Nic_munich_judgingEpisode 4 (airing Sunday at 9 pm, food network) is by far the BEST of the series so far—just watched an early copy.  With just four chefs remaining, I felt I got to know them in a way previous eps haven’t allowed.  Alton gives us some Good Eats style info and panache.  The cooking is the most exciting so far and by far the hardest challenge.  And ultimately it’s a sad, touching conclusion—these chefs have become so close.
    Please, no whining about how this is a Top Chef ripoff with a Snacks on a Plane challenge.  It’s obvious that both shows did this to offset huge travel costs.  That said, this show is ten times better than the Top Chef episode in question with all that nasty broccoli. (I can say things like that—I’m a judge.)  And while Continental is my airline of choice here at home, I would definitely choose Lufthansa for overseas.
    The judges and Alton were joined here by Bernd Schmitt (above left) of LSG Sky Chefs, the “airline’s top culinary dog,” as Alton called him, and he brought some much needed balance to the controversial Knowlton.  Hair continues to be an issue, though, as do some head-sweating violations.  Ultimately some of the best food, under the most difficult conditions, of the competition.


46 Wonderful responses to “Next Iron Chef: Early Review from Impartial Judge”

  • Len

    “Please, no whining about how this is a Top Chef ripoff with a Snacks on a Plane challenge.”

    Is it possible that this competition came about because the airlines decided that it might be good publicity to extend invitations to the various food-related networks and shows? The automobile companies invite groups of journalists to racetracks to see their new models, it seems like it would be a smart move for the airline industry as well.

    That said, I’ve really enjoyed this series. It would be fun if one of the concepts – competition with restrictions – was carried over to ICA. Imagine an episode where, after revealing the “secret ingredient”, the chairman said something like “I could *really* go for a sandwich right now!”.

  • Natalie Sztern

    Isn’t that what sponsors are for and why we sit through commercials and hype is written into the dialogue…in order to offset all costs in the making of a show …

  • blah

    so far, top chef has been a much better show, even though the contestants on NIC are better overall. i blame the FN producers.

  • ruhlman

    blah, youre as bad as your name! watch this next show, promise you will think it’s excellent on its own merits. seriously.

  • doodad

    Looking forward to it. I will let the plane thing go. At least there are no family of bags and vehicle gratuitous shots to clutter up the tablescape. Or tray tables in this case.

  • kristin

    Having watched quite a bit of NIC, I had come to the conclusion that it will be down to Symon and Besh and it is theirs to lose. Looking forward to seeing if that is true.

  • LauraTheRed

    In all honesty, I’m beginning to view all of your distinct, flowing locks of love as a sort of unofficial trademark of the show. Like, “It’s just not NIC without all the hair! I bet he rinses AND repeats!”

    I also have to say that this is probably the most real and honest reality show FN has ever done. Whoever ends up being the winner has won because they’re truly the best of the best, not because of rugged good looks or bra size. Top Chef was the same way. As much as Hung irritated me, I still have to see that the best chef won, and he won fair and square.

    To give contrast to my statement for instance, I just know Next Food Network Star is an absolute corporate joke, and the winner is decided long before the first episode is shot. Why do I say this? Because a retarded hack like Guy Fieri should have never obtained his own show. Ever.

    I think they just recognized him as another brain dead puppet that they could make dance for them.

  • FoodPuta

    Well, I certainly hope there will be some crying in this episode. How can you have FN competition without the crying???

  • The Professor

    OK folks…Ruhlman has laid it out in very clear manner. This is a TV show, “RELAX” and enjoy it for what it is. It is a good show that is fun to talk about after. Don’t be a hater…be a congratulator!

  • OldWebster

    I found the third episode to be a bit (may I, Laura?) “retarded”. All of the dramatic — and seemingly out-of-context — cuts and closeups and music stings. The things that make me hate reality TV…and TV in general.

    Though last Monday I did enjoy seeing Mr. Ruhlman’s (ridiculously lavish) home invaded by Mr. Bourdain on the Travel Channel. I hope Episode 4 of TNIC lives up to seeing those two make cassoulet together…

  • French Laundry at Home

    All I know is, every time I watch Symon cook, I end up checking Southwest’s website for a fare sale from BWI to Cleveland so I can fly out for dinner at Lola or Lolita. I’ve done it twice before, but it’s been two years, so I need to get my butt out there.

    And yes, bust on that craptacular broccolini all you want, but don’t mess with my reality TV boyfriend, CJ.

  • Frances

    The Broccolini Incident. CJ kind of “health-conscioused” his way out of that race with that one. But you know, unless he planned to serve it with a Beano appetizer, couldn’t that be a hazard in flight?

    It reminds me of the time I tried to bake my cake layers in a water bath (you know, to keep the top from crowning?). Well the sumbitch would not get done in the middle, taking “moist” to an unappetizing level. So I scooped the gooey stuff out and filled it with chocolate ganache (that’s what I call frosting when it’s on the inside). I was very upset because for one thing, it was MY birthday and I was baking the damn cake, and for another, the cake was obviously going to suck. So, we tried some, and I sobbed, “This is worst cake ever.” My dear husband, trying to comfort me said, “You’re forgetting the cake you made for MY birthday.” That was the cake I tried to make “healthy.” Don’t ever do that. Birthday cake is not supposed to be healthy. To celebrate the passing of another year, the cake is supposed to be that little extra nail in the coffin. I’m thinking, “F***, if we’re all going to die anyway, then I want to die with chocolate on my breath.” It was the first time in 3 generations, on all branches of my family tree, that leftover cake actually got too stale to eat.

    Just to keep this on topic, I am looking forward to the next NICA, but dreading it a bit too.

  • Foodiemom

    Do you regret the decision to keep Sanchez now that you know what happened with Gavin?

  • Darclyte

    Yeah yeah, good food and challenging comp…that’s all good and well but we need an answer to the really important question. In the photo with this story, her arms are crossed but it looks like a strapless or string top dress. Do we get some nice Donatella cleavage in this episode, hehe?

  • JoP in Omaha

    Hey, French Laudry At Home, when I win the lottery, I’ll let you know, ’cause going to Lola will be the first thing I do. We can meet for dinner. Well, maybe it’ll be the second thing I do, after a trip to French Laundy.

    Meanwhile, I’ll sit at home and enjoy NIC. I’m pulling for Symon to be the last chef standing.

  • LauraTheRed

    Hey French Laundry, two words; DO IT!! Lola’s and Lolita’s are fantastic, and Tremont is a really neat neighborhood to walk around in ( could also give you the names of some really good bars for after dinner drinks). Also, some other really good places you might want to check out (depending on how long you’re here) are Venezia in Lakewood (owned and ran by Chef Moha Orchid – and he’ll come out to your table after dinner drinking a beer and shaking your hand), and Melt which is also in Lakewood (gourmet grilled cheese…probably the best f-ing sandwich you will ever have).

    Just FYI from a Cleveland West-sider 🙂

  • inny

    Road trip to Lola and/or Lolita? I swear every time I see Symon cook I start calculating the distance between Cinci and Cleveland. I blame Bourdain, but NIC is just reinforcing my obsession. Not to slight the other chefs on the show, who are amazing in their own right, but Symon’s food just resonates with me – its how I like to cook and definitely how I like to eat.

    I’m really liking the show, much to my surprise (gave up on FN ages ago) – even looking forward to it. Now that the number of chefs and dishes have been pared down, I hope we get to see more of the judges discussions. And their hair… there’s so much hair…

  • MikeLibra

    Mr. Ruhlman,

    Last Firday night, Oct.19th, a friend and I had dinner at Lola. The restaurant is great looking, very sexy. Michael Symon was there and we had a chance to talk with him. As you know he is funny and very down to earth, we had a great time.

    Then came dinner. The food was incredible. I love when I have a tough time choosing an appetizer, so I ordered three. And that Berkshire smoked pork chop, wow! Each was a killer! So much so, that I ordered the “6am special” for dessert, like I had not had enough pork. That is the same dessert Chef Symon made on NIC. The man can do anything with a pig, and trip you out!

    Needless to say, I hope he goes far in this competition, he is young, fresh, talented, full of energy, has an infectious laugh and is a truly great guy. The Michales are kicking butt in Cleveland. I can taste that Maple Bacon Ice Cream right now. Must be time for another visit to Lola.

  • Annie

    Oh great–an early review. Now I’m singing “Tonight, Tonight” from West Side Story under my breath at 3:55 PM Eastern time. Like I wasn’t sufficiently obsessed with this show..

  • Claudia

    You should be singing “I Feel Pretty” – with all those beautiful heads of long-flowing locks at the judges’ table, I’m surprised no one in the Judging Chamber (!) has broken out into song yet. Oh, right – Alton might get a male pattern balding complex . . . (!)

  • Lester Hunt

    Ah, dining at Lola. I suffer pangs of restaurant envy. Michael, I’m looking forward to the new episode, and glad you’re getting some of the fame you deserve!

  • Francesca

    Hmmm…how can I start. I am still trying to get over the choice to eliminate Chef Morou. His plating was in question…..isn’t the taste of the food what matters? Why is it that Sanchez was not sent home? Kaysen..well, he will do fine. I mean look at his age and where he is, that is all that needs to be said about him. One complaint I have about the judges on NIC is that the decision of letting Chef Morou go could have easily been challenged by the comments or complaints that were made about the other chefs. Just an examples, Chef Cosentino was commented on his lack of plating of technique and that he always has one dish that is good and one dish that is below average. Sanchez has no confidence in himself and is just looking to get by on luck. I don’t think that he has the confidence to be the NIC. So, with that being said I just want to say that the reason that Chef Morou was eliminated was not a good one. I am disappointed that he was let go for plating. Chef Sanchez is very questionable. I would rather have seen Chef Morou stay as I think that would have made the competition. I think everyone would have been at the edge of their seats.

  • Kali

    Hey, don’t take pot shots at CJ’s broccolini and I won’t take shots at “Chefs on a Plane”! (And, for the record, apparently the producers insisted that he include the broccolini–he would have left it off, if allowed to).

    So, tonight we will get to see great chefs allowed to express themselves freely and create great food as only they can–with no gimmicky challenges to limit their talents?

    No, you say? Then I’m sorry to say, I’ll still be “whining”….

  • Kansas City rube

    I’m loving this show and can’t wait to watch Besh and Symon tonight, especially with Ruhlman saying it’s the BEST. I may even have to take a World Series break and watch it live.

    French Laundry at Home, can I be your food writer’s blog boyfriend?

  • TJB

    I want to like this show; I really do. But I don’t. Here’s why. NIC has clearly borrowed its format from Top Chef (TC). That’s a problem in several big ways.

    The primary reason that TC is so engaging is that it introduces all of the contestants, allows the viewer to get to know their personalities and be invested in their successes or failures. NIC has given us none of that investment. Presumably, that is because all the chef contestants are already known, but that brings up the second problem.

    FN has set the NIC contestants up as “super chefs” (that’s straight from the promo I just saw). Yet the critiques are things one would expect for far less experienced chefs–use salt; practice plating. It’s nothing short of insulting to these supposedly great chefs. Half the time in judging I wonder whether the chef can even cook. Also, the criticism of sticking too closely to one style (“We know you can do Southern, Chef Besh; show us something else”) is absurd. Is anyone going to tell Batali he does too much Italian? Morimoto too much Japanese? Of course not, that’s what the Iron Chef schtick is.

    Finally, the challenges are just dull. TC works because there’s a bit of a thrill in throwing this relatively inexperienced chef out of his/her comfort zone. Iron Chef works because these are masters of their craft creating amazing dishes.

    Let the contestants free. Give them the full IC pantry, a “secret” ingredient, and let them show what they can do.

  • MikeLibra


    Thank you ever so for the pictures of Lola, now I am home sick for that beautiful restaurant and that killer food. Symon is the master of pork, so, do not miss the “6am special” dessert at Lola. It is so good, you will not believe it. I am much more a food guy myself, and would rather order two or three appetizers and ship dessert, however, that brioche french toast with maple, bacon ice cream is to die for. Again thanks for the pictures of Lola, that restaurant is hot!

  • kate r

    I’m getting annoyed with you judge guys. Tissue paper, pfah. And then I realized it’s probably edited to make you sound like a bunch of discerning snobs. Tell those pesky editors to put in some of the “HOLY Mother this tastes amazing” remarks, too, please. You must have had some right? I mean these are great chegs

    Too lake now, I suppose, since it’s done. Next time. You wield your mighty influence and get them to make you not sound like a bunch of whiny tweepers.

    And I am glad you have this blog so I can see you’re not a pompous, self-important twit.

  • Stephen

    I hope Bourdain belly’s up to the blog table on this one, since he was involved in the ‘other’ airline incident.

  • Lester Hunt

    If tempted to badmouth Aaron Sanchez, remember he has already been on Iron Chef America, and he did brilliantly. He tied Morimoto. A first, and a stunning feat, no?

  • Rob B

    “Please, no whining about how this is a Top Chef ripoff with a Snacks on a Plane challenge. It’s obvious that both shows did this to offset huge travel costs.”

    I don’t care if the show rips Top Chef off. But, I have to wonder why there needed to be travel costs at all. Go to Munich, stay at the airport to cook? They could have done this in Newark, Detroit or even Toledo. Why go to Munich and not take advantage of being in Munich?

  • Kali

    “Why go to Munich and not take advantage of being in Munich?”

    To give everyone involved in NIC a tax deductible “perk” (and/or paid vacation) that’s a lot more fun than a week in Newark?

  • nina keneally

    you’re such a tease. but, i speak for the masses, thank you for not having
    stitched lapels…
    and, had dinner at prune friday night. finally. loved it because i was
    happy to be excited, to taste what i already do well and to be able to recognize what i might (might) do better. but never on a plane. i’ll rely on pills, a massage and a great cookie.

  • TKO

    I liked this episode…it was indeed beyond TopChef. These chefs had to work in SKYCHEF conditions and that is no easy task even for anyone who washes dishes there. I , however did like Alton Brown in this one..he was really informative on the conditions the chefs would be working under. I didnt like to see Sanchez to go, (sad face)but he’ll definitely do well after his exposure on the show. OK…now to the chef(Besh) that sweats alot …I was relieved to see him use head gear this time. I think this show carries drama and authenticity with class.

  • JL

    Let’s see, first the two women, then the black man (along with an inexperienced guy), then the latin man. So, now we’re down to all white males. Such an unexpected result.

  • Cameron

    Ruhlman… you are easily the worst part of the show. That stupid, smug little frown you make every time they show your face is disgusting. Not to mention the ridiculous degree of your foodie-snob comments. So maybe the watermelon consommé wasn’t perfectly clear? Who gives a fuck? It’s called creativity. I hope to meet you some day so I can bitch slap you so hard your ego shrinks (it certainly can’t get any bigger). Although afterwards you would probably criticize my strike as more of an “open handed punch” that didn’t meet your classical standards of a slap.

  • WhatisCanadianCuisine?

    Cameron, are you really flying off the handle and threatening physical VIOLENCE over Ruhlman’s consomme comments(which he explained already)?

    Holy crap, you are easily the rudest and unclassiest person I have ever encountered on this food blog. Congrats for being the king of trolls. Pathetic sore losers.

  • j.j.

    LOVE “Anthony Boudain: NoReservations” which is where as a viewer I was first introduced to Ruhlman (not the only place, mind you) – but how much do I dislike the Food Network? Let me count the ways:
    Rachael Ray
    Sandra Lee
    No Ming Tsai any longer
    No black chefs any longer
    Bad knock off of Japanese Iron Chef
    Really bad (insert theme)competitions where hey, presto! the losers get their own shows (Duff ACE OF CAKES anyone)
    CEO three years ago “We’re going to go in a different direction” read “down the toilet” and become a multiple hour commercial
    Do like that Ruhlman, though

  • cindy

    Next Iron Chef is soooooooooo much better than top chef, my only gripe are the judges…..I think they stink, they should have the regulars from Iron Chef. Love Alton, he’s great.
    Totally agree with j.j.

  • S.L:

    This has to be one of the worst shows on television. Not only is it a bad rip off, but it gives you judges you would rather throw plates at than serve them too. Tonight for instance, there was the “do you know what a proper lobster roll is?” conversation. Please, make the show at least a little interesting; drop your pants and show us a proper lobster roll. Chances are that it’s much more filling than the drivel we’ve seen so far. Thank goodness the real and ORIGINAL Top Chef is coming back.

  • General Custer

    I don’t care for NIC since they eliminated both female chefs in two episodes back to back! And then they let go of the only black chef there and I felt I was watching a typical horror movie. And Food Network seems to be in love with Besh that I was sure he was going to win. It seemed all staged to me. I wish Food Network would despense with all the reality nonsense and go back to their roots. I miss the old shows and can’t stand the cleavage driven, perfect hair, models they have now. Food Network doesn’t like to be criticize about their programming of shows. I wish they had more african-american chefs to show a more diverse format.

  • General Custer

    Oh, one last thing. I love Anthony Bourdain!! I love the way he let’s the Food Network know how much he loathes them. Anthony Rule!! I hope No Reservations continues for the next 20 years!