Two of the country’s most talented chefs, John Besh and Michael Symon, compete in kitchen stadium, Sunday Night on the Food Network.  FN so secretive about it, even I wasn’t able to procure an advance screening.   Damn (thanks Lisa!).  And I’m going to be at Book Passage in San Francisco, then en route to Seattle flogging the new book (and so far meeting excellent people, thank you St. Louis and Atlanta, and especially Viking kitchen staffs). Can I catch the finale in an airport?

Will it be the man in black?

Or the man in white?

I heard from several Besh supporters here in Atlanta (and no Symon supporters), and Besh getting a lot of national press (deserved). Judging from comments here, Symon has popular appeal.  Both are great chefs and business owners, and most importantly here, superlative cooks.  Who will it be?  And where does Symon get his pants? And who does Besh’s hair? Can’t WAIT to hear comments on Monday!


248 Wonderful responses to “Next Iron Chef Finale”

  • Shelley

    All right, I’m reading comments here about how the chefs seemed to “lean” toward Besh, and I didn’t get that impression AT ALL. Now I’m going to have to stay up 90 minutes more to watch this repisode.

    Even though I hoped for Symon, I really thought it was a 50/50 match starting out at this final battle. When I saw the reactions at tasting, it seemed clear that Symon would win there. (Both chefs got dinged on some dishes, folks, Beshmore than Symon, I think.) What wasn’t clear was how the earlier competitions would be taken into account.

    That’s what I hope Ruhlman has time to shed light on tomorrow, too, in between his hitchhiker’s book tour. 🙂

    p.s. Finished “Soul of a Chef” earlier today. Bravo.

  • Lisa

    I hope the FN looks seriously at Besh and some of the other TNIC contestants, such as Morou and Sanchez, for possible shows about REAL cooking. I’d LOVE to learn more about how to cook with African and Latin influences, rather than yet another godawful how-to-put-sprinkles-on-your-cupcakes show from the Sandra-Paula-Rachel crowd.

  • dagwood

    @Shelley: I completely agree with you, and am equally befuddled by the comments here re: Besh was “clearly favored”. I thought the complete opposite.

    Obviously, both are worthy (perhaps moreso than some current standing IC’s), but I’m so happy Symon got the win. So much more engaging, and endearing, and fun to watch.

    Sunday nights just got a major boom: Desperate Housewives, beware!!!

  • Anne

    I thought it looked like the Iron Chefs were leaning toward Symon with their initial tasting, then seemed a little more fond of Besh in their ending comments. I was glad to see Symon win – and you’ve got to admit, he’s got serious panache. Should be interesting to see how he does in his first few battles as an Iron Chef.

    I confess I was cheering for my hometown boy, but I think he has the skills to back up his Clevelandness.

    And following the episode with a Giada/Rachel Ray Iron Chef episode? I thought I was hallucinating. I’m almost sad they are backed up by Iron Chefs, I’d rather watch them duke it out unaided. (It’s like a train wreck, I can’t seem to look away!)

  • The Professor

    Speaking as a man, I have to compliment Donatella on her leg presentation and tell Knowlton to spend another $20.00 extra on the next “dress shirt” he buys. I wore a tie for 33 years and 6 days(now retired 7/2007) and his was a perfect example of a cheap shirt. Ruhlman,of course was dressed for success.

  • artnlit

    PS. Hey Tags, glad you are happy about TNIC, but you’re living in la-la land re: Cleveland winning the super bowl. We just beat your boys in a game where they should have won! LOL!

    Oh and I loved Morimoto’s drawings/notes!
    So Michael, what did YOU think of the final dishes?

  • Brian

    I think the IC’s probably liked Symon’s dishes better. They commented on 2 of Besh’s dishes that they couldn’t taste the swordfish and that the shrimp accesories were stronger taste wise than the swordfish. Based on the Flay and Kora comments the dessert didn’t win him any points.

    It is quality over quantity. I wish they would have declared them both IC’s and told Cat to take a walk. She gets beat all of the time.

  • WhatisCanadianCuisine?

    Just finished “Making of a Chef”…was terrific, especially reading about making consomme in class. 🙂

    Assuming you got to try the dishes(from what I hear, people in the audience usually get to try something so there’s no way you missed out on it)- can we get your opinion on the best dish and what did you think of Besh’s dessert?

  • Beanie

    Well, it shouldn’t be a surprise considering that ALL the Iron Chefs were Food Network personalities before they became an Iron Chef. For those who have watched the Food Network for a while, you’ve seen Michael Symon on various shows and series. (Hello, Melting Pot!). That explains Cat Cora. She cannot be the best female chef out there. She’s lost more than a few battles. But, she was on some Food Network shows in the past too. (Hello, Melting Pot again!) Oh, well. It’s still a fictional arena! John Besh certainly has enough to go home to. He represented himself well and introduced himself to a wider audience. Good luck getting a table at one of his restaurants anytime soon.

  • Judy

    Does anyone remember when Symon and Aaron had their own food tv show? The Melting Pot?

  • ant

    cat cora sucks ass…..FN needs to dump her off…hated to see batalli go tho..i really like him and his classy shoes…

  • dagwood

    @ Lisa: wouldn’t that be nice? unfortunately probably wouldn’t be much of a draw for the “average” FN viewer.

    Morimoto was just wonderful this episode; I tend to like him more and more the more I see him. Lovely sense of humor on that man.

  • Chance Is I Am Or I Know Your Boss

    What a scam, and what an entirely boring series, was this program aka NICA. Each week, one thought it would get better and better, pick up speed and race to the finish.

    Instead, it plodded like a pack mule with a ton of bricks on its back – except these bricks were 3 people who had all the chemistry of Prince Charles first bride and marriage.

    With all due to that other guy from Cleveland, M. Symon, I really thought that John Besh was the best qualified (in every department) to be the NICA. There’s something strange about Ohio and outcomes: whether elections or other types of contests.

    I thought the person who runs this blog, M. Ruhlman, was just in the process of getting comfy, in a situation that looked and felt as cozy as a bed of nails. I thought that M.R. did a very good job, even if he had an obvious fave in mind, but who wouldn’t? We all had, one would guess.

    By the way, M.R., I thought you were really good on Ming’s show (it aired about two weeks ago, and may have been a repeat, it’s hard to tell) and I hope you continue to get more gigs on television, and hopefully, shows that allow one to verbalize a lot more.

    I also thought that the Top Chef panel was more interesting than the NICA panel, as well as that Padma Lakshmi rocked, and Alton was all crow and no cock.

    Who would’ve thought?

    Also, the rotating guest judges, and types of challenges on TC were, for the most part, much more interesting than those on NICA. Tom Colicchio was great, ditto Ted Allen. Whereas, Donatella (when is she gonna start financing quality Broadway dramas?) and that knucklehead, Andrew Knowlton, were about as exciting as a Great Thaw.

    Anyway, just wanted to say “good work” to M.R. and that, Besh should have won.

    It may be a victory for Cleveland, but the series -whether ICA or the baseball one – belongs to New York.

    Looking forward to the book tour, and joint appearance with A.B. Lincoln Square shall never be the same again.

  • JoP in Omaha

    Hey, it wasn’t me that dissed the outcome or the judging. No way do I want that hung on me.

    I’m thrilled with the outcome, and I think the judging was fair. The Iron Chef judges seemed to bring into play considerations that FN execs probably care about–not only the food, but personality–the Iron Chefs (NOT the regular judges) said (paraphrasing) “An Iron Chef needs to be dymanic, exciting, doing unexpected things…..” because no doubt in FN judgment it’s those things that bring viewers. Symon has more of those qualities than Besh, in my opinion, although both turn out equally good food. Sure, we can discuss how much other things should have mattered…some think not at all, I guess. But, in my opinion, it was Symon that made NIC THE show to watch the past few weeks. If personality gave Symon the edge over Besh, more power to him. A guy that can cook great food and is fun to watch is the best possible combination.

  • Shelley

    @dagwood: Thank you for making me feel a wee bit more sane.

    @artnlit: Agree about Morimoto’s drawings. Do you think they will show up on eBay?

    @anybody: Did you know that Alton Brown was tonight’s guest host on TCM (Turner Classic Movies), picking his most “influential” films? It’s a nice distraction from the idiotic Rachael/Giada rerun if you want to flip between channels. (Conjecture: There must be two classes of FoodNetwork viewers… the food-focused and the boob-focused.)

  • will

    i think besh was robbed…

    question for the clevelanders – is there now a race for cleveland’s favorite son between michael symon and michael stanley? my vote goes for stanley… “this town is my town!!”

    where was mario? he would have judged this correctly

  • Chance Is I Am Or I Know Your Boss

    a couple of notes – M-moto’s artwork (notes) was amazing. Like culinary haikus. and Cat’s kinda cool, I think they need her. It’s bad enough that every “minority” on TNICA got dissed early on (two women chefs) and later, thanks presumably to Andrew Knucklehead, El Guapo got the axe, when he was so close.

    I thought El Guapo should have beaten out CC, but CC’s a great competitor and talented if wreckless chef.

    AK may have had his revenge on El Guapo, but it was a false sense of payback for AK, since it’s El Guapo who is an actual working chef, and a very talented one at that.

  • artnlit

    Topic: Besh making a dessert last minute. Good decision? Poor decision? Did it make a difference in how he was judged or perceived? DISCUSS.

  • dagwood

    @ Shelley: totally had the AB TCM night in my TIVO, but was outranked by NICA (as well it should be); although I was able to write down what his fave’s are and have added them to my “to watch” list. (I would take movie rec’s from anyone with his sense of humor).

    Although, I cowardly admit, it did *not* trump Desperate Housewives.

    (NIC did, not AB’s favorite movies.)

  • Lisa

    @dagwood: I was loving Morimoto, too! He provided comic relief from all the tension. I loved his “punch, punch, punch” philosophy of hitting the judges with flavors, and his drawings were AMAZING.

    And I actually thought it was great that Besh jumped at Morimoto’s suggestion to make dessert–sort of a “the Iron Chef’s wish is my command” response. I still somehow wish both Besh and Symon could be welcomed into the IC fold. It feels as though they both earned it!

  • Sandy

    I just gotta say — its a great night for Cleveland, and a great night for Ruhlman and Symon.

    I can really understand people being torn between Besh and Symon. I think FN would be making a big mistake to let Besh go also. The chemistry between Besh and Symon alone calls out for something with the two of them.

    I was very disappointed that Mario was so noticeably absent tonight. Guess that answers THAT question….


  • The Professor

    @ Shelley: Yes I did know Alton was on TCM tonight, and I love his movie choices, very interesting. Did you mean Boob Tube or Boob Boob?

  • Joe Corey

    let’s hope that Symon gets better battles than Dairy, Farmer’s Market and hamburger.

    while I wouldn’t mind eating Besh’s food, I want to watch Symon prepare it.

  • Sandy

    Topic: Besh making a dessert last minute. Good decision? Poor decision? Did it make a difference in how he was judged or perceived? DISCUSS.
    I think it helped him with some, hurt him with others. The willingness to throw it together was very Iron Chef and I really thought he was going to win when he started making it. In fact I really thought he was going to win til they revealed the photo of Symon.

  • Johnny Damon

    Isn’t there kind of a conflict of interest in the judging anyway given Ruhlmann’s relationship with Symon. Not a big deal anyway though, as ICA has about 1/10th of the appeal of ICJ.

  • AChampion

    My fiance and I shouted “H*LL YEAH!” as loud as humanly possible as the curtain dropped to reveal the photograph of Michael Symon. *L*

    We noticed how Kat Cora tended to make the comments about Symon having “a definite Iron Chef dish!” or how “this dish ROCKS! Iron Chef!” multiple times, and was more honest with Symon than with Besh when critiquing them when making seasoning comments or expectations plain.

    We thought Symon would be the popular vote after that – but likely wouldn’t win. I was prepared to troll around the house in my bathrobe for a few hours in a snit.

    Minda you, we liked Besh, but felt that while he was steady and kept performing on an even keel, Symon had been steadily rising beyond expectations each time a challenge arose – winning several – and Symon improved and grew exponentially with each passing level.

    Boy are WE happy. 🙂

  • Chance Is I Am Or I Know Your Boss

    Topic: Besh making a dessert last minute. Good decision? Poor decision? Did it make a difference in how he was judged or perceived? DISCUSS.

    Posted by: artnlit

    I agreed with all three IC judges’ opinion on that.

    Still, in the end, I think M-moto was right – taking chances is something an IC should do.

    But, again, Bobby’s and Cat’s reasoning was right on too.

    Especially if, it’s the last thing served and the last thing the judges taste and remember.

    I’m still gonna give Besh some props for doing so, anyway.

    Although, his sauce was a bit much, better suited for a dessert made of game or shellfish, and not regular fish.

    I wonder if Bonito flakes and Panko on the outside of the wrapper, would have added?

    At least he didn’t use the ice cream machine.

  • dagwood

    Sandy: I’m still in denial and not ready to let go of Mario, or the orange crocs. Let’s all close our eyes and pretend that’s not happening, shall we?

    And yes, while I definitely admire Besh’s last minute dessert, I think it hurt him in the long run. Which is really so so sad, and he must be kicking himself for it.

    Although, chef-ing is as much strategizing as it is passion, and that might not have been his best strategic move.

    I’m guessing we haven’t seen the last of him on TFN, though. He’s such an obviously talented, charismatic guy. They’d be fools to let that go by.

  • Sandy

    Sandy: I’m still in denial and not ready to let go of Mario, or the orange crocs. Let’s all close our eyes and pretend that’s not happening, shall we?

    *squeezing eyes shut tight* Nothing’s happening. I see nothing.

  • Shelley

    @dagwood: I wish I had TIVO. And at least Alton Brown picked interesting films for TCM — not the predictable ones that a numb-nut like Donald Trump touts (Citizen Kane? Gone With the Wind? How lame is that, you silly mogul?) But I am a die-hard fan of Alton Brown and know all about his background… so sue me for being interested. Side note: I wish HE would blog about ALL the Iron Chef episodes.

    @dlayphoto: It wasn’t the dessert alone that did Besh in. Watch it again and you’ll get it. I always see more in these episodes the second and third time.

  • dagwood

    Shelley: totally agree on the great pics of AB. I can’t wait to watch them; I hadn’t heard of most of them but was completely intrigued when reading the descriptions. Hopefully I’ll be caught up on them by the end of the year. Also: how freaking cool would that be if AB resumed a blog??? He used to do one (sort of) but then shyed away when some crazies invaded. LET THIS BE A LESSON TO US ALL


  • wtf

    besh looses 2-4…thats shit..iron chefs didn’t wanna get showed up by besh…thats why they chose symon….notice tho how, 2 of the 3 actual panel judges chose besh to win…the 2 who everyone thought really like symon..but in all actuality…besh came out on top with the actual panel of judges…

  • Dennis

    I’m surprised that the inferior chef won.

    Unfortunately, this reduces my faith in the program in general. Symon is not up to Besh’s caliber, and Symon’s demeanor and personality is ridiculous coupled with his lack of equitable skill.

    Did he already host a program that already failed on Food Network?

    It was a very bad move for the network. So, I won’t be watching the American version of the program any longer. It’s somewhat of a joke now.

    Nice job judges on declaring inferior talent the superior choice.

  • Darclyte

    Congrats to Symon. Although, I still think Donatella’s breasticles would have beaten them both. Her legs tonight really sealed the deal. Wow! Anyway, from the comments, I thought Besh had it won. I also think he should have been given more props than barbs on his dessert. He heard a judge “request” it, and then made it in, what, a minute? Seems very Iron Chefish to me. That said, Symon will do fine, I just think Besh did seem overall better tonight, and although not a flashy, he does have great moments and is much more consistant. How odd was it to hear Cat complain about flavor. Bwah ha ha! Sorry. I think Chef Irvine (who SHOULD be an Iron Chef) and Tyler will absolutely destroy Giada and Paula in the Holiday Dessert special. I know Paula is the Queen of desserts, and desserts are a speciality of Giada’s, but at the end of the day, I can’t see the ladies pulling it off. As for TNIC, why wasn’t this 90 minutes when the ICA special after it was? TNIC was their PREMIERE show, they had a countdown to the finalé ALL DAY!!! You can’t tell me it didn’t warrant 90 minutes? I mean, while it was great to see all the judging time, but it sucked to only have 30 minutes of cooking time. They should have had the full 60 minutes of cooking time (or as much as reasonable) and then 25 minutes of judging, and 5 minutes of naming the winner. And Michael, thanks so much for this blog, I truly hope your friendship with Symon didn’t weigh into your vote even on a subconscious level. I am giving you the benefit of the doubt that you actually voted for the most deserving. I hope to see you judging the Holiday Dessert special, or at least many ICA battles to come. You clearly deserve to be there more than Mo Rocca. Heck, after only one judging, Bonecrusher deserves to be there more than Mo. Anyway, thanks again for this blog and for a very good job of judging.

  • Egaeus

    To all of those lamenting Mario Batali’s departure:

    If we must get honest, besides Good Eats, I’m getting to the point where I don’t watch much Food Network any more. ICA is something I catch occasionally when I’m in the mood, but I’m not a regular viewer. NICA was okay (yes, just okay) but I’m really getting turned off by FN as a whole. I want to know about food. How to cook it, where to get it, even how to grow it. I couldn’t care less about how they make Twinkies. I think you should qualify for government assistance for the mentally disabled by even using the following words/phrases: yummo, sammies, tablescape, evoo, and off the hook.

    The “food” is slowly being taken over by the “television.” You don’t have to know anything about food to be on the food network. Just ask Marc Summers. With almost every new show, it is catering more and more to the middle-income housewife who doesn’t know the difference between bouillabaisse and billiard balls and whose idea of great Italian food is Fazoli’s.

    For the record, I made it to this blog because of NICA. I was wondering who the judges were. I wanted to know more about Michael Ruhlman from his brief bio. The outcome of NICA is secondary to my quest for better food and a better ability to cook it.

  • Chance Is I Am Or I Know Your Boss

    Okay, so M.R. was the only one out of six total judges, to vote for Besh?

    Now, I do agree with those here who believe that the ICs’ wish to keep the quo (Besh is a threat on several levels) and that it’s not about personality ruling the day. I like Bobby enough as a chef, but Bobby’s onscreen personality can sometimes be about as engaging as Ina Garten’s.

    Anyway, if M.R. voted for Besh, when most (myself included) thought he’d voted for Symon, does that seem strange that, the one person who most believed would have voted for Symon, relieved himself of such a conflict on interest?

    Just curious, and not condemning.

    Looking forward to reading M.R.’s take as to why he had truly voted for Besh, and not Symon (even though Symon had it in the bag, 5 votes to 1).

  • BAC

    I enjoyed the show and I think that looking back at the winning chef throughout the series, the right Chef won. Congrats Mike! However to those that are dis’ing someone as an inferior chef or this guy sucked, or won’t watch ICA again….how many of you have actually tasted and eaten these guys food? Get a life you losers! It’s a TV show. You should have enjoyed the drama, rather than treating it like some type of bullshit sporting event. No go grab a Big Mac& fries and discuss the presentation of the pickles or texture of the fries. That’s about your speed.

    Sorry to see someone lose, but congrats to Chef Symon, and it should be good food televison watching to come!

  • Chance Is I Am Or I Know Your Boss

    No go grab a Big Mac& fries and discuss the presentation of the pickles or texture of the fries. That’s about your speed.

    Sorry to see someone lose, but congrats to Chef Symon, and it should be good food televison watching to come! Posted by: BAC


    I love it when some people act as if they grew up on Baboy and Balut.

  • George Kaplan

    For the Besh fans:

    As far as the perception of impartiality goes, good luck finding qualified food writers and restaurateurs and other judges who *don’t* have some connection with the most acclaimed chefs. This ain’t a gov’t contract they’re competing for.

    It seems like finding book reviewers to me – the world gets smaller and smaller.

  • Egaeus


    Speak for yourself. I personally went out and bought a new smellovision with the tasteovision add-on just so I could criticize those obviously idiotic “judges” and “chefs” when they picked the wrong person.

  • Chance Is I Am Or I Know Your Boss

    Chance: Are you daft? MR voted for Symon.

    Posted by: Shelley


    Shelley, did I misread the article whose link was posted? I thought it read that MR voted for Besh? I have to stop watching ICA and look for culinary existential possibilities in Guy Fieri 😉

  • Beanie

    Considering how much Cora poo-pooed Symon’s food, I am shocked that she voted for him. Yeah, I think that Besh would be too much of a threat to them all.

  • Suzette

    Bravo, Egaeus. You have very neatly and succinctly summed up what’s wrong with the FN. I have been a viewer since they opened up shop, and I remember the glory days of REAL cooking shows with REAL chefs, and some actual representation of the glorious world of world cuisine–that is, shows like Melting Pot, etc. Now, all we get are bimbos with plastic boobs, and cornpone sterotypes like Paula Deen (I watched her show the other day, and she made salad with Rice A Roni! I am not making this up).

    Fine Living now has a much better array of cooking shows–they have repeats of Molto Mario, Napa Style with Michael Chiarello, the always fabulous Ming Tsai, and sommelier/chef Andrea Immer.

    That all said, I’m delighted Symon won; I was rooting for him. I laughed out loud when he grabbed that swordfish and cried, “Who’s your daddy?” He’s good tv and a great chef. Really, all the competitors were, but I’m glad Symon won. I’m sure John Besh will go on to more successes, as all the other chef competitors will. The fact is, they were already successful before the show started, and I’m sure that will continue.

    If only the FN would get a clue as to what viewers want! They seem to have the PT Barnum attitude at this point.

  • Shelley

    Yup, Chance, I do believe you misread the article. Let me extract some quotes…

    “Cleveland chef and restaurant owner Michael Symon won the Food Network’s six-week “Next Iron Chef” competition Sunday night, defeating finalist John Besh from New Orleans, four votes to two.

    “Blah, blah, blah…

    “The secret ingredient in the final cook-off was swordfish, not a Symon specialty, and the show’s twist was that three current Iron Chefs — Masaharu Morimoto, Cat Cora and Bobby Flay — were brought in as judges. The new judges saved Symon’s victory as all three voted for him while only one of the other three judges, Cleveland author Michael Ruhlman, voted for Symon. ”

    Okay, that’s all from me for now. Watching the repisode to see what subtle nuances I might have missed the first go-round. And I hope after that I will find a 12-step program to relieve my addiction to Ruhlman’s blog. 🙂

  • Shelley

    Forgot to add… I’m surprised no one has mentioned the irony of the Secret Ingredient. Swordfish, swords crossed on a bed of ice, a la Iron Chef knives in the background logo?

  • The Professor

    I feel like it is graduation day at college and we all splitting up and going our separate ways, let’s not break up the old gang, let’s meet again here in Ruhlman Cyber City. Did everyone sign my yearbook?

  • Chance Is I Am Or I Know Your Boss

    Okay, that’s all from me for now. Watching the repisode to see what subtle nuances I might have missed the first go-round. And I hope after that I will find a 12-step program to relieve my addiction to Ruhlman’s blog. 🙂
    Posted by: Shelley


    Too funny, Shelley 🙂 Thanks for posting that snippet. I read too fast, and it must’ve been due to my sugar rush (gelato, madeleine’s, and caffeine ;-))

    Forgot to add… I’m surprised no one has mentioned the irony of the Secret Ingredient. Swordfish, swords crossed on a bed of ice, a la Iron Chef knives in the background logo?

    Posted by: Shelley


    You’re GOOD. REALLY good 🙂

  • Chance Is I Am Or I Know Your Boss

    Hey Shelley,

    You have me thinking of the secret ingredient and its overt and more subtle symbolism.

    Any chance that Symon’s use of a particular type of tongue, could be interpreted as the swords’ function as the silence of the lambs?


  • Lisa

    @Shelley: I did notice the samurai element–the crossed swords of the swordfish, although I thought I was getting a little TOO crazy meta about it! I’ve been WAY too addicted to this show and this blog lately. Gonna be up late tonight–on deadline with an assignment, and I’m going to have to stop blogging and get back to work. (Must…not…rewatch…can’t…touch…DVR

    @The Professor: I agree! Let’s hang out after graduation day here in RCyber City. I’m excited to have found this virtual metropolis, and don’t want to leave now!

  • Shelley

    @chance: Silence of the Lambs. Har har har!

    Watching the repisode… Besh poured wine, not a special cocktail like Symon… and I heard negative comments on four of his seven courses. Lobster overpowered swordfish? Shrimp not necessary? Dessert unremarkable? (I forget one of the four, but it’s drunk and I’m late.)

    I only heard one negative review out of six Symon dishes.

    Again, I’m going to stick around to hear Ruhlman’s insights. Did Bobby, Cora and Morimoto vote just on the basis of that night’s food? Did he, Donatella and Breck-boy vote on the overall competition?

    And why does he want to know about Symon’s pants? They look like HELL in that first photo. (Or maybe Besh has a better a** for the cameras?)

  • lux

    It seemed pretty clear to me that Symon was going to win once we got about 1/2way through Besh’s tasting. The comments simply weren’t as positive.

    Symon will be a great Iron Chef, and I’m looking forward to watching him in future IC episodes.

  • sailorgrrl07

    Awesome! Yay Chef Symon!! I was really surprised, the tide really did seem to be going Besh’s way. I just about fell off the couch.

    I am feeling very ripped off that we didn’t get a vote rundown. What gives? Mr. Ruhlman please spill!

    (Hey: I have that same shirt Rachael Ray is wearing on this stupid show)

    Re Cat Cora: er, has she actually *won* a Kitchen Stadium competition since, like, ever?

    Re: double entendre/innuendo: Did you guys catch Chef Symon stating he “almost went down on a tomato”?

    Donatella looked smashing and I actually kind of like her now. As if that matters.

    I think the Rachael Ray/Giada goatdance may have been what put Mario off ICA, now that I think of it.

    WTF has happened to Pricilla Presley?! I am going to have to sleep with the lights on now.


  • James

    Cheers throughout our house for Symon. Congrats Mike!

    artnlit, I think you summed things up well. The comments of the judges and Iron Chefs were enlightening, and confirmed that it seemed Besh was too reserved, disingenuous, and just wasn’t swinging for the fence like Symon, who brought the kitchen to life with a great personality and great food. He simply enjoys what he’s doing more than Besh /appeared/ to, and that ultimately breeds success (and watch-ability).

    I am hoping that FN doesn’t give up on the “losers” as they have been promoting them like crazy for the past few weeks. Now that we all know them so well, I’m hoping to see some shows featuring them in weeks and months to come.

    As a poster above noted, FN has become too personality focused, and lost focus on the food. Wouldn’t you love to see a show with Cosentino, Besh, Morou, Sanchez, and the rest, instead of the current roster of FN “personalities?”

  • AT

    wow! i can’t believe Besh didn’t win! i was rooting for him because his dishes looked awesome and he was always calm, collected and professional. you can never tell with reality tv because they try to throw you off track of what’s really about to happen. i too feel that they should have take the whole show’s worth of cooking into consideration instead the last meal.

  • chris neill

    IMO Besh lost primarily due to the lame dessert for course 7. That dessert was phoned-in. What? A compote and fried phyllo type thing (I forget the name of the dough) with catfish creme?

    That dessert just looked boring. If that was on a menu, with or without the fish, I would be disappointed if, after paying $10-15 for a dessert, the chef gave me that piece of shit. Rachael Ray could have made that dessert, complete down to every last detail, including the plating.

    A desert featuring some sort of fish needs more thought. Besh went out on a limb and made a dessert that required some skill and imagination (making a ganache is not hard, but it is harder than dunking something in a fryer). It should feature the ingredient more prominently, something Besh’s catfish balls (hah, I slay me) lacked, I felt (even though I did not eat it, of course). Do something extreme! Candy the fins or something. If you make some kind of mousse or paste, form it in the shape of a fish. Dress up whatever you have fried with fins, tails and eyes fashioned from fruit or touilles or whatever.

    Besh got cocky, and he made something that was lame. Michael Symon’s learning curve went sky-high since the first episode, even before watching I had already given him a handicap. I’ve eaten at Lola and Lolita. Some dishes are great, inspired.. some are.. well, disappointing. “All chefs have bad days..” True indeed. I think in Cleveland the Flying Fig is consistently better, but I will give Symon the benefit of the doubt. He has shown me that he not only performs under pressure but constantly adjusts and re-adjusts and improves under pressure. I know all cooks and chefs do this, but Symon’s thought process is refreshingly transparent.

    Of course, its going to be a bitch to get into Lola or Lolita now, but I’ll try. Better start staying open until 2am, Chef Symon!

    Congratulations, you earned it.

  • Christie

    Woohoo!!! I’m so happy Symon won. Must say though I was surprised by the vote. If the Iron Chefs hadn’t participated in the voting it appears we would’ve had a different outcome.

    Anyway, it’s over and I’m happy. (I feel bad for Besh though.)

  • tom

    I’m sorry to see Besh lose. I’ve wanted to see more of him since his ICA appearance. I really liked his personality. That’s what got me to even watch NIC. While Symon deserved to make the final two on NIC, I can’t stand him (his laugh grates as much as RR’s).

    Unfortunately, as any psychology text will tell you, people tend to like those who start out weak and get stronger over those who are consistently strong. I think that is the situation with Symon and Besh. Symon was the underdog. People love the underdog.

    But, Symon has been chosen, so, I’ll just end up skipping his ICA appearances.

    Hoping that they put Besh on elsewhere.


  • JMW

    Congrats to Symon — though I still think Besh is a better overall choice. In some ways, just because I think Besh’s career has crested whereas Symon is an up-and-comer. He should take this as validation and a sign that he should take on the NY market and study under the Bouluds and Riperts of the world. IMO the Celebrity Chef thing is a huge distraction — Bourdian treats it as some kind of semi-retirement (and a disdainful one where Rocco is concerned).

  • george

    A great series, thanks to FN and congrats to Symon! Of course they’re both so very good, but I feel Symon earned this victory. He’s won more episodes [Besh won only week 1 (co-winner) while Symon won weeks 2 (co-winner), 3, and 4.] and Symon’s dishes earned more superlatives during the finale. Seems a clear victory to me. It’s cool that the current ICs unanimously chose Symon. Very impressive.

  • Cathy D

    I can’t believe that Besh did not win. He has been so consistent throughout the entire competition. I agree with Cat’s comment tonight about him pulling out the dessert at the last moment was a very ICA thing to do.

    To me, Symon was flat and not inspired. I will not be watching any of his episodes.

  • Kali

    So, Donatella and Andrew voted for Besh, and Ruhlman voted for Symon.If not for the addition of ICAs at the end (who knew nothing about the earlier challenges), BESH would have won.

    So, why did Alton say the voting should be cumulative? Half of the judges never tasted any of the earlier food–and Ruhlman, of course, was Symon’s good buddy long before NIC.

    Also, why did Knowlton say Symon was a 2:1 favorite from the very first challenge? That’s a pretty huge lead out of the gate–especially considering that Besh won his ICA challenge (in an excellent battle with Mario) while Symon lost his (against Morimoto).

    I like Symon’s attitude (about the future competitions being a catalyst to continue developing his culinary talents and ideas), but, on the shallow side, I hope he’ll shave the soul patch. JMO, but it’s distractingly unattractive.

    Oh, and I wonder if the challenger from ICA (who leaked Symon’s win to the Canadian newspaper in, like, the first or second week of the show), has any penalty. (NIC contestant’s apparently would owe $1 million if -they- leaked it.) Just wondering….

  • anonymous

    From the editing alone, I thought it was quite apparent weeks ago that Michael Symon would be the winner of the NIC. As a fan of reality tv in general, I notice several telling factors. In the still photos and on the commercial for NIC, Symon is in the middle. John Besh is so hidden in the background on the commercial-you can hardly see him. However, Symon has the prominent position of front and center. Besh is the first chef shown in the opening credits. That alone told me he wouldn’t win. Although the most telling factor that verified, to me, that Symon was the winner, was that they had countless interviews on his perspective of how the battle was unfolding even when it didn’t pertain to him. The exposure was excessive. In the episodes where he didn’t do exceptional poor or well, he was still interviewed constantly-like the Food network wanted us to “get acquainted” with our newest Iron Chef. On the other hand, the only time we got to hear from Besh was when he razzing a fellow competitor or boasting about how good his cuisine was, for the most part. From an outsider’s perspective, and in accordance with Judge Donatella, I thought Besh’s food seemed more complex and at a higher level than his competitors, which in turn would be more difficult to beat during competitions. I feel his likeability with the viewers was damaged from the selective editing which made him appear like a loudmouth. Whereas, Symon endeared himself to the audience by looking like the underdog who rarely made any blatantly offensive comments. No way was the Food network going to show snippets of the winner in an unfavorable light. I only wish they would have interviewed John Besh one-third as much as Symon.

    As far as the finale was concerned, it was predictable for the most part. I figured the Iron Chefs would judge, although I didn’t know which ones. I knew they would use swordfish (they showed it in the commercial) as the secret ingredient. Besh had received more critical comments, like I thought. The only surprise, and much to my disappointment, was that the Iron Chefs did not use the traditional voting system to choose the winner. That diminished the creditability of the show, in my opinion. It was no longer only about the food but also personality. I had no objection to the original judges being apart of the vote. However, they should have executed the traditional point system. They also should have showed more of the actual “battle” and the former contestants in the background.

    Although I wouldn’t say the “knives were out” for Besh, it appeared the male judges liked Symon’s personality more. More of a man’s man, I guess, despite his annoying laugh and atrocious posture. It was all too obvious, in my opinion that Flay didn’t care for Besh and probably didn’t vote for him. In the end, the finale was quite uneventful and we will have to wait quite a while for a new competition. Hopefully, they will edit the next edition better so I won’t know who the winner is three weeks ahead of time.

    Questions for Mr. Ruhlman: Although I do believe you were impartial, how meaningful was it to you that your hometown chef was the winner? Also, what happened to Batali? Why is he not participating in Iron Chef America?

  • Paul in WY

    I’m interested to have confirmation of the voting. Having watched it twice now, I caught that A.K. thought Symon had a 2-1 advantage coming into this last test. I don’t know if that was amongst all the judges or just him. The Iron Chefs definitely liked Symons food more than Besh’s, IMO. But, as we know from reading this great blog, the editing is telling a particular story and other details are being left out.

    I’d also like to add to the voices that would like to see more COOKING on FN. The channel is almost unwatchable during the day and most nights.

  • Doodad

    Congrats to Chef Symon! And conciliatory handshake to Chef Besh for a great challenge. I knew these two would be in the final; it just seemed destined.

    I kind of figured that some Iron Chefs and former contestants would make an appearence. It was kind of funny in that, before they were introduced, you could see Cosentino’s hair in the shadows. LOL.

    I thought the dishes were good. Swordfish is rather delicate and was glad to see the use of the cheek and throat. Flay appreciated it and said so. And what dish did he say he was going to steal? I am going to steal Besh’s use of the pasta maker to “bread” the fish.

    Two things I found odd. Cat Cora seemed to hate Symonm, at least from the editing. I thought she did everything but grown audibly at him. Her expression and body language were very telling. But, she seemed in love with Besh. Her face lit up. I remember thinking Uh-oh.

    Also, the finale must have been shot with both endings. There seemed to be no audience and Besh not only had his hair different, but he seemed to know what was coming. He had a grim look.

    Sure was great fun. Thanks for hosting the bandwidth Michael. Hope to talk on here on a regular basis with all of you, and enjoy the new show.

    And for the Top Chef fans: I noticed that the show was hosted by not only the completely annoying cellphone company, but Manwich! Thankfully we did not have gratuitous product placement ala TC and force the secret ingredient to Sloppy Joe. Although, seeing the unveiling would have been an ROTFL moment.

  • John

    The iron chefs were the only ones to TASTE the food prepared in the last challenge, right? That they voted 3-0 in favor of Symon, if that’s in fact what happened, seems quite telling.

  • Doug

    Just as a point of interest, there is a difference between colorless and clear. If a consume is a clear soup, all that means is that color can freely pass through. You can have something be colored and clear, something as innocuous as colored plastic wrap is still clear. So perhaps Mr. Ruhlman was a litte too hard on Chef Besh.

    Great choice on Michael Simon, I’ve eaten at Lola, and his food is every bit as good as it looks like on TV.

  • JoP in Omaha

    Now that we know how the judges voted, my record-keeping while I watched the replay last night doesn’t mean a lot, but here it is. I kept track of Iron Chef comments positive or negative. By my count, Symon received 9 positive comments about his dishes, 5 neutral or a little critical. The worst critcism lobbied at him was “bland.” Besh received 7 positive comments and 6 neutral or critical. And the negatives were a bit more serious: a dish that featured lobster more than swordfish (a pretty big no-no in IC battles) and a dessert that, while daring, didn’t work. None of the IC judges liked that dessert.

    Interesting point about that dessert—Besh won his ICA battle against Batali, and as I recall, his victory occurred because Batali screwed up on….a dessert! I can’t remember the secret ingredient…it was something savory…Batali made a parfait sort of thing with it. I remember Batali saying (perhaps in the Look Behind ICA show) that his sous told him “Don’t do it!” but he when ahead anyway. I remember the judge looking at it skeptically, then taking a huge bite, with a really awful face following.

    So, Besh had first hand knowledge that a bad dessert could do him in. Sure, daring is admired on ICA, but only if the result is a good one. Daring that turns out a bad dish…well, in the end, that’s all it is–a bad dish. Besh took a risk. If he pulled it off, he probably would have won.

    To the poster who said Symon was the underdog. I respectfully disagree. Symon dominated Episdoe 3 (cooking outside on the fire) and Episdoe 4 (airline food); Paris–that appeared to be a toss-up between Symon and Besh, perhaps Besh had a SLIGHT edge. To say Symon was an underdog going into the finale is wrong, I think. I think the two were pretty equal going in.

    Oh, yes, another observation. I think Symon’s use of sous vide in the final might have helped him a little. It showed he’s willing to try new techniques, and if they work out, incorporate them down the road.

    To the viewer who though FN producers manipulated viewers’ opinions by giving Symon more air-time, more commentary. I thought of that, too, and while watching the marathon yesterday, I kept count for 3 episodes of how many “speaking scenes” Symon and Besh got….Ep 1 went to Besh; Ep 2 went to Symon; Ep 3 was about equal. I didn’t do 3 or 4, so I don’t know about them.

    Whatever. It’s over. Symon will be fun to watch. I wouldn’t be upset if FN figures out some other way to use Besh. The importance of COOKING won in NIC, that’s the important thing to take away from this. Finally, a show about cooking resutled in what seemed to be a blockbuster hit for FN. I hope that will send a message to FN execs.

  • realitybites

    I hate to be negative but are those new Iron Chef jackets fugly or what?!

    Congratulations Symon on the win! And great job Ruhlman helping put Cleveland on the culinary map.

  • Water Iris

    First, a 90 min. show would have been nice, and would have dovetailed w/ the gimicky ICA following.
    Why did FN go through all the trouble to bring the other NIC contestants and not ever do anything but show them? What a waste. A few comments would have been nice.

  • Darcie

    Well, I was pleasantly surprised to see the results. After years of being on the wrong side of rooting for competitors (starting with the Minnesota Vikings in the 70s), I finally have the curse lifted. I was sure I had jinxed Symon by pulling for him but he still pulled it off! Woo hoo!

    The only downside is that I am going to be going to Cleveland in the next month or so and wanted to eat at Lola or Lolita but it’s going to be hard to get a reservation. I won’t have more than a couple days’ notice since we’re waiting for some goods to clear customs and it’s always a surprise when they finally call and say it’s ready.

    To all the people who felt everything was rigged or set up, come on folks, this is tee-vee. Save your consternation for more important things… Also, it seems to me that depending on whose side a person is on, he will notice the things that play to his prejudices and lend them more weight. I’ve been guilty of it in the past but strive to be open-minded and to let the small stuff slide.

  • Heidi

    The notion that the IC’s would not place their votes toward Besh because they percieve him as a threat is just hooey. The chefs don’t battle each other, and Cat Cora’s style is similar to Symon’s – Mediterranean/Greek – more of a threat to her directly. She voted pro- Symon.

  • Amy

    What a miserable end to the series. While it was great to see a real Iron Chef get some attention (I loved his drawings!), I don’t think I can begin to count the ways this last episode disappointed me.

    I’ll have to go back to wishing the real Iron Chef were on again, and watch the American version knowing I could cook circles around Bobby and Cat and Symon. Maybe someday FN will again have chefs who present dishes and ideas that are challenging.

  • Claudia

    Way to go, Symon! Congratulations, Cleveland! I love Besh and the trash-talkin’ between those two buds, and Besh is certainly as worthy to be an IC as Symon – but Symon has just got that camera-ready edge, with that crazy laugh and loopy sense of humor. He actually reminds me a bit of Morimoto – not only does he have the same ability to think creatively WAY outside the box, but his boxes are pretty uniquely shaped to begin with. I think IC should be a lot more fun now.

    OK, so props to Knowlton for finally cleaning up and dresses like a human being – almost. Ruhlman, I’m glad for your sake that you and Knowlton are not permanent judges on IC, or you would obviously have to spend a good chunk of time teaching Knowlton how to buy a freaking shirt that FITS! (Yes, Professor, you called that right.) Jesus. Silk T and a nice jacket, Knowlton. Raid Bourdain’s closet. Raid Tim Gunn’s. But for Chrissake, get some sartorial HELP.

  • Dean_axel

    I think it’s most telling that the Iron Chefs all voted for Symon. If it was billed as a “winner take all” battle, then the verdict was correct. (even though I might disagree with the process). If it was supposed to be a “season long compilation”, I still think the winner was correct. Symon won more competitions than Besh, and he did better on the “final exam” (which is usually worth a big portion of your grade), than Besh did.

    Lastly, I think the fact that the decision was unanimous by all the Iron Chefs gives a good “stamp of approval”.

    Based on some comments from the show, it appears that BOTH Besh and Symon preferred to be judged by the Iron Chef’s. If that’s true, then they were both judged how they wanted to be judged, by whom they wanted to be judged, and cooked what they wanted to cook, so there shouldn’t be any ambiguity here.

  • Todd

    It felt like the show finally got to where it should be — battles in chef stadium.

    I was impressed, considering how many last second things are going on in a general ICA battle, that both Besh and Symon were plating and finishing way ahead of time. Neither seemed in the weeds at all.

    I’ll have to re-watch it though. We decided to take a shot every time Cat Cora said ‘this is Iron Chef (insert anything)’. We were snockered before Besh presented.

  • JoP in Omaha

    To the viewer who asked why Knowlton said Symon had a 2-1 edge going into the finale: it was based on episode victories. Ep 1 (desserts) went to Besh for his catfish truffles, etc.; Ep 3 (cookout) went to Symon for his beverage, polenta and family-style squab? quail?; and Ep 4 (airline) went to Symon for his “perfectly cooked” salmon. That’s 2-1 episode victories for Symon over Besh.

    (For the record, Cosentino got Ep 2 for razor clams and shaving cream; no victor picked in Ep 5 Paris).

  • Anthony A

    Congratulation to Symon!

    I like the fact he uses offal and isn’t afraid of bold flavors in his cooking. I think he will be an entertaining Iron Chef.

    But on a sadder note: “Say it isn’t so”?

    It appears that “Mario the Great” has been put out to pasture by FN and I for the life of me I cannot figure out why. Even if they wanted to take Molto Mario out of rotation, and continue with their heinous mission to dumb down the craft of cooking with it’s insipid programming, there is no reason to cut loose it’s best, and in my opinion, most charismatic Iron Chef.

    Batali’s passion for Italian cuisine and iconoclast image served as the impetus for my now fanatical interest in cooking. He is one of the chief reasons I am now paying my dues in the restaurant business and trying to make a career change.

    His good humor, gargantuan girth, and even those hideous orange Crocs will be missed by many.

    So long Mario!


    Symon may be a great chef, but I can’t stand to look at the guy! He reminds me of Uncle Fester.

  • Benny Gunn

    Let’s go Ruhlman! We know you’re out west but it’s time to drag yourself away from the breakfast buffet and give us the scoop.

  • Lester Hunt

    Michael, So sorry you didn’t get to taste that food. The Chairman can be so mean! But congrats to the other Michael. It was close, obviously, but maybe the fact that he was the more interesting to watch won out. (This is TV after all.)