Chef Shota Nakajima of Adana on Capitol Hill was on the chopping block for the third week on Food Network's "Iron Chef Gauntlet." This time against celebrity chef Stephanie Izard.
Nakajima was in good spirits before his viewing party at his restaurant Adana on Capitol Hill. And for good reason. The 27-year old chef, the youngest contestant, made it to the final four as an underdog. Two episodes ago, he upset James Beard Award-winning chef Jonathon Sawyer in a cook-off.
But last night was different. Last night’s battle was against the chef all contestants feared: Izard, the season four winner of “Top Chef” and a favorite on “Iron Chef Gauntlet.”
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The battle was chicken.
- Smoked gizzard yakitori skewers
- Pickled “silkie” chicken salad
- Chicken meatballs in dashi broth
- Dim sum chicken feet
- “Kou shui” Sichuan chicken thighs
- Dessert chicken pot pie
Through sleight-of-hand editing, the producers made it sound like the Seattle chef was going to upset Izard. The judges criticized the presentation of her chicken feet as boring; her thigh dish as too simple and admonished her for not using chicken fat to make her pie dough in a chicken challenge.
The judges praised his velvety chicken in the salad and his clever use of Japanese mayo in his meatballs.
In reality, the battle wasn’t close; he lost 33-24.
“I was shocked when I heard the score,” he said during a phone interview Sunday night. “But it is what it is.”
Nakajima said all the contestants still pal around and group-text.
During the taping, the contestants ate dinner together every night and got along so well that Nakajima suspects Food Network handlers weren’t pleased there wasn’t more tension among the cast.
Last Sunday, on the fourth episode, Nakajima’s poorly executed honey-mustard Sichuan shrimp put him on the hot seat against Izard, his third elimination showdown in the last three episodes. As weird as it sounds, he actually won by being on the chopping block so many times. It gave him more airtime.
After seeing a dozen of his dishes, more than any other contestants, host Alton Brown praised his simple but elegant plating as “that Nakajima look.” Other contestants and Food Network stars praised his knife skills and deft use of seafood.
The attention and accolades have given him the kind of publicity that money can’t buy. His Japanese restaurant has been busy on weekdays. His “collaboration dinner” this Wednesday with Iron Chef contestant Jason Dady sold out within 24 hours. He’s flying to Chicago soon to cook with Izard and new James Beard winner Sarah Grueneberg at a food event.
Other projects and appearances are in the works, but Nakajima is mums on the details. “It has been a roller coaster. I have not had time to breathe or relax quite yet,” he said.