Last night's episode of Food Network's Iron Chef America was a night of triumph for Viet and Utah
A shoulder to shoulder crowd of Utah food fans met happily Sunday night at Naked Fish, courtesy of restaurant owner Johnny Kwon and in honor of Viet Pham. The occasion was the airing of Food Network's Iron Chef America, Chef Viet Pham vs. Iron Chef Bobby Flay.
The only ones who knew the outcome were Viet and his business and cooking partner Bowman Brown, who together have made their restaurant Forage a culinary landmark. For the rest of us, it was a cliffhanger. Big screens upstairs and down aired the episode and tables were decorated with flat masks of Viet and giant pairs of his signature black-rimmed specs.
The back and downstairs of Naked Fish turned into a potluck mayhem populated by a who's who of Utah dining:
Ryan and Colleen Lowder, owners of Copper Onion and Plum Alley,
SuAn Chow, owner of Chow Truck,
Amber Billingsley, pastry chef for Vinto,
Romina Rasmussen, pastry chef and owner of Les Madeleines and kouing aman pioneer,
John and Yiching Biquet, owners of Caffe d'Bolla and makers of the best cup of coffee in the West,
Aristo Boutisikakis, owner of Aristo, Salt Lake's best Greek restaurant,
Adam Kreisel, Utah's chef terrible, owner of Chaia and SLURP,
Vanessa Chang, queen of the food scene and education director for Creminelli,
Chantelle Bourdeaux, with Slow Food and A Priori,
Julie Clifford, owner of Clifford Family Farm,
David Cole, co-owner of Epic Brewing Company,
Valerie Phillips, former Deseret News and current Standard Examiner food writer
and so many more that I recognized and even more that I undoubtedly didn't.
And of course, as Viet Pham, with Bowman Brown as sous chef, cooked Bobby Flay into a pancake, the crowd listened surprisingly attentively, only whooping and hollering at the right moments.
Like when Viet's sculptural egg trounced Flay's meat patty, a triumph of imagination and ingenuity over the expected.
The secret ingredient: Ground Meat. The lid lifted to reveal piles of ground pork, veal, beef, turkey and lamb, presented in piles so they looked like giant brains on plates. The curveball ingredient: Shrimp.
You'd think, and you'd be right, that this played right to Flay's strengths. He made a meat patty, moussaka, keftedes (meatballs) on a sugarcane skewer, a no-brainer global tour of ground meat dishes.
And Viet? "I don't know where the hell he's coming from," to paraphrase one judge.
In the end, though, Viet's unlimited imagination, incorporating beef fat ice cream, lamb sausage rolled in scallion ash, beef whey and honestly I have no idea what else because I didn't take notes because I was having too much fun, astounded the judges and Viet Pham whupped Bobby Flay right outta the kitchen.
Pretty soon, everyone's gonna be wearing these:
For more behind the scenes details go here