Saturday, February 19, 2011

The latest Throwdown with Bobby Flay

I don't know if you had an opportunity to catch the latest episode of Throwdown with Bobby Flay. It's absolutely priceless, and for an assortment of reasons. The chief reason is the real insight it provides into the character of this chef.

For the record, Feb 17th was the first airing of Throwdown Moussaka. Bobby was tasked to challenge the Greek Goddess of Moussaka, chef Diane Kochilas. This represented a problem because Bobby didn't even know what Moussaka was, much less how to make it.

Worse still, Bobby is on a loosing streak lately. His meatballs got squashed recently, and his Jambalaya throwdown was a defeat the dimensions of which he has never experienced: A rout from which no honor could be salvaged. Jambalaya king Emile Stieffel even warned Bobby that he was making mistakes in the prep of his Jambalaya. Iron Chef Flay just wouldn't listen.

Evidentially, these recent defeats caused Bobby to swallow his pride and actually admit that he didn't know what he was doing this time around. What do you do when you are an Iron Chef and you don't know how to make Moussaka? The answer is extremely straight-forward. Bobby called Michael Symon in for for a cooking lesson.

For those who don't know, Iron Chef Michael Symon is the winning-est Iron Chef (by percentage) in the history of the show. He happens to be one of the few dudes who enjoys my unqualified endorsement. Last time I checked Symon's record was 22-3. He's the John Madden of this sport. He is also happens to be the most impressive chef on either the Cooking Channel or the Food Network, especially now that Tyler is off the net. The culinary king of Cleveland also happens to be half-Greek.

As might be expected, Michael knew Moussaka very well... as in decades of experience with this subject. Michael gave Bobby one hell of a lesson on how-to. Bobby even offered to defer this Throwdown to Michael, but Michael didn't accept.

What happened next? The next thing you know, Bobby is executing a couple of trial runs with his two assistants. He mildly modified the recipe just a tad, adding black currants and some goat cheese. The next thing you know, Bobby is talking shit about already having defeated Michael Symon in this Throwdown. Now he just needed to take out Diane Kochilas.

I nearly rolled off the couch laughing. For those who don't know, Bobby is a Sagittarius. That kinda shit-talk is so Sagittarius, it's hilariously characteristic of the breed. I happen to have an uncle and a father who are both Archers, and they both like to cook. Now, while they have both shown me a thing or two about cooking, I have saved their skins several times, as they love to leave what they are cooking and go join the social event in progress. Nevertheless, they are full of braggadocio when the cooking is done.

The reality is his Virgo buddy saved his ass, but Bobby is happy to take all the credit. Incidentally, Michael Symon happens to be an excellent example of what it is to be a Virgo. I relate to the dude completely.

But I digress...

The next thing you know, Bobby is striding tall into Diana's domain and challenging her to a Throwndown... with great confidence. Now ain't that Sagittarius? 10 minutes ago he didn't know what Moussaka was, and now that he has had one lesson, he strides in to challenge the queen with confidence. So Sagittarius...

Dianna seemed properly surprised that this Irish Texmex expert knew something about Moussaka. He warned her that he has consulted with Michael Symon. She boasted that Michael Symon calls her for advice and information about Greek food.

Is that so, eh? We'll see who wins this throwdown.

In any case, the cooking process was very interesting. Diana deviated in several places from the key points Michael Symon made about the prep of a classic Moussaka. For instance, she chose beef instead of lamb. Symon says it's alright to use beef, but lamb is the classic approach. There were other wrinkles as well. Bobby smartly keyed his approach on Symon's advice.

Then came the judgement. One of the judges was a true Greek, and an older gentleman, with a lifetime of eatting Moussaka under his belt. When he bit into Bobby's... errrr... Michael Symon's Moussaka, he had a Ratatouille Anton Ego moment. He immediately said this brought back memories of his childhood. This Moussaka was exactly the way he liked it.

The die was cast. Bobby... err... Michael won the throwdown. So much for Michael Symon calling Diana for advice.

Folks, you can only give Bobby half a victory for this one. You have to give half-credit to Michael Symon. Symon set Bobby up for a victory when he probably would have taken his worst defeat ever otherwise.

The lesson I took from this episode is pretty cut-and-dried. If you have a tough culinary battle coming up, and you want to win, you better call Michael Symon.