So, was I right?  Questions and comments?  I’ll try to elaborate on the food tomorrow answer burning questions.

Monday Morning Update: This was a really difficult decision–Cosentino or Sanchez.  Symon was the clear winner from all of us, for the incredibly juicy salmon (he made a risky decision to finish it in the airplane rather than reheat), but his other dishes were on the money too.  Besh’s asparagus salad was a little lacking, just wasn’t all there.  And he told me why afterward.  In the rush to get all his food into the box he forgot one of his vinaigrettes!  This challenge was indeed really hard–the time, the number of dishes, the unfamiliar kitchen and the cameramen getting in your goddam way.  I personally thought Chris was being kind! And showing uncommon grace under pressure by not ripping the camera out of their hands and mauling them bloody–you have no idea what a drag they are when you’re trying to cook. They are of course required for a show, however.

Nicep4aaron5 Chris’s crunchy cauliflower and Aaron’s nasty fish skin hurt them.  Neither prepared dishes with the muscle Besh and Symon did.  We had an hour between when we actually delivered a verdict and Knowlton argued vociferously, actually taking me by the lapels and slamming me against a concrete wall way in the back of the hangar. He was persuasive. They were so close in fact that I had to take their overall performance into account. In the end, we all wrote down our choices and handed them to Alton, and it was unanimous.  Chef Schmitt did not judge but his comments and opinions were very important to our evaluation.

And yes the editing. It was kind to Knowlton this week. He’s just as much of an ass as ever.  Donatella just as elegant.  (Kidding about Knowlton!)  If anything, I was the snooty one this week, nothing but curled lip and disdain.  The consomme issue is important.  Besh used it to make the dish sound prettier.  But by doing so he’s diminishing the value of the word.  Soon it won’t mean anything. He trailed me in the Charles de Gaulle airport the next day saying, "Consomme was in quotes!"  He even dropped his bags to make quote marks in the air.

For the record, to respond to a grumbler, I do not and never have called myself a chef, because I am not a chef.  A chef is a leader of a kitchen.  I am a trained cook, and spent a very brief and not inglorious time as a line cook at a Cleveland restaurant owned by Marriott (which gave health bennies, thank god).  I make my living as a writer–perhaps the grumbler should check out my new book. Also, I don’t know who said it, but no winner was pre-selected.  We were told repeatedly by the producers to vote from our gut.  And if they had told me anything else, I would have said, f.u.

Now, after a falling out with these producers, I have decided to reveal the big secret from next week’s show:

Besh is in fact an undercover agent for the international police and arrests both Symon (frigging peacemonger, Besh was heard saying, as he put the cuffs on) and Cosentino for illegal foie gras activity, citing an obscure Chicago ordinance as his justification.

Read fellow judge Andrew Knowlton’s comments and picks for top three bottom three dishes, which i agree with.

And the inimitable Amateur Gourmet here.

UPDATE: I put this in the comments, but a reader suggested putting it here and I agree.  I got an email from Cosentino this morning saying this:

thanks for defending me with the camera guys. these guys were german and not understanding of space every time i moved my elbows touched someone. i thought i was going to hurt my self. also i found out later that eytan with this ear piece was telling the camera guys to get closer to me . In kitchen stadium they understand the dangers of being to close and they want you to succeed, in this episode all they wanted was the shot. that is why i got hostile i told them from the beginning to give me space since the kitchen configuration was really bad we had a very small pass way to get to equipment (like bowls, pans )and they were always blocking it and wouldn’t move when we asked them . thats when the hostility came. now that 1/2 the country thinks i am an asshole as some one put it in another blog. life goes on.


262 Wonderful responses to “Next Iron Chef: Hardest Challenge According to Chefs”

  • Shelley

    Based on judges’ comments in this episode, I really thought Chris was headed home. I was hoping Knowlton’s bias against Sanchez would be overcome.

  • Stephen

    Mr. Ruhlman, is there a reason why the FN always pans to you when you have the look of someone who’s just eaten a cat’s ass on a stick made of cat’s ass?

  • I'm ME

    Ruhlman, you have NO poker face! That said, I do have a couple of questions:

    Why put these chefs through challenges that are so far from being what they will deal with on ICA? They’re never going to prep/cook airline food on the show. Isn’t it true that ICA contestants know the secret ingredient days/weeks ahead of time so they can prep their recipes? If so, springing a bunch of difficult situations/ingredients is yet another way these challenges have nothing to do with their role on ICA–where they also get a team to work with.

    Can you tell us if it was merely the editing that led us to believe that Cosentino was going? Why tell Sanchez that 2 of his 3 dishes were good after telling Cosentino how many things were wrong with his plates only to cut Sanchez? Don’t get me wrong–I don’t think either of those guys has the experience/confidence/ability to take criticism to be the next IC–but that kind of stuff is what makes the show really frustrating to watch.

  • Victoria

    Was I the only one laughing at Ruhlman complaining that it wasn’t really consommé?? That wasn’t surprising at all, and much like watching “other” reality cooking shows, makes you wonder if the contestents have bothered to read any writing by the judges….

    Very good episode. Good food, good cooking and nice to see the chef’s serious enough about what they were doing to get mad at the cameras in the way. Sanchez was one of the few I was aware of on the potential IC list, and I fondly recall his previous appearances on Food Network shows. Seeing his work on the show, I wasn’t that surprised at the early exit.

  • Shelley

    Agree with “I’m ME” about the disconnect between this challenge and normal ICA challenges. What were the producers thinking?

    It is true, I hear, that contestants know of two POTENTIAL secret ingredients before they go live. But they don’t know which one will be part of the true competition.

    Laughing a bit as I see the ICA challenge that follows this episode. MILK? You gotta be kidding me………

  • Kali

    So…women and minorities all gone, exactly as Sanchez said. Worst thing about it? None of these people are getting to have their skills judged under ideal (or even IC-level) conditions.

    And, re: race (yes, I know what y’all think). It might have helped if the PANEL was more diverse, too. I’m really not surprised that Besh and Symon’s style of food prep and flavoring have won more favor with this group of judges. Say what you will, but a more international group (e.g. a Japanese judge, Latin, and…Mediterranean? Indian? African? French? plus keeping one of the existing people–and Alton as a tie-breaker–would have been more interesting.)

    And I think with more diversity all around the results might be quite different. But my main issue, again, is with the competition itself–because again, TC-style, its about finding gimmicky ways to restrict chefs from doing their best, each and every week, and then judging them based on it.

    And, yes, I know NIC’s just “entertainment”, but at this level of talent (unlike “Hells Kitchen” or even “Top Chef”) I think watching great chefs free to show their BEST COOKING (at least once per show) would be -highly- entertaining.

  • Chris

    Sanchez has consistently been on the edge, it was time for him to move on.

    However both he and Cosentino are clearly out of their depth with Michael and Besh. This has been a 2 horse race ever since episode 2.

  • shauny8

    While I agree that the chefs must be able to overcome the challenges they are presented(it is a competition after all), I also agree with “I’m Me” that the situations they are put in are so far away from what they will have to do in Iron Chef. Judgeing them on how well they do with prepping airline food in relation to an Iron chef competition is almost insanely silly in its vast differences. Its like being a judge at Iron Chef and wondering if, based on their dish, if they’re any good at golf.

  • Lisa

    Are you KIDDING me? Cosentino treats the camera guy like crap, his food tastes like crap, and he’s still on the show? Unbelievable!

    Part of Iron Chef is that he/she has to be able to work with cameras all over the place. Cosentino was totally disrespectful and rude, and it wasn’t even addressed.

    You people frustrate me!

  • Michelle

    How long was spent judging the food? I can’t imagine being in that position.

  • Harlan

    I was surprised that the food *wasn’t* judged at 35,000 feet! I hope that the chefs were told in advance that they shouldn’t over-season for the judges… Perhaps that was the issue with the “too many chives” problem?

    Otherwise, pretty good show. It’s definitely easier to keep track of what’s going on with only four contestants.

  • WhatisCanadianCuisine?

    Great show. Fabulous! Was Schmitt an actual judge for the show or was he just there for consulting? And how much weight did he have going into it?

    Also, I don’t know if you’d know the answer to this, but why did the producers have the chefs make airplane food then not serve it on an airplane? LOL. Do you think the food would have tasted differently or made a difference if it were actually in an airplane up in the air?

  • Shelley

    Hang on a second… I forgot to ask Mr. Ruhlman…

    I’ve been reading “The Soul of a Chef” recently. You talk about Chef Symon extensively. (Fun reading, I must add.)

    Given the recent Big Stink from people who thought that another Scripps Network contestant (the next design star on HGTV) had an unfair advantage because she had a two-degrees-apart connection with a judge on the same magazine editorial staff…

    [[PHEW, that was a convoluted mouthful!]]

    …are you worried that viewers will slam you for favoring Symon? Seems inevitable. 🙁

  • Steve

    I think that Sanchez and Cosentino have been drifting for the last couple of episodes. Clearly, the finale is gonna be between Besh and Symon. Also, I love Besh using German dishes… talk about something no one else is doing!

  • I'm ME

    I’m glad Lisa mentioned CC’s attitude towards the cameramen, as I meant to do the same. As soon as it happened the first time, I thought he’d be out in a heartbeat if he was ever in Kitchen Stadium for that reason alone! I should also say that having ICA air immediately after NICA is just a giant reminder of how little the competition has to do with the actual show. It’s too bad, really. I would have preferred they compete IN the Stadium week after week to see how they held up in that environment. The rest is just b.s. (er…’entertainment’).
    So there’s another question for Ruhlman–do the FN execs bother to take comments by viewers into consideration? All you have to do is check any food blog/site and see that most people have similar thoughts–over and over again. No wonder they’ve lost so many of us as regular/daily viewers!

  • Curlz

    To the point about not serving the food IN the plane or in the air, you’d think Lufthansa would want the exposure! Oh, well…

  • chadzilla

    I respect Cosentino’s cuisine since it has a purpose, but he needs to chill out with the mis-guided aggression. That needs to dissappear along with the sneakers in the kitchen. I understand image, but it doesn’t take priority over kitchen necessities.
    I want Besh to win because New Orleans needs that bump into modern cuisine more than any of the other chefs’ locales. There is so much great food culture there, and the resources that would be available to Besh in an Iron Chef role would benefit the food scene there tremendously. He demonstrated himself well in the recent challenge. I understand that he served in the Marines during the first Dessert Storm, so pressure is no stranger to him.
    It is also sad to see Sanchez go although I’m still confused on whether his repeating soft side is lack of confidence or an admirable quality of humbleness for a chef. I thought Nolton’s comments a couple of episodes ago about him not being able to break away from the Latin flavors was completely uncalled for. Why does Bobby Flay get to do southwestern, Morimoto get to do Japanese influence, and Batali get to make pasta in every single kitchen stadium challenge. Apparently sticking within your culinary comfort zone isn’t a detriment to being an Iron Chef.

  • Foodiemom

    Even though it was obvious that the two left standing would be Besh and Symon, I was very surprised to see Sanchez go home first. Cosentino was rude to everyone, and when we saw clips of the judges they kept playing the parts that said his dish was a complete failure, etc. Even Sanchez didn’t do that badly. I know it’s mostly editing for the juicy bits, but a little more continuity would be helpful 🙂

  • FoodPuta

    Great show, but the group of us viewing all voted that it would be Cosentino to be booted off the island. We will be interested to hear the details of why you all chose Sanchez.

    PS; I’m not sure my ego could handle you as a judge MR, you always have such a sour-puss when tasting the offerings.

  • originalIronChefJunkie

    I miss facets of the original Iron Chef. I liked having people have a specialty. I think it should be embraced, and they should be judged on how well they’ll fit in.

    Yes, Chris may have snarled at the camera, but did the producers have to leave that in? In the original Iron Chef, there were times when Rokusaburo Michiba would say to the effect of get out of my face, I’m busy. And it added a dimension of drama because you knew he was sweating it out.

    The producers should be looking for who is going to be a good chef (all of them) and who is going to be creative (probably about half of them) and who is going to be fun in front of the camera (2 of them).

    I don’t see Besh as having a good camera rapport.

  • Shelley

    Are you kidding me? Besh not having good camera rapport??? Puh-LEEZE. He’s as smooth as velveeta on toast!

  • Claudia

    Yep, like I said – Sanchez was going home. I’m betting it’ll be Cosentino next week. I really like both Besh and Symon, but I think I’ll really be sad if Symon loses – getting the IC gig seems to mean a lot to him.

  • Kansas City rube

    Even though it was basically just an hour-long ad for Luftansa, I thought it was a great episode. Again, I felt the judging was a little too abbreviated and I wished I could have seen more of your comments. I also agree with chris that it has been a two-horse race since episode two. But from the past couple weeks discussions, I’m starting to think that assessment has nothing to do with my perceptions of the chefs’ personalities and cuisine but probably more to do with me being a white male.

    But seriously, unlike a lot of people who are coming out of the woodwork to bitch about the FN show, I have faith in you and the rest of the judges to make objective decisions . You all have the credentials to make these decisions and from what I’ve seen, it certainly looks like you’re taking your job seriously. Although now I’m starting to think maybe the FN execs probably should have recused you based on your connection to Symon. I don’t doubt your ability to remain objective but it would have eliminated the perception of bias. They had to have known that some people would bring it up.

    And in response to some of the comments that have been posted, it’s pretty obvious that there are plenty of comments that aren’t being shown during the one hour show, that you didn’t have the final say on the format of the show, and that your decisions are probably based on the taste rather than some nefarious racist/sexist conspiracy. I also realize that you probably don’t get to see the chefs cooking the food and wouldn’t know that Cosentino is so bothered by the presence of cameramen.

  • tim

    The editing seems to be an issue with these types of shows. This has been commented on several times by the judges themselves. In terms of guessing the outcome – I have come to just ignore the judges comments as aired since so much is left out and what does appear is purposely misleading.

    Will there ever be a time (or a show) that will release more of the discussion that goes on around the food? The irony here as we type into this blog is that the internet is the ideal vehicle for this sort of thing and yet we are left with text based on a certain edit of the show. Or is our lot in life watching chefs run around a kitchen arguing with plastic wrap? Which I can do at home [grin].

    (I also was disappointed that the food wasn’t actually eaten in the air – at least top chef took this step even tho it meant seeing Colicchio in that silly hat – are budgets really that slim?)

  • Kelly

    Despite the need for sponsorships, this was by far the best episode of TNIC. It incorporated the need for skill and innovation, while enabling the chefs the flexibility to choose the dishes they made.

    Unlike Top Chef, the Food Network has done an excellent job of making each competition about how the food looks/tastes and not factoring in personality, teamwork or inaccurate descriptions.(Sounds like someone is sticking to the rigors of the Master Chef exam on the definition of a consomme.) No matter how inaccurate Besh’s description may have been, his food did look good and from the facial expressions of the judges was world’s above Sanchez’s & Cosentino’s dishes. I’m glad to see the food won out!

    Being a Clevelander, I was thrilled with Symon’s 2nd victory (only counting elimination challenges). If the Indians & Cavs can’t get a championship, maybe Symon can bring one home!

    On another note, it seems the show is geared up for a Symon vs Besh conclusion. Both show fantastic skill. With the loss of two iron chefs, why not add both Symon & Besh to the line-up? Any insight on this (that isn’t already bound by a confidentiality agreement)?

  • Tags

    I think the “outside the comfort zone” thing is just for the duration of the competition. This competition is like drone bees flying after the queen – last one left gets to mate and go back to being pampered.

    Sad to say, Sanchez was right. Brown and out. I think it just worked out that way with the food, though. It doesn’t look good for Consentino either.

  • Shelley

    Loss of TWO iron chefs, Kelly? I’d only read about Batali… what’s the scoop, pray tell?

  • Brenda Mac

    Michael, you got it right, as did the judges. Thank you for all of your insight into the inner workings of this competition, it makes the viewing so much more clear to know that we are being pulled along and duped by T.V. execs for “drama”. It is hard not to get involved, even knowing that all of this is long past and there is nothing that we can do to sway the producers for the next episode. Perhaps for next year. I may be mistaken, but I do not believe the winner has been pre-selected, and do think the tests and judging are for real. However, two of the Chefs are leagues above the rest, as previously stated by other posters. My vote is for Chef Symon, he seems to exhibit a genuine love of his profession as well as having a wonderfull persona and raport with the general viewing public. He is Real. Guy next door, wish he was my buddy kinda fellow. A definate plus for an Iron Chef. There is something that rings phoney about Chef Besh, even though he seems to be an outstanding Chef and personality. If I were a T.V. exec, I would choose Chef Symon for the ability to draw more viewers on a more consistant basis. Hopefuly, this is an actual competition and not pre-arranged by the suits and ties with dollar signs in their eyes. I have a personal preference for Chef Cosentino, He’s just so damned cute, and I love offal, but Chef Sanchez does seem to show glimmers of brilliance. I am curious as to the “things not seen” and why he was chosen over Chef Cosentino when the judges clearly (well, not so clearly because of editing) prefered his offerings. Not that I am not cheering, I am after all a Cosentino Fan. And, his turn will be next week, no doubt. Once again, I would like to say thank you to you and Mr. Bourdain for the true insight and realism that the two of you offer to us on the outside. Please keep up the good work, it is appreciated.

  • Dianne

    Great challenge! The others have seemed manufactured, in many ways, but I could relate to this one! (Although having Billy Joel’s “Pressure” in the background while Consantino was freaking would have made my day.)

    Definitely my favorite episode in every way. Chris let me down, big time. Although his food was great, his manners went out the window here.

    Big John from L’Ana, and Michael Offal are my faves. I even liked Aaron here.

  • Shelley

    Thanks, Kelly. Not surprising if we lose Morimoto, since we see him on the small screen so seldom. He’s been brilliant, but obviously the “token” talent from the original Iron Chef concept.

  • Alice

    I have to say that I’m shocked that Cosentino is still in the running. I thought he was going to be eliminated last time with what looked like a bland, safe poultry dish and a bland, safe salad. Aside from the razor clam, I have yet to see him make anything that looks innovative. I, too, was a little blaffled that Sanchez got the boot. He was praised for getting it right with 2 of the 3 dishes and Consentino was, at best, safe (yet again) with 1 dish. A little confusing…

  • French Laundry at Home

    Symon and Sanchez were smart to risk doing fish. Go big or go home, and quite literally in this case, no? Do you think the salmon did better than the snapper because of the fat content, in addition to the preparation? Or, was it Symon’s overall technique to slightly undercook everything and then finish it in the plane’s ovens, instead of just reheating what had already been cooked and blast-chilled that did the trick?

    I know Chris’ cauliflower wasn’t good, but how was the venison? Was his preparation well executed, or did you prefer Symon’s venison with the curry?

    Judging solely from the editing they gave you, you seemed to not hate Sanchez’ ceviche. Was it good?

    And, one more question, I noticed that Besh said he made the madeira sayabon and refrigerated it overnight. I thought they had 90 minutes, then served the judges soon after.

    Great show — full of action, personality, conflict and challenge… both in the kitchen and at the judges’ table. And, since no one has talked about your hair yet, let me be the first to tell you it sure looked bouncin’ and behavin’ to me.

  • Juliette

    Hmmm. First, to say these judges are a tough crowd would be an understatement. I’d hate to be judged by any of them. Harsh.

    Sorry to see Sanchez and his Latin style food go. That would have been a welcome addition to ICA.

    re: Symon. Why does he always wear black street clothes rather than chef’s whites? And, as he seems the likely winner, will he continue to dress like that in Kitchen Stadium?

  • ShadowKat

    I think you’ve made a terrible mistake sending Sanchez home instead of Cosentino. Obviously, you didn’t see Cosentino’s behavior toward the camera people, but Sanchez’s dishes were also preferred over Cosentino’s. At least, that’s what we saw in the discussion that was on camera. Did one judge’s bias finally win out over the actual quality of the competitor’s submissions? I think I echo a lot of viewers’ opinions when I say, “What happened here?”

    Cosentino’s bad behavior tonight, in my opinion, is unacceptable for someone who wants to be on a show like ICA. He would have cameras in his face every time he was called to compete, after all. I hope that somehow he is called to task for it, and that we get to see it on camera.

  • pastrymann

    So…we are now 15 minutes into the show, no cooking-no nothing, except for the continuous banter from Alton. Ruhlman, please tell me this guy shuts-the-fuck-up once in a while. It appears his transformation into the mundane Sandra Lee debacle has begun.

    On a sanguine note, I had the pleasure of dining at Incanto in 2004 when Chris presented his Sicilian Mattanza dinner, exhorting the virtues of the annual Italian fisherman’s tuna slaughter. The dinner was magnificent albeit a morbid theme. Chris appears to be suffering from the dreaded FN syndrome, that is to say perhaps he has endured enough of this shameful sideshow and truly needs to return to the fires that fuel his passion. Alas, I too believed that his demise had come and was silently anticipating his departure. His is brilliant no matter what the buffoons in this blog may say.

    After this show is in the dumper could you please bitch slap that pompous dick Andrew Knowlton for the 2 cents his opinion is worth. Many, many straight-up kudos to you for putting up with him…

  • JMW

    This episode sucked — it was a real disappointment. The purpose of Iron Chef America is to show cuisine, elevated. Not cuisine … elevated.

    In-flight cuisine is a science project at best. The notion of over-seasoning to compensate for altitude is a joke. That particular sleight of hand doesn’t pay off — people’s taste buds change, but kicking up the heat and salt and spice still leads to the same indigestion. Been there, done that.

    I’ll say it right now — I want bland food on airplanes. Fresh? Absolutely. Loaded down with spice and salt as it is today? Nope. Salubrious, if predictable — it’s just better for long trips.

    Continental, for example, tends to serve its first-class passengers vanilla ice cream with various toppings after dinner. The pretentious judging panel would find this “safe” and not, well, Iron Chef worthy — and it’s certainly both — but it’s appropriate for air travel, it’s soothing, and it’s homey. None of which would’ve flown, so to speak, on this episode.

    No matter who got the boot — the whole concept of the show was poorly conceived and has cut down the momentum this series built up so far. Shame.

  • Steph

    “I’m starting to think that assessment has nothing to do with my perceptions of the chefs’ personalities and cuisine but probably more to do with me being a white male.”
    — Kansas City rube

    Au contraire, mon ami. As a female, Asian pastry cook, I agree with your opinions on TNIC completely. Yes, salmon roe was a horrible choice for a dessert challenge. Yes, hoping for the best when dealing with chemicals and food is a bad idea. Not being able to play well with others (attitude towards the camera-men) is a definate drawback. And as for Chef Sanchez… while I do not doubt his ability as a chef, I do not see him doing well in a timed competition (remember the whole, “I can’t put that on the plate??” incident?). The judges got it right… he isn’t the one to be the next “Iron Chef.”

    – S

    PS. As soon as I heard the word “consomme,” I KNEW Chef Besh was in trouble. And what was up with that weird accent he took on when describing his dishes to the judges?

  • Shelley


    Dem’s FIGHTIN’ words here, boy. What the fuck does Alton Brown have to do with Sandra La-La?

    AB does an admirable job as sportscaster for this series — not just his amazing Good Eats, Iron Chef, and Road Warrior gigs. Shame on you.

  • sailorgrrl07

    This episode ROCKED. The tension was genuine, the drama was immediate and gripping. You really felt for all four of these guys.

    I agree that as much as I originally liked Besh, he does ring a bit showbizzy. I don’t need him to win for New Orleans. God bless New Orleans but in my humble opinion we don’t need a New Orleans chef to help the cause. That’s the most charitable way I can express my feelings on the matter.

    Regarding Chef Cosentino: since when did personality and charisma become a defining attribute for an Iron Chef? Um, I believe that the average Food Network 30 min cooking show has cornered that market. For me, the only thing that matters is sheer chops.

    Here’s what I hope for Chef C: He is immensely gifted, and hugely passionate. I don’t care about how he acted with the camera people. TV skills can be taught, PASSION CAN’T. I’m hoping he pulls a 2004 Red Sox and hits the next set of challenges out of the park. Give him the mantle then groom him for TV. Right?

    Yes, I love Chef Symon too, and honestly I think he’ll be the one to get the nod. But please stop acting like the Iron Chef is supposed to be your best bud. The spirit of IC is that challenging an Iron Chef should be bloody intimidating. Chef C has that part handled.


  • James

    JMW, respect what you’re saying, and understand your perspective; too much time was spent setting things up and promoting Lufthansa, instead of talking about the food.

    And yet, IMO, I thought it was the best episode so far. The plane was cool, and gave a context for the style and level of food expected. I’m glad the show could go international with Lufthansa’s support.

    Further, as a TV guy, I can’t imagine taping during a 4-hour plane ride while the judging went on (e.g., turbulence during close ups, etc.). Maybe taping inside the plane would have been fitting (but not if it was too cramped). As it was, the setting was dramatic — and good angles on that humungous plane.

    No derision for Cosentino from me about harshing on the TV people. Their job is to be unobtrusive while getting the shot (some call it being “professional”). Was this the same crew? Or locals? If so, did they speak English?

    I say shame on the editors for getting retribution by leaving all that (the last comment especially) in the final cut. Even though it livened things up, he was talking to the crew — not the audience — and the editors know good & well that the audience won’t perceive that. They’ll just see Cosentino attacking them, the viewers (see comments above). That could haunt him for a long time, and yet, he seems such a likable guy. Unfair.

    Best moment for me was seeing Sanchez humbled — even tongue-tied(?). It was a /human/ response, not as arrogant as one might expect, and appealing in that sense. He won my sympathy. Great drama.

    Ruhlman, questions I am wondering about:

    Were Sanchez and Cosentino close because Sanchez blew a dish or two entirely, whereas Cosentino made lots of little mistakes?

    Also, was Knowlton being more careful about his comments this episode, or was it just the editing?

    Were you feeling unhappy, or do the editors see a need to create a curmudgeon judge for each episode?

    Lastly, did it appear anything the judges did will effect the food on Lufthansa?

    P.S. Nice hair this episode, and how you were sitting was a good, dramatic angle for you.

    Looking forward to the next show, and re-watching this one!

  • BAC

    I enjoyed this episode the most so far, but really amazes me is that I constantly read in this blog, about the looks on the judges face in response to food being eaten or in a cut-away shot to another judge after another judge or Alton has made a comment. People, this is TV and it gets edited into what ever the producers think is going to mke the best show. Disjointed cutway shots can be linked to tell whatever story needs telling. How much drama do you think was created by showing CC’s outbursts, rather than not showing them, at the end? Chef AS had outbursts in the other episodes, but not here. Why? Did it not happen or was it not shown? If you watch from the begining of this episode, you would have thought from the teases before the breaks that MS was heading home. It’s just a TV show about a cooking competition, and the producers are going to cut it to create drama. I appreciate Messer Ruhlman’s insight during the course of the show, as it adds the clarity and background fill that many people don’t realize goes on in a TV shot/show. Without it, how would we have really know about GK’s “lack of seasoning”? In the end, food is food and it ends up in our mouth, and TV is make-beleive and it is ends up in our head. But this was the best episode…..and Alton rocks!

  • mj312b

    Sorry to say that I am getting tired of watching this simply because there are 3 judges who are not qualified to be judges. You have a kid editer with an attitude, a lady who knows (or is told) how to invest her money, and a guy who claims to be a chef (where has he worked, what are his credits)and writes books. They are all wanna-bes. The judges should Either be the current Iron Chefs or better yet 3 house wives that cook every night of the week. We all know it is all a put up job on the Iron Chef show. They all know what they are cooking way in advance, we all know it is only TV and the editer is the person who makes the cuts and puts out a dramatic show with all the cut aways etc. Having 3 judges who really know nothing about cooking is a sad deal. What is worse is that (like someone else said)
    these chefs are never going to be cooking on an airline, or have to do any of the other things that the “chairman”, (who is really an actor hired for the show), thinks is important to be an Iron Chef. At this point I think the show is a joke. Watching all the stern faces of the judges, and Elton Brown trying to look like the “hit man” of the group, FoodNetWork has come a long way down the ladder from what it is all about. These chefs all have one thing in common, their passion for good food and cooking it well. Each has credits to his name that put the judges so called credits to shame. The judges seem to be judgeing each chef as a person and how he will do do in front of a camera and not as someone who knows how to prepare food in new and inventive ways. A lot of the comments made by others here are very true and FoodNetWork should start reading.

  • Carolyn Flesch

    I am so glad that the ‘whiner’ is gone. I know that the judges probably don’t see behind the scenes and the editing plays it up, but Sanchez got on my nerves. I really look forward to this show. Symon is looking very good to take this competition (OH-IO). One thing that I like is the chance to know (a little bit) about these chefs. The average person would not have the chance is learn anything about these chefs. The show gives us a chance to bond a bit (or non-bond, in the case of the ‘whiner’) with the chefs, to see their personalities and their styles. One thing that some of the viewers forget is that we are not tasting the food, you are.

  • Spork

    Too bad you don’t want comparisons to TC’s craptacular airline episode because this was just a copy. Right down to the staged airplane in the hangar.

    It was so friggin’ dull I stopped watching halfway through and went to bed to dream of better television.

  • realitybites

    An open letter to Michael Symon,
    (Hold back your laughter for just a moment :D)

    Please forgive me for suggesting that you should do away with your soul patch. I’ve had a change of heart. I’ve grown to love it. How could I not? You are such a charmer–and polite and considerate of your co-chefs as well. You make Cleveland proud!

    Hoping you win the title!

    Yours truly,

    somewhat reluctantly-relocated, former rubber-capital resident

    (Now everyone can laugh!)

  • gfweb

    Looking back on the past episodes and how the different chefs have been portrayed….looks to me like the editing (which was of course done after the competition)has tended to strongly favor Besh and to a lesser degree Symon. Neither of them have a moment of looking like a tool, being a whiner, or looking bad (except the sweating). The FN would want to protect the image of the next IC, wouldn’t they?

    Therefore, Besh wins over Symon in the last episode.

  • rockandroller

    I echo some of the questions/comments from previous posters. For example, they were instructed to prepare “airline” food. They took tips from LSG’s chef, such as how you have to season more heavily. Then the food was served on the ground and some were chastised for over-seasoning. WTF?

    I know most of the rest of my frustration with the show is from editing tricks, but it doesn’t lessen the annoyance (e.g. making Cosentino look both cantankerous and like he had the worst overall product and yet he stays).

    If they’re trying to save costs, why fly everyone to Germany so they can serve airline food on the ground? They could have done that right here in CLE at the Continental hub.

    I was also shrieking at the presentation of the watermelon “consomme,” and am so glad you nailed him on that one.

    All that being said, there’s a lot of yelling, high-fiving and cheering at my home each week as Symon continues to do such a great job. We’re so proud of him!

  • JoP in Omaha

    Lots of complaining comments again. Sigh.

    As to Ruhlman’s credentials to be a judge–he may not want to speak to this, but he indeed has the credentials. Look into his background, and you’ll see he’s well-qualified to be a judge. He knows his stuff.

    As to the comment about Ruhlman perhaps favoring Symon…that’s come up here before. And happily, Symon isn’t winning because Ruhlman is there….it seems that there’s always agreement among the judges about Symon’s strengths and weaknesses (What weaknesses? There haven’t been many.)

    Great show…and the best produced show so far. The music during the cooking segments added to the tension….my heart was racing, I think I forgot to breathe. 90 minutes to cook 3 dishes, pack them and store them? Yikes, that’s tough. Kudos to all the chefs for getting through it as well as they did.

    I, too, thought it was weird to stress that seasoning had to be stronger for in-air service, yet the judging took place on the ground. Were they to season for in-air service, or ground service? Fortunately, seasoning didn’t seem to be a big factor in the judging…although this morning I can’t remember why Sanchez was booted.

    Symon seems to be the clear favorite here. He’s certainly my favorite. He’s fun to watch, and his food seems to be the most consistently good. But here’s a pet peeve about FN production. In a NIC commercial they’ve been running since the onset of NIC, they say (in effect) go to the website to see exit interviews, and the screen shows shots of Symon and Kaysen. Kaysen is gone. Could they be giving away that Symon will follow at some point? Not necessarily–these could be shots from the chefs’ comment that are show during the contests, but still, it bugs me. I know you can’t commnent on this, Ruhlman….I’m just sayin’. Another example of poor production on the part of FN.

    I do think the challenges the chefs have been dealt are unrealistic, and they’ve handled them well. I’m hoping the last challenges…or at least the final one…will be straight cooking without bizarre constraints. Like IC, give ’em an ingredient and let’s see what they can do with it, head to head.

    I’m lovin’ the show and will be sorry when it’s over.

  • Lisa

    Just to echo what JoP in Omaha is saying, I’m loving the show, BUT…let’s hope the final challenge is straightforward. Say, maybe, two chefs going head-to-head, in a well-equipped facility, with 2 sous-chefs each, a well-stocked pantry and 60 minutes to prepare 5 dishes based on 1 secret ingredient. And an actual numerical scoring system from the 3 judges, which balances taste, plating and originality.

    Sound familiar, anyone?

  • Frances

    My take on who is qualified to judge – directors don’t usually write movie reviews and working chefs don’t usually write restaurant reviews. Critisizing food requires an experienced and appreciative palette, a good eye for aesthetics, and good articulation. I’m not saying that you need all of that to enjoy/not enjoy food.

    My typical comments would likely be, “This napkin is too nice to get food on it.” Or, “What is this fork for?” Perhaps, “Is it okay to use this plate?” And lastly (to my 8-yr-old), “Clean up that mess. The busboy has enough to do already.”

  • Sara

    In Re Mario Batali: I really, really don’t think he’s leaving ICA. Does anyone know of a press release or anything like that stating anything to that effect? Because when FN announced they would no longer be showing Molto Mario, they made a point to, in the press release, say that Batali would NOT be leaving ICA and that he would continue to compete on the show. The general lack of interest in Molto Mario (now that FN has such extensive programmming) and Batali’s committment to do that weird Spanish food show with Gwenny Paltrow on PBS were the reasons for their stopping the reruns, but they made sure to say he was still part of the FN “family.” So.. where are these rumors that he’s leaving coming from?

    Quote: “re: Symon. Why does he always wear black street clothes rather than chef’s whites?”

    Those aren’t civvies, those are just black chef’s, er, whites. Lots of chefs have professional clothing that isn’t white; Symon prefers the black verieties.

    I think I’m wholeheartedly rooting for Symon at this point. It was sad to see Sanchez go, as his food always looked *delicious*, but I guess I understand it. I agree with those who think maybe this week was really Cosentino’s time, but it’s clear to me (and many of you, it seems), that Cosentino doesn’t have that much more left on his own personal clock.

    By far my favorite part of this episode (other than the cart race.. adorable!) was when Symon noticed that, in giving back the venison after he butchered what he needed, he may have screwed himself by giving others the opportunity to use it, but that “[he] want[ed] to win on [his] own merits, not because of sabotage.” Not only a noble statement, but also almost a subconscious nod to the fact that, in ICA for reals BOTH chefs will HAVE to use the same ingrediant in every one of their dishes… the secret ingrediant! It’s time to make these dudes go head to head!

  • The Dude

    I’ll be a bit more reserved and say only that you looked terribly unhappy at one dish, panned that dish, looked terribly unhappy at another, and praised that one. What gives? My wife said she thinks you’d be a terrible dinner partner. HA. Cracked me up. But seriously, good job. Enjoying the show.

  • Frances

    I was surprised by Besh’s comments regarding the seasoning practices of his competitors. It would have come off better as trash talk in the heat of the battle, where the other guys would have given him some shit right back. It would have been fun, because I have half a notion that he was joking.

  • chadzilla

    In defense of Besh… It was not suggested that New Orleans would benefit from Besh winning as a post Katrina charity nod. The fact is that New Orleans needs a kick into the 21st century when it comes to modern cuisine. That has nothing to do with any hurricane. There have been some chefs pushing the limits periodically, but the city’s food scene would benefit from a more contemporary approach. Of course, that’s if the eaters and tourists there would support it.
    In defense of Sanchez (again)… The comment that his fish dish looked horrible was ridiculous. Cutting edge it was not, but it was neatly presented. And note to the biasness of the judges, since when does fish skin have to be crispy?
    In defense of Cosentino… Just give him some guts. Cosentino is doing more for cuisine in our times, than the vast majority of others. Does he need to be an IC for that? Not really, but he deserves all of the media attention he gets. Just the fact that he was chosen as a candidate is greatly beneficial for the food world… as long as his food is never exploited in some sort of ‘bizarre foods’ display of ‘fear factor’ novelty. Offal is offal good (every chef should read his blog regularly).
    In defense of Symon… He doesn’t need to be defended because he’s going to win. Good luck to him. And why should he change his black jacket for whites when the ICA team wears those ugly red and blue jackets?
    In criticism of the last challenge… That really was not a challenge. What chef has never had to create food that needed to be chilled, and re-heated later? It was not nearly as interesting as the Poly Science episode where many of them were thrown into unfamiliar territory. In this aspect, the fish was no more of a problem ingredient than the venison (to which cooking, chilling, and reheating would be very detrimental to it’s quality). It’s only common sense to not cook the food all the way the first time. Any chef that’s worked banquets, outside functions, or catering to any level can relate to this challenge. It’s not just about science here, but about understanding the food. Maybe Bruno Goussault would have been a good addition to this episode. Was the challenge a good one… yes. Was it the pressure cooker elimination round that it was hyped up to be… no. Not for any chef out there. I think the jet lag played more of a factor in the mouthing off and plastic wrap wrestling than the actual pressure of the challenge itself.

  • Lucy

    Consommé? Ceviche in coconut milk? Was there any mention that these might not be good things to fix on an airplane? I mean one wrong air pocket and anything even remotely soup-like and Lufthansa is forking out dry cleaning tickets to the entire first class cabin.

    I want literal stability in my airplane food. As boring as mashed potatoes may be, I know they’re not going anywhere and my chances of spillage are minimal. I also know they’re not going to react poorly with most of my fellow cabin mates stomachs as some unusual or spicy airline food may-as someone who has had someone vomit airline food on me, this is highly
    important to me.

    I understand the point was to “class up” airline food, but was there any talk of appealing to a broader palate and avoiding items to which a decent number of people are highly allergic (i.e. shellfish, there didn’t seem to be any nuts, etc.) or making sure at least one course was vegetarian? Yes, it would have made the competition more boring, but it would seem to reflect the realities of serving today’s customer better.

    All that said, this was the best episode so far. And Andrew seemed to get much better/softer editing this episode.

  • chadzilla

    There was actually a dry cleaner on the airliner… it was on the 7th floor right next to the 7-11 and the car wash.

  • Sara

    “And note to the biasness of the judges, since when does fish skin have to be crispy?”

    Maybe this is just me, and my sensitivity to texture, but gummy, rubbery fish skin on my piece of flaky, delicious fish is GROSS. I agree with the judges — fish skin should be crispy, and crispy fish skin in delicious.

  • chadzilla

    Again, I said biasness towards crispy fish skin. There are lots of cultures and cuisines that keep the skin on the fish (since it is unctuously delicious and healthy) and yet… not crispy! Do not get me wrong. I love crispy fish skin, but it does not have to be that way. It’s not a corn flake in milk.
    And why does the fish have to be flaky?

  • chadzilla

    It depends on the preparation of the fish.
    “Sous Vide Cuisine” by Joan Roca & Salvador Bruguees, p. 66, warm cod

    Here is a beautiful piece of fish that does not have crispy skin. I’m sure the textures in this animal and its skin are beyond great due to the preparation. A phenomenal dish, and also airplane friendly… cook, rest, chill, reheat at a controlled temperature right in the bag, cut bag, remove fish, plate, serve, eat.

    Thank you , Mr. Bias-Ness… I was actually referring to my friend, busi-ness, to which you should mind your own.

  • Jenn

    Do the judges see the chefs while they are making the dishes? Specifically, did you know that Cosentino was having a difficult time with the cameras? Would that impact your decisions? Because, let’s face it, it’s not just about the food.

  • Erika

    So was that coconut milk ceviche as delicious as it looked and sounded?

    What I would like to know is if any of the dishes presented have actually made it to Lufthansa’s menus- or if there are plans for them to do so in the future?

  • ruhlman

    no, we didn’t watch them cook, i was eating schweinsaxen and drinking liters of beer while they cooked!

    and the coconut milk seviche was excellent, his best dish.

  • CMHFoodie

    that Airbus A380 is such a beautiful machine. A friend of mine was in Singapore when the first flight into Changi by an A380 landed last Thursday, he said the plane is simply awe-inspiring. I wonder if Boeing is calling up FN to arrange for a product-placement in a future FN series for their new planes as well.

    Anyways, color my shocked that it was Sanchez to get the boot – the editing would not have led anyone to think other than it would be Cosentino.

    As for the challenge itself, well Iron Chefs have to perform under pressure. That much pressure, maybe not, but the point of these challenges has been to push these chefs to the outer limits and see how they respond. Those that respond well, make it through. And I think that is a good thing. Having a competition that was simply a round-robin elimination of traditional IC battles would have been boring after a while, I think.

    However, back a few weeks ago when this started I saw a link to a list of the six epis for this contest and what they involved, and the final is indeed a “traditional” IC cookoff between the the final two, with the winner of that taking the whole thing. So in the end, the last man standing will be the one that does the best in the arena.

    And as for Alton’s little spiel on Lufthansa’s food operations, I thought that was cool, defintely something I’d never seen discussed on TV before, and shows why Good Eats is such a good show – it imparts information without being “professorial” in its presentation. Now if he could only have worked those yeast puppets in, the circle would have been complete.

  • rockandroller

    Yay peace and foie! Down with Interpol employees masquerading as yuppie parents to a child in an expensive private school! 🙂

  • Kali

    “Symon made a risky decision to finish it in the airplane rather than reheat…”

    Shouldn’t that have disqualified him? Airline food is supposed to be reheated. No way does the staff have time to “finish” a dish mid-flight.

  • ruhlman

    good point kali, but we deferred to chef Schmitt on these questions–he was allowed to say this is illegal, and he didn’t, he ate every bit of his salmon.

  • chadzilla

    Why was there question to as why Cosentino opted to use the ‘guts’ of the tomato in his dish? The seeds and their encapsulating gel are the part of the tomato that is proven to have the most umami. I’m not sure if this is from glutamate or from inosine, but it’s the reason that chefs like Heston Blumenthal and Jose Andres focus on this part of the fruit.
    He should have been commended for this choice.

  • ruhlman

    i simply wanted to know his reasoning, he wasnt criticized for it. his reasoning had nothing to do with umami, though that would have gone over big.

  • chadzilla

    Thanks… and they are, afterall, the guts of the tomato. We would never expect Cosentino to discard the guts of anything.

  • recipes, give us recipes

    I thought this was not your best hair episode, personally, but after a day of indulging in schweinehaxen, I can understand entirely. Mmmm. Did you get some obazda, too?

    I want the coconut milk ceviche recipe — actually, I want a LOT of these recipes on

    The show would not be as enjoyable without you blogging about it and without all the above comments about it. I hope FN gets this. You’re providing a behind-the-scenes that the whip-fast editing isn’t providing, and it makes the show more interesting to know I can come here on Monday and deconstruct.

  • ruhlman

    email from Cosentino just now, which i hope he doesn’t mind my sharing:

    sorry for the crudite. thanks for defending me with the camera guys. these guys were german and not understanding of space, every time i moved my elbows touched someone. i thought i was going to hurt myself. also i found out later that eytan with this ear piece was telling the camera guys to get closer to me. In kitchen stadium they understand the dangers of being to close and they want you to succeed, in this episode all they wanted was the shot. that is why i got hostile. i told them from the beginning to give me space since the kitchen configuration was really bad, we had a very small pass way to get to equipment (like bowls, pans)and they were always blocking it and wouldn’t move when we asked them . thats when the hostility came. now that 1/2 the country thinks i and a asshole as some one put it in another blog, life goes on.

  • Tags

    The retort to “Consomme was in quotes!” is “so was your asparagus salad.”

  • Jennie/Tikka

    Okay – I’m finally watching the show and I actually have reactions this time.

    I watched this episode with the dvr remote in-hand (which frequently wound up paused so I could mini-rant.)

    The time constraint thing isn’t working. What really got to me was that – because of the time constraints, the chefs went to knee-jerk reaction automatic dish regurgitation. A Gribiche??? That’s culinary school beginning sauce class! Ceviche (coconut milk version, et. al.)? Also very VERY routine. The guys simply didn’t have any room to think about things and come up with something that wasn’t an “autopilot” dish. What would the harm have been in telling them before they boarded the plane to Germany so they could think about it with all that time on the flight??

    Also – I agree about the consomme issue. If you didn’t make it with a raft and it isn’t crystal clear – it ain’t a consomme, period.

    For the record – I loved Symon’s dishes….I would have done Indian/french fusion personally if I was in their shoes (lots of seasoning, color, flavor – easily reheatable).

  • Annie

    Although I’m addicted to this show, I’m beginning to miss the very first, non-elimination challenge: that of simply prepping various ingredients for the kitchen.

    It was fascinating to see how a professional chef does this, and I enjoyed it very much. Now the challenges are showing less of what these men do professionally and more of the kind of panic we’d all have in a tough situation.

    On the other hand, the present mood of the show–more time with the judges, understanding their decisions–is interesting as well.

    As to the editing never showing Besh or Symon “in the weeds”, please. Symon was practically screaming for his Mommy last night. Can’t blame him for that, but the editing certainly did show it.

    For another POV, please read

  • stephanie

    They had a shot of Symon actually saying he was weeded last night, Annie. Which, IMO, was great to see, only in that it showed that he’s not actually super human! 🙂

    I’m really pulling for Symon to win this. I’m completely addicted to his laugh, and would love to watch him compete on a regular basis. Besh is good, but Symon’s better.

  • logicalmind

    A couple of questions.

    1. Chef Besh made 4, rather than the required 3 dishes. Did he get any credit for doing this? Presumably he was judged on his 3 best dishes of the 4. Isn’t that what happens when chef’s make extra dishes in kitchen stadium?
    2. If Chef Besh would have named his “consomme” a “soup” would he have won?

  • eat4fun

    I’m thinking ahead to the finale – Besh and Symon?

    It would be great to have the final two battle it out in Kitchen Stadium since it’s going to be “home” to one of the chef contestants.

    Also another plus would be to supplement the judging panel with the the current Iron chefs and Jeffrey Steingarten.

  • janet

    Yes, the question of Ruhlman’s relationship with Symon keeps coming up. Why? Because Ruhlman judging a contest with Symon as a competitor is absolutely unethical. Period.

    Ruhlman’s only answer to this question has been to get up on his hind legs and say “How dare you insult my integrity.” Well, a person of integrity would have recused himself. But that is beside the point. It doesn’t matter whether it has an actual effect on the outcome of the competition. It doesn’t matter if Ruhlman has superhuman restraint and objectivity. It looks bad, and there is no way to change that.

    If Symon wins (and it looks likely that he will), the question of Ruhlman’s conflict of interest will continue to be asked (by people who care about such niceties). But hey, it’s just entertainment; it’s just a TV show. Who cares about ethics?

  • The P/A

    A few disjointed comments:

    Cosentino is a very reasonable person. That email above proves it.

    Besh is not an undercover international agent. If he spoke a language with an odd accent on a job–like he did upon dish presentation here–he’d be compromised very quickly.

    Symon showed some serious Iron Chef chops (read: agility) when he made it through the cooler door first . . . while Chef Besh overshot it. Loved that!

  • ruhlman

    janet, please. you are investing a little too much of yourself in the verdict. this is not law, this isn’t journalism. if i was ever out of line, don’t you think it would be obvious? certainly, the fiercely skeptical and courageously ethical Knowlton would have called bullshit. furthermore, you think i’d recuse myself from this fun, are you crazy? Schweinsaxen! Beer in mugs that are twice as big as my head! Spending some time with these excellent chefs and judges and the manic hilarious Alton. I took every contest seriously and judged as best as I could, which is all any of us can do. I urge you not to watch this show. go do something useful.

    logicalmind–besh didn’t benefit from four dishes–if it had come down to him and sanchez the extra effort may haveld have helped. and no, consomme or soup, i was just busting on him for a pet peeve of mine. that was a great dish.

  • Shelley

    Thanks for the update, Ruhlman! LOVE the big reveal…. and it’s nice to keep getting inside looks at messages you’re getting from the chefs.

  • The P/A

    Janet – You have a valid point about the Ruhlman/Symon ethics issue.

    But I, for one, am gonna let it slide.

    Yes. It is because this is TV, not the International Court of Justice.

  • BKbella

    “this is not law, this [is] journalism”

    I would hardly call this journalism (where ethics most certainly apply). This is marketing, advertising, theater and entertainment.

    The judges and chefs comprise what is likely a small, incestuous group. Surely, each chef could claim that the other has an advantage with a judge. Luckily for Ruhlman, Symon has brought his “A” game, so it would be difficult for the others to point fingers.

    Despite Ruhlman’s hard on for Symon in his book, I would be suspicious of a bias favoring Besh — Besh and Ruhlman must have the same barber.

    Finally, while I know very little about television production, I wouldn’t be surprised if a winner (or at least the 2 finalists) were determined before the show began. Editing is a powerful tool. Perhaps that is why there should have been a more “Iron Chef” head-to-head elimination.

  • bkbella

    Thanks for the correction. Now I can sleep better at night!

    There are enough unethical lawyers and journalists as it is.

  • Shelley

    Maybe someone has asked this already… are you going to get to be an Iron Chef judge on any of next season’s episodes? Hope so.

  • rockandroller

    The food world is likely very tight, just like the entertainment world is. I’m sure all the judges knew the chefs already before the show started. Some personally, some by reputation or word of mouth. Where do you draw the line? If a judge had ever visited one of the chef’s restaurants before, are they disqualified? What if they went AND had a conversation with the chef, is that the line that’s crossed? If they’ve read someone’s cookbook before the show, should they disclose that as they might be “biased” in knowing that the chef made a dish they were already familiar with? I mean, the varieties of how and where and when you could draw the line are endless and unnecessary. None of these chefs have achieved such uber-celebrity status that any person judging the competition would be so “oooh” “aaah” over their work that they’d be assumed to turn all sow’s ears into silk purses just because of who they are (or just serve the sow’s ears, which are tasty).

    I know a chef/owner of a restaurant in my town, and while I enjoy the food there, I also know when something is not done correctly and wouldn’t hesitate to send it back even though I know and like the owner. I don’t see why knowing someone, even being a fan of their work somehow should disqualify you from judging them, in their restaurant or in a contest like this. People know each other, know about each other, etc.

    What – should the judges have all been people who are from a town with no TVs and no magazines so they’re not familiar with any of the players?

    And as another poster pointed out, he’s a judge on a TV show, not in a court of law.

    I will say that I would have preferred the food to be presented without the chefs there, so the judges wouldn’t know whose food was whose. This is the only way I think the public at large would have 100% believed that Ruhlman is not some how “favoring” Symon.

  • Bearnaise

    I am having a Ruhlman triple play:

    I just finished soul of a chef where an entire third of the book is focused on Michael Symon.

    While reading that section I saw a rerun of Bourdain’s visit to Cleveland where they go to Symon’s restaurant Lola.

    And then I see Ruhlman and Symon on “Next Iron Chef”

    So is it ethical to be buds with a contestant when you are judging? If the competition is truly competitive then I think not… of course if the “Next Iron Chef” is fixed then I guess it is ok to be a “judge”.

    And lastly, why does Ruhlman always come off so arrogant?

  • Frances

    Michael, is there any way you could copy Chris’ email to the top so that people can read it before labeling him an asshole?

    Some of the comments have been a bit ugly today. And not just about Chris. :/

  • Clove

    I know that you can’t talk about this, but I heard the latest episode of Michael Feldman’s PRI show “Whad’Ya Know?” this weekend.
    He was on-site in Cleveland and had Michael Symon on as a quest on the show.
    Feldman congratulated Simon on being the “Next Iron Chef” winner.
    Symon said that he could not and would not comment on this topic (under the $1 million penalty clause).
    Feldman said he understood but insisted that he “knew” that Symon was the winner.

  • Sara

    To be the next to leap to Ruhlman’s defense: In a cooking show, judged by cooking experts (presumably), featuring eight very famous chefs, I believe it would be hard to get judges that were qualified to judge at not, at the very least, minimally exposed to the competitors, if they haven’t built a friendship with them.

    The food insdustry is a very friendly world — lots of people know each other, most people respect each other, and just about everyone is at least familiar with each other.