Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Food Media & News >
Mar 22, 2010 12:27 PM

Richard Blaise as Cat Cora's Sous on ICA!

What a surprise to see Blaise on ICA, backing up Cat Cora in the Ricotta Battle.

Good thing she had him there. His touches made a lot of difference in her getting the win, ie the foamed ricotta topping for the dessert, and the ricotta/meyer lemon globules he made for another dish.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I don't know how the recipe development goes behind the scenes (ie, if the Iron Chef comes up with the dishes themselves or if they're designed by committee with the sous) but you can't really give him too much credit without knowing the answer to that question.

    Those "touches" could just as well have been Cora's.

    15 Replies
    1. re: reiflame

      I was surprised to see Blaise on ICA as Cat Cora's sous chef. I thought he was out on his own, running some successful restaurants, and I thought the sous chefs "worked" for the Iron Chefs. Does anyone know how the sous are chosen?

      1. re: ritabwh

        According to the International Iron Chef Regulatory Agency ("IICRA") in Basel, Switzerland, Rule 24, subsection 3(a) as amended in 1962 states:

        "Anything goes."

      2. re: reiflame

        They get lists of potential "secret ingredients" well in advance and have ample time to draw from their own repertoire. As for who decides what -- you'll have to ask them.

        1. re: reiflame

          Having seem Blaise's work on TC and ICA before, I think its understandable that people would give him more credit for those dishes since those dishes were totally like the dishes we've seen him make before. Cat Cora has seemed open to molecular gastronomy, but IIRC, it was much more limited in past battles.

          Its like if you had a IC who did Italian dishes and he brought along a special sous chef who did Chinese dishes, and we saw that one or two dishes were Chinese dishes rather than Italian dishes.

          1. re: reiflame

            I heard Michael Symon talk about how they come up with recipes on ICA. He basically said that they see the ingredients along with everyone else but they are given more time to hash it out with their sous chefs; they just edit it out. They may get lists ahead of time too, but he didn't mention that.

            Symon just has a sort of formula where he braises a dish, does a pasta and something else that I forget and they all sit down and brain storm. Blaise and Cat Cora don't have a history together, but Symon relies upon his sous chef a lot as he can tell him to make the walleye dish from 10 years back and he knows exactly what he is talking about.

            Symon admitted that the only times he lost were when he didn't do a pasta dish, so now he does one regardless of the ingredients.

            I guess Blais will bring a skill set that some cooks won't necessarily have, and that's a benefit for people like Cat Cora.

            And FYI, at the IHA show in Chicago, Blais was working the SousVide Supreme booth and giving demonstrations. I think he has been working with that lately.

            1. re: smkit

              It's pretty well known that they know what the secret ingredient is well before the show is taped. There was a huge expose on the whole show a while back in some magazine or blog...I can't remember which one at the moment, but it's been discussed here at length in different threads. They are given about 3 different possible secret ingredients about a week ahead of time, develop recipes for all 3 possibilities, and then find out which one it is at the taping. Anyone remember offhand where that article was printed?

              1. re: sibeats

                For some reason, I thought it was the Village Voice. But, I don't have time to look it up right now in order to be certain. :).


                  1. re: sibeats

                    in addition to the Village Voice article, there was a special on the Food Network about it several years ago - they revealed pretty much all the "secrets" of the show.

                    1. re: sibeats

                      Reading the article , the author merely speculated that the ingredient was pre-determined. He did not offer any proof whatsoever. It is still reasonable to believe the original theroy that the list of possible ingredients was given to the chefs, and they very well could have planned out a menu for each one of the possibilities.

                  2. re: sibeats

                    I sort of expected that they knew something; thanks for confirming it. I just recently started watching the show and found too many of their dishes too well thought out for the amount of time. I guess it is in Michael Symon's interest to maintain the image of cooking from the hip.

                    With that said, I thought Symon gave one of the best demonstrations at the cooking theater in Chicago. Rick Bayless was good and inspired me to make corn tortillas, Ming Tsai was funny, and Stephanie Izard was chatty and entertaining. I also saw Cat Cora by the way. I can't remember what she cooked, so maybe that says something.

                1. re: reiflame

                  I met Richard Blaise at a food demonstration, and I thought I could settle this debate once and for all.

                  According to Richard, he claimed credit for those two dishes. Cat Cora basically gave him free reign on two dishes, and that's what he produced.

                  Also, he was met Cat Cora at a similar food demo where those two were working. A week later, she called him up and invited him to be a sous chef for her on Iron Chef. So, he flew up for one day, and was her sous chef for a couple of battles.

                  He also pointed out that Ed Cotton, one of her regular sous chefs on Iron Chef, is competing on Top Chef this season. Cotton is another executive chef with a pretty accomplished resume. I think its Angelo Soso's to lose, but I wouldn't be surprised if Ed Cotton makes it pretty far.

                  Now that I think about it, this isn't the first time Cat Cora used a ringer for her sous chef. When she faced off Elizabeth Faulkner in Honey battle, she brought Pichet Ong, one of the best pastry chefs in America, because she knew Faulkner's strength was in desserts.

                  1. re: hobbess

                    Faulkner was actually Cat's sous in her first appearances. Part of the point of the sous chefs on the show is to balance out the skills of the iron chef. We know Anne Burrell can cook but when she got her own show, she was still on hand to be Mario's sous. Doesn't seem quite fair does it?

                    Nevertheless, Richard and Ed are both on ICA tonight with Cat.

                  2. re: reiflame

                    i very distinctly recall seeing something done that was behind the scenes at food network that said the contestant/iron chef are made aware of several possible ingredients beforehand and given some time *an hour or so?* to think of possibilities as to what to make for each possible secret ingredient, and are also allowed to bring some items of their own in to use in their dishes. i do find it interesting to see blaise and cotton as sous chefs for cora. it feels to me a little like stacking the deck....

                    1. re: kota

                      there have been numerous discussions on the board about the logistics of ICA. the competitors receive a list of 3 possible ingredients about 6 weeks ahead of taping. they don't find out which of the three it is until the Chairman reveals it during taping, so they have to prepare menus & ingredient lists for all three. this article provides a good view from the challenger's standpoint:

                      and here's some more coverage/insight:

                      there was also a Food Network special back in [2007] that pretty much revealed everything.

                  3. It is a little surprising considering that he was a challenger in is own wright prior to being on TC.

                    And it seems a bit lame for and "Iron Chef" to need a well known and accomplished chef to help them.

                    25 Replies
                    1. re: Withnail42

                      Implying that the unkown sous chefs can't be equally accomplished? It's an entertainment show; not worth getting a feather ruffled over it.

                      1. re: ferret

                        Just figured that the Iron chef would be the most accomplished/well known/respected chef in their own kitchen.

                        No feathers being ruffled just a comment.

                        1. re: Withnail42

                          <And it seems a bit lame for and "Iron Chef" to need a well known and accomplished chef to help them.>

                          Well we don't know that she "needed" him to help her...maybe he asked her if he could be on the show with her. Also, it's certainly not the first time a "known" chef showed up there as an assistant.
                          Beyond that, is he really more accomplished than Cat Cora? If not for being on TC, would he be more well known?

                          1. re: sibeats

                            And her qualifications to be on IC are...? And accomplishments would be...? Had anyone even heard of her before "becoming" the first female Iron Chef?

                            1. re: tomatoaday

                              You can use the "ever hear of" argument for any of them. Had you ever heard of Morimoto before the original Iron Chef? Bobby Flay before his 82 shows on Food Network? His restaurants are certainly mediocre; what accomplishments does he have to be on Iron Chef?

                              It's a stupid TV show; who cares about their "accomplishments". Batali isn't the best Italian chef in the world; Morimoto isn't the best Japanese chef in the world - these are just people who are good at what they do (which includes self-promotion).

                              1. re: reiflame

                                Batali's gotten really, really good reviews- three star reviews from the NY Times.

                                Flay's Mesa Grills opened to good reviews and got two stars from the NY Times, although the whole Southwestern zeigist has passed.

                                1. re: hobbess

                                  I purposefully left Batali out; his restaurants were well known outside of NYC even before he started working with Food Network. He is the exception, not the rule.

                                  Flay though, was an unknown until he appeared on FN.

                                  1. re: reiflame

                                    Was Po, his first restaurant, really that well known? I'm looked it up on imdb, and he starred Molto Mario before Babbo.

                                    I got the sense from Heat that Po was sort of a failure- he was trying to push all these more traditional Italian dishes that alienated the customers who wanted more Italian-American dishes.

                                    1. re: hobbess

                                      Ok, fair enough but that only strengthens my original point.

                              2. re: tomatoaday

                                uuuhhh yes, she was pretty famous before Iron Chef

                                  1. re: celeryroot

                                    Here on chowhound. :)

                                    Actually she'd had TV appearances, ad deals and recognition by James Beard f. before IC.

                                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                                      Im well aware she was in BA but Ive yet to meet anyone in the business that was very impressed.

                                      1. re: Melanie Wong

                                        One thing that seems to slip by everyone's memory is that the menu and recipes that Postino was (and is, even years after Cat is gone) known for i.e. the braised short ribs, swordfish agro dolce, "angry" prawns and the sausage and clam appetizer all came from Michael Chiarello. Just to give him his props -

                                        1. re: tomatoaday

                                          I've never tried Postino, but I did try out Cat Cora's last place recently and its pretty awful- she's just trying to leverage her fame and cash in without regard to the food itself.

                                        2. re: Melanie Wong

                                          Wow! I never knew that. But, what James Beard recognition did she receive? It's not mentioned on her wikipedia page and I can't seem to find any mention of her on the JB website.


                                          1. re: Melanie Wong

                                            Paula Deen and Sandra Lee have advertising deals are you saying she is in the same league as those two?

                                            Ad deals are a measure of notoriety as opposed to talent.

                                            I'm not an expert but I know of no awards or recognition of her from the James Beard Foundation.

                                            1. re: Withnail42

                                              If you google on "Cat Cora" and "James Beard" you get a lot of references to her "first James Beard dinner" in April 2002. There are no mentions, though, of any subsequent JB dinners, so, perhaps her first is her only thus far.


                                            2. re: Melanie Wong

                                              There's a big difference between being winning a James Beard award or even being nominated for one vs. being asked to do a dinner for them.

                                              If you go to JB schedule, they have a lot of these dinners- from having 10 times a month to maybe 20 times a month. Then, you have to factor in that some chefs might get invited, but decline the invitiation because of the hassle and expense.

                                              1. re: hobbess

                                                There is indeed a difference between winning (or even being nominated) for a JB award and being asked to do a dinner, but even the latter is an honor, but I think Melanie Wong was just trying to make the point that Cat Cora was a "somebody" in the food world even before ICA. They don't invite nobodies to do the JB dinners, and even though it is not the greatest honor the JBF bestows, it's still an honor.


                                                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                  I believe most of the chefs who do dinners are not asked but volunteer to do so.

                                                  1. re: Withnail42

                                                    Interesting! Do they accept everyone who asks?


                                                    1. re: Withnail42

                                                      This used to be the case........have not kept up in last few years after financial

                                                      1. re: Withnail42

                                                        IIRC, most of the chefs agreed to such dinners because they strongly believed, even though Beard Awards denied it, that unless you participated in those dinners, you were never going to be rewarded by the Beard Awards. Sorta of a pay to play program.

                                            3. re: tomatoaday

                                              Cora had multiple shows on Food Network before she became an Iron Chef. One show Melting Pot introduced to me to her as well as Padma...

                                    2. I was surprised to see Blaise on the show.

                                      Also who were the guest judges, specifically that hot one that caught my eye.

                                      1. Cat Cora's has the highest ratio of losses of any other Iron Chef. I don't know how it was determined that she rated as an Iron Chef.

                                        12 Replies
                                        1. re: dolly52

                                          Cat Cora appeared at an event I attended a few years ago when she was promoting a new cookbook. She took questions from the audience and someone asked how she became an Iron Chef. She said that they were looking for a female Iron Chef and, out of the female chefs on the Food Network, she had the most experience and training, so they asked her to do it.

                                          1. re: charmedgirl

                                            I wonder who her competition would have been at that point?

                                              1. re: hobbess

                                                RR, Sandra, Paula, you the willies to think about it, doesn't it?

                                                I think the Two Hot Tamales were already gone, sadly. Not sure if Anne Burrell was Mario's sous at that point.

                                                1. re: coney with everything

                                                  Lets not forget that self entitled classically trained French chef Giada had to 'team' up with Bobby Flay in order to compete on IC. She was then responsible for one of the most talked about moments on the show when she literally could not boil water.

                                                  But at the time she was probably the one (except for CC) with the most real world culinary experience. And that really wasn't too much.

                                                  1. re: coney with everything

                                                    Yeah, you know, it was such a non-self-aggrandizing answer ("I was the best of the worst") that I figured it had to be true.

                                                    And to be honest, seeing her in person made me like her a bit more. She seemed very friendly and down to earth. More approachable than on the show.

                                              2. re: dolly52

                                                I don't know why people think that Cat Cora's winning percentage is that much lower than the others. According to Wikipedia, she is at 58.9 percent while Masaharu Morimoto (ICA only) is at 59.6 percent with just one more win than her, through the end of last season. Whether it seems that she loses more (or maybe her losses are bigger?) is debatable, I'm just giving you the numbers.

                                                1. re: funniduck

                                                  She just seems so boring.. I know her background is Greek; which I love but I have never seen a dish by her that I thought OH I need to eat her food.

                                                  1. re: chris2269

                                                    Really... I find her food to look much more interesting then Flay's or Michael Simon's stuff.

                                                    1. re: rozz01

                                                      I have eat en Flay's food a number of times and agree there...nothing I would tell someone they have to try this.. Disagree on Simon's . Agree to disagree?

                                                      1. re: chris2269

                                                        Total... I'm just not an offal or pork fan... others love it..

                                                  2. re: funniduck

                                                    I think a lot of people discount those wins because she's won numerous battles where she lost on taste but ended up winning because of her presentation scores. Plus, she seems to end up battling less accomplished challengers compared to the other iron chefs and that inflates her winning percentage.

                                                2. I absolutely loved Richard and rooted for him in both of his Top Chef seasons. When he won all stars, it was like watching my favorite team winning the NCAA tourney. We all went crazy! To see him supporting Iron Chef Cat Cora, she has one outstanding member on her team. I hope to see him in the next challenge for Iron Chef. Food chops and a heart with family number one. He seems to be a truly stand up guy!

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: smcraig1369

                                                    Btw, nothing against small people, but Cat Cora is a tiny tiny lady. Blaise is also very short. Maybe she picks sous chefs that make her look taller ;)

                                                    1. re: smkit

                                                      Is that also why Cat has Lorilynn as sous?