Joule chefs shine on Iron Chef America

It was standing room only at Murphy’s Pub as Chefs Rachel Yang and Seif Chirchi of Seattle’s highly acclaimed Joule restaurant did battle against Chef Jose Garces on last night’s Iron Chef America. Friends and family cheered and jeered throughout the sixty minute show, with Kitchen Stadium events stirring passion that easily rivaled the fevered pitch of any Wembley Stadium soccer action that might normally be broadcast in the raucous Irish pub.

Those in the know somehow knew for weeks that Yang and Chirchi would be appearing on the show, but only recently learned that they’d be taking on the newest Iron Chef. And a million dollar vow meant that only a few (those who were at the taping) knew that the secret ingredient was Hawaiian moi – let alone the outcome of the judging. (Yang mentioned to me that she had hoped to serve everyone a sampling of one dish they did with this mild-tasting fish, but that moi is extremely difficult to get outside of Hawaii.)

Yang and Chirchi brought their usual boldness to their dishes, apparently to the discomfort of one of the judges, who seemed put off at one point by the spice level. But all the judges (and clearly the roomful of viewing judges at Murphy’s) seemed to like all the Joule dishes, multi-ethnic as always with Asian, French, and Middle Eastern influences. Oh, what I’d give for a taste of the bibimbap, as I enjoyed a previous version they prepared of this Korean favorite.

Before the broadcast, I continually said that there was virtually no chance that the new Iron Chef would lose his first competition. Yet as Yang and Chirchi’s dishes came together, I thought they had a good chance of winning due to the usual spark and innovation. Garces, though, prevailed, and the crowd’s discontent grew stronger when the final scoring showed that he won by just one point – and that being for originality. This shocked many, in disbelief that ceviche and fish ‘n’ chips represented originality to the judges.

Still, Yang and Chirchi were gracious competitors and proud of their performance, telling me afterward that they accepted the outcome as a challenge to be even more innovative with their cooking. Both were smiling and celebratory – appreciative of the crowd, and appreciative of each other.

Expect it to be a bit more challenging to get a table at the restaurant in the future. Sad for those of us who consider Joule to be a hidden jewel, but happy knowing that Yang and Chirchi continue to get the success they deserve.

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