Gavin_bio
Had I known the drubbing Knowlton was in for, I’d not have fanned the fire with tongue in cheek comments.  Please, settle down.  The guy is not an asshole—if he had any problem it was taking things TOO seriously.  Before filming began I voiced my main personal concern to Eytan and Steve, very good producers and very decent guys: who are we to sit up there with our raised pinkies and curled lips to render judgment on these excellent chefs who work really hard at what they do—just don’t make us look like King George III up there, we are all too aware of the “magic” of editing.  But the producers only have so much time, negative comments are more dramatic (this IS televsion), therefore, most of the good dialogue and positive comments aren’t shown.  A risk we all took.

Re: comments of racism/sexism of FN.  Please.  They are dying for African American talent, and they struggled to get more women on the show.  And if anyone thinks for an instant that we eliminated a chef because the color of his skin they are seriously, and offensively, mistaken.  The black chef is scarce in America for a number of complex reasons, which I wrote about here.

So perspective?  I got this email from Gavin, pictured above, last night thanking me for setting the record straight as far as his being able to season his food properly:

"I am sorry it has taken me all day to get this to you, but we are having some amazing fires here in San Diego.  In fact I can’t get to the hotel as one of the biggest fires went right through it, thankfully for the hotel the winds changed at the last minuet and spared it.  Not so lucky for the people around the hotel as their houses have burned to the ground.  It is a terrible feeling out here and I hope that the winds stop.  My produce farmer lost part of his farm, but his house is safe for now.  My beef guy is in a holding pattern and they have left their house…you get the idea.  It puts not having seasoned frog legs into perspective."

By late last night he and his wife were still in waiting mode as to whether or not they’d have to get out.

Update:  Email from Gavin tonight, which I offer for its good connection to prospective iron chef Jill Davie:

"hey michael, Just to give you an update, Linda and I are still okay and not going anywhere as of now.  It is still over the top and the hotel I work for took some damage…I will see it for the first time on Thrusday.

"Talk about love….I was supposed to do a James Beard Dinner up in LA on Wednesday and because of everything going on, I was unable to make it, so I called Jill Davie and bless her heart she is taking on the challenge for me…that is a good friend and one hell of an iron chef challenge.  120ppl to prep and cook for in one day, oh yeah and to find all the product!  GK"

Share

78 Wonderful responses to “Next Iron Chef Perspective”

  • tyronebcookin

    I am glad you make an attempt to let everyone know about the wonders of TV editing…

    It is also scary to think about those fires in Cali right now. I called my Aunt & Uncle yesterday to find out they were doing well but they had to go because they were in the middle of packing what they were evacuating.

    They have their own business as well, its devastating. The last THING I would be thinking about is how well I salted a dish on NIC! Negative media or NOT!

  • Russ H

    Anthony B talks about the lack of non-white chefs in Kitchen Confidential as well.

  • DBN

    I don’t think the charges of bias intended to suggest that the elimination of Chef Morou were specifically motivated by race…but you have to admit it is an interesting “coincidence” that three of the first 4 chefs eliminated were two women and a man of color. And while i think that their elimination is symptomatic of a much larger problem of sexism and racism in the culinary world (access to education, jobs, financial backing etc), i don’t think we can lay the blame at the feet of the judges or FN.

    But please realize that the culinary world in America is sexist and racist and shows like NIC that glorify said world will necessarily reflect those biases. And buck up and take responsibility for that. Based on the NYT article you seem keenly aware of the place of racism in the culinary world so offer us a more nuanced response on your blog than “gasp, how dare you suggest we judges are biased!” This is an opportunity for some interesting discussion about gender and race in the kitchen, don’t let it slip by.

    Anyway, love the show.

    And, Tony…”Snacks on a Plane”? That’s low even for you.

  • Doodad

    Poor Andrew did take it on the chin. I will watch him with a much more open mind. Truth be told, you come across rather coarsely as well. I guess drama just sells better than fine food. The smoke effect at the judges table doesn’t help matters and is just annoying.

    I can feel for the fine folks in SoCal. We are looking at running out of water in about 90 days all because a mussel you could not sell out of a Shanghai streetcart needs water in a drought.

  • Sara

    DBN — that was the actual name of the Top Chef challenge and the episode that went with it. An awful pun? Yes. Surprising for Bravo? No.

    Best wishes to just about all of California right now…

  • syoung68

    Bob, not that I can speak for him, but I am not sure Shola wants to be on TV. His gig is pretty sweet.

    MR, you are right about editing, I just watched the No Rezzie Cleveland again last night, and you CAN’T be that uptight.

  • rmw

    My support to the SoCal folks, I too am in the Georgia drought…

    Alton has been very annoying in this show….let’s see him under the gun in cooking.

    And to tell Sanchez and Besh that they are cooking too much in the comfort zone…please tell Mario no Italian and Bobby no tex/mex/bbq

  • Claudia

    Michael, I’ll concur that anyone on TNIC is going to be a victim of dramatic editing. But, you have to admit, Knowlton gives the editors a LOT more prissiness to work with. If you aren’t pulling faces and pursing your lips a lot to begin with, then you can’t be taped doing so, right? Knowlton probably is a hell of a good guy, your ribbing aside, but it is significant that neither you nor Donatella were caught once being petulant. On camera, Knowlton is coming across as pissy, which is all the viewers are saying – independently of your teasing.

    OK, that said – group hug, a brewskie and we’ll all ask him to come toss a football with us.

  • bkbella

    The lack of any kind of diversity goes well beyond what is now happening on NIC. FN just focuses on their token personalities and gives them multiple shows. All day long we are subjected to Giada’s cleavage, Rachel Ray’s made-up words and “perkiness,” Bobby Flay and Tyler Florence’s good ole boy appeal and whatever it is that Sandra Lee is supposed to be doing. It is frustrating that FN is catering to white middle America. They would rather see Rachel tackle Asian dishes than see a chef of color come on the telly.

    Iron Chef is not immune either. What was with Cat Cora basically doing publcity work with those guys with the new show? FN would never ever have ask Mario or Bobby to participate in a challenge that was essentially providing publicity for another reality show on FN.

    I have essentially stopped watching FN until they bring on more diverse chefs that can bring something to the table other than Rachel Ray’s “sammys.”

  • Claudia

    Here’s hoping Gavin and his family remain safe, and don’t have to flee. Those fires are horrendous – truly Armageddon-like – and I have an uncle out there that I need to check on right now. It’s so sad about the loss of homes, property and businesses. In that context, Gavin is so right – who cares about salted frog legs?

  • rmw

    Hurrah to bkbella! So sick of the “no cooking going on FN” Rachael and Giada are a joke, Sandra Lee is so fake. Where is real cooking? This is where I think PBS has it over FN.

  • Doodad

    DBN and Sara,

    Even worse than the puns was Collichio in that Samuel L Jackson getup. That was just embarassing.

  • WhatisCanadianCuisine?

    Ruhlman, kudos on your latest post.

    Not to bring up Canada again(Im originally from Southern CA – my heart goes out to those who lost their homes in the fires), but on Food Network Canada, it seems to not be the case. We have a black version of Bobby Flay, Robert Rainford(http://www.robertrainford.com). Like Bobby, he’s a classic French chef who uses a grill, and his amazing show is seen everywhere, even Food Network in the Netherlands! When I came back to the states temporarily, I looked for his show but it was nowhere to be found. :( Also, the winner of our version of TNFNS(Superstar Chef)is a guy named Gurj Dhaliwal..and get this- he specializes in Indian themed cooking(tho he’s also classic French trained). I hope these shows someday find their way to Food Network USA because they’re both incredibly talented chefs.

    Really, the race card is getting old even for me, and Im not even white.

  • Darclyte

    Michael, I certainly hope that nobody thinks the 2 women and 1 of 2 “brown” contestants were eliminated early deliberately, but it does follow a disturbing pattern on FN. During the Next Food Network Star this season, the first several eliminations were all people of color. Although a Hispanic was originally in the final 2, he had to withdraw due to “misrepresenting” his resume. At least a woman actually won, but FN doesn’t suffer from a lack of women, but it does suffer from a lack of people of color. They now actually have a Latina hostess of a program, but no black or Asian chefs. Most FN fans wish they had a show like Melting Pot brought back, or perhaps hire a black chef and an Asian chef and give them their own shows. There’s a whole thread about it here:
    http://tinyurl.com/36hjdn

  • Sara

    Didn’t FN used to have a Ming Tsai show? Maybe these chefs of color are more concerned with earning Michelin stars and being awesome chefs and gaining respect in an industry that is predominantly white than becoming television stars. I like that idea.

    Doodad — if by embarassing you mean “awesome” than we agree. I like people who can make fun of themselves, and for all of Collichio’s posturing, he doesn’t seem to take himself all that seriously.

  • Kali

    I have to agree with Darclyte and others about FN’s ethnic diversity problem. (Not solved, imo, by Ingrid Hoffman and her inauthentic “latin-influenced”, actually MIAMI, style. Her lightweight show–in the absence of any genuine Latin cooking–is more of an affront to the cuisine than anything else).

    No one is saying that Morou was eliminated because he was black. But seeing him eliminated–in a challenge where, again, he was denied his trademark spices and ingredients–(and, surely, Sanchez next week) is just another reminder of FN’s general disdain for chefs of color. (Symon, on the other hand, said grilling is his thing).

    You don’t need to be progressive to see this attitude on FN–it’s right there in their programming 24/7. No. Chefs. Of. Color. Not one.

    And the old cooking shows that highlighted genuine ethnic cooking–Melting Pot, etc.? Gone.

    I was really looking forward to NIC, but it’s Top Chef ripoff approach (not “Snacks on a Plane” but all the gimmicky challenges for great chefs)–and LACK of TC’s respect for the food being at least served and tasted under optimum conditions–has been a big disappointment.

    Winding up with a predictable “more of the same” new IC like Symon or Besh will be another disappointment. (And FN didn’t need a poorly designed competition to wind up with that result. Zzzzz…..)

  • FoodPuta

    How sad it has become when we can take a freakin good natured cooking competition and pull out the race card.

    Competition – This is when someone wins, and someone loses. Losing happens, just like shit.

    Geez!!!

    PS; Good thoughts out to all our friends in So-Cal.

  • JoP in Omaha

    The vitriol in responses to MR’s NIC blogs surprises me. What an awesome opportunity this is for us….to watch the show that features some damn good chefs and then to read Michael’s comments about what we didn’t see. I’m sittin’ back and enjoying this unique opportunity.

    Posting criticisms here about how FN does things doesn’t help anything. Those comments need to be sent to FN where maybe they’ll do some good. If we pound FN with email asking for real cooking and and ethnic variety, maybe they’ll be convinced that there’s an audience for such things.

    Thanks for blogging about TNIC, Michael. I’m sorry for the hits you and others are taking. I think the show is fun, and it’s more than cool that you’re a judge and are blogging about it. I’m having a great time watching and reading.

  • French Laundry at Home

    The only way FN will address the diversity/ethnicity issue will be when/if affiliates and advertisers force it. If you don’t like the state of the business, then call and email all of FN’s advertisers and your local cable/satellite provider and create a grassroots groundswell.

    And, find ways to support the education and professional development of chefs/cooks from ALL backgrounds to begin leveling the playing field.

  • Frances

    I try to remind myself when I’m watching TV, that it’s as if I’m looking through a bell jar. Nearly everything that is real is either intentionally or accidentally distorted. Mostly intentionally. That’s called A Production. Is Food Network catering to a chef audience? No. It caters to people who cook or want to know how to cook, or who are interested in food. Chefs don’t need to watch TV to learn a thing or two about cooking. I think if I were a chef, the last thing I’d want to do after a long day/night of “chef-ing” is watch “chef-ing” on TV.

    I think Everyday Italian is a good show and that Giada is a good chef. The camera lens they use on her makes it look like she could crack a lobster with her bare hands though. I can take Rachel Ray only in small amounts because she has such a strong personality (that I’ll wager The Producers encourage and play up). Not everyone is interested in spending 2 days making cassoulets, but a LOT of people are interested in how to make a healthy meal quickly. Take an honest look at what Rachel presents on 30-Minute Meals. It’s a hell of a lot healthier than what the average American is eating every day. And she does NO product placement. All of her stuff is re-labled. However, as nice as Sandra Lee might be in person, and there actually are a few things that she prepares that are harmless, I foresee her creating tablescapes in Hell for her promotion of the use of processed foods.

    Then there is Emeril. I remember when he was on one of Julia’s shows about 15 years ago (?). He was all quiet confidence. Very laid back. How could I forget him telling her how to eat a crawfish? What was it, “Squeeze the tail and suck the head”? I mean. Talk about casaba melons. And he literally was laid back when he said it. That is Emeril to me. The showman you see on Emeril Live is about as different to Emeril as Ricky Ricardo was to Desi Arnaz. Lots of people use a public persona as a shield. That’s how you survive in such a fucked up industry.

    Oh, and I had to laugh when I read a comment on Adam’s blog from a viewer who was sure that Gavin’s culinary career was forever doomed because of NICA. I have mentioned before that I liked everyone in the competition. Gavin was kind of like the George Harrison of the group. You know, still waters run deep?

  • DBN

    I too am thrilled to have a chance to hear an “insiders perspective” on NIC. And i don’t intend my comments as an attack on MR. Based on the NYT article he clearly understands that the complexities of race in the professional kitchen are larger than the obvious problems with FN and NIC.

    I was trying (in my own sarcastic way) to prod the discussion towards a more thoughtful discussion of those issues not point a condemning finger at MR.

    Or maybe you’d rather talk about his haircut.

  • keith

    JoP, you’ve essentially summed up Bourdain’s take on Rachel et. al’s effect on FN: “Sleeeep. . .sleeeeeep.” The whole point of Ruhlman having the comments enabled on this blog is so we can discuss his take and role on the show, for good or for ill. Otherwise, he’d turn comments off, like Knowlton did with his first NIC post =P. Since the show airs on Food Network, I’d imagine that a discussion of the changes in philosophy at FN (which, come to think of it, Bourdain’s discussed on this very blog) would be fair game.

    And while NIC should be an awesome opportunity to watch some very good chefs at work, Triage has dropped the ball by making NIC the antithesis of ICA. What makes ICA so compelling to watch is that it’s about the FOOD. First and foremost, you’re watching a summary of the challenging chef’s philosophy, and two chefs’ creative approach, start (or at least close enough to start, given that the chefs have a short list of secret ingredients beforehand) to finish, of creating a menu with one item at the fore, and then judges’ reaction to the FOOD.

    NIC, on the other hand, seems to be more about extreme conditions and personalities applied to food. Witness Triage’s decision to choose audio over food in the first challenge by shutting off the hoods (which killed the freezers and ice cream machines); or the decision to do the beauty shots first, rather than allowing the chefs to make a second plate for the cameras while their first was being judged.

    The ideal solution for NIC would have been, in my mind, an elimination tournament. The first ep. could have been one dish with a secret ingredient to determine seeding and matchups, and then chef v. chef. Would it have been terribly original? Not really, but it would have been much closer to the heart of ICA than the Chairman’s “categories.”

    But that’s just indicative of FN’s philosophy, and how it’s “evolved.” When the network began, it was about food, and each chef was allowed to bring not just their personality, but their philospohies on food and what it means to cook. Now, it’s (with a few exceptions- Alton being one example of the FN “personality system” actually churning out someone who bothers to give reasons for why he does certain things) cramming “quick and easy!” down our throats.

    Unfortunately, the chefs who helped found the network sort of got what they wanted: FN is selling food as a lifestyle, all right, but they’re selling the superficiality of that lifestyle- not food as a part of the soul, as Ruhlman and Bourdain and countless others have written about. And unfortunately, the easiest way to sell the superficial parts of a lifestyle is to put a white face and some cleavage behind it.

  • logicalmind

    Here’s some advice for Knowlton. Give up the steingarten-wannabe act. He tries to make some quick, snippy comments like steingarten excels at, but he can’t pull it off. When he does it he looks more like a smug brat.

    On a side note, I’m pretty tired of the judges comments on trying to force people out of their comfort zones. So what if people focus on their particular ethnic cuisine. It’s no different than bobby “southwestern” flay, or mario “italian” batali, or cat “greek” cora. I can’t imagine any of these iron chefs deviating from their comfort zones, let alone working with “molecular gastronomy” ingredients and techniques.

    Ruhlman, next time you judge an iron chef battle of bobby flay I’d like to hear you comment “this is nice bobby, but I’d really like to see you leave this whole chili pepper thing behind you and work outside of your comfort zone.” It’s only fair.

  • Uncle hulka

    Kudos, Ruhlman!

    I have been a watcher of the Food Network since its damn inception. I remember a guy named Emeril in his first show…I used to watch “Taste” with David Rosengarten every day (Still miss that show).

    In other words, I am a Food TV maven.

    Anyone who would suggest that there is an racist/sexist vibe at Food TV is a fucking idiot.

    If anything, the case could be made that the Food Network is one of the most progressive/inclusive/politically-correct networks on TV.

    Turn it on at anytime during the day, and chances are you’ll see a show hosted by a female…

    Ever notice how the Food Network added a FEMALE Iron Chef to the mix when they brought it stateside?

    Ever watch “Good Eats?” Alton is surrounded by more female cast members and food experts/anthropologists/historians than Bringham Young…

    Is Morimoto a WASP from Greenwich?

    Using the race/sex card in instances like this is a cheap, demeaning ploy. Like the boy who cried wolf, (sorry, should it be the girl who cried wolf? Don’t want to offend!) its constant use desensitizes and cheapens real occurences of bigotry and discrimination.

    Hey, I’ve got a novel idea…Maybe the four chefs still alive in the competition have just done a better job cooking food than the others chefs.

    Crazy, isn’t it?

  • BKbella

    I think that some of the commenters, particularly Uncle hulka, seem to be missing the point that I, Keith, kali and rmw are trying to make. At least for me, the issue isn’t what is going on with NIC, but what is being shown (or specifically who is not being shown)on all of the other FN programming. Having Morimoto, Cat Cora and some female actors on Alton Brown’s show does not equal diverse programming. No one is making the argument that Morou et al should still be on the show BECAUSE of their chromosomal make up, but it would have been nice to have a better representation before eliminations began.

    Uncle hulka — thank you for cheapening what was otherwise an intellectual conversation about whether FN has a moral/ethical responsibility to showcase more diverse chefs by calling those you disagree with a “fucking idiot.” Kudos.

  • Uncle hulka

    Okay, bella…I apologize for my blue language.

    So, how do we accomplish your goals?

    Do we mandate that there be a certain percentage of each group on every show on FN from now on?

    Women? What percent have to be female from now on?

    Asian? What percent?

    African American?

    Latino?

    Jewish? (Hey, maybe that’s why David Rosengarten lost his show!)

    Do we fire all white male hosts or do we allow some to stay? If so, who stays and who goes? What’s the criteria?

    I’m all ears.

  • Russ

    After all is said and done please remember that this all about the advertising dollars…delivering an audience to the ad buyer is what the producers are trying to do.
    I would suggest that we all have a warm feeling in our memory for the food of our mother but it’s the passion of our own opinions that this show is trying to appeal to. As the saying goes: “you don’t sell the steak, you sell the sizzle.” The producers aren’t interested in the food…they’re interested in the conflict. Because that’s what sells!

  • Uncle hulka

    Couldn’t agree more, Russ…

    It’s a TV show. Enjoy it.

    If you want to address social injustice and oppression, aim a little higher than a reality cooking show, or a TV network that revolves around the world of food, for that matter.

  • keith

    hulka,

    Had Food Network stuck to its guns from the beginning, and continued to advance an intellectual discussion of food as an integral part of life, then diversity of the on-camera staff would have evolved naturally.

    That’s the main thing that people are looking for- a diversity of VIEWPOINTS, which is severely lacking on the network. The natural effect of instilling a sense of intellectual diversity is that demographic diversity is sure to follow.

    But no- I say the word diversity and you panic that quotas are going to be instilled and TAKE YOUR JOB!!!!! Now who’s the idiot?

  • Joey Cantone

    Yeah, I agree we need more black chefs, especially on FN. Why this isn’t so, is anyone’s guess. Inner city supppression, lack of scholarship/mentoring programs, who knows?

    The guys who run the National Hockey League probably are asking the same questions. Why can’t we have a Lebron or a Kobe amongst us ?. Gretzky retired years ago and really hasn’t been replaced.

    How come the NFL, NBA, MLB have so many blacks and Latinos, but hockey lacks color ? Baffling.

  • bkbella

    For me, this isn’t an affirmative action issue. It is not a matter of percentages. I’m not claiming that there is a conspiracy within the offices of the FN execs, who wish to purge their programming of anyone or anything that is not anglo-saxon in origin.
    I think many of us are looking for a concerted effort by FN to attract chefs of color. When the program started, there was at least some diverse representation. Now, there is none. And no, the problem isn’t with the white male hosts (but if you fired them all, you would be left with little programming considering FN gives each chef/personality a few shows each). I know you are eager for me to suggest that white men are evil and must go, and I’m sorry to disappoint. The issue is more who isn’t there than who is there now.

    Despite all our differences, food is what brings us together. Look at the success of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations. You may disagree with one’s politics but love their culture and food. We should embrace diversity, not be intimidated by it. We all would be better people because of it.

  • keith

    “If you want to address social injustice and oppression, aim a little higher than a reality cooking show, or a TV network that revolves around the world of food, for that matter.”

    Oh give me a break. Now we get the “there are more important places” argument. Bravo.

  • BKbella

    And for the record, I take no issue with white men as a whole — I married a wonderful one!

  • Uncle hulka

    Bella,
    I AGREE with you on you last post. In fact, I don’t disagree with your perspective at all.

    I just cringe when I hear the race card being played on the Next Iron Chef. In fact, I knew as I watched, that there would be calls of sexism/racism as the women and minorities were “voted off.”

    Maybe this episode will spur more participation and interest among a more diverse universe of talent. I hope so.

    I think my point is, just because the final four are all male, and three quarters anglo, doesn’t mean their not the best chefs in the competition.

    But like I said, I appreciate your intelligent insight and sentiments and apologize for my previous off-color (pun intended) language.

    And as for you, keith…yes, there are “more important places.” But your little jibes are cute and make me laugh. Keep them up!

  • bkbella

    Apology accepted. I am grateful for the opportunity to discuss my position in a somewhat intellectual setting. I just fail to see where anyone was suggesting that the eliminated chefs on NIC should have remained solely because of their color and gender. Also, I believe that the term “race card” was created out of sheer ignorance.

    Keith’s comments are extremely relevant and thoughtful. Keep it up Keith!

  • The Professor

    WOW !!!!! You can tell it is a full moon…Ruhlman ,you were trying to calm things down a bit and I belived it turned around on you. I am sorry if I was mistaken about Knowlton being an “Asshat”…please let’s not fight.

  • Dianne

    I also apologize, Michael, if any of my comments caused offense; obviously we pounced a bit more than you had intended! Of course, I can only go by what I see on the show.

  • Anthony

    It’s freakin’ amazing just how many people “know” what “really” happened and why when they weren’t there. No wonder ignorance is equated with prejudice … too bad they’re too stupid to figure that out themselves.

    Great show, even better having your insight to follow.

  • Shanti

    Wow, hard to want to comment with all the animosity here. I do think it would be nice to see some more variety on FN, and yeah, I’d be happy to see one of Rachael Ray’s shows dropped in favor of someone believable making Indian or Chinese or Latin cuisine. I’d probably tune in more than I do now, and I suspect other people would be. That’s not asking for a quota, but it might be a decent marketing strategy. Financial wizards talk about diversification for a reason.

    I agree with Claudia that Knowlton appears prissy and petulant, and that had to come from somewhere. Maybe it was the facial expressions, which really almost stopped me from hearing what he had to say.

  • Sara

    I’m going to throw in my two cents, which may be akin to throwing a match onto a recently dying fire but…

    I think speculation about the role of racism or sexism in the success of a person in a profession needs to be based firmly within the context of what profession you are talking about. To wit: A white man and a black man who graduated from Harvard Law School are applying to the same Boston financial law firm (this is an example made up completely off the cuff, please don’t nitpick it apart). This particular law firm is a 100+ year institution, run entirely by old white men. There is some diversity in the company, but mostly at the lower levels, and absolutely none at the top. Both men have comprable experience (let’s say the black man has higher test scores, grades and school ranking [which, at Harvard, means a lot], the white man has more internships/practical experience); not identical, but neither has a clear edge over the other. They are both personable, friendly, married, Boston residents. Both have excellent recommendations from former employees. They are interviewed back to back; the next day the white man gets a call telling him he got the job and the black man is turned down.

    Speculation about racism in the above situation is, I would think, absolutely warranted. With not much discernable difference between candidates other than skin color, and an institution which already has the smell of racism hanging in the air around it, I think a very deep and meaningful discussion about why the black man wasn’t hired is necessary. The same if you insert a white woman in place of the black man in my little theoretical scenario. In these types of professions — I guess, for lack of better word, “professional” professions, like doctors, lawyers, etc… things you need a degree for — there is long fought institutional racism and sexism that is nearly par for the course. Minority and female applicants in those industries go into each job interview expecting to have to battle the prejudices which have existed for decades, even centuries.

    On the other hand, most “trades” (like cooking, writing, art) historically have dealt with far less racism and sexism, largely (I think) because *who* is making your end product matters far less than the what they achieve. If a white man with a MA in Journalism and a black teenager who is writing for the first time both submit articles on the same subject, and the black teenager’s is *better*, the editor in charge will have absolutely no qualms about publishing the inexperience minority over the experienced white man. Why? Because when you look at a byline you cannot see race (gender is a different story, but, again, it rarely matters, and in that case I speak from personal experience as a girl journalist), and therefore the race of the person who wrote it is far, far less important than the quality of the writing itself. Cooking is the same way — it’s, I suppose, the ultimate Bourdain argument: You can go to the finest French restaurant in the city and there is an equal chance of your meal being prepared by an illegal immigrant from Mexico as there is it being prepared by a classically trained French chef (in fact, there’s probably a better chance of the former). As long as your food tastes right, as long as it’s good, it doesn’t matter what race the person who cooked it is.

    Now, TNIC is on television, and with television comes endless accusations of discrimination. The truth is, if there were to be an accurate representataion of the national demographics on the television, politically correct people would spend all day and night being offended. Minorities are called such because they are such; they comprise less of a percentage of the population than white people. So television executives make a concerted effort to make sure that race and gender are taken into account as little as possible, and often promote women and minorities more because it helps assuage accusations of racism and sexism. However, on a television show which is a trade competition (a cooking competition), the fact that the first three chefs to be cooked off were women and/or a minority is second to the fact that they were kicked off because their *food* (that end product I mentioned earlier) was somehow judged to be subpar.

    I wonder if we would even be having this conversation at all if the chefs were given numbers, their food presented anonymously, and their identities witheld to the judges until after elimination. That, of course, denies the judges the opportunity for context, as we all know that the next Iron Chef must be a top-notch cook, but also a likeable and identifiable personality, therefore allowing people to root for him. However, I have no question that the Food Network is placing the quality of food over the ethnicity or gender of the chefs, for if they didn’t they would begin to lose their credibility as a network.

    Americans tend to overreact to issues of race and gender across the board. It’s ingrained in us, especially those of us who grew up mostly after the main Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, because we (for the most part) are taught how bad racism is, and to never, ever under any circumstances let ourselves think or behave that way. When we look at other people we immediately see their race or gender, not because we hate them but because we are reminding ourselves not to make snap judgements (the kind we readily make towards our own races and genders) because that would “be wrong.” We forget that in contests where the quality of a product is judged, people are actually experiencing the product and probably making their judgements based on it, especially if they are professionals working within the same, or a similar, field. I think the eliminations of De Jardins, Davies and Morou were unfortunate, but fair. I don’t think anyone at the Food Network or on the panel expected it to be that way — I think those chefs have simply had better days. In a contest as tactile as this one, perhaps we should pay more attention to the food and less to the color of the person cooking it.

  • Artful

    I think the inability or unwillingness to speak English clearly is a tertiary reason for a lack of progress by black Chefs. And I’d have to guess it’s a primary reason there aren’t more on Television Culinary Shows.

    Mr. Ruhlman’s article focused on the United States but the discrepancy is more pronounced in the Caribbean Nations. There, you’ll find Nations that are 80-95% Black or Mullato. But positions like Executive Chef that require clearly spoken English continue to be held mostly by Whites. Including Whites for whom English is a Second Language.

  • BKbella

    Perhaps my comments require some clarification. My discussion about the need to diversify FN programming has absolutely nothing to do with what has been occuring on the Next Iron Chef. The results of this “on-going” competition has been (at least for me) symbolic of what has been occuring both with Food Network programming and in the real world (certainly for us “professional” professionals”). I do not believe that there has been straight out discrimination on the NIC (at least as far as the results and eliminations go). If anything, I’m sure the Food Network execs are upset at the results thus far. Oh, how they would love to have an Iron Chef version of Color Me Badd to parade around and promote along with the Latina Giada (Muy delicisoso).

    Shanti — I agree with your points fullheartedly

  • Claudia

    Very cogently argued, Sara. And the law firm attorneys-you-see vs. restaurant kitchen cooks-you-don’t-see is particularly apt. Law firms now have to go out of their way to encourage, hire and demonstrate diversity. Since TNIC started with 8 chefs – four of whom were either minorities or female – I guess they felt they did that. They need to apply that across the board of their entire programming, though – not so much to TNIC. I agree – a few less Rachael Ray shows, por favor, and a few more Latino/Carribean/Afrocentric ones, or Asian – THAT might redress the balance. Yumm-o! (Oooo, ‘scuse me! I meant “Aiii, ca-yumbo!” )

  • Tana

    I wonder if Chef Kaysen’s “produce guy” is Barry Logan, from La Milpa Organica. He supplies more restaurants than any farm in the county, I think.

    For a map showing the scope of the fires—with Rancho Bernardo plainly in the path, see this Google Map of San Diego (TinyURL will expand to a long, long Google link):

    http://tinyurl.com/24kjhj

    I lived in San Diego for years, and still have friends there—some of them farmers. I feel so helpless and sad.

  • Len

    “Re: comments of racism/sexism of FN. Please. They are dying for African American talent,”

    Maybe FN’s problem is a serious lack of imagination – they need to change their approach to finding new talent. Is it possible that the person (or people) they’re looking for might not be interested in leaving their own business – even temporarily – to come to New York and pretend to cook in a fake kitchen? Or (gasp!) they don’t even watch FN?

    Neither AB (either one) seems to have a problem finding diverse cooking talent, they just travel to where the talent is instead of dragging those people away from what they love to do.

    The show is a bit silly, but Guy Fieri might just have the right idea with “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives”.

  • allie

    I think we need to remember that race and ethnicity, especially regarding cuisine, are not interchangeable. personally, I would like to see more culinary diversity on the food network, particularly latin and asian cuisines (although tivoing ‘east meets west’ has satisfied most of my asian cravings)… but that’s not necessarily the same as asking for racial diversity. rick bayless, for example, is renowned for his mexican cuisine, and doesn’t appear to be even the slightest bit hispanic. on the other hand, most of the black people I know eat and cook pretty much the same type of food I do, which is why I found someone’s comment (on a previous post) about FN needing more “african-american cuisine” puzzling. I see no reason why your skin color has to dictate your culinary viewpoint.

    and in my opinion, food diversity >>> skin diversity

  • sheila

    Sick of this race crap. If there are excellent black or Asian chefs out there (and I’m sure there are) let them enter the competition! Look at that nasty little beast Hung – he won, and nobody was complaining about it.
    Thanks you for your comments Michael, always entertaining and informative.

  • IGIF

    Pardon me for interrupting, but I find this blog absolutely fascinating and am so interested in all of your comments. It stuck me tonite that the common thread that runs thru this whole discussion about food and people is “ingredients”! Gender, race, silly cooking shows…if the best ingredients are there, everything else follows. You are all so obviously well-informed and thoughtful that, even w/some differences in opinion(and frequent apologies for any offense, meant or not), I check this blog out everyday. Thank you! (InterestedGrandmaInFlorida)

  • James from Savannah

    This question may have been covered earlier-if so, then I apologize-but how many of the current contestants were winners of previous Iron Chef Contests? I think that should be part of the criteria. I think the last episode brought that out when several of the Chefs could not present two protein dishes to the judges

  • carri

    It’s interesting that you, mr ruhlman, are feeling the aftereffects of the editing room just a bit, i’m sure that some of the people you have interviewed over the years have could relate…i say that only in the spirit that everyone has an agenda and well, you can make up the rest…i do think that you are an excellent journalist and your inhabitation of your subjects is handled with extreme respect…perhaps the people trying to sell TNIC to the people don’t quite have the same scruples/sensibilities. good luck with that as the season progresses! tell me true, has anyone checked out bourdains rap w/ morcheeba? if you haven’t, you should!

  • sailorgrrl07

    Michael, thanks for continuing to share the correspondence from Chef Kaysen. Talk about perspective. And right on, J. Davie.

    Love and prayers to all in SoCal.

  • M-dog

    I’ve been reading the posts on this blog, and the corresponding responses for some time. This is the first occasion that I’ve felt compelled to write.

    I’m not sure if the poster called “Artful” intended to make some sort of double-reverse commentary via the post upthread, i.e. the views contained therein are so self-referentially ludicrous, that they point to the inaccuracy and absurdity of said views. Or, if there is some sort of literary marker in the post that invokes one or more insider-knowledge-based tropes that, upon reflection by those in-the-know, results in some sort of ironic redemption.

    If this is the case, then please disregard the balance of my post.

    However, I’m concerned that this is not the case, and that “Artful” believes these views to be not only correct, but so plainly obvious as to negate the need for their mention. I’ve not the time nor the energy at the moment to articulate just how problematic this is. I guess I’m really, really hoping that I’m missing a link between “Artful’s” post and a previous post on this thread (or on this site) which facilitates a result of some sort of wry, subtle (incorporating a particular level of “snark”) commentary that would lead most readers of this blog to conclude that all is well. This best-case scenario is still problematic, but it does not reside in the same neighbourhood of disgusting-ness as what I fear to be happening in this instance.

    Reading back on my post just now…it comes off as regrettably formal (gesturing towards arrogance). How about this: If I’m understanding “Artful’s” post as the poster intended, then I’m really pissed off at the level of brash ignorance demonstrated within…and I’m hoping we can discuss this extensively, in the spirit of communal learning, after some sleep.

  • Shoebootie

    I haven’t been here for a while. When did The Food Network buy this blog and turn it into the official site of Next Iron Chef America?

  • Fussy

    1) Thank you for your insights into the show, it definitely improves my viewing experience, even retroactively. Your comments regarding keeping perspective are just as welcome.

    2) Please — I can’t imagine that they don’t know this — but please, let the people at FN know that the editing on this show was just abysmal, and that the production focus is not winning them any points anywhere.

    I completely sympathize with the “art of deception” in TV shows, it is necessary. I’d much rather the judges got to taste fresh platings that were delivered an hour later, but their priorities are just wrong if they want to do the beauty shots first and the judging later. Do the judging first, however long it takes to do it right, and do the frou-frou stuff afterward. Of course this is all moot, the filming was over ages ago.

  • Claudia

    Shoebootie, this is just one of the many boards on Ruhlman’s blog. The King Corn and Jan Grigson/blogging discussion board (and others) are still “active”, if you care to visit just those.

  • Sara

    Claudia — thank you so much for your compliments. As an American Studies major in college issues of race were frequently discussed, espcially in my classes as my focus has always been on mid-20th centurty culture and social change (encompassing roughly 1945-1980… LOTS of race issues in that time). I find it very difficult to discuss race and ethnicity in America in any sort of productive way, as liberals (a category in which I include myself) have a knee-jerk reaction to make everyone as equal as possible by being “colorblind” and conservatives either dismiss the past and demand we move on, or embrace the past in a more, well, pro-racism way (please let me be clear — conservatism contains a wide range of political and social views, and for the purposes of brevity I am grossly generalizing [with liberals, too]. I do not wish to offend any conservatives who read this blog. Know that I understand your views may be far more subtle than the two generalalities I just described). And when you get into the arguments about institutionalized racism, especially in the employment sector, well… let’s just say things get very hairy, very often.

    Artful wrote: “I think the inability or unwillingness to speak English clearly is a tertiary reason for a lack of progress by black Chefs.”

    Artful: I seriously hope that was some way in jest, and that when you say black chefs have some sort of “inability or unwillingness to speak English clearly” you are specifically referencing either Caribbean chefs who have spent most of their lives speaking Patwah or Papiamento or some other creole, or African chefs who may have grown up speaking Arabic or Africanized French, and therefore do not know English very well. Otherwise, what you have just said is not only unspeakably racist, but completely untrue. Right before I left my last waitressing job a new executive chef stepped in — a BLACK executive chef. And let me assure you, Artful, that he spoke English as eloquently and beautifully as any other white person I’ve ever encoutered (more elqouently than most, actually). Just because you see black men and women on television using their own community’s pidgin English (and believe me, every community in the US has a pidgin, including white folk) doesn’t mean that all black men and women speak that way all the time, and it CERTAINLY doesn’t mean than a black chef doesn’t know how to come to work and both speak and act professionally, regardless of how he speaks and acts in his personal life. To assume otherwise is ignorant and more than deserving of serious rebuke.

    I agree with the posters who have said they would like to see more food diversity on FN. Caribbean food is delicious (my family is Dutch, my Oma grew up in Curacao, and we have a lot of family sprinkled all over the Caribbean still) and deceptively easy to prepare. And we all know the revelation that is real, authentic Asian food (especially Vietnamese… oh, here comes the Pho craving..). I hope FN moves past the quick-fix meal thing they’ve been doing for years now and into the realm of learning how to prepare exotic cuisine. Just because it’s exotic doesn’t mean it’s hard.

    Although, their newest show, “The Gourmet Next Door,” doesn’t give me much hope…

  • Artful

    M-Dog,

    Try writing without the Thesaurus sometime. No, I wasn’t commenting on anything up thread. And everything I stated is based on data from sound studies. Black USA citizens who speak with a patois sometimes called “Ebonics” or “street” suffer professionally. Black citizens of Caribbean Nations who speak with a patois are also limited.

    Historically, the twisted English spoken by blacks in much of the Caribbean was INTENDED to be difficult for outsiders to understand.

  • M-Dog

    Artful,

    Again, so many items to address here…I’ll speak about two of them:

    -Who decides what is a “sound” study? As a senior research officer at leafy institution, I think I can speak to the fact that, the very idea of what constitutes good research is something that has been informed and shaped by the very same racisms and prejudices that influence all other aspects of public, professional and private life.

    -Your discussion of the strategic use of language by blacks in the Caribbean is important. You are recognizing the agency of these men and women, by pointing out not only their choice to strategically “perform” language in a manner most beneficial for themselves, but also their skill in executing said performance. However, in the previous paragraph, you completely deny the agency of “Black USA citizens” as well as “Black citizens of Caribbean Nations.” People of all marginalized groups are hyper-aware of how to perform in order to bring about particular results in myriad situations. The fact that they are faced with this sort of choice in the first place is one of the most telling and disturbing commentaries on the enduring power of prejudice and racism in contemporary North America.

    Regarding your comment about my use of a thesaurus…I’ve yet to use a thesaurus as a part of my writing process for comments on this blog. I know my writing style is a stiff and far too academic-ish…it’s something I’m hoping to work on in the near future.

  • Sara

    “Black USA citizens who speak with a patois sometimes called “Ebonics” or “street” suffer professionally.”

    You assume they speak this way in the workplace. Especially in professional settings, most minorities know how to at least tone down whatever patois or pidgin they speak in order to speak what is, essentially, corporate english. Are you trying to say that white people speak that way all the time? Because the way I speak at work and the way I speak at leisure are almost entirely different. The second, for starters, has a lot more coarse language and slang. I’d imagine most black people do the same, and to assume they don’t is, again, ignorant and discriminatory.

    Also, a kitchen is a different place than the professional world (a point I made in my first very long comment in this thread), and the language spoken therein is very different from what you are assuming is “proper” english. First of all, ALL kitchen-speak involves some amount of Spanish, or Spanglish (depending on the proficiency of the speaking chef), as most line cooks from Latin America (I think Latin America is the one that covers both Central and South and… I’ll just stop now) and speak Spanish. Bourdain writes about it in Kitchen Confidential. Second of all, kitchen language is CRUDE. Seriously crude. Lots of cursing, lots of insults, it’s like their own private pidgin in which “Asshole” does not mean the person in question is being a dick, but rather that they’ve perfectly grilled the steak. So assuming that a black chef can’t learn this pidgin but a white chef can is, AGAIN, ignorant and discriminatory.

    The struggles of black people in America to rise through the levels of professional society is largely due to institutional racism that has nothing to do with how they speak or what they can or can’t learn, and everything to do with people like you who assume that everything they read in “sound studies” (and, please, cite your source if you’re gonna pull that card on us) is absolutely true, and is in no way affected by the fact that lots of white people in charge read said “sound studies” and assume that black people will never change and continue to not hire minorities because these “sound studies” told them they will not speak proper English in the workplace, as opposed to, y’know, letting them come in for an interview and seeing how they speak firsthand.

  • t-scape

    FN has more than enough “cook things quick” shows to satisfy that section of their demographic. A few shows on making things that are not necessarily huge productions, but not done in 30 mts or less either, and also reference more than just what is already common to the American food landscape, would be welcome.

    I’m not sure that what is going on at the FN is racism, really. To me, it’s more that they are committed to what they feel their core demographic wants to see, and I suspect it’s “easy meals done by accessible-seeming” personalities. The pool of people to choose from, inevitably, closes in around itself if you insist on sticking to those parameters.

  • Me

    Just an observation. I was flipping through the latest issue of Vanity Fair, and John Besh was in an artsy photo with one of the Marsalis brothers (can’t remember if it was Wynton or Branford). It dawned on me then that I think he must surely be the next Iron Chef.

  • Claudia

    It was with Wynton, and it was an ad for Iconoclasts (on Sundance) – two well-known people from very different fields paired together to explore a mutual interest or commonality. In this case, it was both men’s love and boosterism of their native New Orleans, particularly in the wake of Katrina.

  • Spin

    Whew,

    At least it hasn’t been dull around here. Not to beat a dead horse (eat that yet Tony?) but on the whole ebonics/patois bit, let’s try to have a little broader perspective. Has Morimoto’s command English ever been a problem for him in his career? Anybody ever have trouble understanding Wolfgang Puck? (WP is the only chef I’ve ever seen cooking South Asian food on TV btw.) Heck I can hardly understand Paula Deen half the time and I tend to tune Ray Ray out. Try imagining how the US would have so many restaurants (and at such reasonable prices in many cases) if not for Spanish-speaking workers with often a less than perfect command of English.

    FN did have more ethnic interest a few years ago, with Aaron Sanchez’s prior show, Melting Pot. And Tony’s old show A Cook’s Tour was very much about other cultures (Vietnam, Morroco, Mexico). My Favorit ACT was when Tony went with his sous chef to his home in Mexico.

    In Pakistan, there used to be (I don’t know about today) really no such thing as a Pakistani restaurant for most people. People cooked in their homes by and large. The type of restaurant culture we have in the states has alot to do with post World-War II American culture, cars, highways, drive-thru, fast-food, and something called American food that is really a combination of German and Italian cuisines re-imagined. But I digress.

    The FN is basing their decisions (not the judging on TNIC, which I’m sure is as fair as a silly but enjoyable show can be) on what shows they produce and air on ratings and marketing info. Because that is what sells advertising and makes them money.

    Maybe they need to be more courageous. There are plenty of creative people at the FN obviously, but of course, just for their perspectives sake, I wonder how many producers and senior execs there are non-white. No accusing anyone, just curious.

  • Me

    Thanks for the clarification, Claudia. I couldn’t remember the context of the photograph, only that I’d seen it. All the more reason that I feel Besh is going to be the winner. Why would a relatively unknown chef (I mean to the average reader of Vanity Fair) be paired with Wynton Marsalis to represent mutual interest and commonality and promote New Orleans in the aftermath of Katrina? The only thing I can assume is that he is going to become more and more recognizable as the latest Iron Chef.

  • janet

    This probably does count as beating a very, very dead horse, but I feel the need to augment a couple of things that Sara said in her long post above about the behind-the-scenes aspect of cooking and other arts. Among other things, she says:

    “I wonder if we would even be having this conversation at all if the chefs were given numbers, their food presented anonymously, and their identities witheld to the judges until after elimination.”

    As I’ve said a couple of times in various comments, blind judging is the only way to do away with concerns about favoritism (not just racism or sexism, mind you, but all types of favoritism). This is essentially what most major orchestras now do — the player auditioning sits behind a screen so the judges don’t know who it is. When they started doing this (I think it was about 20 years ago), significantly more women started making the cut and getting hired, leading to the obvious conclusion that when those making the decisions could see who was playing, they favored men — even though they thought they were being absolutely fair and impartial.

    In the food world, as in the other arts, there’s also the issue of the ultimate consumer (audience member, restaurant patron, reader), vs. the person making decisions about hiring, firing, and promoting (the music director, restaurant manager, or publisher). The person at the end may not know or care who is the producer (though in a lot of cases they do care, which is why male romance writers usually use female pen names), but the person making the decisions about who gets the job generally does know the worker’s race and gender. Of course, there’s a lot of variation in just how much a creative person can be behind the scenes — you can’t cast a play without looking at your actors, and you can’t cast a soprano as a bass. On the other hand, it’s relatively easy to hide behind a pen name, which is probably why women made strides in literature before most of the other arts. In the case of Iron Chef, I don’t think it would be possible to do the whole competition blind, especially since most of the chefs have recognizable styles and/or are well known to the judges.

    Which leads to my final point, which is that, when you go to the symphony, you probably don’t notice who is playing the bassoon, or the second violin, but of course you do know who the conductor and the soloists are. These headliners, IMO, get a disproportion amount of attention and credit. Something similar occurs in the food world — you may be completely unaware of who is making your food, but, especially if you’re going out for a special meal, you know who the owner and/or executive chef is. And in these very visible positions, the usual biases apply.

  • me2

    The reason we never seem to fix the problem of real or perceived racism is because we refuse to address it honestly. The results for the NIC are…2 white women and 2 minority men —all very accomplished chefs, eliminated in consecutive order! What’s so hard to understand about that? Since no one but the judges tasted the food, then the rest of us can only look at the results and call it as we see it. It was aired on TV, so why not discuss it?

    Again, if the FN was serious about having an African American or Latina cook (or Iron Chef) for that matter, it wouldn’t take a silly competition to do it. Instead, what they are attempting to convince the rest of us is that there are NONE available. Please–give me a break. Blacks have been cooking (mainly for white folks) since the days of slavery. Anyway–I wonder if all of the current FN stars of their own shows graduated from some cooking school or all have such stellar credentials? I seriously doubt it. Where did Paula Deen and Rachel Ray graduate from—does anybody know? And what competition show did they have to win in order to get their own shows and become major stars?

    As they say, if it “walks and quacks like a duck”…then guess what? So in this case, we don’t have the luxury of tasting the duck–but certainly can see it and hear it out here in TV land!

  • Greenbean

    I think there should have been at least one racial minority judge. Then let’s talk about who’s going to stay and who’s not.

  • azul texeira

    Thank you, me2!

    Racism is not a card; it’s a guiding principle that is alive and well in America. Deal with it, America. If talk about racism makes you feel uncomfortable or is so much noise for you, well I’m here to tell you that the realitiy of racism gets on the nerves of people who are forced to live it daily in so many ways a lot more. Really! To quote one of my favorite artists, Alanis Morrissette, “I’m sorry to disturb you during dinner!”

    For an interesting perspective on race and cooking in America, I recommend reading The Apprentice by Jacques Pepin. When he came to America, the kitchens were filled with African-American cooks. In fact, the history of American cuisine is filled with great African-American cooks, but I digress… I wonder if there has been such a decline in the numbers of African-Americans in the kitchens because they were replaced by cheaper immigrant labor (and hear me, folks, I mean no diss to them, especially since I am a naturalized US citizen of color) or because of the brutally hierarchical system that still rules the day in the contemporary restaurant kitchen. An executive chef can still be an absolute brute (and the environment can be incredibly hostile for females to boot) After so many years of having to endure the system because of a lack of choices, did people just decide that maintaining their dignity was more important than cooking in those kitchens.There are generations for whom being a cook meant being one step above dishwasher (again, no diss to the dishwashers but it’s not the most sought-after job). Even Bourdain will tell you that cooking back in the 70s was no glamour profession but rather a trade. Did a tradition of African-American cooks decline with the rise of the civil-rights movement? Just curious…

    One more anecdote, if you’ll indulge me: there was a study years ago that showed that when white audiences viewed separate videotapes of African-American children and white children playing orchestral music (exactly the same music played by exactly the same orchestra dubbed into both videotapes), the white audiencees always picked the white children as giving the superior performance. Who says there’s no racism? Who says they’re so tired of talking about it? I’m glad an earlier poster talked about orchestras selecting more women once a blind audition system was implemented. Could there be a similar thing going on when people taste food? Hmmm…..

  • Artful

    M-Dog and/or Sara,

    Good points. And yes, MOST black USA citizens definately can communicate effectively within the larger culture. And don’t speak “ebonics” at work. In the Caribbean, it’s more likely that they simply CAN’T speak a version of English that is widely comprehendable.

    Isolation and the lack of a sophisticated economy are probably the biggest factors at play. And it’s not limited by race or language.

    100 years ago, a visitor from Berlin would have a very tough time understanding the version of “German” spoken in a remote Swiss village. Switzerland was relatively poor. There’d be almost no jobs where speaking High German would be a priority.

    Today, Switzerland is wealthy and has a very sophisticated Economy. Virtually all German Speaking Swiss can switch to High German. Most also speak English and French decently.

    Amongst many blacks in the Caribbean you don’t have that ability to switch to a version of English that outsiders understand.

    So, I STILL say language skills are SOMEWHAT of a factor. Without rejecting any of the OTHER factors Ruhlmann and You cite.

    Difficult to quantify, but I’d say it’s about 3% of the reason in the USA and 10% in the Caribbean.

  • Mary

    One thing I don’t like about the Robert Rainford “License to Grill” show is he RARELY has BLACKS over to eat!!!! Come on now. He’s a Black Canadian and he doesn’t have any Black friends to come over & eat the food he prepares???? That’s what pisses me off! Even this morning he had an “Indian feast” with lobster & “veg”-which is a better term than “veggies.” I don’t like it!! Maybe 1 out of 20 shows does he ever have a person with a faint trace of melanin in their skin and he NEVER has anyone over who has skin as dark as his.

  • BITTER

    Wow, Mike, I cannot believe I missed your awesome NY Times article on black American chefs….it was really moving and well-written.

    Now, how about an article on that Sandra Lee and her lame Kwanzaa Cake?