Channel 7’s 2010 series of the cult television cooking show, Iron Chef Australia, gave Herb the opportunity to showcase his culinary skills in front of a national audience. He went on to be the only contestant to win the tough competition against My Kitchen Rules regular, Guy Grossi. The win was an absolute highlight in Herb’s career, and propelled him further towards his ultimate goal of being one of Australia’s premier chefs. Here, Herb shares the excitement of the Iron Chef experience.
What was the mystery ingredient for your Iron Chef battle with Guy Grossi?
We found out shortly before the battle began that lamb was our key ingredient. We had to produce 4 dishes using lamb within the one hour time limit. Given the strong connection of lamb to Australian culture, we decided to go with an Australiana theme and recreate some iconic Aussie dishes. We produced a food landscape dish, a late night lamb sandwich, a chiko roll and a lamb roast.
You acknowledge the support of the two other chefs on your team in Iron Chef. Tell us why you chose them, and how you worked together during the battle.
When I discovered my audition for the show had been successful, I was over the moon with excitement! My first job was to ask two chefs to accompany me to Melbourne for the filming of the show. I chose two talented chefs who I’m also good friends with – Brett Barrett, Scotch College’s then Catering Manager, and successful Perth chef and restaurateur, Michael Forde. They’re both incredibly creative, talented and experienced and I knew they shared my excitement at being involved. I also knew we gelled well together having worked in the kitchen with both of them before.
Brett was amazing during the battle. He had the vital role of breaking down the meat. He managed to break down an entire lamb, producing enough cuts for all four dishes. Mick was also brilliant – so cool, calm and collected under pressure. His quick thinking when the juicer wouldn’t work for the beetroot jelly saw him improvising by using the blender instead. I was really lucky to have the support of two such capable chefs. I definitely couldn’t have done it without them
How did you all feel the night before the filming of the show?
The night before the battle, Mick, Brett and I had an awesome dinner at Melbourne’s Gingerboy, where we mused over what was about to take place. We stayed up quite late, discussing strategies right up until the last minute. We felt confident that we could give it a red hot go.
Tell us about the day of the battle.
The day of the battle, we had time for a quick breaky and coffee before we were whisked off to “Kitchen Stadium”. It was so hard to contain our excitement – we were bouncing off the walls. The production crew were so professional and friendly and quickly briefed us. There was so much going on behind the scenes, so much to organise and tight deadlines to keep. It was a lot of fun to see what really goes on.
A lot of time was spent filming introductions before we finally found out what the secret ingredient was. We discussed final strategies before the chairman announced the start of the battle.
Was the time pressure we see on tv accurate? How did you feel during the battle?
From the moment the chairman yelled, “Let the battle begin!” the pressure was definitely on! I had never felt so stressed. It was the strangest feeling – almost as though I was struggling to think. We all knew what we needed to do to get through the battle, but even the simplest jobs felt hard at that time. In the first ten minutes, I had problems getting the food processor to work, and I thought I was going to come unstuck then and there.
Time felt lost as there was no way of telling how many minutes were left unless it was announced. It was a very surreal feeling. We managed to gain some momentum halfway through. I had most of my jobs on the go and was rolling out the lavosh. The braised lamb for the chiko rolls were cooked and resting. Brett had all his butchery done and was cooking the lamb skewers for the lamb sandwich. Mick was busy finishing off the bavarois while the jelly was setting and the flatbread was proving. Things looked on target.
The final ten minutes were frantic. I started plating, Mick was finishing off the hummus and cooking the flatbreads, while Brett was busy forming the chicko rolls and slicing the sous vide lamb. We managed to plate up our four dishes with a minute to spare. It was such an awesome feeling to finish – we were so proud. We couldn’t have been happier with our food. It was super tasty, fresh and interesting
How were you feeling when it came time to presenting your dishes to the judges?
Unfortunately, we were sent to the green room while Guy plated up his dishes for the judges, so we really had no idea of what we were up against. We assumed he had prepared some amazing food – he was a fierce competitor – and so there was no thought of winning at that stage. It was a really nervous wait!
When it was finally our turn to plate for the judges, I started describing the first dish as we placed it in front of them. It was the ‘Lambscape,’ which formed the basis for our Australian theme. The judges seemed quite delighted by our lavosh shaped lambs!
The next course was the lamb sandwich. The judges had nothing but positive things to say. At this point, Brett whispered to me, “we’ve got this!” We didn’t want to get too ahead of ourselves though, as there were still two dishes to go, and we had no idea how Guy’s food had been received. The chiko roll saw more positive comments – the judges really understood the whole fun element we were trying to create. After the roast lamb dish had been tasted, we couldn’t believe how much the judges loved our food!
Describe the winning moment.
When it came time for the winner to be announced, we were all thinking that we actually had a shot. I was so emotional at that stage. Standing there waiting for the result felt like an eternity and my nerves were literally on end! When the chairman finally announced Team Faust as the winner, we were all so elated. Emotions ran wild and we hugged, cried, laughed, and celebrated. We had done what was thought to be impossible…we beat the Iron Chef!