ‘I didn’t tell anyone. That’s the whole point, that it’s a surprise!&apos” he said.

The Beat Bobby Flay star also revealed that the network 𠇋lacked out” the incident for airing—which he acknowledged is a “really expensive thing to do.”

Still, Flay, who has been on the network since 1996 and hosted over a dozen shows, insists there is no bad blood over the incident. “It was no big deal,” he said, adding that he would 𠇌onsider it” if they asked him to return—though he wants to pave the way for the next generation.

“I think that Iron Chef is a great place for new and younger people to come on and start taking the reins,” he said. “How many times do you want to watch Bobby Flay do Iron Chef?”

Flay was honored at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival tribute dinner at the Loews Miami Beach Hotel on Saturday, with food cooked by fellow Food Network stars like Giada De Laurentiis, Alex Guarnaschelli, Michael Symon and Masaharu Morimoto.


Battle of the Masters: 2004 Edit

Iron Chef America was first aired as a mini-series entitled Iron Chef America: Battle of the Masters. For Battle of the Masters, two of the original Iron Chefs competed along with three Food Network personalities in various match ups with one another.

Episode Show # Iron Chef Challenger Iron Chef Secret ingredient Winner Final score [1]
0 IASP05 A special behind-the-scenes preview episode. No battles took place.
1 IANS01 Bobby Flay Hiroyuki Sakai Trout Bobby Flay 55-51
2 IANS02 Mario Batali Masaharu Morimoto Spiny lobster Mario Batali 57-51
3 IANS03 Wolfgang Puck [11] Masaharu Morimoto Eggs Wolfgang Puck 52-47
4 IANS04 Bobby Flay & Masaharu Morimoto Mario Batali & Hiroyuki Sakai Fruits de mer (scallops, langoustine, and sea urchin) Bobby Flay & Masaharu Morimoto 71-55 [12]

^1 This is Wolfgang Puck's only battle as an Iron Chef.
^2 This episode had four judges, and thus a maximum possible score of 80.

Season 1: 2005 Edit

^3 Roberto Donna completed only two of the required five dishes.
^4 The cheeses in this battle consisted of five traditional Italian cheeses: mascarpone, ricotta, Parmigiano-Reggiano, gorgonzola and mozzarella.

Season 2: 2005 Edit

^5 Tamara Murphy is the first female challenger to lose to the Iron Chef. The three previous female competitors won their respective battles.
^6 In this match Milliken and Feniger only had one sous-chef to adhere to the three-to-a-kitchen rule.

Season 3: 2006–2007 Edit

^7 Roberto Donna is the first chef to request a re-match.
^8 First aired on Food Network Canada on May 3, 2006.
^9 Eme brought only one sous-chef to the competition his other sous-chef was needed to operate his restaurant in his absence. Eme is married to actress Jeri Ryan, who later served as a judge on ICA.
^10 Chef Morou won a Washington D.C. preliminary competition in December, 2005 for the chance to compete on the show.
^11 Patricia Yeo is the first former ICA sous chef (under Bobby Flay) to compete against an Iron Chef.
^12 Elizabeth Falkner was a sous chef under Cat Cora for several ICA episodes.
^13 This was a special 90-minute episode that pitted two guest Food Network personalities against each other. Each personality was paired with an Iron Chef.
^14 Walter Royal had a third sous chef for the first five minutes of the competition. This sous chef, who primarily participated by peeling potatoes, was a 12-year-old working in a mentor program with Chef Royal.
^15 This first aired on the Throwdown! with Bobby Flay Marathon on January 1, 2007.

Season 4: 2007 Edit

^16 First aired on Food Network Canada on February 11, 2007.
^17 Lynn Crawford is the first Canadian woman to compete in Kitchen Stadium. She is a Food Network Canada personality as part of the series Restaurant Makeover.
^18 This episode featured a guest mixologist paired with each competing chef. The mixologists were required to prepare a drink to accompany each dish that also highlighted the secret ingredient. The drinks were judged on a 10-point scale (6 for taste, two each for presentation and creativity) which was added to the chef's score for the final score, thus giving a total possible score of 90 points per team. [6]
^19 Consisted of bacon, various breads, chicken eggs, maple syrup, orange juice, and pork sausage.
^20 Chosen to highlight grilling as a cooking method as part of Food Network's "Grillin' & Chillin'" Week.

Season 5: 2007 Edit

^21 Consisted of fresh ingredients purchased from the Green Market at Union Square in New York City, including a variety of winter vegetables, fruit and guinea fowl.
^22 An ICA special based around Symon's debut battle as an Iron Chef.
^23 Other than his preference for farm-fresh ingredients, no formal specialty was announced for Moore. This is the cuisine style attributed to Agraria in Washington, D.C., where Moore is executive chef. [8]
^24 Consisted of traditional American Thanksgiving staples: turkey, sweet potatoes, cranberries, corn, and pumpkin.
^25 An ICA special which featured two teams of Food Network personalities facing off in a holiday dessert battle, with each team having one sous chef instead of the usual two.
^26 First aired on Food Network on January 20, 2008, after the first two episodes of Season 6 were broadcast.

Season 6: 2008 Edit

^27 Oliver's sous chefs were Gennaro Contaldo, his mentor at London's Neal Street Restaurant and his "mate" Andrew Parkinson, also a trained chef, both of whom have previously appeared with him on his television programs.
^28 First aired on Food Network on January 1, 2008, following a marathon replay of The Next Iron Chef.
^29 First aired on Food Network Canada on February 10, 2008 as part of a chocolate-themed program marathon.
^30 First aired during "Brain Freeze Week". In keeping with the theme, the Chairman stipulated each dish must include a frozen element.

Season 7: 2008-2009 Edit

^31 According to the program notes, Adjey and Symon were roommates at the Culinary Institute of America. Adjey is also a Food Network Canada personality as part of the series Restaurant Makeover.
^32 Art Smith is the first Iron Chef America judge to later appear as a challenger.
^33 Cosentino was a competitor with Symon on the first The Next Iron Chef, and was previously defeated by Mario Batali in Battle Garlic.
^34 A special Halloween episode, featuring organ meats (heart, kidney, sweetbreads, tripe, liver) from a variety of animals along with off-cuts such as pig's trotters and coxcomb. The episode also featured appearances by Igor and The Monster from the Broadway production of "Young Frankenstein."
^35 This is the first episode in which the new Iron Chef jackets are worn.
^36 Secret ingredients included duck, heritage turkey, venison, walnuts, Indian corn, lobster and leeks.
^37 One of Amanda Freitag's sous chefs was Ariane Duarte, a contestant on the fifth season of Top Chef. Duarte is not a chef at Freitag's restaurant.
^38 Kaysen was a former competitor on The Next Iron Chef this was his first battle in Kitchen Stadium.
^39 Takeo and Shintaro Okamoto previously appeared on Will Work for Food, training Adam Gertler to sculpt ice for an event.

Season 8: 2010 Edit

^40 A twin-themed battle, featuring Michael Symon lookalike Psilakis (who previously lost to Cat Cora in Battle Puff Pastry), the twin Carro brothers, and twin judges Tia and Tamera Mowry.
^41 There were four judges for this battle, thus a highest possible score of 80, as compared to normal episodes which have three judges and a highest possible score of 60.
^42 First Lady Michelle Obama appeared as a special guest at the beginning of this two-hour episode, where she welcomed the chefs and announced the secret ingredient. This is also the last battle featuring Batali as part of the regular cast it was announced in September 2007 that Batali's contract with Food Network was not being renewed.
^43 In Kitchen Stadium, the Chairman supplemented the secret ingredient with a range of locally and sustainably grown meats and seafood, along with goat cheese, eggs, cider vinegar and honey from the White House beehive.
^44 Garces' debut as Iron Chef, having won the second season of The Next Iron Chef competition
^45 Michael Smith is the host of Food Network Canada's "Chef at Home".
^46 Goldman is also the host of Food Network's Ace of Cakes. His experiences on ICA are included in Ace of Cakes episode DB0808L ("Charm City Throwdown"). Goldman's sous chefs were his former mentor, Jean Llapitan, and Shawn Aoki from the Palace Hotel, San Francisco.
^47 Richard Blais, who previously competed against Iron Chef Batali in Battle Chickpeas, joins Cat Cora's team as a sous chef.
^48 Smith competed on the second season of The Next Iron Chef this is her first battle in Kitchen Stadium
^49 Zakarian appears regularly as a judge on Chopped (TV series).
^50 Fraser requested permission to compete without sous chefs Symon dismissed his upon learning Fraser was competing alone.
^51 This battle was a special grill battle, where each dish was to include a grilled element.
^52 Makoto Okuwa was a sous chef under Iron Chef Morimoto for several ICA episodes.
^53 Crenn competed on the second season of The Next Iron Chef this is her first battle in Kitchen Stadium
^54 This episode was Iron Chef America's first vegetarian battle.
^55 Seamus Mullen competed on the second season of The Next Iron Chef this is his first battle in Kitchen Stadium.
^56 Eric Greenspan competed on the second season of The Next Iron Chef this is his first battle in Kitchen Stadium.

Season 9: 2010-2011 Edit

A modification to the judging was made this season. At the end of each chef's presentation, the Chairman asked each judge to sum up their impressions of the chef's dishes, although not every episode includes this segment.

Episode Show # Iron Chef Challenger Challenger specialty Secret ingredient(s) or theme Winner Final score
1 IA0916H Marc Forgione [67] RJ Cooper Mid-Atlantic regional Bell pepper Marc Forgione 54-45
2 IASP15H Jose Garces Mike Lata Classic Sparkling wine Jose Garces 70-67 [68]
3 IA0910H Michael Symon & Anne Burrell [69] Cat Cora & Robert Irvine [70] Italian (Burrell), International (Irvine) Deep freeze (multiple courses with a specified ingredient, containing a frozen element) Michael Symon & Anne Burrell 50-46
4 IA0902H Bobby Flay Chuck Hughes [71] Québécoise Canadian lobster Chuck Hughes 45-41
5 IA0914H Marc Forgione Nicholas Cantrel French/Mediterranean Gruyère cheese Nicholas Cantrel 51-46
6 IA0917H Jose Garces Michael Solomonov Israeli Passion fruit Jose Garces 75-59 [72]
7 IA0912H Jose Garces Julian Medina [73] Mexican Mexican chocolate Jose Garces 72-71 [74]
8 IA0909H Michael Symon Emma Hearst [75] Italian Mozzarella Michael Symon 53-48
9 IA0913H Cat Cora David Schneider Greek Leg of lamb Cat Cora 55-46
10 IA0915H Jose Garces Vitaly Paley Pacific Northwestern Radish Vitaly Paley 51-46
11 IA0903H Masaharu Morimoto David Pasternack Italian-influenced Seafood Wreckfish Masaharu Morimoto 47-40
12 IA0908H Bobby Flay Todd Stein Modern Italian Mussels Bobby Flay 49-48
13 IA0907H Michael Symon Roger Mooking Mediterranean/Canadian fusion Hot dogs Michael Symon 74-61 [76]
14 IA0904H Bobby Flay Ashley Christensen Southern Chum salmon Bobby Flay 45-35
15 IA0918H Michael Symon Wayne Johnson Pacific Northwestern Cucumber Michael Symon 45-38
16 IA0905H Masaharu Morimoto Jet Tila Pan-Asian Seaweed Masaharu Morimoto 55-51
17 IA0919H Jose Garces Cesare Casella Italian Hawaiian snapper Jose Garces 60-54 [77]
18 IA0911H Cat Cora Robert Carter Southern Okra Cat Cora 51-44
19 IA0901H Bobby Flay Walter Staib Traditional American/Caribbean Short ribs Bobby Flay 69-45 [78]
20 IA0906H Bobby Flay Jason Knibb "Earth-to-Table" Jamaican Caviar Bobby Flay 44-38

^57 Marc Forgione's debut as an Iron Chef, having won season three of The Next Iron Chef. Forgione previously served as a sous chef for Laurent Tourondel in Battle Goat Cheese during Season 3.
^58 ^62 ^64 ^66 ^68 There were four judges for this episode, thus a maximum possible score of 80.
^59 Anne Burrell previously served as one of Mario Batali's sous chefs and hosted the Food Network series Secrets of a Restaurant Chef and Worst Cooks in America.
^60 Iron Chef Cat Cora along with Paula Deen previously defeated Chef Robert Irvine along with Chef Tyler Florence in Battle Sugar.
^61 Chuck Hughes is the host of the Cooking Channel's Chuck's Day Off.
^63 Chef Medina's sous chef, J.C. Pavlovich, previously served as a sous chef for Iron Chef Bobby Flay in multiple battles.
^65 At age 24, Hearst is the youngest challenger in series history.
^67 Iron Chef Jose Garces was the first to receive a perfect score.

Season 10: 2011-2012 Edit

^69 Chef Lee Anne Wong appears on Cooking Channel's "Unique Eats".
^70 The fruitcake used in the episode was Alton Brown's "Free Range Fruitcake" from the Good Eats episode "It's a Wonderful Cake".
^71 Zakarian's debut as an Iron Chef, having won season four of The Next Iron Chef. Iron Chef Zakarian received a perfect score.
^72 Chef Marcela Valladolid appear as the host of the Food Network show Mexican Made Easy. Chef Andrew Zimmern appears on Travel Channel's series Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern and Andrew Zimmern's Bizarre World.
^73 Sea Whistle salmon is sustainably farmed salmon raised off the coasts of Scotland and Ireland in the North Atlantic.
^74 Each judge could award a maximum of 30 points, 20 for food and 10 for the paired cocktails, for a maximum possible score of 90 points.
^75 Chef Jonathan Sawyer was a sous chef under Iron Chef Michael Symon for several ICA episodes.
^76 This battle was a special Tailgate Showdown battle. Each chef prepared five dishes to be prepared and served in the manner of tailgating. The battle was held at the Marine Corps Base Hawaii at Kane'ohe Bay, Oahu.
^77 Chef Joey Campanaro previously lost to Iron Chef Cat Cora in Battle Venison his brother Lou served as one of his sous chefs in the battle.
^78 Chef Madison Cowan previously appeared on Chopped, and is the first Chopped Grand Champion. His sous chefs were fellow Chopped competitor Lance Nitahara and Chopped judge Amanda Freitag, who competed against Iron Chef Jose Garces in The Next Iron Chef.
^79 A special three-way battle in which each Iron Chef was paired with a chef from a branch of the U.S. military. The battle was held at the U. S. Marine Base Hawaii at Kane'ohe Bay, Oahu. Each team made only three dishes instead of the usual five.
^80 Iron Chef Symon also battled in the previous Battle Octopus, which he lost.
^81 There were four judges for this episode, thus a maximum possible score of 80.
^82 Ingredients included whelk, hearts of palm, coconuts and drinking coconuts, pineapple and mango. Each dish was paired with a cocktail. Each judge could award a maximum of 30 points, 20 for food and 10 for the paired cocktails, for a maximum possible score of 90 points.

Season 11: 2012-2013 Edit

Starting in Season 11, the first dish is due to the judges 20 minutes after the start of the battle. Additionally, a culinary curveball—an ingredient, piece of equipment, or plating device—is announced by the chairman part way through the battle. Each chef is required to integrate the item into at least one of their remaining dishes, and receives scoring from the judges based on the item's use. Up to 30 points are awarded for taste, 15 for plating, 15 for creativity, 15 for the first dish, and 15 for use of the culinary curveball, for a possible total of 90 points.

Episode Show # Iron Chef Challenger Challenger specialty Secret ingredient(s) or theme "Culinary curveball" Winner Final score
1 IASP20H Michael Symon, Marc Forgione and Geoffrey Zakarian Aarón Sanchez, Scott Conant and Marc Murphy [93] Mexican (Sanchez), Italian (Conant), French-American (Murphy) Thanksgiving leftovers Liquid nitrogen Michael Symon, Marc Forgione and Geoffrey Zakarian 113-100
2 IASP21H [94] Food Network: Masaharu Morimoto, Robert Irvine and Ted Allen The Cooking Channel: Michael Symon, Nadia G, Ben Sargent International (Irvine), American (Allen), Contemporary (Nadia G), Seafood (Sargent) Gingerbread Eggnog Food Network 82-78
3 IA1111H [95] Alex Guarnaschelli Judy Joo French Mortadella Ebelskiver pan Alex Guarnaschelli 80-75
4 IA1101H Bobby Flay Viet Pham Modern American Ground meat Shrimp Viet Pham 80-73
5 IA1120H Geoffrey Zakarian Michael Chiarello Regional Italian Scotch whisky Scotch bonnet chile Geoffrey Zakarian 78-70
6 IA1114H [96] Marc Forgione Ian Kittichai Modern Thai Tea Coffee beans Marc Forgione 78-69
7 IA1102H [97] Michael Symon Celina Tio Modern American Plums Melon baller Michael Symon 88-75
8 IA1112H [98] Masaharu Morimoto Homaru Cantu Molecular gastronomy Herring Distilled white vinegar Masaharu Morimoto 89-67
9 IA1103H Bobby Flay Micah Wexler Contemporary Mediterranean Wild striped bass Smoking gun Bobby Flay 79-74
10 IA1105H Bobby Flay Hong Thaimee Thai Tamarind Almonds Bobby Flay 72-65
11 IA1118H Jose Garces Russell Jackson Subculture Cuisine Rhubarb Apple juice Jose Garces 71-62

Iron Chef America Tournament of Champions Edit

In this first ever Iron Chef vs. Iron Chef tournament, the four newest Chefs compete to take on either Iron Chef Symon or Iron Chef Morimoto, with the winners of those battles going head-to-head. Bobby Flay served as head judge in the finale.

Episode Show# Round Iron Chef #1 Iron Chef #2 Secret ingredient(s) or theme "Culinary curveball" Winner Final score
12 IA1106H 1 Geoffrey Zakarian Alex Guarnaschelli Potato chips French press Geoffrey Zakarian 83-76
13 IA1104H 1 Marc Forgione Jose Garces Peanut butter and jelly Straws Jose Garces 79-66
14 IA1108H 2 Geoffrey Zakarian Michael Symon Wings Peanuts Michael Symon 82-76
15 IA1107H 2 Masaharu Morimoto Jose Garces Liver Electric juicer Jose Garces 79-75
16 [12] IA1110H 3 Michael Symon Jose Garces Pretzels Blow torch Michael Symon 79-74

Season 11, continued Edit

^83 Chefs Aaron Sanchez, Scott Conant and Marc Murphy appear regularly as a judges on Chopped (TV series). Chef Aarón Sanchez previously tied Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto in Battle Black Bass (Season 2), and Chef Marc Murphy previously lost to Iron Chef Bobby Flay in Battle Breakfast (Season 4).
^84 This battle features three chefs representing Food Network versus three chefs representing The Cooking Channel. Chef Irvine has appeared twice previously on Iron Chef America, as well as competing in The Next Iron Chef season 4. Ted Allen is the host of Chopped, and a regular judge on Iron Chef America. Nadia G. hosts Bitchin' Kitchen, and Ben Sargent hosts Hook, Line and Dinner on The Cooking Channel.
^85 This battle is Guarnaschelli's debut as an Iron Chef, having won season 5 of The Next Iron Chef. She served as a sous chef for Iron Chef Geoffrey Zakarian during season 10. Chef Judy Joo appears as an Iron Chef on Iron Chef UK and was a judge on the fourth season of "The Next Iron Chef", in which Iron Chef Guarnaschelli previously competed.
^86 Chef Kittichai previously lost to Iron Chef Batali in Battle Lentils in season 3. Chef Kittichai appears as an Iron Chef on Iron Chef Thailand.
^87 Chef Tio was a participant in season three of "The Next Iron Chef", in which Iron Chef Symon was a Judge.
^88 This is a rematch between Iron Chef Morimoto and Chef Cantu. In Battle Beet, Chef Cantu defeated IC Morimoto by one point.
^89 Iron Chef Forgione served as the sous chef for his father during this match.

Season 12: 2013-2014 Edit

^90 Chef Spike Mendelsohn previously lost to Iron Chef Michael Symon in Battle Prosciutto in season 8.
^91 The secret ingredient consisted of five "scary" pairs of ingredient: avocado and coffee, chile and vanilla, pickle and peanut butter, mushrooms and apricots, and marrow bones and fruit candy. The chefs were required to prepare one dish using each combination of ingredients. The Culinary Curveball consisted of one trick and one treat hidden from the chefs' view the challengers, having won the first dish, were given first choice of ingredient and chose the trick.
^92 The secret ingredient consisted of the chairman's favorite ingredients from past holiday competitions: fruitcake, gingerbread, egg nog, and champagne.
^93 The curveball consisted of three different presents. The winning team from the first dish picked first and got apple cider. The other two teams got candy canes and popcorn.
^94 Each of the dishes prepared must be eaten with one hand. The ingredients include artificial cheese, hero rolls, and hot dogs.
^95 The secret ingredient consisted of caviar, wagyu beef, oysters, Maine lobsters, champagne, chocolate and truffles.
^96 The secret ingredient included shrimp, octopus, prosciutto, and beef.
^97 Chef Elizabeth Falkner previously lost to Iron Chef Cat Cora in Battle Honey in season 3.
^98 The secret ingredient included suckling pig, tuna, lichee, coconut, banana, pineapple, papaya, and Kona coffee from which the chefs must create five desserts. The chefs were required to use five of the ingredients from the table and no butter or sugar in the first dish.
^99 The secret ingredient includes gin, vermouth, tequila, pork rinds, cherries, and olives. It also includes anything found at a bar.
^100 The episode theme is a play on the 1960s film "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" and the secret ingredient includes: water chesnuts, Granny Smith apples, iceberg lettuce, kumquats and more. Each dish had to have a take on drinks from the 1960s.

Iron Chef Showdown Edit

Iron Chef returned to Food Network on November 8, 2017 as a ten episode series called Iron Chef Showdown. Iron Chefs Bobby Flay, Jose Garces, Alex Guarnaschelli, and Michael Symon return for this series they are joined by the newest Iron Chef, Iron Chef Gauntlet winner Stephanie Izard. [13] [14] [15] [16] Iron Chef Showdown featured several rules differences from Iron Chef America and is therefore considered a series of its own rather than the thirteenth season of Iron Chef America. Iron Chef America would return to the air six months later, in May 2018.

Season 13: 2018 Edit

Food Network announced that Iron Chef America would return in its original format, with new episodes beginning May 20, 2018. [17] [18] Two format changes implemented in Iron Chef Showdown were retained: the number of judges has been reduced to two, and there is no Culinary Curveball.

Each judge can award up to 25 points: 10 for flavor, 5 for plating, 5 for creativity, and 5 for the first dish, for a total of 50 points. Alongside the judges, the Chairman sits at judge's table during judging. This season Jet Tila serves as the floor reporter, succeeding Kevin Brauch and Jaymee Sire.

Episode Show # Iron Chef Challenger Challenger specialty Secret ingredient(s) or theme Winner Final score
1 [19] Alex Guarnaschelli Brittanny Anderson German/American Blue cheese Alex Guarnaschelli 44-40
2 [20] Stephanie Izard Victoria Blamey Contemporary American Wagyu beef [111] Stephanie Izard 44-37
3 [21] Geoffrey Zakarian Ari Taymor Coastal California Carrots Ari Taymor 42-39
4 [22] Marc Forgione Thai Dang Progressive Vietnamese Swordfish Marc Forgione 47-42
5 [23] Alex Guarnaschelli Douglass Williams Italian Pea Alex Guarnaschelli 41-32
6 [24] Stephanie Izard Erik Battes French Mediterranean Olive Stephanie Izard 42-41
7 [25] Geoffrey Zakarian Fernando Darin Modern American Artichoke Geoffrey Zakarian 45-41
8 [26] Alex Guarnaschelli Justin Sutherland World Cuisine Lamb Justin Sutherland 40-35
9 [27] Geoffrey Zakarian Lee Wolen Contemporary American Clam Geoffrey Zakarian 44-41
10 [28] Jose Garces Carolynn Spence Local Seasonal Cuisine Crab Jose Garces 44-34

^101 As an additional requirement, at least one ingredient or element of each dish was required to be grilled.

The winning percentage for Iron Chefs participating on Iron Chef America is an average. The win/loss data is based solely on the performance of the participant as an Iron Chef in Iron Chef America: The Series and the Battle of the Masters but does not include the results from Iron Chef Showdown.

Iron Chef Seasons Specialty Win Loss Draw Total Win % [112]
Mario Batali (retired) BOM, 1 - 6 Italian 19 5 0 24 79.2%
Cat Cora (retired) 1 - 10 Greek/Mediterranean 21 12 1 34 63.2%
Bobby Flay [113] (Semi retired) BOM, 1 - 12 Southwestern 43 16 2 61 72.1%
Marc Forgione [114] 9 - Modern American 8 7 0 15 53.0%
Jose Garces [115] 8 - Latin Fusion 16 7 0 23 69.6%
Alex Guarnaschelli [116] 11 - Modern American 7 4 0 11 63.6%
Stephanie Izard [117] 13 - Modern American 2 0 0 2 100.0%
Masaharu Morimoto [118] BOM, 1 - Japanese 26 17 1 44 60.2%
Wolfgang Puck (retired) BOM California cuisine 1 0 0 1 100.0%
Michael Symon [119] 5 - Mediterranean 34 7 1 42 82.1%
Geoffrey Zakarian [120] 10 - Modern American 9 5 0 14 64.3%

^101 Based on weighted average (.5 victory for a draw). The win/loss data is based on the performance of the Iron Chef in Iron Chef America: The Series and the Battle of the Masters.
^102 Flay retired as Iron Chef at the end of Iron Chef Showdown.
^103 Forgione's record does not include his victory over Marco Canora in the finale of The Next Iron Chef as Forgione did not hold the title Iron Chef during that battle.
^104 Garces' record does not include his defeat of Flay in Battle Melon, or his victory over Jehangir Mehta in the finale of The Next Iron Chef as Garces did not hold the title Iron Chef during either battle.
^105 Guarnaschelli's record does not include her loss to Cora in Battle Farmer's Market, or her victory over Amanda Freitag in the finale of The Next Iron Chef as Guarnaschelli did not hold the title Iron Chef during either battle.
^106 Morimoto's record includes his battle as a competitor in the Battle of the Masters. It does not include his 16-7-1 record in the original Iron Chef during his tenure as the third Iron Chef Japanese.
^107 Symon's record does not include his loss to Morimoto in Battle Asparagus, or his victory over John Besh in the finale of The Next Iron Chef as Symon did not hold the title Iron Chef during either battle.
^108 Zakarian's record does not include his loss to Morimoto in Battle Sardines, or his victory over Elizabeth Falkner in the finale of The Next Iron Chef as Zakarian did not hold the title Iron Chef during either battle.
^109 Izard's record does not include her victories in Iron Chef Gauntlet as Izard did not hold the title Iron Chef at that time, nor her 2-0 record on Iron Chef Showdown.

News | Lee Hillson New Executive Sous Chef at Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass

The Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass is pleased to announce that Lee Hillson was recently appointed Executive Sous Chef of the resort. Hillson is an expert culinary leader with more than 32 years of experience in the food and beverage industry. He brings an exceptional understanding of the luxury marketplace and consistently executes visionary work.

In his new role as Executive Sous Chef, Hillson will have the significant task of overseeing all meeting and banquet culinary functions at the Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass, including oversight of menus and preparation. This includes overseeing meeting and group banquets, including weddings, event catering, culinary staff recruitment and training. Additionally, Hillson will work closely with resort Executive Chef Thomas Riordan assisting the culinary staff and operating functions at dining outlets across the property.

Most recently Hillson served as the Executive Sous Chef at The Phoenician, where he spent the past four and a half years, and his responsibilities included assisting in management of the culinary staff across resort restaurants including Il Terrazzo, Relish Burger Bistro, the Café and Ice Cream Parlor and the Oasis Grill. Hillson also contributed to menu creation and preparation along with supporting other culinary departments including pastry, bakeshop and in-room dining.

Prior to that he was the Executive Chef at T. Cook’s, the renowned signature restaurant at the Royal Palms Resort and Spa, in Phoenix where he gained national recognition for participation on the Food Network show, Iron Chef America, against Iron Chef Cat Cora. During this same time, British Airways recognized the innovation and talent in Hillson and commissioned him to write a menu for First Class passengers for flights from Phoenix to London.

“It is an honor to become a part of the highly regarded food and beverage family at the Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass,” said Hillson. “I look forward to working with the team to continue pushing the envelope on creative culinary execution and continuing the great gastronomic traditions for which our resort is known.”

“We are very excited to welcome Chef Hillson,” said Thomas Riordan, Executive Chef. “With his culinary pedigree and experience, his enthusiasm for sophisticated cuisine and his leadership qualities, he will be an exceptional addition to the team.”

The Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass is a total destination resort showcasing the heritage, culture, art and legends of the Pima and Maricopa Tribes. The resort offerings include: 500 culturally themed rooms, Forbes Five-Star/AAA Five-Diamond Dining at Kai restaurant, the Forbes Four-Star Aji Spa 36-holes of Troon-managed golf at Whirlwind Golf Club the 1,000-acre Koli Equestrian Center, and several nearby attractions. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram @sheratongrandaz and Twitter.

Iron Chef

Former challenger Kandagawa retaliates against the Iron Chef's by sending his head chef Keisuke Tamano. Tamano challenges Michiba to an utlimate grudge battle. With egos and reputations on the line, who will leave this battle a champion?


Chairman Kaga welcomes Korean Cuisine for the first time to Kitchen Stadium. Lee Myong Suk is the female evangist of korean cuisine in Japan. She challenges Chen Kenichi to the ultimate liver battle. Whose cuisine will reign supreme?


The old and new of French cuisine battle each-other. Challenger, Isao Yanagidate opens the door to the long-term battle between Club Mistral and Club des Trentes when he takes on Iron Chef French, Sakai


Challenger Etsuo Joh, the god of sauces in classic french cuisine takes on the Iron Chef Japanese, Rokusaburo Michiba. Tune in to see if French or Japanese cuisine reigns supreme in this dynamite broccoli battle!


Chairman Kaga invites the very first Diner Cook to compete at Kitchen Stadium. Katsuo Ohmiya, trained in the french tradition, challenges Iron Chef Sakai to a tearful battle! Will the judges be impressed with the everyday chef? Tune in to see.

Lamb Battle

Club Mistral is back for a rematch against Sakai believing the Caviar battle verdict was wrong. Kazutaka Okabe challenges Sakai to a rematch of extreme grandeur. In this battle of pressure and pride, will Okabe win back the honor of Club Mistral?

Battle Blue Crab

In a Blue Crab battle, Challenger Akaboshi Sou, a favorite cook of the Royal Family takes on Iron Chef Michiba.

Battle Sardines

Esteemed Chef and restaurant owner of Italian restaurant Sabatini's in Roppongi, has sent his protégé Yukihiro Noda to go head to head with Iron Chef Chen in a fierce battle with sardines. Will Sardine mousse really win over the judges?

Battle Sole

In a battle for the "sole" of Kitchen stadium, Iron Chef Sakai faces off against the second challenger from Club Mistral, Kazutaka Okabe.

Battle Sweetfish

Returning to Kitchen Stadium is prestigious young Japanese Chef Haruyoshi Omino, Head Chef of Omino Restaurant, Tokyo. Chef Omino's specialty is creating formal Japanese dishes, and will go up against French trained Iron Chef Sakai.

Battle Swallow's Nest

Chef Li Jinlun, the world renowned "Master of Cantonese Food" from the prestigious Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Japan, heads to the Kitchen Stadium to do battle against Iron Chef Chen.

Battle of Eggplant

How will Iron Chef Sakai fight in this battle against Shinichi Suematsu, a nature-loving challenger from Nara, known for his one of a kind Italian dishes?

Sea Urchin: Battle to the Death

Cooking Show Celebrity Hisama Hirano is invited to the kitchen stadium to go head to head with Iron Chef Kenichi. With his entourage of beautiful ladies to impress, will this maverick of Japanese cuisine win the battle or bow to Iron Chef Kenichi?

Battle Umeboshi (Salt Cured plums)

One of the fastest rising Chefs from the ancient Capital of Kyoto Japan, Chef Kenji Kaji, is invited to do battle with Iron Chef Michiba in the Kitchen Stadium. One traditional Japanese-cuisine genius goes into battle with another.

Battle Tomato

Tonight's battle is fierce tag-team event between the Cuomo brothers, and Iron Chefs Sakai and Michiba. Who will come out as the champions in the Italian-inspired dual?

Battle Clam

Female chef Yoshiko Takemasa is so fastidious a chef that she will only cook fish caught by a rod, not a net, to ensure no bruising. This perfectionist female chef chooses to go to battle with Iron Chef Kenichi? who will win this close competition?

Battle Salmon

Chef Joel Bruant, an apprentice of the Emperor of French cuisine Paul Bocuse, hopes to once again defeat Iron Chef French Sakai. The stakes are high as Chef Bruant wants to take the place of Iron Chef Sakai should he indeed win!

Battle Matsutake

Minoru Noba has traveled all the way from Los Angeles to challenge Iron Chef Rokusaburo Michiba in an ultimate Japanese Battle. Will Noba's Snapper and Matsutake with Avocado sauce wow the judges over Iron Chef Michiba's Grilled Matsutake and Prawns?

Battle Crayfish

Chairman Kaga brings in Philippe Aubron, a French Chef from Provence to challenge Iron Chef Sakai in a heated Crayfish battle. Will Aubron defeat Iron Chef Sakai with his elegant dishes, or will Sakai's cuisine reign supreme?

Battle Sea Cucumber

Challenger Tsuguo Fujiwara, the Managing Director of the Chinese's Chef's Association takes on Iron Chef Chen Kenichi in a battle over Sea Cucumber. Will Iron Chef Chen be able to defend his title? Tune in to find out!

Battle Rice

Challenger Sadaharu Nakajima takes on Iron Chef Sakai in a sticky Rice Battle. Will Nakajima's Rice Salad with Smoked Salmon and melon win over Sakai's Roast Abalone and rice? Tune in to find out whose dish reigns supreme!

Potato: Battle to the Death

It's a night of tiebreakers when Japanese Television Star, Kumbi Lin challenges Iron Chef Michiba. Who will reign supreme in this double header.

Battle Sweet Potato

It's a night of tiebreakers when Japanese Television Star, Kumbi Lin challenges Iron Chef Michiba. Who will reign supreme in this double header.

Freshwater Shrimp

Witness Hagiwara Masahiko take on Iron Chef Chen in this Shrimp Battle to the end. Will Chen be able to beat Hagiwara? Tune in to find out!

Former Sumo Wrestler, now top Chef Ikegawa Kiyotaka, challenges Iron Chef Chen Kenichi to a culinary battle that out performs any sumo wrestling match you've ever seen! See whose cuisine reigns supreme!

Lotus Root

Celebrating the 100th Challenger in Kitchen Stadium, Chairman Kaga has chosen challenger Toshiro Kandagawa who takes on Iron Chef Sakai. Watch 2 of the best chefs, who have NEVER battled before duke it out over Lotus root!

Iron Chef is &lsquothe opposite of spontaneous&rsquo

Alton Brown, chairman and host of Iron Chef Gauntlet. (Photo by Eddy Chen/Food Network)

The major source of beind-the-scenes details came in a revealing 2008 Village Voice article that declared, &ldquoIron Chef America is more bogus than even I had imagined.&rdquo It details exactly what happens during a taping, and all of the degrees of fakery, such as:

  • All the Iron Chefs are stand-ins except the pre-selected one. That&rsquos not a huge surprise and not a big deal I wouldn&rsquot expect them to all be there at every taping. But it is a big deal that:
  • The secret ingredient isn&rsquot secret. A 2008 Nightline report went behind the scenes but its only major reveal was confirmation that the chefs have been told in advance that it&rsquos one of three possible things. That&rsquos so the show can buy pantry items they chefs will need. But it also means that they 1) practice in advance, and 2) know what the ingredient is as soon as they see what pantry items the show bought for them. The Village Voice story repeatedly noted &ldquothe predeveloped state of the recipes and foreknowledge of the main ingredient.&rdquo
  • That the secret ingredient isn&rsquot a secret means that the chefs have to turn into actors, and whenever that happens, it&rsquos not okay. reported that &ldquoDuring one taping, Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto and challenger Homaro Cantu are given several chances to repeat their choreographed lunges toward the just-unveiled item until the right dramatic effect is nailed. &lsquoThis time,&rsquo the stage manager genially tells Cantu, &lsquoact like it&rsquos a secret.'&rdquo
  • Dishes tasted by the judges are prepared by the sous chefs and, shockingly, producers. The Voice reported that, &ldquoIn most cases, the recipes were being executed a second time for the judges, mostly by the sous chefs, but with help from the Oompa-Loompas. &hellip What was the point of the race if the dishes were casually recooked for judging an hour later?&rdquo
  • A 2006 Amatuer Gourmet blog post about a taping of the show noted that &ldquoevery action we observed felt the opposite of spontaneous. These people KNOW or at least have a very good idea of what the secret ingredient is going to be. And with all the stops and starts and editing and lack of music, a live performance of Iron Chef America is as tense as watching two 90 year olds play a game of hopscotch.&rdquo

That&rsquos too bad, since the competitors on The Next Iron Chef have proven they have what it takes to compete under pressure.

But maybe after doing this, they earn the paycheck and vacation that is Iron Chef America.

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Wannabe TV Chef

This week, Iron Chef Cat Cora tangles with world traveler Chef Lee Hillson. Here’s a little about the challenger, Chef Lee Hillson from

Lee Hillson was named Executive Chef of the Royal Palms Hotel and Resort in August 2005, having joined T. Cook’s as Sous Chef five years earlier. He has gained both local and national notoriety with this elegant and rustic interpretation of Mediterranean cuisine as well as his generous donation of both time and talent to countless charitable organizations.

Hillson’s progression up the food chain is paved with award-winning culinary experiences. He began his restaurant career in 1987 at the age of 16 when he enrolled in culinary school at Bournemouth and Poole College in his native England. Two years later, degree in hand, he took off to the Hyatt in Austin, Texas to explore new worlds and new cuisines.

A year later, he returned to London for the unique opportunity to be the Chef de Partie at the Roux Patisserie, owned by world-renowned chefs, Albert and Michel Roux. Hillson then served as Pastry Chef at the Michelin star Le Poussin in Hampshire, England. His next stop was Hintlesham Hall in Ipswich, Suffolk, England where he began as the Pastry Chef and three years later was appointed Sous Chef at this European award-winning, fine dining restaurant.

In November of 1998, Hillson again crossed the Atlantic to become Executive Sous Chef at Vanderbilt Hall in Newport, Rhode Island at its Alva restaurant. Within a few short months, he was appointed Executive Chef at this restaurant ranked as one of the country’s top five restaurants by Country Inn magazine.

From Rhode Island, Hillson joined T. Cook’s and has since been part of the lineup that has garnered acclaim from the likes of Andrew Harper’s Hideaway Report, Travel + Leisure magazineand a host of Phoenix/Scottsdale food writers. Hillson has cooked on more than one occasion at the James Beard House in New York, hosted a Friends of James Beard dinner at the resort, and participated in numerous local high profile culinary events.

In 2007, Hillson strut his stuff for the Arizona Kidney Foundation as a “celebrity dancer” for their record-breaking charitable event: Dancing with the Stars Arizona. In 2008, he was named Arizona spokesperson for Hass Avocados, nominated to the Arizona Culinary Hall of Fame, and was invited to battle Food Network’s Iron Chef Cat Cora on the blockbuster show, Iron Chef America where he achieved one of the season’s highest scores.

With Hillson at the helm, T. Cook’s was voted the most popular Phoenix/Scottsdale restaurant by Zagat’s: America’s Top Restaurants in both 2006 and 2007.

Iron Chef Boyardee

About a year ago, a friend called to say he’d scored a pair of tickets to a taping of Iron Chef America. His company provides cookware used on the show, so it was possible for me to go as a guest without revealing my identity.

That, I figured, was an important consideration. I had been told that the Food Network threatened anyone who attended with a million-dollar fine if they revealed anything about the episode before it aired. But there are no worries now the episode finally showed up on TV a couple of weeks ago, and it only confirmed what I’d realized as I sat in the audience last year:

Iron Chef America is more bogus than even I had imagined.

In case you’ve been living under a rock for the last decade or so, here’s how the show works: Three chefs—dubbed “Iron Chefs” by some unseen but absolute authority—are called out for cooking contests by upstarts. Each episode is a one-hour duel between a challenger and an Iron Chef in which about five dishes are prepared from scratch, supposedly using ingredients heaped in sumptuous display upon a pair of trestle tables. Each contest focuses on a main ingredient, which is revealed for the first time at the beginning of the show. The contest takes place in a television studio grandly dubbed Kitchen Stadium.

The televised hour is filled with much rushing back and forth against a backdrop of learned discourse and puckish observation from commentators as the dishes are cooked and assembled. Each chef has a pair of sous chefs working under him we are led to believe that these teams invent their recipes on the spot in an amazing display of culinary creativity. At the end of the hour-long contest, the dishes are rushed to a panel of three judges, who taste them, make studied quips, and then score the collection for taste (10 points), appearance (5 points), and originality in use of the secret ingredient (5 points). Each judge is thus responsible for 20 points of the score. Whoever scores the most points out of 60 is the winner.

We arrived at the ground-floor lobby at the designated time, 8:30 a.m., to find a room full of fidgeting guests sipping Fijianese bottled water. My friend was typical of the live audience that the show attracts, which includes publicists, sponsors, cookbook editors, and other culinary hangers-on. Iron Chef America is one of the few shows that originates in the Food Network’s Chelsea headquarters on the West Side of Manhattan (others have included Emeril and Rachael Ray), and it’s the most ambitious production the network undertakes. At 8:45, we were given numbers and ushered into a freight elevator, but before we zoomed up to the sixth-floor studio, the big doors on the other side of the car opened unexpectedly, and we were treated to a view of the loading dock and the overpowering smell of rotting garbage. It was an inauspicious start.

Kitchen Stadium is a large studio with twirling spotlights pointing down from the ceiling. It had banks of fog machines and identical parallel kitchen set-ups for the two contestants: range tops, convection ovens, food processors, blenders, refrigerators, and ranks of miscellaneous kitchenware neatly assembled—all of it gleaming, as if newly purchased, or at least newly donated. There was a pair of supply tables lushly appointed with vegetables, fruits, and spices in clear plastic containers. Food Network employees scurried around like Oompa-Loompas in matching denim blouses, and one severe-looking gal with her glasses down her nose seemed perpetually engaged in keeping an inventory of the ingredients on the tables, scurrying out of the way when the cameras pointed in her direction.

The studio also contained a raised dais for the three judges and a podium for Alton Brown, the kooky and well-spoken commentator who offers factual observations about the ingredients as the show unfolds, and generally provides a running commentary as he poses behind twin monitors that let him examine the dishes being prepared via one of several omniscient cameras that pan around the set. His favorite shtick involves referring to the cameras in the ceiling as if they were operated by monkeys. The joke goes something like this: “Monkey Camera No. 9—zoom in on that plate of turnip greens so we can see it better. Somebody, please give that monkey a reward!” Alton adds zing to the show. He is assisted in his efforts by Kevin Brauch, the Canadian host of The Thirsty Traveler, who leaps into the action on the cooking floor, gathering grunted interviews from the participants and seeking answers to questions posed by Alton.

As we entered Kitchen Stadium, a nearly impenetrable fog swirled around us—the kind that normally bedevils sailors. Our first thought: “My God, they’ve really burned something.” The audience wrangler—a female dressed entirely in black, and whose black ponytail tumbled over a black fur collar, like a character out of de Sade—treated us like blind people, helping us over the snaking black cables that ran between pieces of equipment, then finally seating us at a bleacher in a dark corner. There was a similar bleacher on the other side of the room. Together, they held about 30 spectators.

As far as I could tell from the monitors, it didn’t matter where the guests sat, since you can’t see their faces anyway, enveloped as they were in fog. Only occasionally did a sweeping shot reveal the vague characters on the edges of the room, intended to make it seem like the stadium is thronged. As a TV viewer, I was under the impression that the fog was used only at the start of the show, but the fog machines kept cranking throughout the taping, concealing all sorts of details the network might not want you to see. As the taping progressed, we felt more and more like we were viewing the scene in The Wizard of Oz when Toto pulls aside the curtain and the wizard’s tricks are revealed.

The taping began promptly at 9 a.m., with the first hour spent making shots of the challenger, the Iron Chef, and the Chairman. The latter is a character left over from the original Japanese series who doesn’t have much to do in this version of the show, except to reveal the secret main ingredient with a wild-eyed shout. He also provide segues and arm thrustings here and there. In the original series, this character made more sense: Wasn’t he the rich guy sponsoring the gladiatorial game show? The current Chairman—Mark Dacascos—is a minor martial-arts actor who claims to be a nephew of the original Chairman on the Japanese show, an assertion that’s not difficult to disprove.

Nevertheless, he is always deferentially addressed by the director and other production people as “The Chairman” rather than by his actual name. Other early shots are also attended by eruptions of fog. We soon found out why.

As the cameras rolled, we saw three raised platforms at the end of the studio, one for each of the Iron Chefs: Mario Batali, Bobby Flay, and Masaharu Morimoto. (“Hey, where’s the female Iron Chef?” one of the spectators murmured, noting that Cat Cora, a fixture of the 2005 and 2006 seasons, was nowhere to be seen.) The Iron Chefs posed on their raised pedestals enveloped by fog. Up bound the challenger, chef Fortunato Nicotra of Manhattan’s Felidia, a restaurant that has recently been awarded a very rare three stars by The Times‘ Frank Bruni. He screwed up his face, stroked his chin, and examined all three chefs. This was the point at which he apparently decided which chef to challenge.

But despite the fog, it was obvious that his decision was far from spontaneous. The choice of Iron Chef had clearly been made much earlier, because two of the Iron Chefs standing on the pedestals in roiling clouds of fog were out-and-out imposters. One wore Batali’s signature jams and orange plastic clogs, but jeez—this guy had more hair than Mario and was way fatter, with jiggling, pendulous breasts and a waterfall of fat at the gut level. He was like a parody of Mario, but he played the part with commendable swagger. The Flay impersonator had Bobby’s nose, but a weaker brow and a slighter frame. He seemed reconciled to his sad lot as chef stand-in and wore a hangdog look on his raised platform as Morimoto and the faux Batali posed impatiently, while shots were fussily taken and retaken. A couple of audience members discreetly laughed into their handkerchiefs, perhaps worried about being thrown out for copping to the deception. (Nicotra’s wife, Shelly, told the Voice that her husband didn’t want to comment about the show or the observations that are made in this article.)

After the chef doubles dismounted the pedestals and skulked off, a tired-looking Morimoto—who blinked incessantly and looked bored by the whole proceeding—posed next to the challenger, with the Chairman between them like a boxing referee. The climax of the establishing shots was the revelation of the contest’s main ingredient, which the chefs were expected to use in most of their courses. Heaped on a table, the mystery ingredient—supposedly unknown at this point to the chefs, judges, and Alton Brown—was concealed behind a panel featuring crossed cleavers. A stage-manager type called for more fog as the panel was raised and the product revealed: In this case, it was six handsome three-pound kanpachis, silvery fish heaped on ice. The cameras took innumerable porny shots from every angle—some of just the heads, others of tails—to be edited later. It was apparent that the clear-eyed fish were the real stars of the show.

At this point, the cry “Quiet on the set!” went up, because the actual contest was about to commence. We all sat expectantly on the edge of our seats. The wrangler handed out our last bottles of Fiji water and offered to take us on one last trip to the bathroom. The sous chefs crouched like high-school sprinters, ready to run up and grab the fish. An alarm went off and the battle between Iron Chef Morimoto and Challenger Nicotra began.

The audience watched, enthralled, for the first few minutes. But soon, the profound difference between the show as seen by millions of home viewers and the much longer taping as seen by a handful of studio guests became apparent. On the edited show, Kitchen Stadium is the scene of frenetic activity, with the shots carefully selected to make it seem as if the participants are running around at full speed. There is extreme urgency in their every movement, as chefs and sous chefs jog between appliances, prep areas, and larders. “How will they be able to finish up all the dishes in the allotted time?” is the question that dogs the viewer the most.

Several things slowly dawned on us as we watched the taping. The participants went about their tasks methodically but unhurriedly, as if they had all the time in the world. There was none of the huddling and dialogue among team members that we expected, even though they had to develop a menu from scratch using an unknown ingredient. Like a lightbulb coming on over our heads, we realized that the chefs had known the identity of the main ingredient all along, just as they had known ahead of time which Iron Chef would be paired with the challenger. How else to explain the utter nonchalance displayed by the sous chefs, who fetched ingredients and blended them toasted, fried, and roasted them then plated them like they were enjoying a relaxing holiday in the country. The Food Network has admitted as much, saying in the past that the contestants are given a short list of possible secret ingredients ahead of time so the reveal isn’t a total surprise. But I wonder if that list is really longer than one or two items.

It became obvious that, knowing the main ingredient all along, the chefs had developed a series of recipes the way chefs normally do—through ideation and experimentation, trying and discarding recipes before settling on the collection they intended to make during the show. Hence the self-assurance and lack of mistakes that we saw unfolding before us. We’d been promised moments of brilliant creativity, but what we saw were drones going about their appointed tasks with well-tested recipes, while swooping cameras, flashing lights, smog, and frantic commentary on the part of Alton, the judges, and the floor reporter distracted us from the true nature of the situation. This was no contest—it was a culinary fait accompli. How hard could it be for three chefs, recipes in hand and some ingredients pre-prepped, to turn out five dishes in an hour? It would be a cakewalk for any true professional.

At one point, with only minutes in the real-time hour to go, one of Nicotra’s sous chefs—an attractive and poised brunette named Lara—was seen kneeling next to the ingredient table, stacking and restacking the spice jars so that the one she had used would fit perfectly back in the shelf. Urgency, indeed! Meanwhile, an omniscient and vaguely Japanese-sounding female voice counted out the minutes remaining in the contest, which ended in a blaze of flashing strobes and frenzied commentary. Then the entire operation went slack. I expected the dishes to be whisked over to the judges for tasting, but where were the judges? The finished concoctions—many involving raw fish—languished on a side board as the judges ambled around and production people wiped their brows and relaxed. At one point, one of the judges—Queer Eye guy Ted Allen—strolled over to our bleachers and chatted up the guests like he was running for political office.

There were still three hours left in the taping. What could possibly take up the rest of the time? I wondered. Though they clearly weren’t invented during the show, the roster of dishes was impressive. I’ll recount them based on what I could see from the bleachers, but don’t expect my descriptions to be particularly accurate, since I never came close to the food, and the information provided to the spectators was incomplete and sometimes contradictory—all misinformation and false descriptions on the part of the commentators could later be fixed in the editing room.

I sat worrying about how fresh the dishes would taste to the judges, who seemed in no hurry to get the judging started. Eventually, after 45 minutes or so, they took their seats for the next part of the taping: Kelly Choi, the statuesque host of local TV show Eat Out New York, wearing an astonishing quantity of make-up John J. Nihoff, who is described on the Food Network’s website as “Professor of Gastronomy” at the Culinary Institute of America, though the institute’s website styles him an associate professor of liberal arts and Ted Allen. It was announced to the audience that the tasting of dishes for each chef would take about 45 minutes, and, I wondered, wouldn’t this give the Iron Chef—whose dishes would be tasted first—a tremendous advantage?

I’d felt that Morimoto had something of an advantage all along. The judges were seated much closer to Morimoto’s kitchen area, and the lion’s share of the comments being made by Alton, Kevin Brauch, and the judges seemed to be about Morimoto’s dishes. Meanwhile, the efforts of the challenger on the opposite side of the room garnered far less attention. As the evaluating began, Morimoto was directed to stand next to the judges and give a short introduction to each dish, which was shot from different angles, then ostentatiously tasted by each member of the panel. All the comments from the judges were overwhelmingly positive and fairly nonspecific, as if they really didn’t have much to say. As a restaurant critic, I was infuriated that the comments were so adulatory and repetitive. As the dishes were presented one by one, with much fuss made over each, I noticed activity on Morimoto’s kitchen set. Then it dawned on me: In most cases, the recipes were being executed a second time for the judges, mostly by the sous chefs, but with help from the Oompa-Loompas. I was shocked. If the actual dishes produced during the contest weren’t being tasted, the competitive validity of the whole show was further undermined: What was the point of the race if the dishes were casually recooked for judging an hour later?

From Morimoto came a simple kanpachi tempura served with doctored ketchup a finely minced kanpachi tartare with dabs of five colorful garnishes that looked particularly delicious a partly cooked sashimi with freshly grated green wasabi a fish rubbed with five-spice powder, roasted whole while suspended from hooks in the convection oven—which provided a great visual, and elicited sardonic quips from Alton, who seems to have a taste for S&M (the quips didn’t appear in the final edit) seared kanpachi with daikon in braising liquid and a kanpachi rice dish with raw egg yolk and shreds of nori. As portions of the whole fish were served, Morimoto grabbed a white truffle from his pocket and ostentatiously grated it over the top of each serving. Hey, anything would taste better with fiendishly expensive white truffle grated over it! And the truffle never appeared on the table of raw materials, of course. Were they afraid an Oompa-Loompa might filch it?

Several of Nicotra’s dishes were based on an odd fish-and-mascarpone mousse. In order, they were: a “saketini” served in a small martini glass a tour de force tasting platter with several small dishes, such as fish-mousse crostini, raw fish crudo served on a warmed cedar plank (and flinging off a woodsy odor), and a California roll substituting bread for rice seared kanpachi with fennel salad in yellow-tomato vinaigrette, goosed with a bizarrely expensive 25-year-old balsamic (which also didn’t come from the table) the same mousse wrapped in alternating slices of potato and sweet potato like an enchilada, and rolled inside a slice of speck skewered with a single piece of black squid-ink spaghetti a dome of fish concealing a mozzarella motherlode dabbed with a white chowder sauce flavored with razor clams and—most impressive of all—a roasted kanpachi tail served on a thick tile of pink Himalayan salt, sided with a bottle of single-estate virgin olive oil. The last two ingredients clearly never saw the surface of the ingredients table, either, and were further proof of the predeveloped state of the recipes and foreknowledge of the main ingredient.

The two hours of judging were a colossal bore, and several of the guests found ways of sneaking away. The only thing that kept me there was seeing who won. It was clear to me that in both enthusiasm, creativity, and raw talent, the challenger should have been the winner. Morimoto deployed recipes that seemed left over from the Nobu era Nicotra took more chances. Need I mention that the “secret ingredient” was one that tremendously favored the Iron Chef? I should have had a premonition of the result from the judges’ commentary. Ted Allen had made two pointedly negative observations about Nicotra’s dishes, and had been overwhelmingly positive about everything Morimoto had done. The other two judges had been positive about nearly everything.

When the champion was announced, Morimoto prevailed. As I watched the show one year later, I learned that the contest had been a rout, with Morimoto receiving 59 of 60 points, including a perfect 20 for taste. Poor Nicotra got only 51 points he hadn’t even come close. That afternoon in the studio, Iron Chef Morimoto stood impassively to receive his award, as if he couldn’t wait to get the hell out of there. The audience was never given the actual scores. Instead, it was ushered out immediately and unceremoniously, since a second Iron Chef contest was about to be taped.

Chef Lee Hillson Returns to T. Cook’s

PHOENIX (PRESS RELEASE) – A culinary veteran for nearly 30 years, Lee Hillson has gone back to his roots with a return to the iconic T. Cook’s as executive chef and just this month rolled out his first new dinner menu and brunch offering.

During Chef Lee’s first 12-year tenure in the early 2000s, the James Beard House-featured chef helped put T. Cook’s on the culinary map with his rustic Mediterranean cuisine and signature accoutrements like the orange marmalade, made from the resort’s on-site citrus grove, and what’s now become the restaurant’s legendary pesto.

With his return comes the revival of some of the restaurant's all-time menu favorites along with brand-new dishes that showcase Chef Lee’s straightforward sensibility and honest approach to cuisine. Highlights of the winter dinner menu include Lobster Bisque ($15) Roasted Squash Soup ($14) Chef Lee’s Pasta Carbonara with garlic cream, prosciutto, house-cured pancetta and egg yolk ($29) T. Cook’s Mediterranean Paella with saffron rice, mussels, clams, shrimp, calamari, pork, Spanish chorizo, organic vegetables and fresh herbs ($38) Pan Roasted Branzino with grilled fennel, sautéed red bell peppers, saffron-roasted potatoes and parsley cream sauce ($45) Pan Roasted Mary’s Organic Chicken Breast with butternut squash risotto, rapini, blistered tomatoes and fried sage ($30) Braised Beef Short Rib with orange gremolata, cumin roasted fingerling potatoes, red pearl onions and carnival cauliflower ($40) and Filet of Butternut Squash with mushroom broth, baby heirloom carrots, rapini, shaved Brussel sprouts and black-garlic puree ($28).

“This is a homecoming for me,” said Chef Lee. “T. Cook’s is one of Arizona’s few historic restaurants and the tightknit team and guests who have dined here from generation to generation is what makes it such a special place. Food to me is about evoking memories for people, whether it’s a forgotten flavor from their grandmother’s table or a first taste of an outstanding dish that stays with them. If that’s the case, we have done our job. I’m a simple and honest chef and we as a team are focused on sourcing the very best ingredients from all over the world and letting them shine on the plate. One flavor can make a dish take off and I’m in constant search of how to do that.”

Sunday brunch, available from 10:30am to 1:30pm, has also been reimaged with an impressive, unlimited buffet and a la carte entrees such as Beef Short Rib with blue cheese mashed potatoes, roasted carrots and tomato demi Peanut & Banana French Toast with anglaise and bacon mascarpone Seafood Cioppino and Mediterranean Eggs Benedict with focaccia, prosciutto, tomato hollandaise, Tuscan relish and potatoes, to name a few. Adults are $55 and children are $25, with a mimosa, coffee, tea, orange juice or soda included.

Hailing from England where he started culinary school at 16-years-old, Chef Lee brings a worldly approach to his cuisine after traveling through the Mediterranean, Hawaiian Islands and Alaska as a guest chef on luxury cruise lines. A chef who has also appeared on the popular Food Network show, Iron Chef America, Chef Lee has created remarkable meals for luminaries such as President George W. Bush, Barbra Streisand, Princess Diana, Richard Branson, Billy Joel and author, Clive Cussler, to name a few.

Chef Lee’s talents have allowed him to cook in some of the most prestigious restaurants around the world including the Michelin-Starred Le Gavroche in London and Vanderbilt Hall in Newport, Rhode Island, named one of the top five restaurants in the country by Country Inn Magazine.

A four-time nominee of the Arizona Culinary Hall of Fame, Chef Lee has most recently spent his time at some of the Valley’s most well-known and well-respected culinary institutions including Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass, home to Kai, the state’s only five-star restaurant from Forbes and Five-Diamond restaurant from AAA, and all seven restaurants at The Phoenician Resort in Scottsdale.

T. Cook’s menu focuses on simple preparations and uncomplicated dishes that honor the regions of Northern Italy, Greece, Spain and Provence. T. Cook’s culinary philosophy of magnifying the purity of fresh, seasonal ingredients is a celebration of its treasured legacy and offers a captivating environment in every sense with stone fireplaces, al fresco dining and unique design elements.

Located at Royal Palms Resort and Spa, part of The Unbound Collection by Hyatt, T. Cook’s sits within the heart of the resort’s mature, lush nine-acre property at the base of the iconic Camelback Mountain.

With a heritage dating back to 1929, Royal Palms combines the graciousness and sophistication of a storied Mediterranean villa with the intimacy and privacy of a secluded retreat, leaving a lasting impression on all who visit. A true destination for lovers, the resort was originally built as a private mansion as a grand gesture of love by financier Delos Willard Cooke for his wife Florence. Unlike any other resort in Arizona, winding stone paths transport guests past a grove of orange trees, trickling fountains in courtyards, roaring outdoor fireplaces, 100-year-old rustic doorways and hand-painted tiles, and lush gardens filled with magenta bougainvillea, exotic plants and desert flowers.

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