Cosentino Telling isn’t it, that the iron chef candidates, all of them talented chefs and leaders of their restaurants, have no clue about so called “molecular gastronomy” technique (even that term has been disavowed by those who fathered the movement).  This is because the techniques of the avant garde are far more prevalent in the media than they are in the actual kitchens of the best restaurants.  As Symon put it, “I spent my whole career trying to get chemicals out of my food.  Now I gotta put them back in!”
    Alas, Chef Davie will not be the next Iron Chef.  The bone marrow play was fun but that was it.  The flavors didn’t come together in either of her dishes, the zest in her salad was bitter and the artichoke would have given my kitchen disposal a workout.  But sad I was to see her go—what a camera friendly smile, and what a buoyant presence generally.  I much prefer her to the head sweater, the meat man, or the bald guy with the Neanderthal brow!  But for those who lament the presence of a boys club–I can’t believe you’d say it diminishes the competition.  Would you rather the judges gave the ladies special treatment because of their gender?  I don’t think either Traci or Jill would have wanted that kind of insult.
    Cosentino’s shallot error killed that dish but his razor and shaving cream dish, especially clever given the rigid time constraints, won because it TASTED so good.  That is what it has always come down to.
    It’s the nature of these shows that they are unable to go deeply into anything.  I’d have liked to have seen more about the food, and of course more discussion of it.  Donatella, Andrew, Alton and I discussed the dishes at length, meaning that more than an hour of discussion is reduced to about 30 seconds of sound bites and the occasional shot of Donatella’s cleavage.  But again, Steve and Eytan, two of the producers from Triage, always instructed us to judge it as we saw it.  I was not surprised by this, but Andrew, cynical jaded New York journalist that he is, professed to be surprised by the amount of freedom we were given to make our choices.
    Next week, not one, but two will bite the dust.  This is indeed harsh, but such is the nature of the world of the Iron Chef.

    [Read fellow judge Andrew Knowlton’s comments here.]

    [Adam Roberts, the Amateur Gourmet is the official food network blogger for Next Iron Chef.]

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109 Wonderful responses to “Next Iron Chef: One Bite/”Molec Gastronomy””

  • ruhlman

    both i and alton got raw shallot and it was really strong–andrew and donatella said theirs were fine, and i made a point of asking chris how he handled them and he said they were mascerated in some sort of acid for the vinaigrette, but mine was clearly not. shallot is one of the great secrets of the pantry. chris did not use this secret very well in my opinion!

  • Jeff

    Never was a group more ill prepared for a challenge. I don’t recall seeing Flay or Batalli go molecular. Telling Sanchez to lay off the latin flavors….when will Alton tell Orange Clogs to stop cooking Italian and Flay to lay off the chili peppers. I hope the next time I eat at August I can get the image of Besh sweating out my head.

  • jp

    love the show…cannot stand Alton Brown…can he be Rachael Ray’s Ed McMahon instead…

  • Eric

    I’d understand if you’d commented on too much salt, but too little? That’s what a salt shaker is for, buddy.

  • Alison

    Wait. Shallot is not onion. I might not have complained about that. But if it was a big chunk, raw, and un-macerated, I hear you.

  • bob

    The science project really did put all the chefs on a level playing field.
    It would be interesting to see which of these chefs actually take these toys home and play with them.

  • De'Enna

    Go Symon! He did seem a little hesitant at first with all of the new toys but he embraced it in the end.
    Loved the fact that he won the one bite challenge. Kind of thought he’d go with duck though…
    Only thing is, it’s a total boys club now. Even though Davies was my least favorite and her dish…well it left alot to be desired. I still would have liked to have seen the women hold their own in this competition.

  • josh

    Great episode. The only thing I don’t like so far is how the first challenge of each episode seems sort of meaningless. The advantage for winning is minimal and the judges don’t know how the contestants fared in them. That Sanchez couldn’t finish in time should be relevant to an IC judge but it didn’t look like you guys knew that had transpired.

  • gorbster

    How long did you guys deliberate over the chef’s dishes? Also, how many relevant judge’s comments are being cut out in the edited show?

  • usv

    i wish the show were longer. i’d like to hear more from the chefs about their decisionmaking, and also from the judges about the final product.

  • sorchar

    Sanchez – I wanted to smack him. How many times does Alton have to tell you “no”?

    I love Gavin Kaysen from what I’ve seen on this show, and I look forward to following his career more, but man. That beet dish looked like it had crawled onto the plate, bleeding, to breathe its last. Which was a shame, because his first round dish was gorgeous.

  • bob

    I can’t help but think that Mike Symon would just be a blast to hang out with after a long night of line cooking over a beer or six.

  • Kansas City rube

    Gotta love all the big personalities–especially Besh and Symon. I love watching those guys give each other shit and ham it up in the kitchen.

    Will personality play at all into who goes all the way? Do the producers tell you guys to consider stuff like that? Ultimately, does it come down simply to what you three think about the food from the current challenge or are you guys allowed to consider who would make the best Iron Chef?

  • Juliette

    Fun show as a viewer, but as a chef I would have been frustrated to be constantly competing–and being judged–outside my comfort (i.e. expertise) zone. These challenges are fun to watch, but really don’t resemble what Iron Chefs are expected to do.

    ITA with the person above about calling Sanchez out on Latin flavors. Bobby=Southwest. Mario=Italian. Cora=Mediterranean. Morimoto=Japanese. If anything ICA–needs–a chef with Latin influences in his food.

    Likewise, a woman finalist would have been nice. I’m sorry I never got to see what Davie or Des Jardins could REALLY do, but if ICA wanted women to have more of a chance to win, having more than 2 of 8 competitors be female would have been a good idea. Were some asked who declined?

    I still wish this was 90 minutes so we could see more of the preparation and hear more of the judges’ comments. (Also, this was only a “level playing field” because of the, imo, amazing fact that ALL these chefs apparently have avoided learning molecular gastronomy techniques. Even sous vide was new to ALL of them! I find that…surprising, to say the least!)

  • bob

    Admittedly, sous vide is anything but cutting edge. A Ron Popeil vacuum sealer and pot of simmering water pretty much gets that job done, however an antigriddle could be a bit cost prohibitive to even your average next Iron Chef. I wouldn’t be all that surprised to find out just how few chefs use any of these techniques at all.

  • applehome

    Hey bob – Sous vide without proper temp control… can you say salmonella? Those bugs just love the anaerobic, medium-temp environment – which is why NYC (and others) actually have laws stating the protocols that restaurants must follow when using sous vide. The proper temp is well below simmering (which = boiling = 212F) – if you want a medium rare piece of beef, the middle needs to be 130F or so).

    November Popular Science has a layman’s rundown (and good pix) of a lot of the equipment, including the smoker and antigriddle. Some short quips by McGee and others, as well… Interesting that this is in Pop Science: how much longer until all the fancy gear is in your local diner?

    With Top Chef, I usually want to fast-forward a lot – and not just the ads – there’s just not enough there to hold my interest. This show is just the opposite. I wanted today’s to be 2 hours long – I wanted more detail on each dish, including the judging. These aren’t line cooks, you know…

  • John

    What was the gadget with the spiral whirlpool of water (or what looked like water) in it? I couldn’t see if/when it was used.

  • JMW

    I liked this episode a lot. I ate at Homaro Cantu’s restaurant a few weeks ago and it was interesting to see the equipment behind it all. I totally want an antigriddle now!

    Sous vide is cool but … you know, I recall the episodes of the original Iron Chef where they’d cook turkeys in pig bladders. Now that’s some sous vide!

    Go Cosentino! Extremely smart dishes, I loved the “joke.”

  • Harlan

    Good episode. I thought the challenges were quite creative, and the results were interesting to see.

    My main beef with the show is the editing. Instead of showing us more coverage of the food, the cooking, and the personalities, they fill up the hour with “previews” of upcoming parts of the show. Bleah. I’d rather have more content and less self-hype. Well, that’s the Food Network for you…

  • WhatisCanadianCuisine?

    Was great seeing Wylie on last night! One question tho – Jill’s dish was obviously..interesting…Ruhlman said it was tough to eat. Was it tough to eat because it was a whole artichoke or was it because it was fried and frozen? Other than that, did it taste like an unheated TV Dinner? LOL.

  • Elayne Riggs

    I’m sure it’s just coincidence, but it kinda makes the show look bad that the first two contestants eliminated were the only two women in the competition. It’s like the old ironic observation about war movies, where the first one who gets killed is inevitably the black guy. I know I’ll have a bit less interest in watching “The Next Iron Chef Boys’ Club” now.

  • Harlan

    Elayne, my girlfriend and I both pointed that out too. Jill Davie definitely seemed outclassed in this episode, although she was a great participant, but it was a real shame that Traci Des Jardins was eliminated so early. Her talent seemed more than up to the task of competing in the show.

    On the other hand, as Ruhlman has said, if the producers were secretly tipping the votes, there’s no way they would have allowed both women to be eliminated early, so it’s at least an argument that the judging process is not being corrupted by the network.

  • Joel

    Really disappointing that this will now be a all male contest and I too will be less interested in watching. As for forcing “molecular gastronomy” on the Chef’s, I would have been just fine without it. As one Chef said, “I’ve spent my entire life trying to get chemicals out of food, now you want me to put them in?”

    Our grocery stores and restaurants are packed with chemically enhanced food, let’s try to keep it out of the better places please.

  • Jeff

    I’m surprised at A.B.’s lack of standing among some fans here, given his culinary chops.

    Maybe we can we get Alton a scar on his right arm. That seems to work for the “Top Chef” host’s appeal.

  • Darclyte

    I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they had asked Michelle Bernstein since she won her battle, has a fun personality, and isn’t hard on the eyes (it IS a tv show.) But, perhaps she either has some no compete clause with Top Chef (although Ted Allen obviously doesn’t,) or just wasn’t interested. I think she would have made a better choice than the gal who got booted last night…I’d never even heard of her before this series. She’d never even been on ICA. I wonder if they made offers to a couple different woman chefs, and ended up with Davies. She seems nice, fun and is probably a good chef, but I don’t know her connection to ICA. Still, it’s too bad both women have already been eliminated. I just hope Sanchez stays with his flavors, it’s what he does and it’s what Iron Chefs do.

  • ruhlman

    I’ve just posted a more complete response to epixode 2, so the above comments above won’t take my observations into account. apolgies for the late post.

  • Conor

    I agree with the comments wishing for more content (both Ruhlman’s and posters’)–that’s one thing I’ve liked about TC: you get more than a sound bite about each dish. After all, as viewers we can’t taste the food, so we really need to hear what the judges have to say.

    As for the challenge, I thought it was interesting, and pace those who think these cutting-edge techniques aren’t what food “should be.” As Hung said of sous vide on the TC reunion the other night, it’s a method of heating food just as a saute pan is. (Oh, and applehome, it’s botulism that you have to worry about in an anaerobic environment.) As for the chemicals, no one is saying that food has to be made using them, but if they enhance a dish, why not? (Incidentally, that’s my argument for foam in general: it’s just a technique that can be used if it makes a dish better but shouldn’t be if it doesn’t.) After all, plenty of chefs throughout history have used, say, eggs as an emulsifier because they contain lecithin; what’s wrong with just using the lecithin without the egg it usually comes in?

    I was disappointed that Grant Achatz wasn’t mentioned, especially as he helped PolyScience develop so many of those tools, and since Chef Kaysen used his “pillow” of scented air idea. If Symon got chastised last week, in a challenge that wasn’t even about innovation, for using someone else’s concept, shouldn’t this have been mentioned this week?

  • Sara

    I think I might be pulling for Symon? It’s the laugh, man, that maniacal little laugh he has. I think that would be a fabulous addition to Kitchen Stadium. Plus, he seems like an excellent chef.

    I’m also a big Sanchez fan, and thought his plating screw up was really interesting last night. The original Iron Chef, you used to see the chefs scrambling to get all six plates of each of their dishes together; on ICA you only see one of each, which means they clearly get plating time later (perhaps to keep the food from going cold/soggy/whatever?) Sanchez clearly thought those rules applied to the challenge… it’s a shame he was wrong, that shrimp ceviche looked delicious.

    The razor clam/shaving cream thing looked tasty and was certainly witty (I love witty food!), but Costentino is kind of an abrasive, unpleasant persona. I get it, you don’t know how to use chemicals and you’re bad at math. Please, quit yer bitchin’. No one else knew what they were doing, either.

  • Claudia

    So, who’s going to get chopped next week for not knowing how to season his food – Kaysen or Sanchez? Or will Sanchez eliminate himself by not taking his hands off his dish when he’stold to? Once in Ep 1, twice in Ep 2!

  • Chris Hennes

    —- Sara said : —-
    I’m also a big Sanchez fan, and thought his plating screw up was really interesting last night. The original Iron Chef, you used to see the chefs scrambling to get all six plates of each of their dishes together; on ICA you only see one of each, which means they clearly get plating time later (perhaps to keep the food from going cold/soggy/whatever?)
    —————–

    I would love to see a chef with Latin influence as an Iron Chef, but Sanchez strikes me as a bit whiney. They must have been told the rules beforehand (probably at great length!). In ICA they get 30 minutes after the finish to prepare the plates for the judges, I believe. This is left out of the show because it doesn’t make interesting TV (apparently).

  • CarolynS

    Regarding the first challenge that was won my Symon – what advantage did he get by winning? As someone posted above – were the judges aware?

  • FoodPuta

    The one main thing that is really showing through at this point, is that all the chefs are having fun, and not taking themselves all that serious. I don’t mean that they aren’t trying to win, but that they are not staking the rest of their lives on this competition. And for once, I think the FN is not trying to make it turn out that way. Right now, the ones that seem to be the biggest drama is the perceived tension amongst the judges.

    The Donatella cleavage shots help too.

    Alton makes a great game show host.

  • CAT

    it was a little unsettling to see the contestants have to wrap their brain around this ‘new ‘ technology that they were clearly uncomfortable with. The whole idea of adding chemicals to the food to attain a certain texture or cooking meat sealed in PLASTIC are questionable to me as to how good is it for the person eating it? Lest we should forget, the guy who helped bring these techniques to the forefront has cancer on his tongue!

  • Juliette

    Quote: “The whole idea of adding chemicals to the food to attain a certain texture or cooking meat sealed in PLASTIC are questionable to me as to how good is it for the person eating it?”

    That expresses my feelings very well. I liked when (Symon?) said he’d worked hard to get chemicals out of his food. Many people think about the quality of their food–where it comes from, how it is grown/raised, the cleanliness and healthfulness of all of the ingredients.

    Molecular gastronomy was a gimmick as a challenge. Interesting, perhaps, to watch–but to my thinking, in no way indicative of a great chef. I really wish we could see what these chefs -really- would make of an ingredient (preferably all given the same, mundane, one) before they are eliminated.

  • Tags

    Wake up and smell the camp, people! The first priority of this show isn’t food, it isn’t skill, and it isn’t even money.

    The first priority of this show is FUN. Have fun, the money will come. I was just reading yesterday about the difference between the Dallas Cowboys when Bill Parcells was there and now with Wade Philips. Maybe those guys needed to have the constraints of Parcells before they appreciated the joie de vivre and esprit de corps that came with Philips’s easygoing style.

    So, let the hijinks flow like wine, everybody loosen up and realize that the Chairman’s and Alton’s roles are encamping the camp, and let’s see some hooliganism, shenanigans, and tomfoolery.

  • danny

    who else is not feeling the 80 porn, s&m dungeon feel of the judging room? seriously, am i the only one? can we do without the fake smoke?

    love the epi though. it’s nice to watch the adaptability of the chefs.

  • Andrew

    I really couldn’t believe that the chefs weren’t familiar with those techniques and ingredients. I use most of them at home. I’ve made the ‘caviar’, thicken most of my vinaigrettes with xanthan (no breaking), and use methylcellulose. No one used methylcellulose for it’s coolest job though. It makes a solid gel at high temps, and ‘melts’ at low temp. Therefore it’s possible to make reverse ice cream by adding it to an ice cream base and blanching it in boiling water. It will set when it’s hot and slowly melt as it cools on the plate.

    Now I don’t have access to a thermo immersion circulator, but can do a pretty good job of sous vide with a big pot of water and a low stove. And to the post above about salmonella, salmonella does not like an anaerobic enviornment, it’s botulism you need to worry about. But that’s why you should cook to the temperature needed to kill the pathogens. I sous vide chicken at 160, same temperature that I roast it to. When I’m doing something like beef, I blow torch the outside first to kill any surface bacteria.

    I only wish I could afford most of the other cool toys they had. Although you can get pretty close to the liquid nitrogen ice cream with dry ice.

    I also don’t understand the fear of these chemicals as non natural. Xanthan is fermented sugar, just like alcohol is fermented sugar. It’s just a different bacteria than yeast that does the job. Calcium chloride is just a salt, is sodium chloride evil now? Sodium alginate is a salt that exists in brown algae. Methyl cellulose is basically the indigestible parts of the plant fiber. Agar-agar comes from alge. Maltodextrin is the starch of tapioca or corn. Noting truly scary in there.

    Now I agree that every dish of every meal should not contain these techniques and ingredients, but they are something you should be slightly familiar with. I don’t find them that much different than using egg whites to clarify stock, putting cream of tartar into whipped egg whites, or even brining. It’s all the application of chemistry to cooking.

  • Annie

    Michael–as soon as you can get over to Andrew’s kitchen to do some judging, I think he needs you there.

    Your insight as a person who actually tasted the chefs’ preparations is invaluable; the rest of us can fuss and infer as much as we want, but if we weren’t there to eat the food, we’re missing the most important element. I wondered what made Chef Cosentino’s “Razor Clam with Shaving Creme” so special, but of course I hadn’t tasted it.

    My review of this episode appears at http://annienewman.typepad.com/anniesnyeats/2007/10/the-next-iron-1.html

  • Greg Turner

    I can’t believe someone doesn’t like Alton, especially on this show. After the rather undignified moment in Feasting on Asphalt: The River Run, in which he had to do that stupid flag planting for Rachel Ray and Emeril, it seems like Next Top Chef is something of a redemption. Every time he’s told someone they will not be the next Iron Chef, you can see how it tears him up. This is a guy who seems to know food and know chefs. The way he handles the eliminations is….it’s downright dignified.

  • Wol

    The new techniques challenge should have been peer-graded and the one-bite challenge should have been the elimination round. No one tells Morimoto that he needs to be more inventive with his gadgets or chemicals. And, as a previous posted noted, no one tells Mario to lighten up on his Italian specialty. I think Sanchez was pretty dumb about the plating thing, but telling him to make his food more generic is a sure-fire way to both anger a contestant and viewers. On The Next Food Network Star, the judges were constantly telling Guy to tone down his style, and they’ve stifled his style in his cooking show. It’s a shame that they can’t embrace the differences the chefs all bring and give the viewers some credit. Not all of us think Sandra Lee’s stuff is genius; there are some decent cooks and tasters among the audience who don’t need to be condescended to.

  • Andrew

    Wol,

    Did you watch the Morimoto versus Cantu battle? I seem to remember Morimoto breaking out some these techniques just to prove he could do it too. I also remember Mario very often going Spanish, or African, or even South East Asian. And that’s what separates an Iron Chef from a good cook.

  • Suzette

    Which chef has cancer of the tongue? Yikes!

    My comments on last night’s show–it’s ridiculous to tell Aaron Sanchez to ‘back off the Latin flavors.’ And, insulting. As was posted earlier, no one tells Mario, Giada, or Bobby Flay to do the same.

    The premise that an Iron Chef HAS to use the techniques championed by Wylie Dufresne and others is also absurd. True, on ICA dishes are flash-frozen, etc, but using chemicals to get the job done are hardly mainstream gourmet cooking, nor should they be!

    Lastly, Ruhlman, I like your hair. Don’t change a thing.

  • Kay

    Apart from the already mentioned “you’re too Mexican for our audience” comment Hairboy McGrease lofted, I had a problem with the language used to describe the entire challenge. The command seemed to be: Innovate… By immitating Wylie Dufresne… Wasn’t that the reason why everyone hated Marcel on Top Chef?

    Not that innovation wasn’t possible with any of that stuff, but if you’re brand new to it and have only been shown a handful of parlor tricks, how are you possibly going to innovate? Call it a molecular gastronomy challenge if you want to, but don’t call mimicry innovation, and for god’s sake don’t act like you HAVE to do any of that crap to be an Iron Chef. I cannot recall seeing a single one of those tools used by the existing chefs on any previous episode and none of them have been fired yet.

  • Frances

    I enjoyed the show. The fact that it is edited in a way that highlights the good-natured personalities of the chefs is a real bonus. So you’re never thinking at the end of an elimination, “Geez, glad to see that bastard go.” 😀

    It really is more entertaining than artfully edited cat fights. On TC and NFNS, they only show you the funny stuff as outtakes after the series is over. I guess there is a large segment of the viewing public that needs to be directed to the heroes and the villans so that they can hate someone for a good reason.

    These people were quick studies of all that new-fangled stuff. I still won’t eat foam though. Sorry. It makes the dish look like it’s already been eaten once.

  • Mr.Creosote

    First, I have to say that last night’s episode is the first one I’ve seen. I’ve anticipated the show, but alas, I am at sea 7-15 days at a time. I found it very refreshing that the contestant chefs seem to enjoy each other’s company and we, the audience, are not treated to the annoying, Bravo-esque, constant “cut away” interview clip of them whinning about another contestant or chanting their narrassitic praises about how great they are themselves. For that approach, Bravo! I do have a problem with the “give them an insane challenge and massive time constraint and then nitpick the hell out of it” scenario. Dagnabbit stop that! I’d enjoy seeing them handle a dinner rush in real restaurant..one they’ve never worked in and they have to demonstrate their ability to be a team of chefs. No trick ingredients, no chemistry sets, just blatant mundane reality with real paying customers. Of course the show we all wanna see is the one where the roles get reversed. Judges cook, contestant chefs judge. Seriously, its a much better production than that other show. Now pass me that wafer thin mint!

  • weekend chef

    “Donatella, Andrew, Alton and I discussed the dishes at length, meaning that more than an hour of discussion is reduced to about 30 seconds of sound…”

    Thank you for answering my question in advance. I struggle with the shows break neck pace at the end when the dishes are (sort of) discussed. I too would like to see and hear more real content about the food and the thought behind the preparation. A 30 second distillation of 60 minutes of discussion? Wow. How much time is actually spent on each dish presented to the panel?

    Though putting these fine chefs outside of their comfort zone was interesting with the molecular stuff, I think that the challenges should have been reversed. Bourdain always talks about the “death row” meal. On the flip side, the idea of putting ones life, skill and soul into one bite seems to me to be far more reaching and telling.

  • Art

    I rather liked the letter Adria/Blumenthal etc.. wrote disavowing the term “molecular gastronomy” to describe their restaurants. And they were right to point out that good Chefs have ALWAYS tried to make good use of the ingredients and technologies that were available to them.

    I didn’t know they were in search of a BETTER NAME for what they do, however.

    How about an acronmym?

    Better Ingredients and Technologies Ensuring Meal Excellence.

    BITE ME!

  • ruhlman

    I’d like to second greg’s commending Alton’s dignified dismissals. It’s a shitty job, and he so clearly didn’t like doing it. It’s easy to forget when you’re watching the tube that there’s a human being there to whom you’re saying, “You’re not good enough.” And we’re sitting there too, staring at them. Every one of these chefs cares about what they do. It was always the worst part of the day.

  • Claudia

    Suzette, the chef (not on TNIC) who has cancer of the tongue to whom CAT referred is Grantz Achatz of Alinea. The good news is that he is reported to be on the mend. And, lest we forget, the chef pioneering these techniques was Ferran Adria – who does not seem to have any kind of cancer, despite his use of xanthum gum and using the old (not new fangled) technique of sous vide.

    As for as the editing of the show goes, I, too, am enjoying the friendly ball-busting going on between Besh and Symon, in particular, but certainly among all the chefs, far better than I’ve ever enjoyed the back-stabbing and bitchfests going on on other shows – nice to see some seasoned pros at work and riffing off each other.

  • bob

    Suzette, Chef Aschatz has been stricken with cancer, however, according to Ruhlman, he’s doing quite well these days..
    Michael, would you please give us an update?
    Applehome…I guess i take for granted that everybody would know the safe handling and temping of said proteins.
    Thanks for the backup regarding the salmonella/ botulism question.
    As someone who cures meat and ferments foods for a living, I am painfully aware of the HAACP techniques, and consider food safety the pinion of my work…hence I would insist again that chef Besh would have to wear headgear in my kitchen…

  • ruhlman

    I saw grant when i was in chicago last week and the cancer continued to recede. he’d lost his hair and so i walked past in the kitchen as he was butcher sweetbreads. the guy’s amazing. i didn’t think i could respect a cook more than i did grant–well now i know i can. if surgery is required, it will be minor, i was told. docs are now looking ahead to 18 mos from now when recurrences are common and dangerous.

  • Claudia

    Perhaps, any time FN insists on turning off the kitchen ventilation in August so the audio can be intelligible, they would at least assign each chef a personal wiper to pat their sweat-soaked brows, just like Alton did for Besh (a much better use of Alton’s time, I think). Hey, surgeons have nurses to do that for them in surgery (!)

  • bob

    Ruhlman, Thanx much. Always such a long battle. Very inspiring gentleman. The subject comes up of healthcare coverage in foodservice quite often, and it is always rather perplexing to me, something many of my musician friends also encounter. fundraisers only go so far. all my best wishes to Grant and family.

  • The Foodist

    Michael;

    I was wondering if at any point the judges got to review the chefs in “action” in the kitchen and does that play into your voting. Take for example Chef Sanchez failed to plate all of his one-biters.. does that at all figure into your choice in cuts?

    Or is the first round of each segment just a chance for the contestants to pull ahead for the judged round?

    It would seem to me that Chef Sanchez knows very well whats expected of him as an Iron Chef and I would hope that he knows he needs to be plated on time, his hissy fit on the last show was strange if you consider that he knows what to expect.

    Thanks

  • Paul

    “Donatella’s cleavage”?!? The shot I remember–her forkful of food (whose food? who gives a s**t?) poised in the foreground–showed the UNDERSIDE of Donatella’s left one if I recall correctly, which I probably don’t as my glasses kind of fogged up there for a second. But I don’t think “cleavage” is the right word for that view, more of which I heartily hope we’ll be seeing in episodes to come…..

  • Alexander W.

    I found it interesting that so many of the chefs were taken aback by the “innovative techniques” that Chef Dufresne employed. While some (the Anti-Griddle, for instance) are relatively under-explored on the whole, others like sous-vide are widely used. In fact, I remember an interview with Chef Kaysen in which he mentioned that something like 80% of his dishes are cooked sous-vide, so it couldn’t have been too big of a shock.

  • The Professor

    Again, this was a great show…hate to see the last lady leave but we still have the cleavage shots! No really, Annie in her review above, hit the nail on the head, Chef Davies did appear to be playing the “girlie card’ a lot, also it could be as she pointed out, all in the editing. She is a beautiful woman and I would be sad if the show made her appearance overshadow her talent as a Chef.Lots of comments that make very good points, but I guess the main one is that only the judges get to taste the food.

  • Conor

    Not to harp on this, Michael, but why did Chef Kaysen’s appropriation of Achatz’s pillow of air technique not count against him in this “innovation” challenge when Symon’s use of a dish he was familiar with did last week? Clearly you are very familiar with Alinea; did you all discuss it in a bit edited from the show?

  • sailorgrrl05

    I’m a huge fan of this show and very grateful to have Michael’s insights. I’m really pleased to hear that the competition is as genuine as it is. I can’t resist a response to those who seem to infer the female contingent has been given short shrift. Yet no one mentions Donatella’s gushing acceptance of Symon’s comment on her looks. Look: I’m a sailor and a good sport about jokes and comments on women. But she’s on what is supposed to be a very distinguished panel. I like Symon a ton, but that joke was out of line and Donatella, if she wanted to command respect as a judge, should have frozen him with a stare, not get all giggly. Does anyone else agree?

  • Camusman

    Does anyone else find it annoying that on all of these reality cooking shows the chefs talk about using “a little” of this and “a little bit” of that when describing a dish? It’s almost as if they’re trying to show how clever and subtle they are.

    Trivia Dept.: Batali has won eight ICA battles in a row. The last two to defeat him? Besh and Des Jardins.

  • Owen

    Hey Mike, you gonna be going to the Fabulous Food Show at the I-X here in a couple weeks?

  • sorchar

    Cat said: Lest we should forget, the guy who helped bring these techniques to the forefront has cancer on his tongue!

    Dude, when *I’m* offended by something? You know it’s bad. Why would you even say something like that, especially considering that Grant’s a friend of Michael’s?

  • Kal

    I’m settling into this show and really enjoying it. I’m hoping there’s more emphasis on the judging as the contestants are pared down. I really appreciate the judging portions of shows like this because they’re the “in,” in my opinion, to the food for the viewer — we can see how the chefs are putting it together but we don’t know if it works until a judge tells us how it tastes.

    I hope Besh and Symon both make it a long way just for the personality factor. Their “rivalry” is deliciously fun. Symon could just laugh for an episode and I’d be happy. He’s infectious.

    And while I’m dismayed to see an underinformed and strangely blaming comment about the illness of a chef in this thread, I’m glad that an update has come out of it. Thanks for keeping us up to speed on Grant’s condition, Michael. He is truly an inspiration and source of strength, even for those of us witnessing his journey secondhand.

  • Claudia

    Annie, that blog you wrote on this week’s TNIC was terrific – one of the best things you’ve written.

    And Sorcha – amen.

  • misterybus

    “Solient Green” lives! At a time when natural food stores are increasing in volume of sales, people are starting to wonder about the so-called rules our government sets out for labeling everything, and the China “syndrome” food/lead scare, this challenge stood out as what not to do with your food.
    Ep1 really had my hopes up when a point system was used. The removal of personality (and they all have delightful personalities) made the challenge about food. Ep2 was a letdown when no numerical values were maintained. All of the other challenges on FN are point based, hopefully NIC will return to that criteria.
    The only posssible excuse for not liking AB is jealousy. Your hair, her boobs – jealousy. Come to think of it, the only excuse for not liking NIC is jealously!

  • janet

    I have a few words to say about bias and conflict of interest, especially regarding Mr. Ruhlman’s tiff with logicalmind below and his comments about the gender issue in this post.

    Bias is universal. It is usually not deliberate. It is often impossible to detect in individual instances, but emerges as part of a pattern.

    Unconscious bias is the reason that most if not all professional orchestras have players sit behind a screen when they audition. (When they started doing this some years ago, they found that they began hiring more women and minorities. Before that practice was instituted, they believed that they were being impartial.)

    Unconscious bias is one of the reasons that courtroom judges recuse themselves from cases (another big reason is to avoid even the appearance of impropriety).

    Unconscious bias is the reason that the gold standard for drug research is the randomized controlled double-blinded clinical trial (“double-blind” meaning that neither the patient nor the researcher knows who’s getting the placebo and who’s getting the real drug).

    Mr. Ruhlman believes that, unlike medical researchers, orchestra directors, or courtroom judges, he is capable of complete impartiality, simply because he “strove to be fair.” He complains that asserting that a conflict of interest would influence his judgement is “insulting.” Either he is superhuman, he believes falsely that he’s superhuman, or he is being disingenuous.

    The flaw in his analysis of bias against female chefs in this competition is left as an exercise for the reader.

  • Bob delGrosso

    Cat you wrote
    “The whole idea of adding chemicals to the food to attain a certain texture or cooking meat sealed in PLASTIC are questionable to me as to how good is it for the person eating it?”

    Food is chemicals, lots of them all packed together. Some are good for you others are not. Most of the chemicals used by chefs who cook hi-tech food are chemicals that have been extracted from natural foods and purified. So the only thing you should worry about is whether these are good chemicals from food or bad chemicals from food. But you should certainly not be worried about chemicals. I mean, you are chemicals for goodness sake.
    Come to think of it, I’m chemicals too.

  • Kali

    After reading this blog and Knowlton’s, I feel a bit cheated by not getting to hear more from the judges–especially about the BEST dishes at the end.

    Some of the combinations the chefs came up with sound very exciting! Why couldn’t we hear more about them? Actually, to me, the best dishes are far more interesting to know about than the worst.

    C’mon, FN! Can’t you spare an extra half hour and let us see more of the food and more of the commentary/deliberation? That’s all part of the fun!

    And, too bad the winner isn’t based on cumulative performance. Some of them seem consistently in the “top tier” even when not winning–on every challenge. Seems that consistent-quality-no-matter-what should be taken into account as an “Iron Chef”.
    ETA: Another Alton fan here. I think he’s doing a terrific job as moderator. (But I’d love to know what he thought of the dishes, too….)

  • sheila mullins

    I must disagree with all the guys here who drool over Donatella’s “cleavage”. Her boobs practically overshadowed some-ones dish and I find it very disturbing! Kind of like Giada! I want to see the bloody food, not some-one’s bosom, if you don’t mind. Also I think Alton is one of the wittiest, most intelligent commentators I’ve ever seen. I do however, agree with every-one regarding the judging. We were all looking forward to hearing you, Ruhlman, and not the other two idiots. More of the judges comments.
    Lastly, I hated this challenge. Just let the bust chefs in America cook, dammit! Cheers, Sheila. P.S. Bourdain, where art thou?

  • sheila mullins

    Sorry, must have been in my subconscious – I meant to say BEST chefs……….Sheila.

  • Christina

    I was pissed off by Andrew Knowlton’s comment to Sanchez to tone down his Latin influence. Um, what? I personally would love to see a Mexican Iron Chef! Every I.C. has his/her own “thing-” Italian, Southwest, Greek, Japanese. Why would you want an I.C. to be generic? I don’t see Andrew complaining about Besh’s Louisiana influence. Give me a break, Andrew.

  • George Kaplan

    I just hope someone can come up with a vinegar that doesn’t have all that acetic acid.

    We should’ve seen this coming last week, with all the uses of hydrocarbon combustion devices and stand mixers that use copper to convert the potential energy of rotating magnetic fields to kinetic energy.

  • bob

    Next thing you know they’ll be using silicate particles in their spatulas….

  • French Laundry at Home

    >>>I’d like to second greg’s commending Alton’s dignified dismissals. It’s a shitty job, and he so clearly didn’t like doing it. It’s easy to forget when you’re watching the tube that there’s a human being there to whom you’re saying, “You’re not good enough.” And we’re sitting there too, staring at them. Every one of these chefs cares about what they do. It was always the worst part of the day.<<< Yeah, but Alton’s not really saying “you’re not good enough” – it’s more like, “this isn’t the right place for you” because let’s be honest; the best chefs in the U.S. are not on Iron Chef America. Good ones, yes. Great ones, absolutely. But in all fairness, aren’t you judging their ability to cook on a competitive TV show, and not really their ability to cook? Every single one of those contestants knows you and the other judges have respect for their craft and their expertise – this is just a job interview (on cable television, no less) to see if they can add another gig to their already-busy workload. And Ruhlman, your hair is much cooler than Dufresne’s. Between him and Knowlton, I’m not sure which one looks more like Crispin Glover: The Letterman High Kick Years. And does anyone else wish someone would shout out “Tyra Mail!!” when The Chairman’s videos were played? No? Just me? Well then…

  • sorchar

    FLaH, Wylie looks like a Lemmy Kilmister impersonator, without the Edward James Olmos pockmarks. Crossed with John Lennon.

  • Gina

    It is so funny – I’m just the home cook who uses xanthan gum in baking all the time. When my kids were younger, both were allergic to milk and eggs. Ever bake cookies without? It is a challenge. However, I looked at this challenge as more than just how well can one do molecular gastronomy – but more how well does each chef know food and what it does? Much like the first challenge where they couldn’t use butter, this challenge relied on their knowledge of food and its properties. I use the xanthan gum (which I by made by Bob’s Red Mill in a health food store) as an emulsifier when baking. I could get lift from baking soda/powder and perhaps some form of emulsification from potato starch or tapioca – but 1/2 tsp. of xanthan gum gave it the right mouth feel.

    Again, it just seems to me that the chefs were asked to not only think about how to cook out of the box (anti-griddle) but also to take what they knew about food, the properties and what it can do, and see if they could do something different – or perhaps even the same – by a different vehicle.

  • Ed

    >>>it was a little unsettling to see the contestants have to wrap their brain around this ‘new ‘ technology that they were clearly uncomfortable with. The whole idea of adding chemicals to the food to attain a certain texture or cooking meat sealed in PLASTIC are questionable to me as to how good is it for the person eating it? Lest we should forget, the guy who helped bring these techniques to the forefront has cancer on his tongue!

    This post is one of the worst and most ignorant things I have seen here. To suggest that Grant got cancer of the tongue because of his cooking style? Please think about what you say before you type it, it is one thing for Rhulman to be snarky about foam…but it is a huge leap to being glib about someone’s battle with a potentially fatal disease.

  • brandon_w

    sourpuss checking in here…

    I’m still not sold on this show. Less of making us watch each chef be told that he has “survived to cook another day” and more discussion about the food.

    So tell us about the food Ruhlman. How long is it between plating and the time the judges are served? Are the liquids that were frozen on the antigriddle still frozen when they arrive? You are not a fan of foam, in general, so was Cosentino’s dish actually your favorite?

    I had never heard of Gavin Kaysen before this show started but I really like his style. His plating and food always looks really good.

  • Suzette

    Thanks for answering my question about Chef Aschatz. I’m sure his cancer has nothing to do with his style of cooking. I hope he has a complete recovery, of course.

    I’m quite sure the debate about “MG” or whatever the current accepted term is will go on and on, but I still think it was an odd choice for a challenge. The techniques used are fun, and should be used sparingly, IMHO, to shake things up now and again, but they really have nothing to do with good, solid cooking, nor with being the next Iron Chef. They’re basically parlor tricks.

  • Sara

    Cat wrote:
    “The whole idea of adding chemicals to the food to attain a certain texture or cooking meat sealed in PLASTIC are questionable to me as to how good is it for the person eating it?”

    Wait, so you’re okay with people getting things like hip replacements and knee surgery (which often employ plastics where cartilidge used to be), but eating something Sous Vide is potentially dangerous?

    I’m pretty sure that if it’s a chemical commonly used in food production, it’s safe to eat. The FDA won’t even let us have real Brie, you think they’d let dangerous molecular gastronomy fly?

  • Spin

    Hopefully as the list of contestants is whittled down, there will be more room for description of the food itself, at least in the kitchen, if not from the judges. The editing if the show reminds me of the slimination challenge from the second episode. It’s fairly plain to see that getting great footage of the chefs at work in the kitchen is what the producers are most proud of, and what they think is the most dramatic. I understand that–action as opposed to people stting in chairs talking makes fr more entertaining tv. And the work that goes into shooting the kitchen scenes is much more complicated that shooting the interviews with the chefs or the judging. So they want to get their money’s worth out of it. Maybe if there was just one challenge per episode, there would be more room for judging. But hindsight is 20-20.

    About Aaron’s plating confusion. What do the producers want? Excitement, tension, drama. This was about all they got, so they played it up as far as possible (I’d say a little too far). It seems silly that the other chefs didn’t get to eat what he had worked on (did they actually sneak bites behind the scenes?). I know they all would like the acclaim and career boost winning would give, but don’t you think the other reason (other than the exposure) that many of them seem to be enjoying this and not taking it too seriously. This isn’t Hell’s Kitchen after all.

  • Greg

    That is funny the little tool Andrew Knowlton told Sanchez to lay off the Latin. Why? Like Ruhlman said, does the Food Network tell Bobby to layoff the ancho chile powder in a taco throwdown? No! (only his assistants do). Knowlton needs to lay off the cosmetic dental visits for tooth whitening.

  • fideist

    Donatella has a lot more going for her than her cleavage. She has a beautiful face, she is very intelligent, she is still quite young, and she is hugely successful. The more we see of her, the happier I am!

  • sheila mullins

    Michael, I was delighted to see that you actually read our responses to your blog…….it makes a huge difference to people. Tell the morons at FN that we want to see MORE comments from you…

  • Stephen

    I too would like to think what Alton thinks of the dishes. In the DVD perhaps?

    Alton *really* knows his shit. And in fact knows the difference between shit and not.

    Still I wish Bourdain was involved somehow. Maybe in a Ramsey was, yelling at cooks in the kitchen, or at least getting under their skin.

  • Todd

    I finally got around to watching the show and I think it was better than the first though the editors really pale in comparison to the TC3 editors. The conversations between the judges looks disjointed.

    I was happy to see that even professional chefs fail as horribly as I have at executing anything related to MG (though I did make powdered olive oil successfully the other day, woot!). Makes me feel less like an idiot… not much, but a little.

    The thing bothering me at this point is the elimination. Pair it down to two, then tell the person staying first and leave the ‘loser’ in the room by him or herself. Oh, and announce the winner while half the field is out of the room? Weird, anyway… That’s so unlike most reality shows up until the very end. Dare to be different, maybe? I dunno, it’s non-manufactured drama (as opposed to the ‘I can’t plate it?!?!? WTF?’ sendup that was probably a footnote in the whole competition).

    As far as the iron chefs using this, Flay and Batali haven’t, to my knowledge, used any of these techniques during a challenge (Batali said during one battle against someone who brought a virtual pharmacy with him that he might use some if he knew what they were) but Morimoto pulled out the caviar and liquid nitrogen against Homar Cantu and the last battle I saw Cat Cora in, she produced no less than three foams.

  • Sean

    “Reverse ice cream?” I’ll admit, I’m no MG expert. As novel as it might be to watch piping hot ice cream melt as it cools, I just don’t get jazzed up by it. The reason I don’t add methylcellulose to my ice cream is because it melts just fine on its own in my bowl. What’s good about “reverse ice cream”? Oh, that’s right, my bacon and bleu cheese ice cream will last longer on my chateaubriand. What’s wrong with bacon and bleu cheese on my beef with a bowl of normal ice cream for dessert?

    Regarding Sanchez and his latin style: yes Batali, Flay, Cora, and Morimoto all have their personal style. On their shows they highlight that spectacularly. On Iron Chef, I’ve seen one or two ICs move beyond that niche and cook outside that region. The judges comments are spot on; Sanchez must be able to cook foods other than latin flavored comfort zone foods.

    Each cook on the Food Network cooks their own way on their own show, but the ICs have the added talent of being able to cook anything.

    Now, for a memorable IC season, how about mystery ingredients that go beyond “apple”, “tuna”, “asparagus”, and “tomato” and move into the realm of “seaweed”, “snail”, “foie gras”, “tongue”, and “durian”? Is that too radical for our TGI McFunster palates? Would our assembly-line-machine-pressed-chicken-nugget abused taste buds be forever damaged with a offal challenge?

  • Sean

    “Reverse ice cream?” I’ll admit, I’m no MG expert. As novel as it might be to watch piping hot ice cream melt as it cools, I just don’t get jazzed up by it. The reason I don’t add methylcellulose to my ice cream is because it melts just fine on its own in my bowl. What’s good about “reverse ice cream”? Oh, that’s right, my bacon and bleu cheese ice cream will last longer on my chateaubriand. What’s wrong with bacon and bleu cheese on my beef with a bowl of normal ice cream for dessert?

    Regarding Sanchez and his latin style: yes Batali, Flay, Cora, and Morimoto all have their personal style. On their shows they highlight that spectacularly. On Iron Chef, I’ve seen one or two ICs move beyond that niche and cook outside that region. The judges comments are spot on; Sanchez must be able to cook foods other than latin flavored comfort zone foods.

    Each cook on the Food Network cooks their own way on their own show, but the ICs have the added talent of being able to cook anything.

    Now, for a memorable IC season, how about mystery ingredients that go beyond “apple”, “tuna”, “asparagus”, and “tomato” and move into the realm of “seaweed”, “snail”, “foie gras”, “tongue”, and “durian”? Is that too radical for our TGI McFunster palates? Would our assembly-line-machine-pressed-chicken-nugget abused taste buds be forever damaged with a offal challenge?

  • Len

    “And, too bad the winner isn’t based on cumulative performance. Some of them seem consistently in the “top tier” even when not winning–on every challenge. Seems that consistent-quality-no-matter-what should be taken into account as an “Iron Chef”.”

    I agree, Kali. As far as I’m concerned, this has been a major problem with every food-related “reality” show aired. People aren’t usually wonderful at everything they try to do, there’s no reason to cut them from a competition just because of some unspoken rule that reality shows have to eliminate somebody every episode.

    I much prefer the approach used by some of the automobile magazines … comparisons in multiple categories (weighted differently or not), and the cars are ranked at the end.

    I suppose using that approach on a TV series would mean that some level of attention span or intelligence was expected on the part of the viewers :-(

  • chefwannab

    I agree with Len and Kali. I have long bemoaned the judging methods on Top Chef that will, regardless of a successful track record, send the most talented chefs home after one miss. The Next Iron Chef is no different. I don’t know why someone can’t figure out a way to create some kind of cumulative point system throughout a culinary competition. Keep the points secret from the viewers until the end to maintain suspense; or reveal the points midway through the series, eliminate the bottom half, and then it’s judged by individual challenge until the end. Points would be gained for both “quickfire” and the longer challenges, which would give more meaning to the short challenge win than the almost useless advantage of getting to pick your ingredients first.

    I personally don’t need to see someone eliminated on every episode to stay tuned. I’m curious to see who the best talent really is, and seeing Traci Des Jardins go home in Episode 1 over bad salmon roe doesn’t prove anything.

  • Rory

    I agree with others, the episodes seem way to packed and the first challenge is practically pointless. Maybe it will get better when there are less contestants (and thus less dishes to be judged => more time for each dish), but as it stands I think it would be much better to have one challenge per episode. I also agree that the 30 second bumpers before every commercial are a total waste of precious time.

  • Len

    “Keep the points secret from the viewers until the end to maintain suspense;”

    I’m not sure you’d even need to do that … if the tests are sufficiently interesting, and the scoring fairly close (hard to determine ahead of time, I suppose), people will stay around to see what happens next …

  • Steve2 in LA

    Is it just me or is Ruhlman coming across as an acerbic sense-of-humor-free grump? Can’t believe that’s actually “you”. Gotta be the editing. Right? The editing? Tell me it’s the editing.