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Iron Chef America (Part 1)


bpearis
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I do wish they would at least show the individual scorecards.  Iron Chef is more a platform for the chefs to exhibit their skill and creativity than it is a "competition" proper, but I would still like to be able to see how the more credible judges scored things.

Indeed, it's entertainment not a competition. I strongly suspect you don't see the individual scores simple because it offers the producers wiggle room.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

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First off I will say that I am a total Steingarten groupy (if he ever reads this, I was that 21 year old college student at the banquet last year at Ohio State, the only person under 50 in attendance , I was the one who asked for a picture with you). I think his comments, while coming off as a complete ass compared with the other judges, are at least critical. But at least he is a critic. The judge that got on my nerves was the Zagat woman (does she know anything about food, she looked like a complete deer in headlights).

A purely technical question from a person not currently working the food industry, is it common place for a woman to wear a skirt in the kitchen? To me it looked like Mario Batali's female sous chef was wearing a skirt. Now don't get me wrong, if I was cooking with Kevin Brauch around (I know it's a little crazy, but I think he's hot) I would be wearing my old cheerleading uniform. But in a fast paced kitchen, is this accepted? It's nitpicky and makes no difference, just pure curiousity.

Alton rocks, there is nothing else to say about him. I'm looking forward to the episodes when Ted Allen is a judge. And the reference to Steingarten being the Simon Cowell of FoodTV, I think that's dead-on.

Shannon

Edited by Shannon_Elise (log)

my new blog: http://uninvitedleftovers.blogspot.com

"...but I'm good at being uncomfortable, so I can't stop changing all the time...be kind to me, or treat me mean...I'll make the most of it I'm an extraordinary machine."

-Fiona Apple, Extraordinary Machine

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I think Flay can be an excellent cook, but I have to ask why you think the judging is on the up and up, when the judges themselves are rather questionable choices.

...

Editing of the scores . . . did I say that? I don't know that they edit the scores, just that they take all precautions to ensure they can and keep it a secret. I mean when all they report are the lump scores of three judges, even the judges can't tell if the results are fixed or not. With two judges who had little to say, even the judge whose opinion and scores would be interesting to hear can come away assuming his scores might be upset by a judge or two who had no food background to permit objective criticism.

A final point about the charades on stage. Even the sous chefs knew where to start and what to do without any orders.

...

Flay really is a great chef. The food I had at the Mesa Grill was really a lot better than I gave it credit earlier. The queso fundido and the fried squash blossoms were as good as I've ever had anywhere. The cuban-style hamburger was an interesting and altogether solid offering as was the excellent, aforementioned, shrimp taco. His flavors and textures are extremely appealing and I think Flay's food is simply playing very well to the palates on the panel. This is the sort of thing that might not come across very well to the home viewer and might well account for my perceived disconnect between what I am watching on the show and the final outcomes.

I definitely don't think the judging is good, but I also don't think it is rigged. I think they do make questionable choices on who gets to judge, but I don't get the sense that the network is dictating outcomes outright. Of course, I concede, they could influence outcome through their choice of judges in a variety of ways. Unfortunately, the lack of transparency, as you point out, makes it difficult to know for sure if this is a fair contest.

It just seems too cruel and inappropriate, even for TV show producers, to "put reputations on the line" in an unfair contest.

Edited by fiftydollars (log)
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Based on what I saw on the program, I would definitely eat at Bayless's restaurants in Chicago (Topolo and Frontera), but would definitely take a pass on any of Flay's. The former's seemed like an adventure, but the latter's a trayful of cliches.

I felt exactly the same way.

I was also shocked that Flay won, especially since he got defensive around the negative comments the judges made about the meat being tough, dried out etc.

Also it didn't seem like the judges were as negative with Bayless, and his dishes were a whole lot more interesting.

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A purely technical question from a person not currently working the food industry, is it common place for a woman to wear a skirt in the kitchen?  To me it looked like Mario Batali's female sous chef was wearing a skirt.  Now don't get me wrong, if I was cooking with Kevin Brauch around (I know it's a little crazy, but I think he's hot) I would be wearing my old cheerleading uniform.  But in a fast paced kitchen, is this accepted? It's nitpicky and makes no difference, just pure curiousity.

Shannon

I think it's an answer to Mario wearing shorts in the kitchen.

Sunday's episode was good. Steingarten continues to grate (and again, let me say I enjoyed his books but am just shocked at what an ass he is on the show). I still really wish they'd spend just a little longer on who the challenger is and what they are known for. Maybe not drag it out as long as the original IC did, but you had a good idea of the chef, their background, and why they were chosen to compete. And I also wish they could choose their opponent; though my wife pointed out that it would probably result in a run of chefs trying to take Flay down.

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One other thought - I'm really looking forward to seeing Alex Lee on the show. Of all the challengers they have lined up, he's the one I'm most interested in watching.

Alex is a friend, but he's also probably the single most accomplished chef I've seen associated so far with the show, although he's probably a complete unknown to the TV audience. He may be the closest you'll see to a Keller or a Boulud.

I'm looking forward to seeing Alex Lee as well. I've gained an admiration for him since reading The Fourth Star, the book about restaurant Daniel. I understand that Alex Lee's battle will be the inaugural battle for Iron Chef Cat Cora.

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I understand that Alex Lee's battle will be the inaugural battle for Iron Chef Cat Cora.

Are you serious? Cat Cora as an Iron Chef? Hmm... :wacko:

Who knows anything about her - I've only seen her on that kitchen remodeling show on FoodTV (a guilty pleasure).

"See these? American donuts. Glazed, powered, and raspberry-filled. Now, how's that for freedom of choice."

-Homer Simpson

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Cat Cora used to be on the (personally lamented) defunct Melting Pot quite a bit. I am kind of mystified by her selection...I am not saying she may not be just as qualified, it just seems not on the same par as the Pucks, Batalis, Flays, Morimotos.

For those missing the old Chairman Kaga, I stumbled upon the weirdest Japanese Game Show on Bravo the other night. It was called Hey!Spring of Trivia! and there's guys in jackets like Kaga's, a Chairman, and a row of judges who include two giggly actresses. For those who miss the weird otherworld Outer Limits quality of the Original Iron Chef, check this out.

I think the people who want more 'professional eaters' on the judging panel are not recalling the Japanese Iron Chef real well. There may have been two on occasion, but usually it was just one food professional, and the rest were just as sorry as ours. I think the reason they came off better is because the Japanese folk have a much more deep understanding of their food culture. I don't think that can compare to the diversity of the Iron Chefs here. That's one reason I said I enjoy it for what it is, and don't attempt to make too much of it. It's a cool show. :rolleyes:

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I just have to chime in here as a newbie. Michael served me his famous egg-cup chocolate dessert (custard?) a few years ago at Tribute. We were seated at the "kitchen table". Michael kept raving about how the salt "made" the dessert. My friends were rolling their eyes, partly because their bellies were full.

I, on the other hand, was going all-out that night and ate and ate and ate. The egg-cup dessert was great. The petit-fours tray was consumed by yours truly.

I've never had a gastronomic adventure like that. Thanks to eG, I get to relive the memory again and share it with a like-minded community.

Sure glad to have found eG.

What happened to Michael on Iron Chef? I don't have cable/satellite TV.

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I just checked the Foodnetwork website and they don't have it listed yet. They don't have any listing beyond the show that airs this week.

Pamela Wilkinson

www.portlandfood.org

Life is a rush into the unknown. You can duck down and hope nothing hits you, or you can stand tall, show it your teeth and say "Dish it up, Baby, and don't skimp on the jalapeños."

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I'm a passionate fan of the original IC and therfore cannot help but compare ICA against it.

To me the new show is an example of how better production values and more bells and whistles do not always--in fact seldom--lead to an improvement over the original. (I think Star Trek fans might be familiar with this phenomenon.) The most endearing aspect of IC was its very human focus on the challengers' and chefs' personal stories and careers, sometimes with family members or old friends in attendance. Sure, this led to some camp and kitsch, particularly in the case of "grudge" matches and so forth--but that was part of the fun and made the show interesting and entertaining for reasons beyond food. There was also a sense of real camaraderie and honor between challenger and Iron Chef which I don't think was just a put-on. I was reminded of this just a few days ago when IC Chen defended himself against a chef who had cooked free-lance all over Japan for nearly 60 years. Although Chen won, the reverence he showed his challenger was unmistakeable. This is a human dimension you just don't get in the American version.

Another element lacking in the new version is simply drama. To name the most obvious example, the winner is announced without any buildup or suspense, which only adds to the overall flatness already created by the lack of personalization of the participants. The Chairman's comments and introductions also appear totally scripted and without an ounce of wit or humor.

The original IC also impressed with the sheer technical prowess of its participants and the generally thoughtful comments of its judges. Both of these, especially the latter, seem to be lacking so far in ICA. And although Alton Brown does a good job, the commentary from the floor in the new version often seems unknowledgeable.

The second episode of ICA, with Batali and Trevino, gave me some hope that things might improve. Both chefs were great fun to watch, and the comments of the judges were mostly observant and thoughtful. (I have to confess that any battle without Flay is more enjoyable for me, since he really rubs me the wrong way. His win against Sakai during the pilots was a scandal.) Still, the the dramatic austerity of the overall format remains. For now, reruns of the old IC are at least as entertaining as new episodes of Iron Chef America.

Don’t you have a machine that puts food into the mouth and pushes it down?

--Nikita Khrushchev to Richard Nixon during the "Kitchen Debate" in Moscow, 1959

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im not going to go crazy on this just offer a couple of my opinions. I dont want to anger anyone out there you know. i just wanted to make a few comments. obviously the original ic is much better. I do like alton brown in it. But it would have been great if they took the people that do the voice overs for the original ic and cast them for this show. It woulod have been so cool to put those voices with the faces. But who knows if they new food or not. The judges have been a little better this time around. Some still seem clueless even though there supposed to be food involved. Thank god they dont have people like that guy from the sopranos. I like the older guy hes a bit snobby but at least he seems to tell it like it is and you have to respect that. I also believethat the show is somewhat fixed.

The first battle i thought bayless won. His food was much more interesting. I mean when they ate flays food the comments were this is overcooked this is chewey and thinks like that. I guess i fell like flays food although it may be ok its the same thing ever single time. Bayless was able to show the demph of mexican cuisine by using different techniques and ingredients. I dont think flay did that besides maybe with that lettuce rap dish(applebees does that dont they). I thought the fix was on for that one.

The second battle was preety bad i thought. I like batali his style makes me laugh its very entertaining to watch. Stuff is flying all over the place he got more of that charone on the stove then stayed in the bowl. But thats teh appealing thing about him. It almost looks like hes just throwing things together out of thin air but all his stuff has a great base to it. He explores different regions of italy and uses his knowledge to really help him cook. But trevinos food didn't make sence to me at least. Those seviches squeezed into shot glasses. That just looked uncomfortable to eat. But that horrible cous-cous dish. I mean steingarten said teh choriso was overcooked. When i saw those crinkled as chewey clams and cockles and that dry ass shrimp that was overcooked by like 40 minutes. That dish was gross. I thought it was a bad display for a guy that owns three restaraunts. Mario definitely won that one.

I mean the show is interesting and i cant wait for alex lee im looking foward to ming as well. I enjoyed his place when i went there. The show has alot to offer. I hope the judges get even better and that maybe they follow some of the old shows good qualities. Like i said though it should be fun.

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I really love Steingarten's addition to the show.. He is the only judge that actually has given his opinion, as well as adding some entertainment value. I think its a lot more helpfull to the audience then having a Zagat crony describe a dish as being "good".. Thanks for the insight there lady. Steingarten is the Simon of Iron Chef and I hope they keep him.

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no offense meant to molto

but as a technician it will be difficult for him to outperform Michael

Why not more crossover battle of the network stars

Basketball players versus tennis players

and pastry chefs versus savory

But what would be the neutral ingredient?

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I really love Steingarten's addition to the show.. He is the only judge that actually has given his opinion, as well as adding some entertainment value.  I think its a lot more helpfull to the audience then having a Zagat crony describe a dish as being "good".. Thanks for the insight there lady.    Steingarten is the Simon of Iron Chef and I hope they keep him.

Except that he is really only a food enthusiast and really does not add anything other than his opinion. I find his criticism pretty cold and very shallow. And i do not give it much weight.

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The show should be renamed as Iron Celebrity Chef. I won't say the F word again, but his level of technical skills in the kitchen. :laugh: I've also worked with one of the French Chefs who was on the old version. His skills in the kitchen? :laugh: He was chosen because he was and still is a minor celebrity chef.

It's TV

I can be reached via email chefzadi AT gmail DOT com

Dean of Culinary Arts

Ecole de Cuisine: Culinary School Los Angeles

http://ecolecuisine.com

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(right Boulud, Ripert and Vongerichten have accents, what was I thinking earlier)

unlike, say, wolfgang puck? or masaharu morimoto?

I recall reading somewhere that they don't want anymore French accents.

I can be reached via email chefzadi AT gmail DOT com

Dean of Culinary Arts

Ecole de Cuisine: Culinary School Los Angeles

http://ecolecuisine.com

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As I'm watching now, I found it abhorrent that Flay only referred to Bayless as "Mister Bayless" as opposed to "Chef Bayless".

I was just curious as to whether it really is disrespectful in the restaurant trade to address a fellow chef as "mister" instead of "chef". As far as I remember, the original show had challengers pointing fingers, slapping assistants so I thought that was worse.

It is considered disrespectful.

Also a Chef is a Chef. He shouldn't go around asking let alone demanding people call him that. A Chef is the "chief" in the kitchen. On a set I thought the "Chief" was the director?

I can be reached via email chefzadi AT gmail DOT com

Dean of Culinary Arts

Ecole de Cuisine: Culinary School Los Angeles

http://ecolecuisine.com

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