ICA: Cora vs. Smith

When Holly Smith first entered Kitchen Stadium it was not how she had envisioned it.  She was never supposed to enter from the challenger’s side.  She was supposed to enter as an Iron Chef.  That was the plan anyhow.  Last summer Smith joined a gaggle of would-be’s vying to be the Next Iron Chef.  Alas it was not to be.  Jose Garces went home with the coveted title that has been held by less people than have walked on the moon.

So here she is finally entering Kitchen Stadium and even though it is a compromised dream it is still a dream fulfilled.  The opportunity for redemption at hand.  On the other side awaits Cat Cora.  Though she sports the lowest winning percentage of any Iron Chef she has been on a tare since she and life partner Jennifer completed their dueling pregnancies.

Holly Smith’s road to Iron Chef America started in Monkton, Maryland where she grew up in a family of foodies.  That early love of food eventually lead her to attend the Baltimore International Culinary College.  Holly completed an externship in Ireland with Master Chef Peter Timmins while at BICC.

After culinary school Smith took a position with Tom Douglas at the Dahlia Lounge in Seattle.  Next she helped Chef Tamara Murphy open Brasa.  A year later Holly opened Cafe Juanita in the Emerald City and the accolades have been pilling up for the better part of a decade.  Esquire Magazine’s “The Top 22″ 2000, Bon Appetit “Best New Casual Restaurant” 2001, Wine Spectator “Award of Excellence” 2000-2008, James Beard Nominations 2007, 2008 and 2009 and a James Beard Awards Winner for Best Chef Northwest in 2008.  Those are only a few of the roughly three dozen awards Smith has brought to Cafe Juanita.

Chef Smith brings her Northern Italian cuisine with it’s sauces rich with butter and cream to challenge the light Mediterranean fare preferred by Iron Chef Cora.  Donatella Arpaia, Eva La Rue and Anya Fernald are seated at the judge’s table, forks at the ready, Alton Brown is perched upon his observation tower, Kevin Brach wanders the floor and the Chairman has his metallic-toned shirt meticulously pressed.  Let Battle: Grapes begin.

SPOILER ALERT: Click HERE for the outcome.

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Stuart is a celebrity chef, food activist and award-winning food writer. He penned the cookbooks Third Coast Cuisine: Recipes of the Gulf of Mexico, No Sides Needed: 34 Recipes To Simplify Life and Amigeauxs - Mexican/Creole Fusion Cuisine. He hosts two Internet cooking shows "Everyday Gourmet" and "Little Grill Big Flavor." His recipes have been featured in Current, Lagniappe, Southern Tailgater, The Kitchen Hotline and on the Cooking Channel.

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