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The Next Iron Chef


PDC
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A disappointing end to a disappinting series. I've been a fan of IC from the days of the original show on FN and I have to say that other than the Shatner UPN version this was the worst IC-related show yet. And the fact that the winner and one of the judges have a long-standing relationship leaves a bad taste in one's mouth.

I know, Ruhlman has tried to spin this as it being HARDER for Symon because of their history but come on....does anyone who works in the food OR the media business believe that having a friend on the panel is a disadvantage? I'm not saying the show was a total fix, but Symon definitely had an advantage.

Finally, as others have pointed out the challenges leading up to the finale had little to do with what actually goes on on the series that this was essentially an audition for. Say what you will about Next Food Network Star, but the challenges there are at least relevant to the job that is being sought. What, exactly, would have been wrong with making this show basically like the NCAA tournament of Iron Chef battles? You could do a week one show where maybe you have some sort of "quickfire" challenge that decides the seeding of the tournament and then every week after you do a Kitchen Stadium battle between two hopefuls, one gets knocked out and one advances to the next round. That format would also have the advantage of being cheaper to produce than flying the chefs and judges all over the place. Oh well, I guess they won't need to do this again until another IC leaves the show.

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Putting the irony in Iron Chef, Kat "I have no qualifications for this" Kora kept yammering away about what was and was not iron chef material. Dio mio! I guess if anyone would be acutely aware of "it," she would, but I can only imagine how much it made both finalists want to cringe having to listen to her. Please could we lose you and install both of these real chefs into the pantheon?

Judy Jones aka "moosnsqrl"

Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.

M.F.K. Fisher

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Putting the irony in Iron Chef, Kat "I have no qualifications for this" Kora kept yammering away about what was and was not iron chef material.  Dio mio!  I guess if anyone would be acutely aware of "it," she would, but I can only imagine how much it made both finalists want to cringe having to listen to her.  Please could we lose you and install both of these real chefs into the pantheon?

OMG :shock:moosnsqrl, so I wasn't the only one at home squirming and feeling somewhat uncomfortable when she was pontificating on what is and is not Iron Chef caliber food!? Yeah, that was too funny. Though, in her defense, I think she has improved as time goes on.

Back to the secret ingredient, my take on it was that swordfish is a pretty unforgiving fish and real easy to dry out and screw up, so maybe that's why it was selected? Would've been more interesting if they were given an array of fish/shellfish we don't see on a regular basis in the States maybe.

Congrats to both Symon and Besh. I think the best two made it to the end. Can't wait to see what Symon cooks up in Kitchen Stadium.

Inside me there is a thin woman screaming to get out, but I can usually keep the Bitch quiet: with CHOCOLATE!!!

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Putting the irony in Iron Chef, Kat "I have no qualifications for this" Kora kept yammering away about what was and was not iron chef material.  Dio mio!  I guess if anyone would be acutely aware of "it," she would, but I can only imagine how much it made both finalists want to cringe having to listen to her.  Please could we lose you and install both of these real chefs into the pantheon?

OMG :shock:moosnsqrl, so I wasn't the only one at home squirming and feeling somewhat uncomfortable when she was pontificating on what is and is not Iron Chef caliber food!? Yeah, that was too funny. Though, in her defense, I think she has improved as time goes on.

Back to the secret ingredient, my take on it was that swordfish is a pretty unforgiving fish and real easy to dry out and screw up, so maybe that's why it was selected? Would've been more interesting if they were given an array of fish/shellfish we don't see on a regular basis in the States maybe.

Congrats to both Symon and Besh. I think the best two made it to the end. Can't wait to see what Symon cooks up in Kitchen Stadium.

Completely agree with both of you - I was cringing at Cora's comments. However, I knew Symon was going to win after looking at Flay's response to eating Symon's Swordfish collar. It looked like Flay needed a moment alone after that one.

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PDC mentioned the Ruhlman/Symon connection, and that bothered me too. What bothers me even more about that connection is that FN allowed it. From that standpoint, I'm not going so far as to say they knew who they wanted to be the next IC, and this little mini-series was just a vehicle for promoting Iron Chef America. No, I'm not going so far as to say that, but the thought has planted itself rather firmly in the back of my mind and now I'm feeling a bit like the rube at the side show carnival who just got duped.

Not that Symon's not a great chef and all, because he is. Speaking of side shows, Michael Knowlton redeemed himself with his vote for Besh, in my modest opinion, and I liked his little silver tie with the fat knot, too.

And while I'm in this bitchy little mood, I'd like to add that Alton Brown has thoroughly gotten on my nerves, ever since his near-miss with the "rabbit" in first season of Feasting on Asphalt, and the second season chock full of condescending remarks at every single eatery he visited. But that's beside the point.

:angry: <<-- I'm not angry or bitter, really I'm not. I'm happy for Symon.

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I would have been happy with either of them...initially rooted for Symon- but Besh won me over in the last few episodes. Truly hope that the relationship with MR didn't affect the outcome- Symons a great chef and deserves to win on his own merits. Can't wait to hear him laughing all next season. Someone earlier mentioned ditching cat cora and adding both to the group... can I add my vote for that? :raz:

ksoss

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One more thought: Of the three original judges, two cast votes for Besh. I wonder at what point did the Network or "Chairman" decide it would be a good idea to bring on three chefs under contract to the network to act as judges?

In a real contest, the rules are pretty much laid out in advance. There is no last minute funny business or manipulation of the judging criteria OR the judges.

I presume that in future IC contests, aside from taste, plating and originality, there will be points for personality. Hmm?

I would have been thrilled to wake up one morning with a simple headline that read, "Michael Symon inks deal with Food Network to join Iron Chef America." That would have been sufficient. Stacking the deck, however, just isn't cool.

end rant

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What's with the snub of Batali from the "Iron Chef Sky Box?"  For a network that continues to claim he's not leaving the show, that seems a bit rude.

I don't think he was snubbed. I think he is really leaving, and, just to underscore that, he is really busy. Elsewhere. But I do think he was invited.

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And while I'm in this bitchy little mood, I'd like to add that Alton Brown has thoroughly gotten on my nerves, ever since his near-miss with the "rabbit" in first season of Feasting on Asphalt, and the second season chock full of condescending remarks at every single eatery he visited. But that's beside the point.

:angry:  <<-- I'm not angry or bitter, really I'm not. I'm happy for Symon.

Agreed! I forgot to mention that the other towering achievement of this series was that somehow Alton Brown became an unlikeable jerk. Which he may very well always have been but it never showed up on camera so clearly before.

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An interesting end to an interesting series. Overall I was pleased, I thought Symon deserved it as his dishes in the finale looked to be better executed, in fact, i was surprised at the level of sophistication and impressive plating. Besh was great as well and dedfinately deserved to be in the finale as his performance all season was excellent. I just think in the end his highs weren't high enough to top Symon. Symon will be a great Iron Chef. Frankly, I think the food network wanted Symon to be in the finale with Aaron Sanchez, but Sanchez just never could get his act together. I mean they both have had previous shows on the FN and it made sense.

As far as the judging goes some interesting points have been brought up. In the end I have to agree that there was no way Michael Rhulman should have been on the panel, there just can't be any way for him to vote without bias, especially in the finale. It wasn't something that really bothered me up until the finale. As far as bringing in the other ICs to judge, not so sure how I feel about that, bottom line, if they hadn't been there to judge, based on what the results someone else claimed, Besh would have been the winner. An interesting twist if you ask me. Also count me in with the group that detests Cat Cora, watching her critique was indeed laughable, I mean if anything get her out of there and put Besh in there in her place, she really has no business being in there. And while I like Bobby Flay a great deal, i don't think he cooks near the level of Morimoto or Batali, but that's another issue.

"A man's got to believe in something...I believe I'll have another drink." -W.C. Fields

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One more thought: Of the three original judges, two cast votes for Besh. I wonder at what point did the Network or "Chairman" decide it would be a good idea to bring on three chefs under contract to the network to act as judges?

In a real contest, the rules are pretty much laid out in advance. There is no last minute funny business or manipulation of the judging criteria OR the judges.

I presume that in future IC contests, aside from taste, plating and originality, there will be points for personality. Hmm?

I would have been thrilled to wake up one morning with a simple headline that read, "Michael Symon inks deal with Food Network to join Iron Chef America." That would have been sufficient. Stacking the deck, however, just isn't cool.

end rant

Wow - that is a pretty big allegation. Although I'm not nieve to the "hidden" agendas relating to reality television, I have a hard time believing 3 chefs (who essentially make their living off of reputation) would vote for another chef based on contract.

Even taking this theory into account Symon won this contest based on record alone:

Week 2- Simplicity Challenge (2 challenges in first episode)

Week 3 - Resourcefulness Challenge

Week 4 - Create Under Pressure Challenge

Besh's only win was the artistry challenge in Week 1. In Week 5 they did not crown a winner - only a loser.

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PDC mentioned the Ruhlman/Symon connection, and that bothered me too. What bothers me even more about that connection is that FN allowed it. From that standpoint, I'm not going so far as to say they knew who they wanted to be the next IC, and this little mini-series was just a vehicle for promoting Iron Chef America. No, I'm not going so far as to say that, but the thought has planted itself rather firmly in the back of my mind and now I'm feeling a bit like the rube at the side show carnival who just got duped.

Not that Symon's not a great chef and all, because he is. Speaking of side shows, Michael Knowlton redeemed himself with his vote for Besh, in my modest opinion, and I liked his little silver tie with the fat knot, too.

And while I'm in this bitchy little mood, I'd like to add that Alton Brown has thoroughly gotten on my nerves, ever since his near-miss with the "rabbit" in first season of Feasting on Asphalt, and the second season chock full of condescending remarks at every single eatery he visited. But that's beside the point.

:angry:  <<-- I'm not angry or bitter, really I'm not. I'm happy for Symon.

Ruhlman discussed both the judging process as well as his own ethics at great length on the Ruhlman blog (in the October archives, The Next Iron Chef). Actually, knowing Symon might have hurt Symon, in the beginning, since it was Ruhlman, the judge most familiar with Symon's food, who called him out on borrowing a recipe from his pastry chef's repetoire. And, BTW, ALL of the judges know Symon. And a lot of the chefs are buds with each other - Symon with Besh, Symon with Cosentino, Aaron with - Besh, I think? At this level, everybody knows everybody, a good hand full are buddies, and, you know, no one went home with his or her career ending because they didn't win a reality TV show. So no need to feel duped or dissed or anything but - HEY! WE GOT OURSELVES A WICKED COOL NEW IC! FUNNY! SOULFUL! CREATIVE! And can he cook, or what? (He resembles Morimoto a lot, personality-wise, to me - not only does he think outside the box, foodwise, but the boxes Symons thinks out of aren't rectangular to begin with. Funny, mischievious man with a good sense of humor, like Morimoto. He just SOOOO camera-ready! (Although I loved Besh, too, and think he was just as deserving.)
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I do hear what you're saying Claudia and I'm happy happy happy for Symon. My point is that if you're having a competion, don't start rigging it towards the end, because if nothing else, it just looks funky.

Two of the three original judges cast their final vote for Besh. If I read correctly (and I do think I read it on Ruhlman's blog), the general consensus was that Besh won in France, even though a winner for the France competition was not named, and I seem to recall Mr. Brown actually suggestion to Donatella that a winner NOT be named (why the hell not, I ask?), but rather just the loser.

I'm not saying it was rigged, but I am saying that it's best to not meddle with things toward the end, because rubes like me just get all frustrated and irritated because the waters get terribly muddy.

But yeah, rock on Symon.

This is not an allegation, it's just me expressing my disagreement with the way things were handled, and god forbid the Network get all lawyered-up based on my remarks. :shock:

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Ruhlman discussed both the judging process as well as his own ethics at great length on the Ruhlman blog (in the October archives, The Next Iron Chef).  Actually, knowing Symon might have hurt Symon, in the beginning, since it was Ruhlman, the judge most familiar with Symon's food, who called him out on borrowing a recipe from his pastry chef's repetoire.  And, BTW, ALL of the judges know Symon.  And a lot of the chefs are buds with each other - Symon with Besh, Symon with Cosentino, Aaron with - Besh, I think?  At this level, everybody knows everybody, a good hand full are buddies, and, you know, no one went home with his or her career ending because they didn't win a reality TV show.  So no need to feel duped or dissed or anything but - HEY!  WE GOT OURSELVES A WICKED COOL NEW IC!  FUNNY!  SOULFUL!  CREATIVE!  And can he cook, or what?  (He resembles Morimoto a lot, personality-wise, to me - not only does he think outside the box, foodwise, but the boxes Symons thinks out of aren't rectangular to begin with.  Funny, mischievious man with a good sense of humor, like Morimoto.  He just SOOOO camera-ready!  (Although I loved Besh, too, and think he was just as deserving.)

I don't feel duped or dissed. Let's call it "vaguely disappointed with a healthy side of unsurprised".

The disappointment comes not from who was chosen, but how the process went (irrelevant challenges, obnoxious Alton, perceived conflict of interest of a judge). But hey, it's just a TV show. I'm not gonna lose sleep over it.

Now I'm just waiting for Bourdain to gush about how it was the best FN show in years. Logrolling is fun and profitable!

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In his blog entry today Ruhlman admits that he was ultimately biased in favor of Symon:

While I think that my being from Cleveland and knowing Symon well was, if anything, a detriment during the competition, can I say that it was a detriment here?  No, clearly it was not.  In an even contest—and I can’t imagine two chefs who are more evenly matched in technical skill and culinary imagination—if they had been even in every single respect, I’d then have given my vote to Symon.  I would have no other choice.  As it happened, I chose the person I thought would make the best iron chef given what I saw and tasted throughout the entire competition.

I think this really shows why Ruhlman shouldn't have judged this competition. It's hard to believe that a competition like this can truly produce a tie, because it's so subjective. He should be telling himself that he must choose a winner, and not that as long as he can convince himself it's a tie then it's ok to vote for his friend.

In the end, though, I think bringing in the Iron Chefs as judges mitigates any bias in the ultimate round. It's hard to argue with a clean sweep of the Iron Chefs (I do wish, though, that they'd scored the dishes). Having eaten at the restaurants of both finalists, it's hard to argue with either one of them walking away with the win. They're both great chefs.

Todd A. Price aka "TAPrice"

Homepage and writings; A Frolic of My Own (personal blog)

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Putting the irony in Iron Chef, Kat "I have no qualifications for this" Kora kept yammering away about what was and was not iron chef material.  Dio mio!  I guess if anyone would be acutely aware of "it," she would, but I can only imagine how much it made both finalists want to cringe having to listen to her.  Please could we lose you and install both of these real chefs into the pantheon?

YES! YES! YES!

I couldn't believe her! Throw her away...

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In his blog entry today Ruhlman admits that he was ultimately biased in favor of Symon:
While I think that my being from Cleveland and knowing Symon well was, if anything, a detriment during the competition, can I say that it was a detriment here?  No, clearly it was not.  In an even contest—and I can’t imagine two chefs who are more evenly matched in technical skill and culinary imagination—if they had been even in every single respect, I’d then have given my vote to Symon.  I would have no other choice.  As it happened, I chose the person I thought would make the best iron chef given what I saw and tasted throughout the entire competition.

I think this really shows why Ruhlman shouldn't have judged this competition. It's hard to believe that a competition like this can truly produce a tie, because it's so subjective. He should be telling himself that he must choose a winner, and not that as long as he can convince himself it's a tie then it's ok to vote for his friend.

In the end, though, I think bringing in the Iron Chefs as judges mitigates any bias in the ultimate round. It's hard to argue with a clean sweep of the Iron Chefs (I do wish, though, that they'd scored the dishes). Having eaten at the restaurants of both finalists, it's hard to argue with either one of them walking away with the win. They're both great chefs.

Having discussed this all at length at on ruhlman's blog, I will simply add my own opinion. The problem I had with ruhlman being a judge was not only the personal relationship he had with symon, but that symon's success meant personal success for himself. Let me explain, ruhlman is first and foremost an author. He writes and sells books to make money. There is only one book (soul of a chef) that is a biographical work about chef symon. Anyone who wants to learn more about symon is likely to buy ruhlman's book. Addtionally, both symon and ruhlman are from cleveland. It is no secret that ruhlman heavily promotes cleveland. What better way to promote cleveland than to have a cleveland chef a new iron chef?

With that said, do I think symon deserves to be iron chef? Yes I do. Do I think ruhlman was a fair judge? For the most part. Do I think ruhlman should have let himself judge symon and be on iron chef? Absolutely not.

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Having discussed this all at length at on ruhlman's blog, I will simply add my own opinion. The problem I had with ruhlman being a judge was not only the personal relationship he had with symon, but that symon's success meant personal success for himself.

That's a good point, although it's worth noting what Ruhlman said about his personal relationship to Symon in this Cleveland Magazine piece:

Before heading to the Culinary Institute of America in upstate New York to write a book about learning to cook, I needed some basic information, and knew that Symon had been a 1989 graduate of the school.

He let me hang out in his kitchen, where he and one other cook put out 180 plates in two hours, standing in approximately five square feet of space, one and a half plates a minute from a kitchen crammed with sideways servers picking up food. That’s a lot of plates fast, and not hash either — they were hottest-food-in-the-city plates.

By the time I’d written my book on learning to cook at the CIA, Symon had opened Lola in Tremont with his partner and now wife, Liz Shanahan, and had earned a share of the national spotlight as one of Food & Wine’s 10 best new chefs.

I was writing another book on chefs, asked if I could hang out at Lola for a while to see what this Cleveland boy was doing that merited national ranking, and I featured him in the book, “The Soul of a Chef.”

We’ve become friends and I no longer write about him.

I took this to mean that Ruhlman no longer writers about Symon because they are friends.

Todd A. Price aka "TAPrice"

Homepage and writings; A Frolic of My Own (personal blog)

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Having discussed this all at length at on ruhlman's blog, I will simply add my own opinion. The problem I had with ruhlman being a judge was not only the personal relationship he had with symon, but that symon's success meant personal success for himself.

That's a good point, although it's worth noting what Ruhlman said about his personal relationship to Symon in this Cleveland Magazine piece:

Before heading to the Culinary Institute of America in upstate New York to write a book about learning to cook, I needed some basic information, and knew that Symon had been a 1989 graduate of the school.

He let me hang out in his kitchen, where he and one other cook put out 180 plates in two hours, standing in approximately five square feet of space, one and a half plates a minute from a kitchen crammed with sideways servers picking up food. That’s a lot of plates fast, and not hash either — they were hottest-food-in-the-city plates.

By the time I’d written my book on learning to cook at the CIA, Symon had opened Lola in Tremont with his partner and now wife, Liz Shanahan, and had earned a share of the national spotlight as one of Food & Wine’s 10 best new chefs.

I was writing another book on chefs, asked if I could hang out at Lola for a while to see what this Cleveland boy was doing that merited national ranking, and I featured him in the book, “The Soul of a Chef.”

We’ve become friends and I no longer write about him.

I took this mean that Ruhlman no longer writers about Symon because they are friends.

Don't you find it interesting that since they are friends he feels he can no longer write about him. Yet, he has no problem judging him in this competition?

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When reading reviews about the book Heat, I came across information about Batali in relation to ICA. Apparently, Mario isn't pleased with the cancelation of his FN show Malto Mario, and in response he will no longer appear on ICA. It's a shame really. I miss watching a true chef at work. Instead, we now get to look forward to Giada De Laurentiis, Rachael Ray, and Sandra Lee. I'd rather learn from a Campbell's soup cookbook than be taught anything regarding food from that bunch.

As for the Michael Symon and the Michael Rhulman controversy, who cares! Food Network probably asked several food critics to do the judging for The Next Iron Chef. I'm certainly glad Rhulman accepted or else we'd be stuck with Donatella Arpaia, Andrew Knowlton, and some other nobody. I personally feel the show would have been better if Jeffrey Steingarten filled both Donatella's and Andrew's spot.

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Enough Already,

M.R. gave it to you straight. Suck it up! Mike S. is crazy but a seriously fun Chef and the good thing is he will be will be the next ICA. Truly, does it matter all that much. He brings a new way to cook to ICA and he does more for Greek cooking than Ms. the spin pans and drink Ouzo.

M.B. is a fine chef. I have had his food and no shame in is his departure, He rocks!

I am a bit pissed how Mirimoto was treated. He has language issues, always has, but it is not any reason to treat him like an idiot? No.

Mike will be fun to watch, that laugh demonic, in a angelic sort of way, will be fresh and fun.

No cranberries is his future, he makes life watching FN a good thing.

Just curious what does Tony B have to say about this?

Having eaten at Besh's flagship, I would Love to see what Mike could do. Besh had simply the best dinner I have ever have had. If Mike S. was better I would love to try it.

**************************************************

Ah, it's been way too long since I did a butt. - Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"

--------------------

One summers evening drunk to hell, I sat there nearly lifeless…Warren

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I sort of feel bad that Cat Kora sounded like such an idiot. She made women chefs look bad. Her "Iron Chef" comments sounded like she had an answer ready like those dames in a beauty contest.

Too bad.

So Batali really leaving? We've heard both sides on this board.

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Just an observation. This was not a competition. Not in the true sense anyway. FN or the producers handpicked the "contestants", the judges, sold the commercials, made the rules, filmed, edited, overdubbed, and knew who would win from day one. That's why a top chef by anyone's estimation could get "eliminated" without so much as a whimper.

It's culinary wrestling. I still would have liked to see Besh win.

Screw it. It's a Butterball.
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