On Sunday night, Maria Hines, the Chef and Owner of Seattle’s certified-organic restaurant, Tilth, battled and beat Chef Masaharu Morimoto on Iron Chef America.
The battle’s secret ingredient was Pacific Cod, a fish most often seen in fish and chips; not the likely star of the creative cuisine for which both Hines and Morimoto are known. The texture is susceptible to “mushiness” as Morimoto noted and it’s not particularly flavorful either. Chef Hines had her work cut out for her.
During the battle Chef Hines, clad in a chef’s jacket, long denim shorts and clogs, moved about the kitchen stadium with her long black, braided, hair calmly swinging in time with her movements. In just one hour, seemingly calm, with no admonishments to her sous chefs except a few gentle “push-push” reminders in the last few minutes, Chef Hines and her crew created five delectable looking courses:
- Pan-seared cod complete with butter-basted crisp skin served on a bed of artichoke and fregola with an artichoke puree underneath and offset with a flavorful Nasturtium vinaigrette;
- Paprika smoked cod;
- Balsamic cod baked on an alder wood plank, served with corn pudding cake and corn cream;
- Sous vide cod topped with lemon verbena and a tomato fondue and served on a cornmeal fried green tomato on a tapioca and tomato base; and
- Brandade (a mixture of milk, cod and potatoes).
The Judges – food writer John T. Edge, actress Julie White and author Sam Haskell – found Chef Hines’s food delicious, innovative, and “confident,” even though Chef Hines admitted to being so nervous she was nauseous the entire hour she and her crew were cooking.
Iron Chef Morimoto, who was uncharacteristically harried, challenged Hines in signature style with:
- Cold smoked cod sashimi (the cod was lightly cooked sous vide to decrease the mushy texture and then cold smoked);
- A cod broth with cod ramen noodles two ways (one crispy, one traditional) served with a cod mousse tempura or “Cod Corn dog;”
- Grilled cod ribs, topped with tomato sauce and jalapeños and served with a tartar dipping sauce;
- Soba battered cod served across a bread bowl filled with cod chowder and branded with Morimoto’s initials “MM” and next to a chair with a cod “chip” seated atop; and
- Pacific cod curry with a rice ball grilled and mixed with cod.
While Chef Morimoto’s dishes also seemed to delight the Judges they were offput by the bones in the grilled cod ribs and the “gimmickiness” of the chair and bread bowl in Morimoto’s fish and chips dish.
In the end, though, it all came down to taste. Chef Hines scored a 28 out of 30, beating Morimoto on taste by 5 points and ultimately winning the battle. In doing so, she joined another beloved Seattle Chef, Tom Douglas, in beating the seemingly unbeatable Morimoto.
If you want to taste Chef Hines’s flavorful food for yourself, hurry and make a reservation for Tilth. It could quickly become the most impossible reservation in town.