The Top 12 Iron Chef America Winners, Ranked

"Iron Chef" is a beloved franchise, and for good reason. It's endlessly fascinating to see what high-end culinary delights kitchen pros whip together in a short matter of time with a last-minute surprise ingredient. And more often than not, that surprise ingredient is one that deviates from the challenger's culinary specialty, which makes the challenge even more challenging.

Maybe you were a devout viewer of the original Japanese format that debuted in its home country in 1993 and later became a rerun staple on Food Network in the 90s and early aughts. Who could resist the charms of the Chairman's enthusiasm and dramatic costumes, the soothing dubbed commentary, or the fortune teller judge who seemed to appear in almost every episode? And, did you know that Hans Zimmer composed the theme music? He did! Though, it was lifted from the "Backdraft" soundtrack (via The Guardian). Honestly, what a show. Catch it on Peacock if you're feeling nostalgic.

Or, perhaps you first became a fan when "Iron Chef" crossed the Pacific and was adapted into "Iron Chef America." Regardless of where the series is set, they call it "Iron Chef" for a reason: It is truly difficult to achieve a victory when you're a mere challenger against one of the title characters. When you pull off that kind of miracle it's noteworthy. Here, we rank some of the most impressive competitions where the competitor's reigned supreme.

12. Chris Hastings

Southeast meets Southwest in the battle that featured sausage where Birmingham, Alabama-based Chef Chris Hastings was victorious over Chef Bobby Flay by a razor-thin one-point margin — 53 to 52.

In Season 10, Episode 4, Chef Flay filled a crepe with Italian sausage, ricotta, and hot red peppers, and he prepared a chicken andouille sausage with figs, currants, and capers. This went over well with judge Anthony Anderson and left him lamenting the small portion. In another course, Chef Flay stuffed empanadas with chorizo, which earned high marks from the judging panel.

Chef Hastings utilized chorizo in a different way by making a bouillabaisse with hopper shrimp from Florida along with cockles, which made the judges swoon. He also paired Italian sausage with rabbit roulade and succotash. This latter dish may have been what brought him the win. If you have the opportunity to dine in one of Chef Hasting's restaurants in Birmingham — Hot & Hot Fish Club and Ovenbird — you should absolutely take advantage of it.

11. Lee Anne Wong

Arguably one of the more shocking secret ingredients, a cornucopia of Halloween candy presents a horrifying challenge to an "Iron Chef" challenger. However, in Season 10Episode 16,  Chef Lee Anne Wong scared off the competition from Chef Marc Forgione and won by a one-point margin of 52 to 51. While candied delights suggest dessert dishes, both chefs proved that you can think past a dessert course and use them in savory entrees.

Chef Forgione put a few points on the board via a black sea bass that was glazed with the help of caramel. Another big hit was a candy corn soup featuring plump shrimp from Spain in a bacon-infused sauce.

Ultimately, Chef Wong overcame Chef Forgione, and the dish that put her over the top is perhaps her clever take on the classic combination of chocolate and mint. She used a mint chocolate bar and also invoked her childhood favorite of sesame candy to glaze a lamb loin. And if that wasn't enough, Chef Wong topped it off with edible flowers. Show off.

10. Jose Garces

Chef Jose Garces first made his appearance in Season 6, Episode 18 of "Iron Chef America" as a challenger, and later became an Iron Chef himself (via Food Network). He went up against Chef Flay in a melon battle that featured a unique twist in that each course needed some sort of frozen component. One could argue this was a precursor to later seasons of "Iron Chef America" that added a "culinary curveball" concept mid-way through the competition.

Chef Garces didn't hesitate to utilize the more high-end ingredients that Kitchen Stadium had in stock. Notably, he prepared a dish with Iberico ham that was accented with cantaloupe and an icy spin on Serrano ham. He also delivered Kobe beef alongside pickled honeydew melon.

Though Chef Flay gave it his all, Chef Garces won by a single point — 50 compared to Chef Flay's 49. They tied when it came to plating, and Flay had a narrow lead in originality, but Garces had enough of an edge when it came to flavors to put him over the top for the win.

9. Tom Douglas

In Season 2, Episode 6 of "Iron Chef America," James Beard award-winner Chef Tom Douglas may have had an unfair advantage in his battle against Chef Morimoto given that the secret ingredient was wild king salmon. Though born in Delaware, Chef Douglas has been a Seattle resident since the late 70s (via Seattle Dining). And, being located in the Pacific Northwest, he is certainly no stranger to that delicious river fish.

"I come from the land of salmon," stated Chef Douglas as he presented his dish to the panel. "You want to celebrate the beauty. My job is to get out of the way of the fish, let the fish shine." He did that indeed in several ways by poaching it in butter, curing it with tangy yogurt, and also using the collar of the salmon via a Chardonnay marinade.

Chef Morimoto, an expert with salmon in his own right, prepared gnocchi infused with the flavors of smoked salmon, topped salmon with truffle for a salad course, and cured salmon with sugar for the final dish of the meal. While the two chefs were neck in neck in the final scores, Chef Douglas came in strong to overcome Morimoto by three points in the taste category.

8. April Bloomfield

Hailing from Birmingham, England, Chef April Bloomfield first made her mark in London kitchens, then took her talents across the pond. She spent time on the line at Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California, before taking on the New York culinary scene. There, she opened The Spotted Pig and The Breslin Bar & Dining Room to much acclaim.

In Season 6, Episode 16 of "Iron Chef America," Chef Bloomfield dared to go up against Chef Symon. Olives served as a particularly difficult culinary obstacle considering their notoriously briny flavor. It took imagination from both chefs to highlight the theme ingredient without having the salinity overwhelm the entire meal.

While Chef Symon made a wily move to win over the judges with an olive-spiked dirty martini to start the meal, Chef Bloomfield wowed the judges and reigned supreme in the end by three points over Chef Symon. She delivered a perfectly-poached halibut filet topped with chopped olives and bread crumbs, as well as pan-roasted guinea fowl with crackly, crispy skin accompanied by a stewed, black olive sauce.

7. Ming Tsai

Chef Ming Tsai was literally raised in the kitchen in his family's restaurant in Dayton, Ohio. After studying at Le Cordon Bleu, he began opening restaurants in the Boston area where he earned raves from critics and patrons alike for his East-West culinary style. In 2002, The James Beard Foundation anointed him "Best Chef in the Northeast."

Going into the fray with Chef Flay is no easy feat, but in the very first season of "Iron Chef America", Chef Tsai was prepared for the possibility that the secret ingredient could be duck (or possibly chicken or squab) and he came ready. "I could not lose Battle Duck to Bobby," he admitted. He added that, "Fortunately, everything worked out. You never know if the foie gras crème brûlée's going to work out, or the Peking duck's going to be crisp."

Considering the tight one-hour clock that "Iron Chef America" competitors are given, Peking duck is a brave risk. But, Chef Tsai had spent a month testing how that could be achieved, and the efforts were worthy of a win by a five-point margin.

6. Cristeta Comerford & Bobby Flay

While there have been plenty of "Iron Chef America" episodes that feature a tag team competition, this particular one was unique. It trotted out the household names of Emeril Lagasse, Mario Batali, and Bobby Flay. In Season 8, Chef Flay was pitted into a competition against Lagasse and Batali and teamed up with a face that doesn't often appear on Food Network — White House Executive Chef Cristeta Comerford. The episode also features a special guest appearance by none other than former First Lady Michelle Obama (via The Atlantic).

Chef Comerford was born in the Philippines, studied French culinary arts, and moved to the United States at the age of 23. After stints at various Washington, D.C. hotel restaurants gathered attention, she was tapped to work as an assistant chef in the White House. She was promoted to Executive Chef in 2005 and is the first female and person of color in that role (via Share America).

Rather appropriately, the secret ingredient was — albeit, a bit broad in scope — ingredients literally picked out of the ground from the White House vegetable garden. Chef Comerford's broccoli clam chowder was inspired by her Filipino roots, and Chef Flay brought a barbeque flair to fresh veggies. A sweet potato tart with meringue was the kicker that sealed their success.

5. Madison Cowan

Chef Madison Cowan defeated Chef Jose Garces in Season 10Episode 3 with a score of 53-48. The secret ingredient in this case was leafy kale.

Chef Garces plated an impressive array throughout all of the courses. The range went from kale fondue, kale chutney, kale tagliatelle, kale souffle, and even kale ice cream. What won raves was the kale slaw that was paired with bacon-wrapped pork ribs — a nod to the fact that kale itself has a sturdy rib.

The challenger, Chef Cowan, answered to stern critique from the judging panel. They were flummoxed to identify the presence of the secret ingredient of kale in many of the dishes the chef offered. But, we think kids (and parents) out there would find that to be a feature, not a bug. 

Chef Cowan wanted to take the judges on a journey around the world. The first stop on the trip was a kale corn chowder that was intended to give a simultaneous nod to Massachusetts and Jamaica. Chef Cowan also provided a Korean barbecue-inspired sirloin that was accompanied by pickled kale. Venturing to Italy, there was a kale gelato that got a boost of lemon. The dish that seemed like the judges' favorite across the competition was Chef Cowan's kale-driven riff on fried chicken and waffles. The waffle batter incorporated kale and was not only visually intriguing but an incredibly tasty bite.

4. Neal Fraser

Foodies in the Los Angeles area have long been well aware of Chef Neal Fraser's culinary expertise. His resume includes a Culinary Institute of America degree, and experience working in kitchens for Thomas Keller and Wolfgang Puck — just to name a couple. Redbird, located in downtown Los Angeles and owned and operated by Chef Fraser and his wife Amy Knoll Fraser, has been a destination spot in the region not only for its food but the ambiance of its location inside a rectory.

Chef Cat Cora was Chef Fraser's choice as an opponent in a battle of pork, and Season 2, Episode 10 of "Iron Chef America" did not disappoint. Chef Cora's stated goal was to fully capture Mediterranean flavors, but also pull in some unexpected influences from various regions. Some of her offerings were Thai-inspired lettuce wraps, fennel pork ribs, and a pork skewer spiced with garam masala. However, all received rather mixed reviews from the judges.

Chef Fraser's theme was to stay in a comfort zone — and the strategy paid off. He prepared an earthy risotto, a caramelized onion polenta, roasted pork loin with home fries, and a bacon-laced spaetzle. The bellies of the judges were full and happy, and the verdict went in Chef Fraser's favor.

3. Michelle Bernstein

Chef Michelle Bernstein grew up in Miami enmeshed in both Jewish and Latinx cultures and was particularly enamored by her mother's cooking. After pursuing a dance career (via Medium), she diverted her creative passions over to the culinary arts and made a name for herself in the food scene using her personal background as influence in her dishes (via

Sweet onion was the focus of Season 2, Episode 7 of "Iron Chef America," which Chef Flay conceded is a difficult ingredient to make the focus of every dish of a full course meal as opposed to a protein. He paired it with salmon alongside Dungeness crab in a saffron sauce, as well as a side-by-side fried blooming onion and squash blossom.

Chef Bernstein made the choice of using conch meat in the opening course of her meal, and pressed her luck with another daring dish centered on sweetbreads. She also went into a safer pastry route with a sweet onion tart finished by a sweet onion napoleon dessert. The risks were rewarding in both the taste and originality categories to carry her to a resounding six-point margin of victory.

2. José Andrés

While many celebrity chefs have humanitarian and charitable causes close to their heart, perhaps no one is more notable than Chef José Andrés with World Central Kitchen in its noble effort to provide critical meals to those in disaster zones around the globe. It's what makes him one of the GOATs and makes it only appropriate that his "Iron Chef America" secret ingredient versus Bobby Flay was goat.

In Season 4, Episode 5 of "Iron Chef America," Kitchen Stadium offered up the entire animal for the chefs to consider and then butcher. Tenderloin, head, bones, connective tissue, you name it. Chef Flay unsurprisingly veered into Southwestern territory with a chile relleno stuffed with goat meat, and a goat loin taquito served with goat cheese fundido sauce. He wandered into different territory later in the meal with a goat tagine.

Originality won the day for Chef Andrés and garnered him a seven-point win over Flay. He began with a goat tartare topped with caviar and wrapped in avocado and the judges were floored. This was followed later by goat ribs and corn on the cob served underneath a glass dome filled with smoke. The dessert course was a decadent goat cheese sorbet in a red wine reduction sauce.

1. Dominique Crenn

Dominique Crenn is a renowned, French-born chef and tour-de-force in San Francisco. Her three-Michelin-starred restaurant Atelier Crenn is as well known for its exceptional food as it is for being a tough reservation (via San Francisco Magazine). Chef Crenn expanded her restaurants to include Petit Crenn and Bar Crenn in the city. She also got into the agriculture game through her Bleu Belle Farm in bucolic Sonoma County, where many of her restaurant's fresh ingredients are sourced (via Atelier Crenn).

In Season 8, Episode 8, Chef Crenn chose to battle against Chef Symon. The secret ingredient this time around was yogurt, and she delivered an impressive meal that earned high marks from the judges. A particularly interesting choice was to fry yogurt alongside a summer vegetable melody.

She won by one point on taste, with the judges enjoying the flavors of Chef Symon's courses almost as much. But, Chef Dominique Crenn dominated (sorry) when it came to plating and originality, leading to a 53 to 44 victory.