In a Halloween-themed episode of the Food Network's "Beat Bobby Flay" competition show, Vito's chef-owner Rob Maffucci grappled with pumpkin puree and added cocoa to a batch of fresh pasta in an attempt to take down the Iron Chef. But ultimately, Flay came out the winner of their cookoff.
The program pits two chefs against each other in the first round. They're given just 20 minutes to come up with a dish, using a mystery main ingredient chosen by the celebrity chef, restaurateur and TV personality. Two celebrity judges taste their plates and choose a winner, who will then go on to battle Flay – with a dish of their choice. Flay is given no warning, and has to put his own unique spin on the chef's selected food.
In the first round, Maffucci and competitor James Gillespie, a culinary instructor, were given pumpkin puree as the "secret ingredient." "I've never cooked with pumpkin puree. I don't even like pumpkin pie," Maffucci told the cameras, but he quickly made a baked pasta al forno with creamy pumpkin mascarpone sauce, tomato, fennel and pancetta.
Judges Geoffrey Zakarian and Jeff Mauro chose his dish over Gillespie's rum-soaked shallot pumpkin bisque and pumpkin flatbread, and suddenly Maffucci found himself facing Flay in Round 2. This time, it was Maffucci's turn to dictate the battle, and he challenged Flay to his signature dish: pasta bolognese.
Flay, known for adding Southwestern spice to nearly everything, stuck to a classic preparation. It was Maffucci who deviated from the norm, making fresh chocolate pasta with truffle oil and seasoning his meat with nutmeg and cinnamon. He finished it with a freshly made marinara sauce, pesto and orange zest.
A panel of three judges didn't take kindly to the creativity, though. One complained the dish didn't showcase the meat enough; another said the pesto and zest were "off-putting." The judges eventually chose Flay's version as the victor.
"Overall, I feel great about the whole situation," Maffucci said at the end of the episode. "Getting a chance to go up against an Iron Chef is an unbelievable experience and I wouldn’t trade it for the world."
Maffucci is the second Connecticut chef to step into the kitchen with Flay this year. In August, Millwright's chef-owner Tyler Anderson made it to the second round of the competition, challenging the celebrity to a clam chowder battle. Judges chose Flay's Southwestern-spiced version over Anderson's tapioca-thickened recipe.