The second season finale of "Iron Chef Gauntlet" proves it's a very different kind of cooking competition.
Last night, America was able to witness the culmination of six weeks of intense, chef-to-chef battle as the finale of Iron Chef Gauntlet aired on the Food Network. The Alton Brown-hosted competition exists as a means for tried and true chefs from around the country, some well-known and others less so, to make a name for themselves by joining the pantheon of Iron Chefs in future seasons of Iron Chef America. So after Wednesday's finale episode, shouldn't we have seen dozens of food sites and entertainment blogs heralding in the coronation of a brand new Iron Chef?
Unlike Chopped, MasterChef, or Top Chef, Iron Chef Gauntlet wasn't designed to crown a winner—at least, not every season. Gauntlet lives up to its foreboding name by not only pitting the would-be Iron Chefs against each other, but also against the reigning Iron Chefs themselves in order to take home the title. It's only fair, given that anyone who enters Kitchen Stadium is trying to best an Iron Chef. The actual Iron Chefs should be able to do that, too. Of course, just beating one Iron Chef once does not an Iron Chef make. In the finale of Gauntlet, the last finalist standing must cook against three Iron Chefs, back-to-back, and beat all three by way of the judges' scores in order to earn the title.
The Arthur J chef and owner David LeFevre was the lucky contestant given that opportunity on last night's show. LeFevre became a fan favorite, at least in his home state of California, where the nickname and hashtag #LeFlavor was trending throughout the run of the series. The Manhattan Beach restaurateur was also considered to be quite a threat by his fellow competitors, even being chosen by other chefs to battle it out for his spot in the competition two Secret Ingredient Showdowns in a row. But LeFevre stuck it out until the very end.
With the secret ingredients of goat, sturgeon, and sea urchin on the table, LeFevre has to impress judges Donatella Arpaia and Marcus Samuelsson three times over, cooking against Iron Chefs Stephanie Izard (who won last season's Gauntlet), Michael Symon, and Alex Guarnaschelli. LeFevre beat Izard in the goat challenge (a bit of a surprise considering she her Chicago restaurant is all about the protein), tied with Symon in the sturgeon challenge, and then lost to Guarnaschelli in the sea urchin challenge. But losing once doesn't mean an entire loss. All LeFevre had to do was accumulate a total score higher than the Iron Chef's combined.
Unfortunately, as you may have surmised at this point, he didn't. Thus, no new Iron Chef will be in the mix when Iron Chef America returns on Wednesday, May 16 at 9 p.m.
Brown says of Gauntlet, it's "the culinary competition that I always wanted to make.” What does that mean to him, exactly? "I have been fighting for this iteration for a decade. I have wanted a no-holds-barred battle that also requires strategy," he admitted in an interview with Entertainment Weekly. "But in the end, the real play here is that you might go all the way through this and become an Iron Chef, but there are absolutely no guarantees that is going to happen. None." To what I'm sure is Brown's delight, that lack of a guarantee was made good on last night.