Iron Chef Alamo Battle: 'Planes, Trains and Automobiles'

Chefs of steel steal the show

On Wednesday night, I was invited to be a guest at an Alamo Drafthouse Iron Chef battle based on the John Hughes classic, Planes, Trains and Automobiles, between Alamo corporate Executive Chef John Bullington and 24 Diner Executive Chef Andrew Curren.

It was fun to see the film again and just be an observer, because eating and judging a complex meal in the dark often works better in theory than it does in fact. When I've judged these events in the past, one of the first things I consider is what aspects of the film inspired the chef's dishes, since the film itself is the secret ingredient. That was particularly challenging with Planes, Trains and Automobiles because it really wasn't a food movie. I thought both chefs brought plenty of creativity to the table but, in my mind, chef Curren had the slight edge because of the Steve Martini (great presentation, interesting flavors, easy to eat even in the dark) and his rendition of the New York to Chicago hot dogs. Both dishes that were inspired by Thanksgiving were somewhat of a miss for me - the turkey thigh meat on one plate was too tough to cut and the chicken on the other plate was overcooked. The dessert round was even on creative inspiration, flavor, and execution. The cake "pillows" were delightful and the pineapple "curtain rings" paired well with the spice cake and the buttered rum sauce. In the end, I chose chef Curren's menu as the winner, though I didn't realize he had prepared it until after the film. I thought it was interesting that some people in the audience said they were eager to get home and watch Top Chef: Texas, because I certainly was. When I replayed last night's episode, I was pleased to discover that Uchiko Executive Chef Paul Qui made the cut and will be one of the 16 chefs in this season's competition, and was equally disappointed to learn that chef Curren was eliminated before the real competition began. Maybe he'll just have to be satisfied with his Iron Chef win at the Alamo. See more about Top Chef: Texas and chef Curren's possible return in Melanie Haupt's upcoming blog post.

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Alamo Drafthouse, Andrew Curren, Top Chef, Iron Chef, Paul Qui, John Bullington, Planes, Trains and Automobiles

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