Iron Chef America Round #1

by Jeanne

Tv This is a big weekend.  The duel between Rick Bayless and Bobby Flay hits the mat on Sunday night, allez cuisine–Iron Chef America.  Read the resumes at these links (their names) and they speak for themselves.

My hopes are pinned on Bayless. This man has dedicated himself and his career to the cuisine of Mexico.  A man who in pursuing this effort has worked to understand the culture and the context of that country’s food within it.  If that wasn’t enough he has brought that food into the American culture.  Flay by all visible signs certainly doesn’t carry that disposition.  He’s bold and brash and full of ego–all show and no substance.

In today’s New York Times, the secret ingredient is revealed, it’s buffalo.   

According to the article Flay, who is reported to look frazzled,  produces a "cowboy breakfast" of poached egg on a grilled buffalo paillard, a curry-glazed buffalo steak, a buffalo salad and a Native American buffalo plate with fried bread.  Newsday, mentions that Flay also offers up a buffalo and goat cheese relleno.

Over in the other corner looking to "be operating in a different time zone, gliding smoothly through the intricate steps" is Bayless.  He prepares a spicy empanada, a  honey-crusted buffalo steak in fava ban sauce, buffalo steak in a huitlacoche sauce, fried guajillo pepper over buffalo tartare. There’s apparently five dishes–we’ll have to watch for the what the mystery dish will be.

It’s FoodTV vs. PBS.  Flay’s speaks to the FoodTV demographics. Bayless whose show appears on PBS speaks to its market.  FoodTV would probably never have a show such as Mexico: One Plate at a Time.  This show is one of the top rated cooking programs on public television. 

It’s Southwestern vs. Mexican cuisines.  These cu sines are often confused.  Southwestern being a blend of Native American, Mexican and European.  Mexican being one of the original world cuisines based on the trinity of corn, beans and chile peppers, influenced over time by conquering peoples.  It’s rich and full of complexities.  I enjoy both cuisines and I’m not saying one is superior.  But those of us who appreciate a mole negro and have attempted it at home stand in awe of one who can prepare it.

In the end Bayless, win or lose, will possibly gain a wider audience for the cuisine he has dedicated his life. Maybe then we, as a Food Nation, can move away from the Americanization of Mexican food allez Chevy’s and El Torito.

I won’t even begin to speak about the judges who will decide the outcome.  It’s just too much for me.

Watch it all on Sunday, Food TV, 9PM.