Yes, the fine execs at food network, for whom I now have an unalloyed fondness, asked me to be a judge on a six-part special, a competition in reality show format, among eight chefs, one of whom will become the fifth chef to wear this august mantle.  Actually, the food network called sort of sniffing around seeing if I was interested.  I not only said Yes, I did everything I could to let them know how available I was.  I all but sent them flowers and candy.

Honestly, when they told me the premise, I was sold—it was EXACTLY what I thought was needed in the reality show cooking: people who can cook.  Only the food network had the clout to invite eight established chefs, chefs who have proven their talent in the kitchen and no less importantly their skills as restaurateurs.  None of these people are fry cooks desperate for a way out of their kitchen and into a national spotlight.  They are chefs who already HAVE a national spotlight.  Every one of these chefs is the real deal.  Putting these men and women into competition on camera with all the craziness of reality television, this I wanted to see.  Traci des Jardins, who just won a best chef award from the beards.  John Besh from NOLA, Cleveland homeboy Michael Symon, and Doing God’s Work Chris Cosentino, like des Jardins, working in San Francisco, among them.  (I think snackblog had it first—here’s the official press release.)

I’m limited in what I can offer in details, but I can say that the raggedy assed bourdain can fawn all he wants over Top Chef (he did some guest blogging on colicchio’s space recently if you missed it—Tom’s opening in LA I hear, too busy blog, evidently)—this food network show, The Next Iron Chef, won’t have the catty backstage bickering of the current shows, but it’s certain to have some of the best actual cooking ever on reality television ever.  I am really looking forward to this.

(update: ok, maybe not always raggedy assed.)


66 Wonderful responses to “The Next Iron Chef America!”

  • Ottavia

    Ruhlman, just remember that TV adds 10 pounds. You know what I mean…

  • Dyane

    I am so happy that you will be a judge, Michael. You will be a wonderful addition and the network is LUCKY you agreed. Have a blast! Dyane p.s. don’t worry about those extra 10 pounds; it’s actually true but you will look good with them.

  • Dan

    Whoa… That seems like quite the line up. You damn lucky bastard. I hope they have a battle royale style format and you get sucked into the vortex of whirling culinary creative genius and wind up in a fryolator to become a Ruhlman Fritter for Mo Rocca to fawn over.

  • Victoria

    Very nice. I can’t wait to finally see some quality, high-class, entertaining program on the Food Network again. Even if it is only going to be six parts.

  • FoodPuta

    Won’t this give the FN a bad name??


    Seriously, I look forward to this series, and please make as many French references in your judgements as possible.

  • Marina

    Mi primera impresión: ¿realmente necesitamos otro reality show sobre chefs con altas promesas y mucha expectación que posiblemente luego de 15 minutos deje la extraña sensación de “eh… ya lo he visto antes. Nada nuevo”?

    Luego de eso pues he pensado que quizás vale la pena mirar este nuevo proyecto, con la pequeña y brillante esperanza de ver algo interesante en FN, motivada además por la idea de que al final del día, es entretenimiento. Aunque, debo reconocer que la idea de ver a un grupo de “chefs consolidados” luchando con sus cuchillos y dientes para mantenerse a flote, preparar buenos platos y controlar sus egos, es bastante atractiva.

    Felicitaciones por la oportunidad, recuerda hacerte un buen corte de cabello…

  • Sorcha

    That’s pretty awesome. It’s nice to see some already-established chefs getting a chance to shine. And of course it’ll be neat to see you on TV again.

  • parkbench

    Excellent. Ruhlman judging. A San Joaquin Valley homegirl as a cheftestant. Can. not. wait.


  • SunshineGrrrl

    I don’t want to doubt you, Michael, but, I mean… I really hope you are right. Honestly, I think a lot will depend on how the production team wants to spin it. I hope that it comes out nice. I think you are a great writer and a good judge of character with such things. I’m just hoping foodtv uses that well. Do we really need a fifth chef? What’s missing currently?

  • RI Swampyankee

    I am absolutely thrilled but I have to ask–who would sponsor such an authentic show?

  • Stephen

    Well, they definitely need a new Iron Chef. Lately it’s been Flay vs. Everyone else.

  • French Laundry at Home

    Wow. Something on FN involving people who can actually cook. I don’t know what to say. Congrats – it’ll be good to have you back on TV. Any word on who the other judges might be?

  • veron

    Noooooooooooo! I can’t believe you crossed over to the dark side!
    This looks like a great competition though so I’ll have to figure out what channel the Food Network is on. Can’t wait to see you as a judge :).

  • rockandroller

    This is awesome. Pls let us know when it’s going to air!

  • eriq

    The press release said:

    The Next Iron Chef will premiere Sunday, October 7th at 9pm ET/PT on Food Network.

  • REM

    Aww geez, why didn’t they tell us about this before we all ripped them apart for the sham that is “The Next Food Network Star”? Now I may have to take back some of the vitriol I’ve been spewing about FN, LOL.

  • CarolinaGirl

    Congrats. I personally am looking forward to actually hearing what your voice sounds like as I have read your books, and blog. I am interested how it was working with Michael Symon seeing as how you are so close. I am sure as a professional, that relationship was not an influence in your decisions, but you also know what he is capable of, and what to expect from him. Were you as familiar with any of the other contestants? This will be fun to watch…..

  • bourdain

    Well, Ruhlman, your days of hanging outside the Food Network offices in ripped net stockings and spike heels are finally over. The poor, misguided bastards finally let you in the door. And in this case,the very absence of good, new ideas semed to have led to a good new idea. You can see it, can’t you, Ruhlman? Tuschman settles into the hot tub, takes a big huff out of a brown paper bag and muses, “Hmmmm….they like Iron Chef. And they like Next Food Network Star. WHY DON’T WE DO NEXT FOOD NETWORK IRON CHEF STAR!! It’ll be TWICE as good!” Then someone from Development pipes up, “And let’s get somebody legit to front this atrocity.” To which the lone genius in the room (an unpaid intern–serving as towel boy) adds, “Yes! Ruhlman! Beter to have him INSIDE the tent, pissing out, than outside the tent, pissing IN. You take Ruhlman on, you neuter him like a Hereford steer!”
    But I guess anything that provides you with regular employment is a good thing. Particularly for the good people of Cleveland, who have clearly tired of your solicitations in their streets. And your last gig, mopping the stalls at Peep-O-Rama (though excellent training for the new job) was not really appropriate for a man of your rapidly advancing years and diminishing powers.
    I admit I’m rooting for you Ruhlman. Don’t fuck this up. I do fear the potentially incendiary backstage combination of you, the gut-munching, offal-obsessed Chris “Cannibal” Cosentino, evil party boy Aaron “Dirty” Sanchez, and your grappa-addicted home boy , Mikey “the Hyena” Symon. The hallways outside the FN green room will surely run red with blood and puke, the floors slippery with tripe, Twizzlers and controlled substances. For God’s sake, Ruhlman; just this once…bring honor to your clan.

  • veron

    I’m with Bourdain on this… I’m rooting for you even if I have the utmost disdain for the Food Network.

  • Tags

    Just when I thought we were about to lose this thing we got, along comes Bourdain to give us hope. It’s refreshing that FN has decided to reverse the polarity and skim the crap, leave the cream for us viewers.

  • Jennie/Tikka

    “…grappa addicted” – EW. Better off drinking rubbing alcohol, I say.

    And methinks some network type folks have been spying on thy website, hence the “idea” of theirs.

  • Clarkehead

    It’s about time they got with it. But after this TNFNS debacle (wasn’t that last episode embarassing?) I wonder if the Food Network won’t find a way to muck this up. Either way, it’ll be nice to see Flay get a break, if that’s even the case. It’s painful to watch him become everyones whipping boy.

  • Claudia

    OOoooooh, Rule-man – I feel you have, indeed, made a deal with the devil. You are lending FN your expertise and gravitas, but you have NO creative control. Congratulations, but you should have heeded Tony on this one – ALWAYS RETAIN CREATIVE CONTROL. Does this mean you’re stuck with the useless Kevin Brauch for this project? Tell him to read up on ingredients and their pronunciation, first. Know your natto, I always say . . .

    Having said that, your presence, and the fact there are 8 heavy weights contending, will doubtlessly elevate this special series to something admirable. Oh, and Ottavia’s right – watch the 10 camera pounds. Lay off the malt ball ice cream and pork belly confit – starting now! – or your “model’s frame” that was so gushed about recently won’t translate to the tube. Oh, Michael, Michael . . . I’m concerned about your street cred now . . .

  • cayenne

    Oh, Ruhlman – over to the dark side. I fear for you. Unless you’re going in there as a secret assassin to off Sandra Lee…really, is that it? Please?

    And Bourdain – classic! Baby must be asleep in another room, or you’d have singed her hair off just from the heated snark in that post. Nice to see you haven’t quiiiite lost it to a fuzzy pink- bootied princess!

  • NvG

    Holy shit–a cooking show FEATURING PEOPLE WHO CAN COOK?!

    It’s going to be tough to suspend disbelief.

  • parkbench

    Holy crap, I’ll say “not so raggedy-assed!”

    Congratulations on the Emmy nod, Bourdain. You earned it, even though I’m sure you wish it would have come a different way.

    Thanks for the updated head’s up, Ruhlman.


  • Tana


    When there is sausage and paté in this world?

    You have lost your mind, son.

  • JoP, Omaha

    Well, this is gonna be fun, I can tell.

    Ruhlman, I’m thrilled to the max that you’re gonna be a judge. To SEE you SPEAK about food and cooking after reading your writing on the same subjects…..and to be doing so about chefs of distinction, no less…..

    Can reality cooking get better than this? No way, man.

    (Well, maybe, like if I was a guest diner….)

    Congratulations on the gig!

  • Hank

    This might be interesting, but I reckon TFN editors will try to force some “drama” where none exists. All of these folks have little reason to snipe at each other; they’re all stars already. My early vote is for Cosentino (a fellow sausage-maker) but I am not sure how they’d let him win with Batali there…unless Mario is bowing out. Two Iron Chef Italians?

  • Claudia

    Tony, even though you’re up for an Emmy, please don’t forget to be jealous and snarky and acerbic about this Ruhlman judging thing. I realize Ruhlman would never diss YOU for your Top Chef judging gig (being the inherently decent friend that he is), but the synergy of Ruhlman judging a TV food/reality show AND it being on FN is too much to pass up – and besides, you don’t have his tact problem. It’s like a truly unholy alignment of the planets . . . try to work it in between practicing your acceptance speech, would you? Please?

  • Claudia

    Tony, even though you’re up for an Emmy, please don’t forget to be jealous and snarky and acerbic about this Ruhlman judging thing. I realize Ruhlman would never diss YOU for your Top Chef judging gig (being the inherently decent friend that he is), but the synergy of Ruhlman judging a TV food/reality show AND it being on FN is too much to pass up – and besides, you don’t have his tact problem. It’s like a truly unholy alignment of the planets . . . try to work it in between practicing your acceptance speech, would you? Please?

  • Claudia

    Tony, even though you’re up for an Emmy, please don’t forget to be jealous and snarky and acerbic about this Ruhlman judging thing. I realize Ruhlman would never diss YOU for your Top Chef judging gig (being the inherently decent friend that he is), but the synergy of Ruhlman judging a TV food/reality show AND it being on FN is too much to pass up – and besides, you don’t have his tact problem. It’s like a truly unholy alignment of the planets . . . try to work it in between practicing your acceptance speech, would you? Please?

  • Claudia

    Excuse the “multipost”. Typepad was acting up. Talk about the dark forces aligning . . .

  • =R=

    Congrats, Michael. Your presence will bestow a credibility upon FN from which they may never recover. And it looks like the early odds favor chef Symon! =R=

  • bonnibella

    Fabulous news, Ruhlman! I am so glad to see you branching out on your own, rather than continuing with your past practice of allowing Bourdain to hog the limelight all the time. 🙂

  • Sorcha

    Oh, Tony, don’t be frontin’. You know you’ll be watching every ep, baby in lap so she can see her uncle Michael on TV.

  • chefjp

    “Say it ain’t so, Joe!” Sad to hear you are dancing on the dark side. Whatever lies these network cronies have sold you, don’t be surprised when you find them shaving your head and telling you to get in costume for the “Mr. Clean” segment of the show. Good luck, chefjp

  • steve

    NO!!!! Not BESH!!! Please God, as a New Orleanian, don’t let him pull an Emeril and be down in the big sleazy in spirit only! I quite enjoy him and his name definitely draws some big respect. Keep Besh in New Orleans, we need him more than New York does.

  • Le cygne

    As a home cook with no interest whatsoever in food, I find that list of mysterious names and intimidating-sounding restaurants terrifying. And this “des Jardins” person sounds awfully French… Have my friends at Food Network forgotten what they’re all about?

    Many congratulations, and don’t forget: certain situations demand biting the hand that feeds you.

  • Pele

    The chefs of El Incanto and Jardiniere?!! Amazing, San Francisco is finally coming back, sure they’re coming to the food network but whatever, I’m glad they’re repping San Francisco and know that they’ll be amazing. While Incanto (Consentino’s restaurant) does have amazing food, I can, from my own eye witness accounts, say that service there runs on Bolivian marching powder. However, lovely neighborhood restaurant with dope food.

  • Art

    This is great news. I’m a little bored watching Chef Competition Shows where someone like me would win nearly every event. Some of these folks are the real deal.

  • Natalie Sztern

    how could i not say something? Another one bites the dust, the intellectual banter between you and mr. bourdain should be a show;
    talk show chefs, no that’s being done with the chef story and it is boring…

    good luck and it’s true about the 10 pounds, I know that on a personal level, your ass is definitely going to look bigger especially with HD.

  • Natalie Sztern

    Oh…and one more thing…Padma is a money-loving whore and ur kids and wife are what keep u real out there in la New York or wherever – Ohio is ur home…

  • Natalie Sztern

    please i am not obsessed, but someone has to tell Chef John Besh there is a spelling error on his Luke breakfast menu that is online: under two organic poached eggs, the word “hollendaise”….it is spelled properly next line…

    oh, two free breakfasts next time i’m in new orleans, why thank you!!

  • wcw

    “San Francisco is finally coming back?”

    Yeah, because the $4 burrito I had today was *so much better* than the $4 burrito I had two years ago.


    FD: back when, I went to Ron Siegel’s original-Japanese-Iron-Chef recreation at Charles. It @#$%! rocked. So I am partial to the town’s food.

  • artnlit

    Let’s not jump off the roof yet, folks. I am confident that Michael will do us proud, for the little ‘Tony devil’ on his shoulder will be talking into his ear each episode: “Tell those chefs-of-the-moments to shut the f’k up and cook something relevant and screw FN’s puppetry!” then translated into ‘Michael speak’: “Your abilities are as bland as your consomme and even less clear.” Ok, maybe we will all just be surprised since these are established chefs. Good luck, Michael!

  • Claudia

    Oh, we are all rooting for Ruhlman, no question. It’s just that he’s so much better than this medium – or I should say, specifically, this genre of TV show – that no one wants his rep to suffer in the process. I think Michael will come off looking just fine. Who knows? Between his presence and the caliber of the chefs cooking, they could actually raise the bar a little on IC. JSomeone should have Brauch read his Cliff Notes first, and remind Alton – this ain’t your show, babe. He should can the Alton shtik, because while it’s funny on Alton’s shows, it ain’t funny on IC.

    The American IC doesn’t know whether it wants to be pure camp, like the original, or Really Serious, and consequently fails at both. If you aren’t going to resurrect the Chairman, then I say go for Really Serious, and let Michaerl bring as much credibility and gravitas to this as he can – since they aren’t going to give him sequins or cape (!)

  • Nadine

    Its still FN and tv. Mr. Ruhlman should keep his water glass filled with Belvedere.

  • parkbench

    Ah, but I happened to actually watch ICA for the first time in ages last night, and happened to catch one Michael Symon as the challenger! He didn’t fare as well as I thought he would against Morimoto, but I do look forward to seeing how the Cleveland homeboy does in the new show. Loved the mechanic look, and and the sous chef logos on the backs were….familiar. Oh yes, very familiar.


  • Laurie

    What a sweet job. Personally, I want Traci des Jardins to be the last one standing—give the guys something to cry about.

  • cook it up

    how can you judge unbiased when you practically wrote michael symons cooking history,not that it wasnt excellent,just wondering how that wouldn’t bias your opinion

  • julie

    Congratulations! This may give you break-out tv star celebrity that even rivals Bourdain’s.

    And Tuschman’s right, because “NFNS + ICA” certainly suckers me in all over again. Throw in some (truly) “top chefs” + knowledgable judges (i.e. not Katie Lee Joel) and…I’m theirs. Again.

    But…also true that Ruhlman will be inside the tent now. I’m sure he’ll wear his “judge” hat honorably, be fair and respectful (a la the message of “Ratatouille”) to all the talent, and yet really….JUDGE.

    Fun to watch, but not a gig that lends itself to sharing insider scoops on your blog. Is it too much to hope that bourdain will fill that gap– providing insightful food commentary (and acerbic snarking on the quality of the judging) on a regular basis?

    One can hope!

  • Skawt

    The only reason I’m going to watch it is so I can catch Ruhlman taking swigs of peppermint schnapps under the table and poking Jeffrey Steingarten with a fork.

  • Claudia

    I think Rule-man can be totally unbiased, Symons or no Symons. I think the peppermint schapps is already in his contract. I think Bourdain has already been put on full-time snark alert, and will be fed delicious bits of behind-the-scenes gore that we, at home, will not be privileged to see. I think Bourdain is laying in supplies of cranberry, Grey Goose and rolling papers and all that remains is for him to go down into the pit then come up to blog, grinning and licking the blood off his teeth, a la Hunter S. Gives you a warm, fuzzy feeling, doesn’t it? (!)

  • chefwannab

    Well, Michael, part of me thinks you’ve “crossed over to the dark side” but the other part of me wants to encourage FN to bring on ANY programming that is not akin to the Queen of Yummo or Aunt Sandy and involves some real talent and cooking for a change. Iron Chef is one of the few quality shows left on FN: It features real chefs who can really cook, it’s entertaining, and viewers can often learn from it (thanks to Alton’s commentary). We’ll see if they can do it right as a challenge for the new Iron Chef and not camp it up (and contracting you as a judge is a good start).

    But it makes me wonder: Are they going to have 5 Iron Chefs or is Mario finally on his way off FN completely? Even the reruns of his show have been reduced, pitifully, to a showing a week, and he’s not exactly a spokesperson for the network (note his absence from both the FN Awards show and TNFNS, not that I blame him) – Obviously Cat and Bobby are fulfilling their part of the deal with the devil. And I can’t see them getting rid of Morimoto since he’s the tie to the original Iron Chef from Japan. Just wondering….

    Also, any chance you can encourage ass juice as one of the “secret ingredients”?

  • julie

    My only question is….how are these judges going to tell seven of the best chefs in the country that their food “just wasn’t good enough” each week?

    And…hopefully the FN competitions for ICA will be better than what they have for TNFNS or “Food Network Challenges”–aka “Which Very Talented Baker Can Make The Tallest Sculpture (OF Something Inane) from Rice Krispy Treats And Then Carry It Safely Through An Obstacle Course”?

  • Jimmy

    You can be a way better judge than that Fat broad with the Arabic name ,Bakoush I think. Every time I see her comment, I want to bash her fat head in as she doesn;t know swf about cooking, but knows gluttony real well. Butter eater, sticks at a time. I know a hardcore butter eater when I see one.

    Where did they find this thing ? Why she on the show ? oh, I know, good for a producers picklewash when things in Iron Kitchen Stadium slow down. Make me honk will ya .

  • William Morgan

    I was in your group when you came to visit our garde manger class. I remember we were only 3 strong with you and only 2 without you (I was the quite large guy with the female partner). The reason for my post; I recently finished “the reach of a chef” and I quite enjoyed it. Perhaps a bit cynical, but I think you missed your mark in the description of Mary the financial banker. I don’t want to go through it on here, but I think it’s hard for someone to get a good idea of a person in such a short time. Well, otherwise it was a great read, keep on.

  • Robb Weir

    I personally think that it a crock that half of the chefs are from NY. I have eaten at many great places around the US and dont see how they can justify that distribution of where the chefs are from. Isn’t it convienient that the Food Network studios happen to be in NY as well? Is this going to turn into just another scripted reality show? Food Network is quickly loosing my respect.