With the title of Iron Chef on the line, the stakes for the seven Iron Chef Gauntlet challengers couldn’t be higher. Of course each of them craves the opportunity to run the gauntlet against a trio of revered Iron Chefs, but ultimately six will fall in their quest to do so. After each week’s new episode, check back here to find an exclusive exit interview with the chef most recently eliminated. Today, we’re set to break down the latest episode, so if you haven’t watched it yet, don’t read on until you do.
Fresh off his win in last week’s Round 1 face-off, Chef Jason Dady entered the Iron Chef Gauntlet kitchen today with only two battles remaining, the first being the final Chairman’s Challenge. In true competition form, Alton was set on a doozy of a task, revealing an altar not piled high with Secret Ingredients but lined with empty shopping baskets, which Chef Dady and his two fellow remaining rivals, Chefs Sarah Grueneberg and Stephanie Izard, could fill with just five ingredients apiece. In a test of simplicity (and culinary restraint), those five items were the only ones allowed in their dishes. Chef Dady opted for simply smoked salmon alongside an egg, lemon and asparagus, and while Alton indeed appreciated the marriage of these ingredients, he wasn’t wowed by the yolk-based sauce that finished the dish, and ultimately that misstep was enough to send him home.
We checked in with Chef Dady following his elimination, and he told us simply, “I stand by that dish over and over again.” Read on below to hear more from this competitor, and find out his proudest moment from the last five weeks.
What was going through your mind when you found out that you were leaving the competition?
Jason Dady: Honestly, was very surprised. I felt I was on top of my game the entire competition and was very proud of the dish I created with only five ingredients. I was disappointed that I wasn’t able to compete any longer to reach the final goal of becoming Iron Chef.
Tell us about your approach to your final Chairman’s Challenge. Why salmon, salmon roe, egg, asparagus and lemon? What was your plan for showcasing those ingredients?
JD: My approach was to showcase a simple yet elegant dish that had clean flavors and several techniques, and was cooked with finesse. The flavors were matched well, classically paired, and I have no regrets whatsoever about the dish I presented.
Do you agree with Alton’s feedback that there was too much egg on your plate? Do you stand by the offering you provided? Please explain.
JD: I stand by that dish over and over again. I got everything I could have from those five ingredients in the short amount of time. Too much egg is like saying too much bacon — is that even a thing? But really, it was balanced, and if you sat down with that dish and a glass of white wine, you’d have a very enjoyable, well-balanced, Californian-inspired lunch.
What elements of these battles were you least expecting — be it something positive or negative? Please explain.
JD: I was least expecting how much product we could choose from. The pantry was stocked to the max, and that allowed all of us to really showcase our individual particular skills sets.
What was your greatest challenge in this competition — perhaps a fellow competitor, a Secret Ingredient, the unfamiliarity of the kitchen or the time limitation? Please explain.
JD: I didn’t really have any great challenges. I loved every second of it. I loved the competition, every aspect of it and all of the chefs, who I have so much respect for. Cooking is the easy part.
Which of your dishes from this competition are you most proud of? Please explain.
JD: The first episode, Into the Wild — that was a perfect dish. In 30 minutes, that dish was pretty flawless. Elk, wild mushrooms, red currant, mustard greens. It was spot-on. Honestly, was shocked I didn’t get the Chairman’s Challenge [win] right of the gate. I also think that my last dish of the smoked salmon and asparagus with soft-poached egg was a great dish. I maxed out those five ingredients to their best potential. I have no regrets.
If you’ve participated in culinary competitions before, where does Iron Chef Gauntlet fall in difficulty level, and how is this contest different from others?
JD: The talent level in this competition was world class. I wouldn’t say it was difficult, because you cook your own food in your own style, but the talent level is nothing like TV has seen before.
What do you want fans to remember most about you and your approach to cooking, both in this competition and beyond?
JD: I think people will remember I was focused on winning with a positive attitude and true affinity for my other competitors. I want them to remember my versatility and most of all that San Antonio, Texas is a world-class dining destination for everything from tacos and BBQ to modern American cuisine.
There’s a lot of down time between takes on set — how would you spend your time behind the scenes?
JD: I tried to stay away from thinking about food or cooking. We had a blast. Talked a lot about our cities, passions, children, playing cards, Chef Jonathan Sawyer’s insane tea collection, the bottle-flip challenge, dance party. It was a true pleasure to hang with chefs of that talent and enjoy each other outside of the kitchen.
Any fun outtakes or behind-the-scenes moments with your fellow competitors you can share?
JD: I will always remember all of us in the elevator headed into Kitchen Stadium and just busting chops, talking about the crazy fortune-telling socks of Chef Izard (they picked two Secret Ingredients) and just the overall shenanigans of being behind the closed door right before it was time to compete.
Tune in to the finale of Iron Chef Gauntlet next Sunday at 9|8c.