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Robert St. John

Restaurateur, author, enthusiastic traveler, & world-class eater.

Besh at Bat

March 17, 2006

Besh at Bat

My friend and chef, John Besh, from Restaurant August in New Orleans, was a recent guest on the Food Network’s cooking competition Iron Chef America.

The following is an account of that competition with reverence to Ernest Lawrence Thayer.

Besh at Bat

The outlook wasn’t great, for young Chef Besh on that fateful day
For he had drawn the toughest ticket, Chef Mario was ready to play

The judges were all in place; Alton Brown was behind the mic
But the humble chef from Slidell town was crouched and ready to strike

The secret ingredient was unveiled, and when the hoopla had all died down
Who would have ever known that they used andouille in that Big Apple town?

Chef Besh had a gleam in his eye, for he had drawn the perfect match
Who, me? Cook with Cajun sausage? Don’t throw me in the briar patch!

The sous chefs were hustling and knives were tapping that oh so familiar sound
Besh was cool, calm, and relaxed as he plated his first round

Mario had every stovetop eye filled, and sweat ran from his brow
As John shaved fragrant truffles on all the dish would tastefully allow

Now when it comes to pasta, the orange-clogged Batali is considered king
But they hadn’t tasted Besh’s agnolotti and the gastronomic joy it brings

Besh even made an aspic of crawfish, corn, and the secret forcemeat
“A savory gelatin?” asked one of the judges, “Will it actually taste sweet?”

Mario was frying artichokes and stuffing porcini caps
And sautéing rock shrimp and onions while keeping his menu under wraps

Besh boiled lobster and sweetbreads; he pulled out all of the stops
He fried up Meyer lemons as he used all of his props

Batali cooked polenta, yellow-grained corn meal lest we forget
Besh said, “Way down in the Chocolate City, we just call them grits”

Now beignets are usually served at Du Monde, it’s here I should insert
But, Besh on a limb, shocked them all, by frying sausage for dessert

As time wound down, the scurry ensued, and sous chef’s hands were shaking
The home audience sat on sofa’s edge, was a legend in the making?

The judges showered praise on the Iron Chef, “Mario we think your great.”
With no idea that soon they’d be cleaning the challenger’s plates

Lester Holt seemed not to get it, a Mario homer I grew aware
And his fear of the aforementioned beignets gave Besh quite a scare

The judge in the middle loved Chef John, female fans he has many
And the judge on the end was mainly notable for helping keep Oprah skinny

In the end, the plates were taken away, and all the scores were tallied
Then they went to a commercial set, and we had no idea who had rallied

But when the chairman announced the winner, a roar rose through the crowd
It was the former Marine from New Orleans that made his city proud

And somewhere out in TV land the sun is shining bright
The Doc Gibbes Band is playing on Emeril’s show, and Rachel Ray’s heart is light
And, in the Crescent City men are laughing, and little children shout

But there is no joy in New York—
mighty Mario has struck out

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