On book tour and a bit squishy here in Seattle so will try to be concise.  As Andrew Knowlton comments on his post, we all tasted the food. I pretty much agree with his assessment.  Donatella I’m sure would too.  Where I differed with my fellow judges was the degree by which Besh bettered Symon.  I would say Besh edged Symon whereas Donatella and Andrew felt he beat Symon by a wide margin.

We were taking into account the entire course of the competition with our decision.  We offered our overview of the competition to the iron chefs  Had you been able to see the entire discussion, you’d have heard, after our overview, Alton’s asking me if I had decided.  I told him no, because I hadn’t.  It was too close.  I wanted to hear what the judges said.  Had they overwhelmingly praised Besh and said his dishes were definitively better than Symon’s, I was prepared to give my vote to Besh.  What’s fair is fair.  I certainly couldn’t simply give it to Symon because he’s from Cleveland—I know it’s only a TV show, but I just couldn’t do it.  Again, I was prepared to vote for Besh if the iron chefs persuaded me that Besh far outshined Symon (as Donatella and Andrew believed, and frankly, as I thought they might, given that they seemed to clearly favor Besh in their comments on the food as we heard them during the tasting).  But they did not.  And so I voted for Symon.

While I think that my being from Cleveland and knowing Symon well was, if anything, a detriment during the competition, can I say that it was a detriment here?  No, clearly it was not.  In an even contest—and I can’t imagine two chefs who are more evenly matched in technical skill and culinary imagination—if they had been even in every single respect, I’d then have given my vote to Symon.  I would have no other choice.  As it happened, I chose the person I thought would make the best iron chef given what I saw and tasted throughout the entire competition.

What was interesting to me was how pissed Donatella was.  Andrew was as well, but he didn’t seem to take it personally.  Donatella accused me off camera of knowing Besh beat Symon and casting my vote for Symon anyway.  I think she’s a woman who’s used to getting her way.  That’s just a guess.  She furthermore accused me of being the swing vote, which I wasn’t (had it been 3-3, nto 4-2, it would have gone to the Chairman/FN execs to make the call).  Then she had it out with Flay and Cora, both of whom defended their vote.

So there it is.  Know what you should do now?  Next time you’re in Cleveland or Louisiana you need to go to their restaurants and taste the real work of these excellent chef-restaurateurs.


262 Wonderful responses to “Next Iron Chef: Final Comment”

  • keith

    Bonni- BK has presented a well thought-out, informed argument. So yes, it’s completely predicatble that she would have something to do with the legal profession.

  • Erek

    I just thought I should point out that if you believed Besh “edged” Symon out in the finale then you should have voted for Besh, not Symon. It should have gone to the chairman or Food Network executives to make the decision, because you should have voted for who you thought won. The fact that you didn’t vote for Besh, and yet mentioned you believed he won, shows favoritism. Bias. Whatever you would like to call it. It means you swung the competition in favor of some guy you knew, wrote a book on, and live in the same city as. Congratulations, you have lost a heaping portion of my respect.

    The last episode was billed as a “winner takes all”. That means the previous episodes hold no weight. You can’t have a winner takes all if the previous tests were taken into account. Maybe it was just Food Network using a little false advertising in some vain attempt to get people interested in their televised mockery of two incredible chefs. I am not the least bit surprised that Batali is leaving after viewing this trash.

  • Mal

    I wonder if only Besh would have been named the winner in Paris, what difference would that had made? Ruhlman stated on his blog he thought Besh won that challenge, and it seemed as though Donatella thought so too. Most postings indicate that Symon won 4 challenges before going into kitchen stadium but I only count 3 (simplicity, resourcefullness, and pressure). And “simplicity” was judged by fellow contestants, not the judges. Lastly, being able to make a delicious dessert using catfish, no butter or sugar sounds very impressive to me…

  • basab

    I thought Ruhlman was a judge himself. If it was necessary to rely on what the ICs had to say in order to make a decision then he should NOT be a judge in the first place. I thought Besh was far superior. Also I think Morimoto thought it was close and would have almost voted for Besh. What made him change his mind was the other 2 ICs voting for Symon and also he didnt want to get blamed at later for being biased due to the fact that Besh made him a sword fish dessert. Such a shame. Bunch of stupid judges and such a pathetic coverage.

  • Iris

    To Nancy Misra—

    Well said! I could not agree with you more!

    I have shared those sentiments with the Food Network, but I’m sure it really doesn’t matter in the long run.

    Bye, Food Network and Iron Chef America. The honeymoon is over.

    Thank goodness for Bourdain on the Travel Channel.

  • pappy

    Wow. Judging from the amount of posts generated here, and the level of emotion put into them, I would say that FN knew just what they were doing when they put together this series.

    My response to some of the posts/accusations I’ve read here:

    1) The Food Network fixed the contest because Michael Symon is a CIA graduate and FN has advertising and marketing deals with CIA — Besh and Symon are BOTH graduates of CIA, so CIA had no skin in this game. In fact the school has been doing PR for a week stating that the next IC would be a CIA grad regardless.

    2) Ruhlman threw the game for his homeboy — Ruhlman likes and respects Symon, and has made no secret about that. All things being equal I personally think Ruhlman would give it to Symon. But there is a HUGE difference being that and the accusations made by some here that Ruhlman knowingly screwed Besh and torched his own reputation on national TV just to help out a buddy. Ruhlman has a growing literary career, not to mention a family. I don’t see him putting both at risk for a TV show on the Food Network. Setting aside the insult to his integrity, does anyone here really think the man is that dim? Quite frankly, considering the performance of the chefs on this show and throughout the series, what I found odd was that Donatella, and to a lesser degree Andrew, were so intent on Besh winning.

    3) Food Network put the fix in for Symon because they prefer his “bad boy” persona — I don’t really know Symon, I’ve only met him once or twice and he could probably hit me with his car and wouldn’t know who I was. BUT, something I’ve heard for years is that anyone who knows Mike knows that he is not a “bad boy”. On the contrary, he is consistently regarded as one of the nicest guys you’ll meet. The shaved head and black outfit gives him that “look”, I know, but in this case you can’t judge the book by its cover.

    As for FN thinking Symon would be better on TV, well Symon probably WILL be better on TV. I think even the people who preferred Besh would admit to that. Well maybe not the person who posted that Besh was “the most charismatic chef I have every seen on the Food Network”, which I’m sorry, is just weird. But again, this insinuates that Flay, Cora and Morimoto are all FN stooges who threw Besh under the bus because FN executives preferred Symon. Personally I find that ridiculous.

    4) This is just another indication that Food Network has gone downhill — Well in my own opinion the Food Network is going somewhat downhill these days, but certainly not because of this show. Do I personally think that Molto Mario is a better food show that anything Rachel Ray will do? Duh – that goes without saying doesn’t it? But the bottom line is that Rachel Ray is BY FAR the more popular personality of the two. These are TV shows, and what works on TV is fundamentally different than what works in a restaurant. Doesn’t that go without saying?

    Success on TV is about popularity, and TV executives forget that at their own peril. The Food Network is striving to be popular, because that is how money is made. If Rachel Ray’s frozen TV dinners and Paula Dean’s pretend talk shows draw more viewers than Batali and Bourdain then guess what we’re going to get more of?

    You’ve heard the expression “in a democracy the people get the government they deserve”? Well, the same goes for TV.

  • Iris

    In response to a previous post stating that Symon is more “interesting” on TV than Besh….not as “bland”……

    John Besh prepared a SWORDFISH DESSERT on the spur of the moment.

    It doesn’t get much more “interesting” than that.

  • mitch

    Maybe Donatella should worry more about why her pricey DB & D restaurant is just so freakin’ average! Though not with the blue-haired set, I guess.

  • Karen

    Re: The discussion (or, you know, carping) about the Food Network appealing to the great unwashed…

    I would imagine that Food Network has determined that their viewership is comprised of many more working moms & dads who need to get a meal on the table after a full day on the job, shuffling the kids to lessons and practice and taking the dog for a walk. In that instance, a 30 Minute Meal or Semi Homemade wins out over the swordfish collar and lamb’s tongue.

    It also occurs to me that F.N. may be shifting their focus as the Fine Living Channel pops up on more cable systems. Molto Mario is a new series there, Mark McEwan and Jill Davie have shows there and even Kevin Brauch. Perhaps F.N. has decided go after the (just plain) cooks marketshare and let Fine Living feature haute cuisine. Frankly, I can’t recall the last time I put tripe on my shopping list.

    Gotta go feed the dog….

  • The Food Yenta


    I do hope my travels take me to Cleveland. There’s nothing I hate more than going to a new city and ordering lousy room service in my hotel. I simply won’t do it. I will gladly check out the best it has to offer!

    Hey, I live in New Jersey (home of refineries, NYC’s trash, and other things with skunky reputations), so I am not in a position to criticize. I think Cleveland definitely benefits by this win–whether the competition was fixed or not.

  • ktdid747

    THANKS FoodYenta… guess I get a little bit defensive of my beloved hometown.. ;)–I shouldn’t have taken it so darn seriously, it was just one of those days..LOL.. (and, sure, it has both it’s good and bad)…we’re so used to hearing all the jokes and the bad it’s VERY nice to hear something positive coming out of here for a change!

    in any case, I thought they were both good and either I would have been happy with (it was just nice to see a homeboy win)

    By all means, make a visit sometime!.. LOTS to see and do here! 🙂

  • ktdid747

    >>It’s not the rigging, it’s the amateurish cover-up.<< oh puhleeeeeease!... (it just goes on and on and on..).. it's a new site redesign (the other chef's pictures that were on the About page are not on there either!...but, honestly, with all the flack, I would've removed the picture on there also..sheeeesh already!'s Ruhlman's website, he can do what he wants with it). Lordy, it's just entertainment and TV, people, it's not the end of the world, move on with it!'s not some big conspiracy-how ridiculous. if Besh would have won and our boy Symon didn't, I sure wouldn't have been bit##in' up a storm for days afterwards on this blog about the "unfairness of it all" or whatever...either deserved to win. Some people lose (and, really, Besh didn't lose, he's going to get great exposure from the show), some people win.. that's life...ya gotta learn to go with the flow and not get so freakin' angry over every little thing that, really, in the big picture of things, are not important!!! (:P ---if you don't like it, don't watch it! (but don't ruin it for everyone else who wants to watch it!)

  • Brad

    I’m disappointed to see how discussion here has devolved into rude, whiny, entrenched conspiracy-theory slinging … mostly (but not entirely) by people with little in the way of their own accomplishments.

    It’s a sad reality that so many people feel obliged to denigrate their betters in order to make themselves feel a little less inconsequential in their daily lives.

    My advice is to spend less time idly sucking at the glass teat (TV) as life passes you buy, and go do something worthwhile and creative and benefical to your fellow man.

    Go do what MR does, and challenge yourself to learn/explore new skills, write a book, make a difference … that way you dont have to be one of the faceless pack of nobodies who nip at the ankles and blogs of their betters.

    Go forth and excel, and stop whining. If you’re lucky, and talented, perhaps someday you’ll be worthy of mention in the same sentence as the people and trendsetters you’re carping about.

    I’m done with this already overwhipped dead horse. No need to reply.

  • pappy

    Although I’m one of the people who are more interested in the “lamb’s tongue” approach to the Food Network, I think Karen’s comments are all spot on. I don’t think that there’s any question that Rachel Ray’s food is much closer to what most people might attempt to put on the family dinner table. Same goes for Sandra. It’s not where my interest lies, but it’s pretty clear that I am no longer the typical FN viewer.

    I also think your comment about Fine Living was very insightful. I think that niche channels like FN often start out catering to specialists, but if they get popular they then need to change direction somewhat to keep the current viewership happy. That change then opens up more niche possibilities, and I think we are seeing that with past chefs/shows from the FN moving to the Travel Channel, Fine Living and PBS.

    It would have been nice if FN tried to keep some of these shows/chefs as well. I like to think that there was room in the kitchens of FN for everyone. But, apparently not.

    As for Rachel Ray it’s easy to make fun of her, but it needs to be remembered that the FN didn’t pick Rachel as their star, the viewers did. Those of us who don’t dig the Ray have this thing called a remote control.

    I will say that when it comes to FN I find myself using that remote more and more often, which is sad. But – that’s why I pay all that money to Comcast every month: lots of channels!

  • thefrog

    “Posted by: dagoo7 | November 13, 2007 at 03:14 PM”

    Uhmmm… you posted a response stating a response to me, however nothing you said seemed like you were responding to a word I said. Just wanted to point that out because I really don’t want to be confused with who I think you may be confusing me with.

    You do realize that the “Posted by/Date” stamp comes AFTER the comment, right?

  • thefrog

    To dagoo7

    Sorry, just scrolled down a bit more and see that you may have figured it out now. But I still want to go on record as NOT being the person attributed to that comment.

  • Karen

    I think the ‘lamb’s tongue’ programs (geez, what a visual that is!) are great. I’ve learned a great deal from them and modified some of the ideas to fit our lifestyle. Love Alton Brown — he’s the science teacher I wish I had — and I’ve tidied up some sloppy procedures and shortcuts due to his how-to and here’s why approach.

    I’ve only tried one F.N. recipe (tart tatin), but have been inspired by others. We have consciously tried to get out of some dining ruts we had fallen into. That’s a good thing!

    Rachael, Giada, Emeril, Ina, Sandra, Paula, etc. provide value to some percentage of F.N.’s viewership or they wouldn’t be on the air. While I don’t personally find Ace of Cakes or 2 Dudes interesting, someone else may. For me, Iron Chef America and other competition shows on F.N. are fascinating to watch. To others? Not so much.

    My suggestion to F.N. would be to stop playing repeats through the night and offer fresh programming. There are more people who have recording ability out there than not. If I want to record Wolfgang Puck at 4:00 a.m., I’ll do that. I have no idea if ad revenue is still determined during set/peak hours, that might be a determining factor for the endless reruns and infomercials. The current line-up might be too expensive for F.N. to expand their programming.

    Regardless of what road F.N. decides to take, there are about 9 million channels out there. Something for everyone.

  • Christie

    Well now that I’ve had a chance to re-watch the show and digest everything…

    I’m not sure what to think. I thought the FN wanted Besh to win, but apparently I was wrong.

    I wanted Symon and I’m glad he won, but something doesn’t sit right about that whole last episode. I have several issues with it, but so much has already been said that I don’t feel the need to go into everything *again*.

    I will say, however, that I’ve had it with The Food Network. I’m tired of their questionable practices on competition shows like The Next Food Network Star and now The Next Iron Chef. I’m also tired of their promoting “celebrities” like Rachael, Guy, etc. Why can’t they do shows more like the PBS show, America’s Test Kitchen? My guess is that they’re more interested in appealing to the average viewer sitting on the couch munching on fast food than the actual home cook who’s interested in learning something. I find I can watch an episode of America’s Test Kitchen over and over again and pick up something new each time, but I can’t do that with ANY Food Network show.

    That said, I’ll continue to tune into Iron Chef to cheer on Symon, Morimoto and Batali (if he’s still on). Otherwise, you can find me in the kitchen practicing the new techniques I’ve learned on America’s Test Kitchen and in Ruhlman’s (and other chefs’) books.

  • james morris

    I am not going to watch Iron Chef anymore-the fun is gone- now that I believe it is rigged.

  • james morris

    I am not going to watch Iron Chef anymore-the fun is gone- now that I believe it is rigged.

  • james morris

    I am not going to watch Iron Chef anymore-the fun is gone- now that I believe it is rigged.

  • james morris

    I am not going to watch Iron Chef anymore-the fun is gone- now that I believe it is rigged.

  • DJK

    If the final competition was rigged, shouldn’t we have seen a Battle Walleye?

    Or was the swordfish merely The Nefarious Food Network’s attempt–futile, of course–at distraction? Oh, if it wasn’t for you meddling kids…

  • Frances Davey

    I love Ace of Cakes because of the people. There is something about Baltimore – that entire crew is like an Anne Tyler novel come to life.

  • Ms.Anthrope

    Actually, after reading some of the comments, I am more convinced than ever that Oliver Stone has something to do with this whole thing.

  • AC

    Thanks, Michael, for your candor. The Donatella comment probably could have been softened, but I can’t very well praise your candor then dis your delivery, can I?
    Anyway, even though it was “just a TV show,” your comments show that you took your judging position seriously. I generally don’t like reality programming, but I was sufficiently impressed with the professionalism of the contestants in the first show to continue watching. I distinctly remember Symons saying (ironically, during the episode in which the contestants were admonished by Alton about being too nice to each other) that he wanted to win on the merits of his cooking, not by sabotage or wishing the downfall of his competitors. Despite (or maybe because of) the quality of the contestants and the seriousness of the judging, Food Network got what they wanted – a very good chef with a great TV personality. It seemed that with the two finalists, they really couldn’t lose that one.
    I was sorry to see the melee that your comments section turned into, but this is the usual consequence of the intersection of reality TV and the internet. I’m sure it will settle back down once the subjects return to your more typical literary/food intersection.
    Have a great time on your book tour and I look forward to reading more!

  • Skawt

    I know Ruhlman asked people to at least try to be civil to each other, but when there are accusations of a “cover-up” because the site redesign no longer has Symon on the about page, I’m beginning to think that PEOPLE SHOULD STOP HAVING SEX WITH THEIR COUSINS.

    Some people seriously need to put the crack pipe down, drill a hole in their heads and let the stupid out.

  • Rachael


    “I thought the FN wanted Besh to win, but apparently I was wrong.”

    I don’t think you’re wrong in the slightest. I think FN definitely really, really wanted Besh to win.

    …which is why I’m so darn sure Ruhlman wasn’t up to no good or that the show was rigged. If you want to blame someone for getting Symon over a favored contestant then yeah, I think you can easily point the finger at FN- had they left it between the original judges, you would have gotten a verdict you felt more comfortable with. But they chose to include people who had not been around for prior challenges and had only the dishes at the last competition by which to judge. I think it was a fine decision to make but it certainly “cost” Besh the competition, though arguably Besh just didn’t pull out all the stops anyway.

  • Wally

    Hmm. Not surpising that Donatella got so pissy with the results. She seemed horny for Besh throughout the whole competition.

  • Corey Haim & Eggs


    Great post!

    I agree – no more Jerry Lee Lewis-ing around these or any other parts!

    Great blog you have there, skawt.

  • Corey Haim & Eggs

    @ skawt:

    “I know Ruhlman asked people to at least try to be civil to each other, but when there are accusations of a “cover-up” because the site redesign no longer has Symon on the about page….”


    If anything, perhaps it was taken down because, well, it’s better for people to know that Symon earned his own stripes, and not vis-a-vis Ruhlman et. al.

    A cool photo replacement, would be, Ripert eating off of a flat-knife: the dude is such a badass!

  • Christie

    Rachael: I understand your point. 🙂 Just to be clear, I *did* want Symon to win, but after watching the final episode AND reading Ruhlman’s and Knowlton’s blogs, I was left scratching my head. I’m thrilled for Symon but sad for Besh. I do believe overall it was very, very close (the entire comptetition taken as a whole) and a case could be made for either Symon or Besh winning.

    Karen & Pappy: Excellent insights/posts about the Food Network! You both hit the nail on the head. I agree, I don’t like the direction they’re going, but then I’m not their typical viewer. (At least not anymore.)

  • John Sinclair

    Saw it again. Still annoying.

    The usual scoring method was eliminated. Okay. But then nothing was put in its place? And we never heard any IC say, “Symon’s food was better than Besh’s.” Not one.

    Nor did we get to see that the regular judges tasted and evaluated the dishes, too, AND that they unanimously agreed that Besh won the day (even Ruhlman gave him the edge there–if not the huge margin Donatella and Andrew did).

    No comments about Symon being best. No vote tally. Not letting the audience know that the regular judges DID taste the final meals.

    So…No criteria from anyone to tell us clearly why Symon won and Besh lost.

    FN Sucks.

  • Bwana

    The thing that keeps coming back to me is:

    1. How Ruhlman in his “reach” book described how Cat Cora was all about the “branding”, and seemingly not so much about the cooking.

    2. How in the finale as televised Cora kept praising Symon’s food as “Iron Chef” type dish-with lots of adjectives like daring, aggressive, and not as much about the flavor…as if even on a show to select the next IC she was more interested in branding than in the food.

  • Frances Davey

    Was Cat Cora even mentioned in The Reach of a Chef? I finished the book last week and don’t recall. And I have to ask again, why would Dorothy Hamilton bother featuring her on Chef’s Story (notable alumni including the likes of Anthony Bourdain and Daniel Boulud) if she was such a talentless hack?

  • Auralais

    I saw Anthony Bourdain at a booksigning tonight in Santa Cruz, and someone asked him what he thought about the NIC outcome. He said he’s been travelling to tape upcoming episodes of No Rez, and hadn’t seen any episodes after it got down to Symon/Besh/Cosentino/Sanchez. He asked who had won the competition and when the audience told him Symon, he did that “Yes!” move where you raise your fist and then pull it back towards your body. But then he said he thought all 4 of those guys were great chefs. Someone asked him about Ruhlman and Knowlton, and he riffed on the hair again: “It was like watching Charlie’s Angels up there at the judging booth.”

    So I guess we’ll have to wait for his guest blog commentary till he gets around to watching repeats.

    Oh, AND he was awesome. Hilarious, engaging, snarky and even sexier in person than on TV.

  • OTownFoodie

    Honestly, I believe Symon won because FN wanted him to win. If you’ve been keeping up with FN (like it or not), you know that FN’s current target audience is college age males. To that end, putting Michael Symon on IC clearly achieves that goal. Of all the NIC competitors, he has the most appeal to young men.

    Now ask yourself, isn’t it odd that the majority of the season-long judges voted for John Besh yet the current ICs voted for Michael Symon? I don’t think so. I think they all voted for Michael Symon because that’s what FN told them to do.

  • Frances Davey

    “Was Cat Cora even mentioned in The Reach of a Chef? I finished the book last week and don’t recall.”

    I went back and found where she was highlighted. I’ve been reading so many different things lately that I forget where I’ve read what. I don’t see where his description of her exploits disqualifies her as an authority on what makes a good Iron Chef though.

  • resolvablenebulae

    Well, it’s November 18th and I am commenting again about Next Iron Chef. Pathetic? Perhaps. Obsessive? Perhaps. Avoiding a great deal of other work that needs doing? Most definitely.
    In any case, I watched the Besh vs Batali episode yesterday (see above) and heard Besh say, when asked with whom he wanted to compete, something like “I want to compete against the BEST chef in America and that means Mario Batali” (I’m paraphrasing). But if I were one of the other Iron Chefs I’d be vaguely offended, frankly. And Batali wasn’t part of the judging – he’s obviously leaving the Iron Chef team – so there must be some alienation happening there.
    I wouldn’t be surprised if the remaining Iron Chef gang, such as they are, just wanted to work with Symon because they got along better with him. I was really rooting for Besh but Symon obviously seems to have a lot of talent; I’d like to try his Greek restaurant in NY – etc etc.

    There’s my diplomatic resolution. I feel better now, and watching Alton’s informative bird-brining episode isn’t as plagued with cognitive dissonance. (That “Food Network’s bitch” comment was pretty hilarious though.)
    Well, Happy Thanksgiving, fellow psychos. (Particularly you folks who spent 6 paragraphs telling everyone else to “lighten up” and “get a life.” You guys are funny.)
    Perhaps I’ll go ahead and purchase Ruhlman’s book now…
    Hmm, that WAS a clever marketing scheme!

  • Chance (Is I Am Or I Know Your Boss)


    Speaking firsthand (having eaten at all the NYC establishments of the ICAs – those who have them, that is) and IMNSHO, Batali was – and still is – the best chef on ICA, and one of the Top 5 in the US.

    If Besh feels Batali is the best, he’s likely better qualified to make such a call, even if it’s subjective.

    For the Flay-floggers, he may be as charming as a dull copper penny, but that man can cook, and I like how he subverts his FCI training with his SXSW approach and aesthetic: it’s like telling the establishment of cuisine, “écheveau vous infiniment pour me permettre dedans à votre école à cuire,” and, yeah, I can do that, but check this out.”

    I like that Flay has made cuisine accesible to all, and just another co-opted, exclusionary, elitist flagship in the Ivory Tower’s Armada.

    Some may wince at what he does, and I can empathize, but the best food is peasant food – elevated or otherwise – and since that is the case, it’s important to rememeber that in general, as well as that, indigenous cultures could give a flying fuck about cuisine or cooking becoming an academic discipline.

  • Chance (Is I Am Or I Know Your Boss)


    “I like that Flay has made cuisine accesible to all, and just another co-opted, exclusionary, elitist flagship in the Ivory Tower’s Armada.”

    Fuck, wish there was a way to edit a post without having to repost, but, above, I meant to write:

    “I like that Flay has made cuisine accesible to all, and *NOT* just another….”

    Keyword is NOT.


  • Chance (Is I Am Or I Know Your Boss)


    I don’t know what I can remember, really, Frances.

    However, I will say… Susan Spicer would be very cool to have on ICA.

    Sure, we all know that TV in general is ratings and advertisment driven, but the vehicle doesn’t have to stall, so to speak.

    There should be room for different personalities — I consider that level of diversity to be as important as any other (gender, race etc.) provided it is based on ability and talent, and not on PC-concerns.

    On that note, I watched what I believed was the first or inaugural episode, of ICA, and I’ll cut Symon some slack regarding his so-called “personality made for TV” that he, and not Besh, supposedly has: at least, according to many here who believe Symon was more charismatic etc.

    Sometimes it (charisma) is a given, sometimes it’s all about context, often it’s subjective, at best. And it wasn’t evident last night.

    If the selection of ICs is about ratings and selling advertising, then, ICA is not about food, but revenues and crass commercialism.

    That does not piss me off – we live in a capitalist society, so we deal with it, no matter what. What pisses me off, is, how that is parsed according to one’s personal preferences — on one hand, there’s the camp that will conveniently excuse the commercial greed, if it’s the cook or chef they prefer.

    On the other hand, others will condemn the commercialism, if, and only if, it’s not the cook or chef they prefer.

    Again, for me, I don’t care about the commercialism – although, I do believe there is a tasteful and tasteless approach to ratings and revenue. Rather, I care about the type of cook or chef on such a show, and is said culinary ace can elevate the quality and language of food, while also making both accessible and inclusive: there’s nothing worse than someone who is genuinely curious, shying away due to not knowing enough, or being self-conscious of such a lack of knowledge on a particular subject.

    Because, each time such a person does shy away, that’s one less person, who, not only wanted to take a chance to be involved in the process, but one less person who will now likely never partake, due to the exclusivity, and the boxing out that comes with such claiming of territory.

    To me, finding that person who fits the above description, is infinitely more important than continuing to cater to the same pretentious, elitist “foodies,” who stake their cool on having discovered sweetbreads and porkbellies — and who think that being a part of a melting pot society is, visiting Chinatown and Koreatown – when countless, unheralded and unknown folks have been doing so as a WAY OF LIFE, well, there’s just something really wrong in and of itself, right there and then.

    To put this another way, I do not know how many people FN is truly educating about cuisine (high, low, middle brow, whatever) or about how Food Fast is nto synonymous w/ Fast Food.

    I only know that, those — chefs, tv personalities, and every day consumers of “other” food — often do not attempt to teach others, but instead, belittle them for what they do not know: again, as if dining on offal is a guarantee of inclusion in some gold-gilded dome which houses a pantheon of nose-to-tail eaters.

    Flay may be abrasive (he’s great with kids), but he does teach as they televise. Ditto Batali. But I don’t see folks like Cora, Morimoto et. al. having that same gift or reach. I hope that Symon, as he gets comfy, will also prove to be a natural when it comes to combining culinary wizardry with pedagogy.

    PS: Is there a good Food-related board or list, where many here are found there, and one can post about different topics? Thanks in advance.

  • Chance (Is I Am Or I Know Your Boss)


    Thank you very much – appreciated, and hope to “see” you and other folks here, over there.

    I just didn’t want to be rude to Ruhlman and fellow readers here, but this blog is so good that, you want to get tangentially on topic, so to speak 😉 and thanks to all who patiently put up with and off topic diversion (of angels!)

  • Claudia

    I wonder if Besh meant to say that the best chef in America COOKING ON IC is Batali? Wouldn’t you kind of think that the best chef in America is Thomas Keller?

    Oooh, BTW – did anyone notice that there were only 3 IC blown-up portraits up behind the chefs last night – Flay, Cora and Symon? Or were Batali’s and Morimoto’s off to the side somewhere?

  • mary-cry

    this doesn’t have to do with final – but you remember when aaron sanchez commented that someone took all the lemongrass ? well no one’s dish seemed to have lemongrass as a component what-so-ever.

    i really loved the series and the chefs (which made it all worthwhile). the producers, the editing, the whole not talking about the end result (.ie. food) so much – sucked. it could have made this way better. ( who the f is donatella anyway – )

    btw, ruhlman i respect somewhat the whole clear soup thing but really i think it’s too late and we have to accept coined fancy food terms that aren’t really always accurate. thomas keller does it. everyone does it. it’s just food. make it sound good or don’t, but let it always taste good.

  • chef jw

    Claudia, there is no way that you can just throw out any name for best chef in America. Personally, my opinion is that while what Thomas Keller does is very refined there are a lot more interesting chef’s who put more personality into their food (some of which cooked under Keller for a long time).

    There is strong evidence that Batali is making a clean break with FN period. He will be missed, but I can’t blame him really.

    Also, to comment on Chance’s last post – I sympathize but also think that in whatever professional world you enter you always have to deal with pretentions and insecurity. Those that cannot overcome their insecurities will not have the strength to endure a lot of life’s challenges. It’s up to the individual to possess a confidence to embrace that which you do not know and be greatful for any opportunity to learn and to always really believe in yourself. There will always be challenges…. let’s just have fun with it.

  • resolvablenebulae

    @chance –
    I agree wholeheartedly that it was Besh’s prerogative to judge who he thought was the best chef on ICA, I merely suggested that such a declaration may have piqued the others ever-so-slightly…although this is sheer speculation.
    The fact is, youre right, it’s all smoke and mirrors! Who knows what’s really going on behind the scenes! Perhaps someone can disabuse me of this but I’m beginning to think that the chairman is just – an actor! That he doesn’t really have a rich uncle! That it wasn’t really he who made up all those Herculean tests in the first place!
    My theory is that it’s all Alton Brown. He pretends just be just an outside observer, an innocent nerd just helping things run smoothly, but I’m convinced that he’s behind every decision the Food Network makes.
    In fact I think he may be getting advice from Dick Cheney. I thought I saw Cheney behind Jeffrey Steingarten during Battle Blue Foot Chicken. In fact I think Steingarten may BE Cheney in disguise! Think about it!
    Don’t get me wrong, I love Jeffrey Steingarten. But I’m pretty sure he doesn’t love me.
    And neither does Cheney. See?
    Hmm…I think it may be time to take a break from this thread and get started on the thanksgiving prep.

  • Frances Davey

    @ resolvablenebulae (before you take a break):

    This bears repeating because it may be the funniest thing I’ve read in a long time:
    Alton Brown (official title, but we know better) – An Innocent Nerd Just Helping Things Run Smoothly.

  • Claudia

    Chef JW:

    It has been my contention for a while that, despite his protests to the contrary, Batali WAS going to make a clean break with FN. I just wanted to see if anyone had noticed a Batali blow-up photo on the set that I might have missed. The fact that it is missing – as Batali himself was, from the final judging – lends some credence to the NY Post report that he was “outta there” November 18. (Yes, even though he taped 2 final battles yet to be aired.)

    Ooooo, Cheney as Steingarten – now THERE’S a conspiracy theory for you, Nebulae! Had to laugh – time for both of us to get back to our TG prep (!)

  • Chance (Is I Am Or I Know Your Boss)

    @chef jw:

    “Also, to comment on Chance’s last post – I sympathize but also think that in whatever professional world you enter you always have to deal with pretentions and insecurity. Those that cannot overcome their insecurities will not have the strength to endure a lot of life’s challenges. It’s up to the individual to possess a confidence to embrace that which you do not know and be greatful for any opportunity to learn and to always really believe in yourself. There will always be challenges…. let’s just have fun with it.”

    WORD to the nth, chef jw: thank you for that, there above. I reckon your drift to be true –although, I simultaneously find, a continuous (or a continuum of the) oneway vanilla my-way- or-the-highway in culinary discourse.

    However, as you stated in so many words, there is a lesson to be learned in every moment.

    Regarding those who cannot overcome their insecurities, sometimes — oftentimes — it’s not as simple as that. Particularly when it comes to marginalization and co-optation: for those who think neither/nor occurs in cuisine, think again, please.


    But we move on — we have to — or one remains mired in the bog of [name a] pathology.

    Happy Thanksgiving (to all, and to all a good night.

  • Chance (Is I Am Or I Know Your Boss)


    “My theory is that it’s all Alton Brown. He pretends just be just an outside observer, an innocent nerd just helping things run smoothly, but I’m convinced that he’s behind every decision the Food Network makes.”

    Hehe… interesting theory (and he’s great at it, too.)

    “In fact I think he may be getting advice from Dick Cheney. I thought I saw Cheney behind Jeffrey Steingarten during Battle Blue Foot Chicken. In fact I think Steingarten may BE Cheney in disguise! Think about it!
    Don’t get me wrong, I love Jeffrey Steingarten. But I’m pretty sure he doesn’t love me.”

    Hahaha — this is TOO funny — love the comparison between the two. I dig JS, too (IMO, he should have been one of the judges on NICA). I think JS loves JS 😉

    “And neither does Cheney. See? ”

    Oh, just cook with the flag waving, and it’ll all be good again!

    “Hmm…I think it may be time to take a break from this thread and get started on the thanksgiving prep.”

    Same here.

    But, it’s not turkey, but roast duck and roast pork (along with some trad. sides).

    On the next NICA, how about Susan Spicer, John Besh, Marcus Sammuelson, David Cheng (I don’t know if he’d buy in to it, though) and Ming Tsai, Lydia Shire, and Gabrielle Hamilton, going at it for the Top Prize?

  • tyronebcookin

    I watched all the Next Iron Chef epsiodes back to back (my dad recorded them on DVD for me) and even if you want argue the skill or education level of these two, Besh and Symon…I would say that with the advantage of having watched them all in row, nonstop, like a marathon…even if everything came out even –

    Michael still has the best charisma, character, and personality (for Iron Chef TV presence) to keep it interesting and ‘festive’ during that one hour crunch, while putting out quality food.

    He WAS the entertaining factor ‘cliche’, quotes & comedy mouth throughout the episodes except for John’s star moment/episode with “I got a bad feeling…”.

    *On a side note I have to wonder what would/could have been if Morou could get past his ‘everything separate on one plate’ fetish, or if Aaron could have got away from Latino flavors and ‘puppy dog’ faces (more smiles on camera unless they left them all on the cutting room floor)…but alas, we shall not know.

    But interestingly enough none of my prior personal thoughts changed much at all even after watching them back to back.


  • Tom

    I love your books and find you to be a most articulate commentator and judge. Regardless, I have some dissatisfaction with the FN and yourself in how the NIC competition wrapped up.

    Either Symon or Besh would have been excellent selections for the NIC. I still am displeased that the Finale show was advertised (extensively) as a “Winner-take-all”. If so, the choice should have been made exclusively based upon the food prepared during the finale. Past records would not have counted. Counting the votes of judges who did not eat the food prepared during the finale was, in my oopinion, inappropriate.

    As far as your impartiality regarding Symon, you may have been as fair as humanly possible. Regardless there is a appearance of conflict of interest as you have a financial stake in his success, i.e. how many copies of a “Soul of a Chef” have been sold so that IC fans can read about Symon. The historic reference of Caesar’s wife comes to mind where (paraphrasing) it isn’t good enough to be impartial but you also need to appear impartial. Frankly, the only way you could have accomplished that would have been to recuse yourself from voting in the final.

  • Rajesh

    I felt throughout the competition that besh outshined everyone.Besh even had the personality for good television. As I recollect Besh had beaten Bobby Flay hands down in the Iron Chef battle. What I presume is that Cora and Flay cast their vote for Simon because he would not be that challenging to them in the food network organization whereas Besh has the right ingredients for becoming a food network star. Case in point, Symon never took off. He was dull in the season he was in charge of Dinner Impossible. The food network had to give the show back to chef Irvine.
    In a nutshell, Flay and Cora voted for Symon as they felt that Besh would have overshadowed them in the Food network.