Ottawa's best cooks go into battle on Iron Chef

A trio of Ottawa chefs have been on the front lines of an intense culinary battle in recent weeks, entering “kitchen stadium” to do battle with an Iron Chef.

3 Ottawa chefs have been on the show in the last month

René Rodriguez, chef at Ottawa's Common Eatery, competes on a recent episode of Iron Chef Canada. Rodriguez is one of three local chefs who've recently been featured on the well-known cooking show. (Courtesy Food Network Canada)

A trio of Ottawa chefs have been on the front lines of an intense culinary battle in recent weeks, entering "kitchen stadium" to do battle with the Iron Chef.

Common Eatery chef René Rodriguez, Atelier chef and owner Marc Lepine, and NeXT chef and owner Michael Blackie have all appeared this season on the Canadian edition of the popular cooking show. 

On the show, contestants have one hour to prepare five dishes. They're pitted against the Iron Chef, and their creations are judged by a panel.

Rodriguez, who appeared on the most recent episode, said it's an intense experience.

"You don't expect who you are going to be battling, and there is a huge rush of adrenaline," he said. "It's pretty damn exciting."

Racing the clock

Lepine said he also found the whole enterprise to be a real pressure cooker, especially working outside his own kitchen.

"The clock starts, and your dishes are up in one hour," he said. "It was challenging working with equipment that wasn't yours."

Rodriguez squared off against Iron Chef Amanda Cohen in a challenge that featured cauliflower as the central ingredient.

Rodriguez, left, stands beside Iron Chef Amanda Cohen during the taping. (Courtesy Food Network Canada )

His advice to any chefs who go on the program is to embrace the experience.

"If you love it, you are going to enjoy it," he said. "It is all to have fun and enjoy yourself."

Secret weapon

Lepine said he wanted to make sure, during his episode, he'd be showcasing the work he does in his own kitchen at Atelier.

"You have to make your own food," he said. "And that was our goal being on the show."

Marc Lepine, owner and chef at Atelier, competes in the Iron Chef Canada Kitchen Stadium. (Courtesy of Food Network Canada)

Lepine had to take on Iron Chef Lynn Crawford, and their secret ingredient was all things maple — from syrup to butter to candy.

Blackie, an old friend of Lepine's, worked for Crawford as one of her sous chefs during the competition. Lepine said when he saw Blackie there, he knew Crawford was playing to win.

"When I saw Michael Blackie come in, I thought, 'Nicely played!'"

As for Blackie, he said he didn't know he was going to be facing off against his friend until just before the episode was taped.

"We actually caught each other in the hallway and we were kind of taken aback," he said.

Blackie said the show was both exciting and a great opportunity to showcase the local food scene. 

"It is damn intense, but it was also extremely exciting to be so 'Ottawa representative' in the first episode," he said. 

Ultimately, Blackie was the only one of the three who ended up in the winning kitchen crew, as both Rodriguez and Lepine lost their battles with their respective Iron Chefs.