Last night on Iron Chef America, Todd Stein took on Bobby Flay in Battle Mussels and there was definitely some serious heat going on in the kitchen with the battle coming down to the wire. Stein, who filmed the episode back in July when he was still the executive chef at Cibo Matto (he has since left and now helms the kitchen at The Florentine), seemed cool and collected, while Flay seemed a bit frazzled and disorganized.
Each chef had to create five unique plates that incorporated different varieties of mussels (Eater National has a slew of video clips). In the end, the judges—Julie Chen, David Rocco and Laura Calder—liked different aspects of each chef's platings, but gave the win to Iron Chef Bobby Flay ... by one point with a score of 49 to 48.
We caught up with Stein after the show aired, for which he and his fiance watched with about 25 people at a party at a friend's house.
Eater Chicago: You lost by one point. Were you disappointed?
Todd Stein: Not at all. It would've been nice to get the actual win, but the food we put out was exceptional and I'm totally OK with that. We didn't know the actual point score until tonight ... I'm OK losing by one point than get shellacked.
EChi: You seemed pretty relaxed, but Flay seemed frazzled. Was he?
TS: I think so. As we were cooking, I didn't look over there as much. It's silent in the studio when you're filming. You can hear Alton Brown and hear everyhting that's going on. I think things weren't going right [for Flay]. You can see that with what was being said [during the show].
EChi: There's a lot going on in the hour. Do they give you any prep time before learning the secret ingredient?
TS: You get a little time to get some stuff done—basics, but you can't do any knife work. You can get stocks on, but you can't start the actual cooking. The hour is real.
EChi: You filmed in July when you were still at Cibo Matto. Was it weird being portrayed as the chef there since you've been with The Florentine since September?
TS: When I filmed the episode, I was the chef at the restaurant and that's how I look at it. You can't really change it. Obviously going forward, I'm not there.
EChi: The beginning of the show is a little dramatic and frankly a bit cheesy. How do you not crack up in the Chairman's face?
TS: Everything is filmed in segments. If necessary they do multiple takes, but mine was all done in one take. It's hilarious, but there's no sound effects while it's going on. The Chairman just looks at you.
EChi: Did you like watching the show?
TS: Yeah I did. It doesn't make me nervous. I've been on TV enough. I've lost a good amount of weight since we filmed that! [Laughs.] I thought we did the show well, my comments were good and witty and I didn't look like a fool. I texted [White Sox manager] Ozzie Guillen, who is a friend, and told him to watch tonight and that there was a plug for the Sox.
EChi: We understand you'll offer the dishes from the show at the restaurant.
TS: We're going to be featuring most of the menu for the next few weeks. We'll offer two specials verbally and two will be printed on the menu. We're not doing the chilled mussel with sea urchin vinaigrette. I think it's too hard of a sell. For our clientele, it's pushing the boundaries a bit, but we may add it if people ask for it.
EChi: How much will the dishes be?
TS: The swordfish will be in the $32 range; the other dishes will be in the $14-$20 range.
Todd Stein's Iron Chef America dishes at The Florentine:
· Roasted prawn and New Zealand green-lipped mussels with saffron aioli and grilled frisee
· Steamed mussels with chorizo broth, swiss chard and grilled crouton
· Smoked PEI mussels with rich corn puree and grilled lobster tail
· Grilled swordfish with mussels and fava beans