For the first Chairman's Challenge, Alton jump-starts the proceedings by serving up an array of wild ingredients and the chefs must use their expert techniques to make a top-tier dish right out of the gate. Then, the bottom-rated chef is thrown into the deep end for a Secret Ingredient Showdown against a competitor chosen by the winner. Dishes are presented to judges Donatella Arpaia and Iron Chef Geoffrey Zakarian and one competitor is sent home.
The six remaining chefs are greeted by Alton, who goes hog-wild with his second Chairman's Challenge. Each competitor must showcase and transform the offerings into an Iron Chef-worthy dish, after drawing numbers to see who picks their ingredient first. Alton judges the dishes, and sends the lowest-ranking chef to a tropical Secret Ingredient Showdown against the winner's choice. Judges Anne Burrell and Iron Chef Jose Garces eliminate one competitor and five move closer to the Gauntlet.
An Iron Chef must be adaptable, so the Chairman's Challenge offers up a combination of ingredients that will be bittersweet for one chef. All items are first-come, first-served and cannot be shared, so the competitors race to the altar to grab their most desired elements. Alton sends the bottom chef to a sea creature-theme Secret Ingredient Challenge, along with the top competitor's choice. Iron Chef Marc Forgione and Giada De Laurentiis judge the dishes and send one chef packing.
Embracing the idea of less is more, Alton Brown puts the creativity of the remaining chefs to the test by having them pare down their ingredients. In a Chairman's Challenge twist, one competitor will be eliminated on the spot after the tasting.
In the first-season finale, with the Iron Chef title in sight, the last chef standing must first run the three-round gauntlet against legendary Iron Chefs Bobby Flay, Masaharu Morimoto and Michael Symon; and finish with more points than them combined. The finalist is given the opportunity to choose which Iron Chef competes in each rapid-paced round. In the end, judges Anya Fernald and Ludo Lefebvre decide if the finalist makes culinary history and becomes an Iron Chef or leaves in defeat.