Great comments!  Helps me remember–i was out last night, so i’ve only seen the press copy, which clips the end.  Sounds as if people think the verdict was fair.  Let me assure you it was.  Traci shot herself in the foot by choosing the salmon roe–if there is a better argument for the importance of product, I don’t know what it is.  the salmon roe was not good, so there simply was not a lot Traci could do to cover that up.  It was a really bad dish, by a really talented chef. i was really sad to see her go. (Here restaurant is Jardinere in San Francisco.)

UPDATE: Just watched the show!  Very happy about it.  think triage did a good job of presenting what happened.  very representative.  one thing they didn’t say: how hot it was in that kitchen.  cosentino just emailed to remind me:

hey michael,

be sure to tell them the reason we were sweating so much was because they shut the hoods off for audio so the kitchen temp was 132. no bullshit. there was a thermometer in there, dude it was fuckin hot.

I love that guy. and his tripe was amazing.  my favorite of the day was kaysen’s squid, he would have beaten besh had his other dessert been stronger.  it was hot, as if the liquid creme fraiche and pourable honey didn’t convince you. the machines weren’t sabotaged.  one of the chefs was
hospitalized for dehydration after and it’s admirable triage didn’t try to
make a drama out of it.

and one last word of judging, from someone’s comment: i was never instructed how to judge and in each case made my own decision and voted that way.

Update 10/10: Symon comments to Plain Dealer reporter Debbi Snook.

To answer questions from the previous post in order:

Nic: Alton knows what prosciutto is; so much verbiage flows from his mouth a few slips are bound to get through.

bonnibella: mom, is that you?  I KNOW I need a haircut.  I need a whole hair makeover!

jop in omaha: in addition to culinary artistry i’d recommend the book by gray kunz and peter kaminsky on taste, can’t remember the name.

professor: i’m glad you agree about symon–others did not.  this was about artistry and originality and he was using a dish that he didn’t even come up with.  honestly, he was lucky it tasted so good.

Frances and others, re sweat dripping off noses: why do you think Besh’s food was seasoned so perfectly?

Foodist: the only good thing about Traci’s dish was Traci.  sigh…

Josh, re toronto star article:  i’m not exactly sure what the food network execs are up to, and i am not allowed to offer any additional information directly.  but the article was not an exposé, and so the chefs obviously knew there was an article being written and are forbidden by contract to divulge compromising information let alone offer it to the media.  while i’m also not allowed to OFFER information i AM allowed to remove information from my blog if i want to.  I read that post shortly after it came in and saw no reason to delete it.

deacon: the voting was done by discussion, we hashed it out among ourselves, alton did not judge, though he couldn’t help offering his opinion.  in the last judging, we were unanimous.

logicalmind: in addition to your comment about my being completely biased toward symon being insulting, it’s illogical that I alone could make symon win.  i like to believe that i am all powerful but alas, i am not.  above all i strove to be fair, and as i’ve said before, with one exception, it was a detriment to michael to have me on the panel (eg I knew the dessert wasn’t his, but didn’t know about besh’s bread pudding).

todd: i too used to think the chariman a bit cheesy but I’ve really grown to like him–it’s genius in fact.

jop in omaha: there will be more discussion by judges in the future.

more later, just back from chicago and have to get unburied.


95 Wonderful responses to “Iron Chef, Ep 1”

  • logicalmind

    In all honesty, I don’t see how you could not be biased towards Symon. Denying that you know or favor him in any way is somehow unbelievable to me. Anyone who has read your book knows you became very close to Symon, his restaurant, and his family. Denying that that relationship exists is what I find insulting. It’s in your best interest in every way for a Cleveland chef to make it in the world of the New York chefs. The longer he stays on the show the more likely people are going to consider buying your book that features him. It would be analogous to Bill Buford judging a Mario Batali battle. Or Bourdain judging a competition containing an immigrant chef. You are 1/3 of the votes, and one of the people in discussion of every judgment. You have more input than you think.

  • Cooks_Cook

    1st. Ruhlman. ALton Brown in your introduction introduced you as a Chef? What was that abuot. Bourdain NOW is more of a chef then you are. Cook, and Respected patte maker and food journalist yes, but Chef?
    2nd. Alton Brown. Love good eats but wow is he annoying. If my desserts aren’t setting up because of the heat I don’t need someone pointing that out, especially when I am in the weeds, that alone seems reason enough for a throat punch
    3rd. As a CIA student I was amazed to hear some of the complaints of the heat. Not even the most annoying self-serving CIA student complains like that, sure there are rumbles, but I was suprised to hear “Bad Ass” Iron Chefs act like that, I mean where in those kitchens Mid July to Mid September they were there 8 days in August. Granted they were in some of the dog days of summer. That was the upstairs Americas kitchen if I was not mistaken and the upstarirs kitchens are not nearly as hot as the dungeons of the downstairs kitchens.

    None the less enjoyed the show. Congrats.

  • ruhlman

    i don’t deny there’s a relationship. i would argue that it benefits me considerably, though i do agree it wouldn’t hurt. i tried to be as fair as possible. Losing my integrity on behalf of symon would be far more damaging to me than any thing i might gain by voting for him when he didn’t deserve it. …but watch the show and see for yourself.

  • logicalmind

    ruhlman: this guy is questioning my integrity?
    bourdain: about what?
    ruhlman: about me being biased as a judge on food network…
    bourdain: you lost your integrity the moment you went on the food network…
    ruhlman: dammit!
    bourdain: maybe we can add a new category for the golden clog awards, most biased food network judge. It’s you vs Karine Bakhoum.

    I’m just bustin your balls ruhlman. I already pre-ordered your new book if that makes you feel any better.

  • SusaninWP

    If you are just back from Chicago, does that mean we should await your post about the Charlie Trotter’s 20th Anniversary dinner/weekend extravaganza, running the Chicago Marathon, or some combination thereof?

  • the pauper

    wow. logicalmind is not drinking the koolaid. chill out buddy. i love ripping ruhlman as much as the next person but you know, it’s just a reality tv show. conflict of interest? sure. significant enough? not so much. think about it, bob tushie, over at the food network probably knows what is up. foodnetwork is in this to A) make money B) drum up even more support for ICA. why would they compromise the potential integrity of the franchise if it really mattered to have ruhlman on the panel? it just doesn’t make sense. ICA is like the one show on FN that bridges the gap between casual viewers and foodies cuz you know, every foodie hates Emeril and RR. they need validity to the show based upon the chef they pick to add to the lineup. alienating viewers would just eat away at their advertising revenue, and the amount they charge on 30 second commercials.

    plus, if ruhlman is really that chummy with the shrieking baldie, he’s not doing a very good job. symon looked like he was about to bust a salty one out of his eyes there last night.

  • stuckiniowa

    Ruhlman, is this new Iron Chef going to be in addition to the other four, or taking the place of one of them? I’ve heard that Bourdain’s buddy Batali is on the way out…will this new one be replacing him?

  • Claudia

    While he might not lead a kitchen or work professionally as a cook or chef, Michael is trained as one. I don’t think, in the context of The Next Iron Chef, Alton slipping up and calling him “Chef” should tick anyone off, and I mean that with all due respect to (and taking nothing away from) you professional chefs and cooks.

    Michael will be doing a class at in Manhattan at Macy’s cooking school, Degustibus, on 11/29. I don’t doubt that some people in the audience might address him as “chef” or “Chef Ruhlman,” correctly or otherwise, because he will be the person cooking and leading the class. Better than someone screaming out, “Hey, Mike!” (Let the cringing begin.)

    But I do agree with you, Cook, that the last thing any cook would need when he/she’s in the weeds is Alton getting in his space and helpfully pointing the weeds out.

    Rough crowd on the blog today, Michael. And you call MY home city, the one you were just in before Chicago, “Helltown”. Jesus!

  • Tags

    Actually, he was lobbying to get Bill Belichick on board so he could fix it for him to be the NIC, but as you can see, that didn’t work out and the Browns lost.

    See how you can piece things together when you use your logical mind?

    Maybe if Derek Anderson had Alton Brown on the sidelines he wouldn’t have thrown those INTs.

  • Sara

    stuckiniowa — All the press releases from FN and from Batali regarding the decision to stop showing “Molto Mario” rather emphatically noted that his relationship with the network was not over, and that there were no plans for him to stop battling on ICA. I think the new chef will actually end up filling Morimoto’s spot more — he doesn’t compete that often, and I bet Cat Cora and Bobby Flay are exhausted.

    Ruhlman? Can you confirm/deny?

    Oh, and don’t change your hair. The best journalists have some of the worst hair.

  • Rob B

    Perhaps you should consider proposing Extreme Makeover: Foodie Edition

  • The Professor

    As usual, Ruhlman you made the muddy water clear again…thanks for the non hint on the “spoiler”…The show kicked major ass and I look forward to the entire season. Also, most either like Alton or hate Alton.

  • LauraTheRed

    I have to say, as much as I loyally root for my home turf, I’m disappointed that Michael Symon simply squeaked by. I was hoping for it to be more like, “HOLY CRAP ON A STICK! That guy from Cleveland KICKED MAJOR ASS!”

    However, I also have to look at this from a Clevelander’s point of view; If he becomes the next Iron Chef, then what will become of Lola’s and Lolita’s? Would we lose two more great restaurants?

    Maybe now’s the time to maybe look into the wonders of cloning…

  • martha

    really? people hate alton? hard to imagine.

    I had high expectations for the next Iron Chef, and it totally lived up! I saw that guy from Louisiana on a food network challenge, glad to see all that personality on TV again and even more glad that he can actually cook.

  • robert mcgee

    Knowing is half the battle,
    It’s not as if any of these chefs need to prove them selves to us, the viewers. this is not the next top model, It’s a bunch of celebrated chefs taking advantage of an oppurtunity to increase their fanbase and customer base. Is that so wrong?
    That being the case; is Besh really kind of a pompous pud with a rather large mouth?

  • unabashed

    i posted this on first topic but it fits well here…
    I loved the show!!! Glad your a judge on the show been a avid reader of your work for years!!!It’s a shame Anthony Bourdian can’t be on the program as a judge. or at least get him back on FoodNetwork…. between you,Bourdian,Mario Batali,Alton and yes Emeril….they should put you too in charge and straighten out the mess FoodNetwork has become!!!!Yes it’s slowly getting better but it’s been going south for years.
    nuff said

    one thing that I would like to add…Hey if Ruhlman and Symon are friends or whatever I feel it will only be harder on Symon cause Ruyhlman will be more critical of him. IMHO.
    great show!!!
    thanks again

  • Nic Heckett

    Yeah, I know Alton knows what prosciutto is, but most Americans are sure they know what it is, and are kind of wrong. Perhaps Alton could so a ‘Good Eats’ show to straighten out the confusion.

  • sorchar

    I caught the end last night and am watching the whole show now courtesy of DVR. Sorry to see Traci go, but overall it’s quite enjoyable so far.

  • bonnibella

    “bonnibella: mom, is that you? I KNOW I need a haircut. I need a whole hair makeover!”

    Ruhlman, I’m honored to be compared to your mother! Don’t listen to Sara (Rob B’s suggestion does sound interesting, though). Getting a new ‘do will not adversely affect your journalistic skills. Surely there is someone in the Great State of CuyaHOGa who could handle your hair? Just stay out of Parma, and you’ll be fine.

  • The Foodist

    “the only good thing about Traci’s dish was Traci. sigh…”

    Thats too bad :-(. When I saw shots of her dish with the roe I kept saying to myself, jeeze-peeze thats alot of roe, and on a desert!..

    Do you think she could have gotten away with it given less roe?

    and as far as Cooks_cook’s comment:

    I think industry wise Ruhlman has done alot more to advance high quality food then Bourdain (not brown nosing here just stating opinion). And I agree with you about the heat. I was laughing so loud at the heat comments that I’m sure people down the hall heard it.

    Welcome to the CIA boys and girls, where humidty and heat are what we do. I was also pleased to see they held the contest in whats America’s upstairs, one of the hottest kitchens in school!

  • The Professor

    Yes some people do not like Alton AT ALL…I , however, am a huge admirer of all his shows. Feasting On Asphalt is my favorite…tons of laughs.I think he has a very quick wit, and he and Ruhlman looked first class in their “dress up” clothes on the show.

  • rockandroller

    Ok, I loved the episode. But you DO need a haircut, I can’t believe your lovely wife let you go on national TV looking like that. 🙂

    Some of that shit looked downright nasty. Nobody can convince me that catfish truffle is good, that just makes my gorge rise.

  • Frances

    😀 about the seasoning from sweat. Did you award extra points for a hint of Brute or Aqua Velva (AKA “Woman Repellant”)?

  • Big Andy

    I guess my concern lies in the fine print from the other ‘chef competition’ show out there; the credits for Top Chef always indicate that the judges’ decision was made with input from the producers. Is this the case with the Next Iron Chef? Or was it purely ya’lls input? I always hope that the decisions actually reflect the cuisine and talent, and not what will make a better show and sell more ads.

  • KatD

    I was really looking forward to this show and was not disappointed. However, imo the dessert challenge would have been MUCH better if, ICA-style, they had all used the same theme ingredient. But the Quickfire–uh, I mean the speed test–was great.

    I’m still uncomfortable about the Symon connection, but–on the bright side–you did a nice job with your comments to everyone and looked good (and, for some reason, much leaner than I expected!)

    I thought Alton was an amazing host as always and I’m glad he’s finally getting to taste the food. I wish we could hear his comments, too.

    re: heat. Since Sanchez apparently needed an IV afterwards, I can’t blame anyone for sweating or complaining. It seemed the working conditions–and equipment–were intentionally more problematic than any real ICA match would be (except for the one where Bobby Flay electrocuted himself).

    I’m curious how much part the producers play in each week’s decision, too. Also, was Des Jardin’s roe actually bad, or was the only problem what she did with it?

    I’m relatively new to your blog and appreciate being able to hear about all this from you. Thanks for taking the time to share!

  • Todd

    “todd: i too used to think the chariman a bit cheesy but I’ve really grown to like him–it’s genius in fact.”

    I probably didn’t come across quite right — he is indeed cheesy but in the same way a bad movie and campy sci-fi are cheesy; for me it is in all the good ways.

    I would, in fact, like it if they souped up the drama and cheese with the Chairman a bit more like they did in the original Iron Chef. I recall one episode where the Chairman was nowhere to be found, hiding in shame because his iron chefs had lost so many consecutive battles, yet we were treated to glimpses of him all of the time, looking in from the shadows.

    We record Iron Chef and tend to watch them in our own ‘marathons’ and he indeed needs some different questions to ask the contestants. Then again, I’m still dreaming of the iron chef DVD set where they show the entire cooking and judging process!

  • LauraTheRed

    “I recall one episode where the Chairman was nowhere to be found, hiding in shame because his iron chefs had lost so many consecutive battles, yet we were treated to glimpses of him all of the time, looking in from the shadows.”

    Hahaha! I remember that! GOD, I miss that show! ICA sucks a royal dong compared to the original.

    Do you know how disappointed I was when I found out that Chairman Kaga was not, in fact, an eccentric millionaire with a food fetish and a glorious Kitchen Stadium? Damn it all. I toyed with the fantasy of sneaking into Kitchen Stadium in the middle of the night and summoning the Iron Chefs out of the floor ;-D

  • KatD

    Kaga was great, but I kind of like that they aren’t camping up the nephew in that way. I think he pulls his part off pretty well (though ITA that the “conversations” with the chefs could use some help). Instead, they leave it to Alton to provide both informative gravitas and goofy jokes and cheesiness which, as an Alton fan, I think works very well.

    FYI: For anyone missing the old ICJ, reruns are still on FN on Tuesday mornings–at 4 a.m.

  • oneeyedcarmen

    It’s been mentioned on here once or twice that “that guy from Louisianna” is kinda loud and obnoxious.

    Just remember that John Besh is the one contestant who has actually WON an ICA match…against the great Mario, no less.

    Yes, he’s cocky…but he has a right to be.

  • Carri

    My 8 year old son picked watching the Next Iron Chef instead of the Packers and the Bears(intense Packer fan that he is) last night…He picked Besh to win from the start, which was some consolation when the football game failed to go his way (I say it’s good to learn to have your heart broken young)…I ,however, picked Tracy and ,well, there you go. I do think that the true beauty of this is that he loves the show…as many commercials as there were, they were way better than the ones on Sunday night football…besides, I think I’d prefer he aspire to be a chef rather than a pro football player!

  • bob

    Yes, indeed, Besh is a brilliant chef. Yes, he beat Batali, fair and square, he’s represented well for a couple years now on FN. He seems to have excellent technique, and a creative pallette. I salute his service in Desert Storm. But is he a pud?

  • Rachael

    “I guess my concern lies in the fine print from the other ‘chef competition’ show out there; the credits for Top Chef always indicate that the judges’ decision was made with input from the producers..”

    Tom always swears that, despite the disclaimer, he’s not prodded. I recall that he once mentioned that the outing of one contestant was “proof” that producers DIDN’T have any say on who stays/goes as they thought the booted contestant was good drama fodder.

    Once things actually got going I really enjoyed seeing people actually cook without the burden of dealing with whatever went on in their little penthouse before/after challenges. I hope the shows remain this way.

    But Alton, oh Alton- I like Good Eats and he clearly knows his stuff but I can’t help but be a little irritated with him. If Food Network is trying to steer clear of invented drama, why have him hovering in the kitchen to comment on the progress of chefs? These folks have clearly proven themselves to be skilled and intelligent people, why do they need Alton to chime in? It adds an air of artificiality that I was hoping I wouldn’t be subjected to. I mean yeah, this is Food Network, but it seemed like they were doing everything possible to move away from Food Network Star to launch this- and thank heavens!

    That aside I really did enjoy it and actually think it’s more fun for me to watch than Top Chef.

  • niki

    Normally I love Alton too but he was kinda acting a little-prick like last night….kinda a little like Padma/collichio.
    Is it me or is this whole thing really just an FN retaliation against TC? Because I’m liking TC much more right now.
    Besh should win. He beat Mario in the past. Good enough for me.

  • WhatisCanadianCuisine?

    “I think this is a terrible dish”

    If anyone caught the Ep. 1 Recap on FN’s website, there’s a clip of Ruhlman saying this. However, I can’t find the quote anywhere on my DVR version of it, and I’ve watched it twice. Whose dish was he referring to? Or was it edited out? I have a new DVR and it was acting up so its possible it somehow got skipped out.

  • Carolyn Flesch

    Hi Michael,

    1. Loved your trilogy. Read two, ready to start #3.
    2. Prejudice toward Michael Symon – If anything Michael will have a rougher time, just to prove that you aren’t prejudiced.
    3. I’ve been so excited about this show and I wasn’t disappointed. I’m going to be really disappointed to see any of the chefs go, but I like John Besh and I have to root for the home state guy, Michael Symon. This is a foodie show!

  • ruhlman

    i’m amazed at the critical response to Alton. i think you’re being a bit harsh. the guy is very smart and very funny (and his evaluations of the food were invariably on the money). maybe the funny needs to come through more.

  • ruhlman

    and forgot to respond to cooks cook, who wrote: “ALton Brown in your introduction introduced you as a Chef? What was that abuot. Bourdain NOW is more of a chef then you are. Cook, and Respected patte maker and food journalist yes, but Chef?”

    This is true. I am not a chef. Alton introduced me that way to convey that I have some actual culinary training and professional experience cooking. I do regret that it continues to muddy the meaning of the word chef. In my mind chef means leader.

    and the heat–well kitchen are hot when the hoods are on, their hoods were off.

  • disziplin

    I am amazed at the comments regarding your perceived bias toward Symon. While I am at times put off by some the elitist drivel I read on this blog concerning what I should or should not enjoy putting in my mouth, I am always entertained here, and have never questioned your sincerity or integrity.

    Now I’m going to go watch the first episode again, while enjoying my chicken ceasar and wash it down with a Stoli martini.

  • Claudia

    Rooting for Besh (pud or no pud) and Symon, down to the wire. I think Cosentino will bust a vein before the competition’s done, much as I like him. I wonder if Sanchez gets himself eliminated (or has so many points deducted from each challenge that he knocks himself out of the running) by not putting his knife down when he’s told? He did it in Ep 1, and I’m seeing it again in the Ep 2 promos.

    Michael, don’t worry about the hair. The length lends slightly raffish/louche element to your otherwise clean-cut preppy look. Rather like a vaguely dissolute trust fund baby. That’s actually a compliment.

  • Sara

    Don’t listen to them! Never cut the hair! NEVER CUT THE HAIR!

    Why am I the only one on the side of bad hair? Look at us, sitting around discussing the merits of tripe dessert and salmon roe dessert (which, Ruhlman, I totally believe your [and the other judges’] analysis of; however, my stomach turned even thinking about most of them. Especially the tripe), priding ourselves on our acceptance of thinking outside the box, of loving unexpected food. Why can’t we love unexpected, even terrible, hair?

    Ruhlman, I am officially starting a fanclub for your bad, bad hair. I love bad hair. Anyone who’s willing to join me — there will be banners and parades (Ok, probably not for real, but definitly in the intangible world of the internets).

  • fotodevil

    I thought Alton was good last night. His job on this show is to be a bit of an antagonist, pushing the chefs buttons while letting the viewers know what is going on. Honestly, would most viewers know what is happening without the commentary? But I do think at times he seemed a little out of his normal character. And the way I heard it, he introduced Ruhlman as a “trained chef”, which to me says he knows a thing or two because he is trained, but isn’t actually a chef by trade.

    Regardless, I really liked the show and can’t wait to see the rest of the series. One question though: How much sweat did the judges consume last night? I saw a few drops falling as the chefs leaned over their dishes.

  • FoodPuta

    I don’t understand why you’re all busting on Ruhlmans ass so much with regards to Symon. I mean, of course you are going to have judges that are familiar with each other. That is going to be the case in most arenas, where you are suppose to have and “expert” judging other professionals. How the hell do you think the judge got to be and “expert”.


    Do you think that the other two judges are enemies with all the

    Now everyone go bake some cookies, and share.

  • Tags

    As much as the chefs were sweating, all the sweat combined is just a drop in the deluge of comments about it.

    As for being chefs, Michael and Anthony are going to compete in the “Iron Chef America: Seniors Tour.”

  • Frances

    Well, if we’re going to get all shallow about it, I’ll throw in my 2 cents. Michael, IMHO, has good hair and I will bet that his wife loves it. It makes him look all “professory” (not to be confused with “professorial,” which is an actual word). I guess the people on Andrew Knowlton’s blog are complaining about his disheveled appearance. I mean please. You want a beard or no beard? Choose! Otherwise it looks like you couldn’t be bothered to clean up for whatever it is you showed up for. Is the unshaven look for guys who tried to grow a beard and it was just too sparse? What?

    As long as the hair doesn’t get in the food, it has no bearing on the competition. There is the Glad Family of Bags to take care of that issue (though not in a 132deg kitchen). I do wonder why Jill Davie, whose hair is shorter than some of the guys, saw fit to wear a scarf, but John Besh chose to let the freak flag fly (where it will). Just like people don’t like hair in their food, the thought of bodily fluid possibly being in food is another very big mental stumbling block for people. Like, no matter how cute the 3-year-old is, who doesn’t look away when he eats a booger? People who like to be grossed out will watch to see if that ball of hygiene-product-laiden sweat is actually going to drop into the creme fresche. People like me have to look away, if only to behold the son who is eating his own boogers.

  • Ryan

    I forget how many dessert choices the chefs had available to them.

    But, if there was just one for each chef, then someone was bound to get the roe.

    Both Mr. Ruhlman and Mr. Knowlton seem to say that the error was in selecting the roe. I understand she didn’t have last choice.

    But, still, if someone was bound to get the roe (which might not be the case…so, someone set me straight there) and two of the three judges think selecting that ingredient was the fatal mistake, then it seems a flawed test.

  • French Laundry at Home

    >>>>”I think this is a terrible dish”
    If anyone caught the Ep. 1 Recap on FN’s website, there’s a clip of Ruhlman saying this. However, I can’t find the quote anywhere on my DVR version of it, and I’ve watched it twice. Whose dish was he referring to? Or was it edited out? I have a new DVR and it was acting up so its possible it somehow got skipped out.<<<< That quote was in a clip package prefaced with a VO that said something like, "coming up in this season of Next Iron Chef..." It wasn't episode-specific, but more a promo for what you'll hear from the judges somewhere during the run of the series.

  • Claudia

    OK, so Sara and I and others are now firmly on the side of Michael’s hair – and Besh’s hair. And everyone else’s hair. But, yes, someone PLEASE clean up Knowlton! He’s not longish-haired. He’s just dishevelled. And, Christ, does he have a bug up his ass or what? Nitpick, nitpick, nitpick, for the sake of nitpicking – he comes across as deeply unhappy, not seriously judging. I hope someone (preferably Besh) goes up to the table and give him some bad-ass chef noogies or something when taping’s done. Besh seems just the dude for the job.

    Episode 1, and Knowlton’s already beginning to annoy me . . .

  • Rachael

    Ruhlman- I suppose I am being a bit harsh on him but stuff like this kinda gets my dander up:

    “Are there any similarities between Top Chef and The Next Iron Chef?”

    Alton Brown:
    “The only comparison to Top Chef is that one or two chefs get eliminated after each round. Otherwise, there are no similarities. The Next Iron Chef is the first time a show has been made that captures the good part of reality TV with high-end culinary credibility. Most of the people on Top Chef are barely out of Denny’s. They are of marginal experience and talent.”

    I said myself that the contestants here are clearly on a much higher level than the Top Chef folks but that’s ridiculously unfair.

    But to his credit, I imagine he is probably not actually bugging contestants; chopping down a ton of activity in a 1 hour show will often put across the wrong idea as far as someone’s personality goes. He IS a funny guy and he DOES know his stuff but I guess I’ve just had a little too much of him lately. Oh well, I still enjoy the show. I just enjoy nitpicking an awful lot too.

  • JoP in Omaha

    Oh, dear, I’m dizzy from watching the volleys go back and forth on many topics.

    Michael R., thanks for the recommendation of Kunz and Kaminsky’s The Elements of Taste. It seems to be just what I’m looking for. I ordered it, and it’s on it’s way to me. Thanks for the suggestion. Dang, I can hardly wait.

  • chefwannab

    “Just remember that John Besh is the one contestant who has actually WON an ICA match…against the great Mario, no less.”

    Guess who else beat Batali on ICA? Des Jardins. So I guess there are no guarantees. I like Besh too but I now think this could be anybody’s game.

    I agree with Rachael, Alton is wrong in that comment; from what I’ve seen so far the format is very Top Chef-like, and even though they may not be on the same level as the Next Iron Chef contestants, most Top Chef competitors are a long, long way from Denny’s. Now Hell’s Kitchen, that would be more fitting.

    It seems like a double whammy to me that the challenge was to make a savory item into a dessert but without the benefit of sugar, butter, et al. Michael, were there any of the savory-item desserts you tasted that, if it appeared on a menu, you would actually order as your dessert?

  • Kevin

    Grrrr. Why do we not get this stuff aired at the same time in Canada. I’ll have to close my eyes on your blog for a while to not spoil all the fun!

  • Frances

    I love Alton Brown. Just thought I’d say that. I don’t agree that it’s necessary to bring out the drill press to make a good chocolate pudding, but still, he’s great. I love when he uses those little plastic finger puppets to represent bacteria.

  • Heidi

    I don’t know that Knowlton is so grossly disheveled. I get more Johnny Depp circa Benny & Joon. However, what a humorless grouchy-pants he appears to be.

  • Claudia

    Knowlton acts like he’s having an umeboshi high colonic. There. I said it.

  • Hank

    First, I am kind of amazed at Alton’s dissing of Top Chef, especially since the Next Iron Chef has two contestants who lack the chops of the high-echelon contestants on Top Chef (Davie and the Squid Guy) Not that they are bad chefs, it’s just that they are as unknown as a sous chef at Guy Savoy.
    Second, I am REALLY sorry to see Des Jardins gone. She is a better chef than most of the remaining contestants, a better chef than Cat Cora and would have made a perfect addition to Iron Chef. Too bad.
    Besh is merely Bobby Flay from Louisiana. Brash and more than a little annoying; his performance on episode one ensures than I will *never* eat at any of his restaurants.
    Stylistically, I think Iron Chef would benefit from someone like Marou or Sanchez or Symon. In them, you get East Coast Latino, African-French and High-End American — all three are not really represented on Iron Chef now.
    As for the 132 degree kitchen…Christ almightly! No wonder they were sweating so much.
    Anyway, that’s my $0.02

  • redchef

    As a former chef, and Top Chef/NFS addict I am looking forward to this show, but you know, I don’t have cable and there seems to be no one who has launched it into the Torrent field. Please, I beg one of you , make it happen. For the love of all the rest of us poor foodies who can;t scrape 80 bucks a month for the Food network and Bravo….

  • sheila

    Ruhlman, I’m sad to say I never heard of you till I saw you and Bourdain together in Vegas on an episode of NR. Thought you two were hilarious! Much enjoyment from this happy viewer. Now I’ve finally found you on t.v. and am thrilled. I watched Next Iron Chef Sunday also, and was very entertained. To other viewers, Besh is just kidding around, he’s confident as he should be. I hope Ruhlman, you are as biting and fresh as Bourdain was on TC. Also thrilled to see that you actually respond to viewers, and to see Bourdain on your blog. Thanks for the enjoyment. I am a happy Irish girl!

  • KatD

    Wow, having them cook in a 132 degree kitchen is insane! Wouldn’t some of those ingredients not hold up in that kind of heat?

    I would think FN would be afraid that heat like that could spoil the food (and even make judges sick in the process). Apparently everyone was okay, but…not smart!

  • The Professor

    Ruhlman…your hair is fine plus it is yours. Alton is great and funny, always. I stirred many drinks with my penis when I was a bartender. The show we are discussing is a new show, therefore it will not be like any other show.

  • bob

    At the risk of pulling the Kitchen Confidential card;
    Sweat Happens…In the best of kitchens, in the worst of kitchens.
    Although, I support the use of protective hairgear in the kitchen, and demand it in mine, I respect the artistic license of the flowing locks for tv. Think about all those times our favorite tv surgeons scrub up and then put on a mask. Art for arts sake right?

  • brandon_w

    Just got around to watching this, and I didn’t really like it. It was fairly lackluster, and overall kind of boring. While I’m sure the judges did a lot of discussion on what was the best dish, none of it was really shown on the show. One small quip from the girl, the boy band looking guy or Ruhlman and onto the next dish. I figured after a tasting of all of the dishes there would be some judges discussion about what they thought, but there wasn’t much, if any. There was however an awesomely long like 6 minute commercial break.

    Unlike other people, I think the highlight of the show was Alton being a bit of an antagonist to the Chefs.

    I’ll keep watching to see if it gets any better.

  • ruhlman

    brandon, don’t be a sourpuss, you need to relax.

    responses in order:
    stuck and sara: i don’t know what mario’s plans are but he is competing in iron chef battles (and I’m told he hates, HATES to lose). So perhaps there will be 5.

    canadacuisine: alton and producers judged speed contest, i believe–judges were not there. morou was fast but really sloppy i heard.

    big andy: judges made our own decision. there was one instance when the producers asked us to consider information additional to the culinary test, but we were never told who to vote for.

    canada: my remark about the terrible dish referred to the roe; it’s a measure of the show’s integrity that they didn’t show the chef in question having to receive my comment. The fact is the dish was terrible, but it was terrible because the roe was not good quality. So the formidable Traci was kind of screwed the moment she chose the roe.

    disziplin: elitist drivel? elitist perhaps. You’ll come around, and when you do, I’ll have a pork bellyy beefeater martini waiting for you at the velvet tango.

    professor: no comment.

  • ntsc

    At 132 F I’m suprised that the television equipment held up.

    My wife and I spent much of the show trying to figure out which kitchen we were looking at. We are fairly certain some of the shots were from Skills I & II.

    Unfortunately my DVR killed the last few minutes so we didn’t see the conclusion, but we will be watching for the next one.

  • ruhlman

    chocolate goes great with savory ingredients as well as sweets, so it’s not as big a stretch here as would seem. the catfish was very mild so that was more a textural influence than anything else. it was pretty good, but my favorite was kaysen’s squid dish. that was a real surprise, chewy sweet savory, and really cool looking.

  • Kansas City rube

    I’m surprised anyone thinks Alton Brown is funny. I think Good Eats is pretty much unwatchable because of all the stupid skits. I’m guessing the annoying factor comes from him being a born-again Christian (see Atlanta magazine, April 2007).

    That being said, he really knows his shit and would do well in the Yukio Hattori role (color commentator) with somebody less annoying and preferably trained in broadcast journalism to be the Fukui-san play-by-play guy.

    They also need to replace the American version of Ohta. He is such a douche nozzle.

    For more information on the Chairman, please set your TiVos for ten years ago and record all the horrible action movies on late night HBO.

  • Clare K.

    Though I agree with the judges’ choice, and it was Traci’s own decision to be on the show, I have to say that seeing a chef of her stature and experience get shamed in that way was cringeworthy. She is, as she said herself, the most experienced (in years, anyway) of the group and her admitted confidence early in the show made her departure even more difficult to watch.

    To have someone like Jill Davies in the same group as Traci seems more to do with dramatic casting vs. a genuine attempt to find the next Iron Chef (at least based on what we’ve come to know of what an Iron Chef should be). Nothing personal against Jill, but c’mon. This competition is shaping up to be more “Top Chef,” where one day of competition defines your worthiness vs. years of experience.

    Full disclosure: I lived in San Francisco for 8 years and always had great meals at Jardinere!

  • Auralais

    I wondered about Traci vs. Jill as well…especially as FN lately seems to be all about the cleavage as opposed to the talent. Traci is obviously talented, but the camera doesn’t “love” her, whereas Jill is obviously attractive, but does she have talent?

    I was also surprised to see her kicked off solely on the salmon roe debacle. It seemed the other competitions didn’t have any weight in the final judgment?

    Does anybody else think Morou should have had points subtracted for working with that bloody hand. Ew.

  • stephanie

    I do have to agree with Brandon about the “awesomely LONG commercial” breaks. It was to the point that I ended up missing a bit of the show, because I’d get bored during the commercial breaks and start flipping around.

    Here’s to more judges commentary and less commercial time!!

  • chefwannab

    Brandon, it would have been impossible to show all the judges’ discussions with all 8 chefs and fit it into a hour-long program. As with Top Chef, the first few shows can feel quite clipped and deprived of content due to the number of contestants and dishes that have to be shown. This usually improves as the number of competitors is whittled down.

    I am so sad to hear that the quality of the roe may have been the biggest factor in Des Jardins’ elimination. I heard that on Top Chef (from one of the contestants that I met at a cooking class) that after picking their ingredients from the table and prior to the challenge starting, the contestants could request a replacement if they thought the quality of their ingredient was subpar. He said that this happened quite frequently. I wonder if Des Jardins had tasted the roe first and demanded a replacement/better quality, if this would have made a difference?

  • BiteNotBark

    Michael, the kitchen you were seeing was Cuisines of the Americas (I think it’s K-5?) on the first floor of Roth – it’s diagonally across the hall from Skills I & II.

    I have to disagree with JoP that the chefs were hurt by the lack of butter, sugar, etc. in the savory dessert challenge. They had honey, maple syrup, fruits, etc. to compensate for the lack of granular sugar; and the use of milk, creme fraiche and olive oil seemed to work for most in place of the butter.

  • JoP in Omaha

    BiteNotBark said “I have to disagree wiht JoP that the chefs were hurt by the lack butter…..” etc.

    For the record, I (JoP) am not author of that statement. Chefwannab wrote that comment. (Sig lines are at the bottom of posts, not the top.)

  • chefwannab

    Yes, that was me. And you could be right, BiteNotBark, maybe it wasn’t that difficult and obviously some of the chefs were quite successful. It just kind of seemed like the challenge of making a dessert out of something like tripe is tricky enough without the extra curveball, especially considering that in a real Iron Chef battle their supplies would surely be stocked with granulated sugar and butter if the chef planned to make a dessert out of the secret ingredient. But this is a reality TV competition, after all….

  • ruhlman

    the producers made a 90 minute first version of the show and lobbied hard for it, but no go. they said they had a great show. it was not to be. there will be more discussion of results as fewer chefs remain.

    good point on salmon roe–i’ll try to contact traci to see if she was giving the choice of refusing delivery as it were, but i don’t think she was.

  • Frances

    I was going to mention this earlier about Alton, but edited it out. Someone mentioned cleavage promotion on FN. Alton coached one of the episodes of the 2nd season of NFNS. One of the female contestants was intent on doing her Chelsea Market segment with her girls featured prominantly. Alton advised her to cover up and gave her his sweatshirt. When she demurred, saying it would mess up her hair, he messed it up for her. She wore the shirt. From what I gathered, his point was not “Ooh! It’s wrong to dress that way on TV,” but rather, “Shoving hour tits in the camera is not going to help you here.”

  • ruhlman

    alton messed with my hair too, at the media party. i found it bordering on harassment myself, though he claims to like my hair.

    i’m actually looking forward to seeing Alton’s cleavage on the grilling poolside episode.

  • brandon_w

    I think a 90 minute first episode would have really helped. I imagine there will be more discussion about dishes as their are less chefs, in this episode though, I was really unsure who was the favorite or even the top three after the tasting session. Maybe I’m just comparing it to much to Top Chef, but the judges there usually discuss a couple favorites, and the least favorites in depth before the elimination happens on that show.

    I will continue to watch and try to be less of a sourpuss. I mean it is better than Hell’s Kitchen.

  • Kansas City rube

    “Police: Cleveland School Shooter Killed Himself
    Several Injured In Afternoon Violence

    A school shooter turned the gun on himself after wounding three people in Cleveland Wednesday afternoon.
    By The Associated Press

    CLEVELAND — A gunman opened fire in a downtown high school Wednesday before killing himself, and five people were taken to a hospital, authorities said.”

    Sad times for Cleveland. Our thoughts go out to you.

  • Tags

    To those who would call us elitist…

    Don’t hate us because we have tastebuds.

    And regarding those awesomely long commercial breaks, did anyone else notice that the lady in the Banquet commercial was celebrating a touchdown – alone?

    As it turns out, according to, she was exhibiting symptoms of e coli.

  • Tags

    I got a second opinion, it was salmonella. I didn’t know Banquet made salmon potpies.

  • French Laundry at Home

    Tags, and here I thought PreservativeLadenTouchdownMom was merely suffering from a bad haircut and unfortunate Kohls-inspired wardrobe.

    MR, hug the kids of Cleveland for us…..

  • Frances

    LOL. Alton seems to have a thing about hair. I’m thinking his cleavage could only be from the rear of an ill-fitting Speedo. Looking forward to the grilling poolside episode.

    I am very saddened by the news out of Cleveland. I hope none of the innocent bystanders died and my heart goes out to all the parents.

  • keith

    “I wondered about Traci vs. Jill as well…especially as FN lately seems to be all about the cleavage as opposed to the talent. Traci is obviously talented, but the camera doesn’t “love” her, whereas Jill is obviously attractive, but does she have talent?”

    I’d say Jill does have talent– she was stuck with beef shoulder, and was able to turn it into a solid dessert (while making her own cheese, no less!), while Traci selected roe, and wasn’t able to conjure up a palatable dessert (regardless of the quality- even if Traci had high quality roe, she still only used it as, essentially, a garnish to her parfait).

  • The Professor

    Ruhlman…Alton messed with your hair because of follicle envy, I did my hair like his for years and then gave up and shaved it. Also by the looks of his cleavage on Feasting On Asphalt(last year,lost weight since) it would be quite the show(moobs)…Bourdain finally checked in from England for his piece on Top Chef, glad he is alive.

  • Claudia

    Ruhlman, you’re 44 with a full head of hair – enjoy it. Alton obviously was (!)

    Sounds like Symon finally puts to rest the issue of Michael being a highly impartial judge – busted on the bacon ice cream. Symon obviously had to watch his step not just through this episode but through each of the successive challenges, since Ruhlman obviously knows his entire repetoire, and could call him out at any time on it. OK – on with the show!

  • ohiogirl

    Saw the show, can’t say anything that hasn’t already been said except —

    What’s with the heat? It’s not like Food Network hasn’t taped a show before. Didn’t they know how to adjust the audio or compensate rather than turning off the hoods (and some say the ac) and putting the chefs (and their ingredients) at risk?

    I can handle odd challenges, people talking smack, but that lack of skill and respect, making the chefs work in such an unhealthy situation was the most unprofessional and upsetting part of the show to me.

    This is the Next Iron Chef America, not “Survivor”.

  • REM

    Finally got around to watching this on the DVR. It was OK, not thrilling, and seemed to be way more of a TC imitation than Alton wants to admit. I mean, there was even a “quickfire challenge” of sorts. And I am sure Hung could outdo any of them in terms of speed. When he cut up that chicken even Colicchio was amazed.

    Am I the only one who was bothered by the too-close camera shots and constant scene changing? I just think it was a little too fast-paced. I realize there’s a lot to cover but there’s a speed at which it becomes annoying to most people and I think they went over that line. It looked like the same guy from Nigella’s show was shooting this one, lol.

    Let’s just say I will watch and probably find this show interesting but it will still come in a somewhat distant second to “Top Chef” for me.

  • Adele


    Since Iron Chef is a Food Network show, this spot seemed appropriate for me to share something I stumbled across today. By mistake, I turned on “Semi-Homemade” and found Sandra Lee, all decked out in bright yellow, doing a couscous in which she put HALF A CUP OF LIMEADE CONCENTRATE. I was so appalled and incredulous, that I had to post somewhere.

  • bob

    Just saw episode 2,…looked like another 132 degree kitchen. Does this lab exist at CIA? If this is what they’re teaching the new students, I ought to hang up my touk soon.

  • Melissa

    Sara- The Squid Guy aka Gavin Kaysen is not unknown. He was named one of Food & Wine’s 10 Best New Chef’s this year and competed in the BOCUSE D’OR in Lyon France this past January. Just want to make sure you know the facts before you compare him to the contestants on Top Chef (Which I love as well). He is in a totally different league.

  • Sean

    This blog is so entertaining. I don’t get any work done at my real job because I’m reading through all the posts!

    I thought I’d add fuel to the fire and send out my $0.02 worth.

    * I don’t think most Americans really care what prosciutto is. Honestly, what passes as foon in America is, for most families, crap-in-a-bag pre made IQF foods. Corporate heat-and-serve restaurants offer “fine dining”. When I walk into a restaurant and see in the open “exhibition” kitchen the “chef” cutting open a bag of tomato sauce, I know fully well that my “spaghetti and fresh basil roma tomato sauce” isn’t fresh.

    * Yes, Michael Ruhlman wrote a book that featured (among others) competitor Symon. So what? It’s Food Network, not the court system. What should be asked is whether the results of the judges are final or whether the Food Network producers have final say. There always seems to be a blurb in the trailer credits that says, “judges decisions were made in consultation with the producers.” Anyone with Tivo want to check the fine print?

    * This is an Iron Chef competition. If the competitor crumbles because Alton Brown is poking them about their dessert falling apart does that competitor really have the moxie for Iron Chefdom? While in basic training, I had a drill sergeant that would yell at us during marksmanship qualification. If you couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn (let alone a man-sized target at 50 meters) you didn’t graduate. Same situation.

    * The kitchen is hot because, as Ruhlman pointed out, the ventilation was turned off for audio quality. I’m willing to bet the real reason was to see how these chefs work in sub-prime conditions? Kitchens are hot and my bet is on a chef who can “stand the heat”. Just as the ice cream machine and fridge/freezer issues, I think the hardships experienced in the CIA kitchens during the NIC competitions are par for the course – let these chefs fight for the title. Wars aren’t always fought during fair weather.

    * The Culinary, like all culinary schools, graduates cooks. Period. I, for one, am sick of media and silly people porking up the term “chef”. A chef means “chief”, the boss, the fella in charge, the big cheese. We just love to take terms and make them our own. Executive Chef, Executive Sous Chef, Junior Sous Chef, Executive Associate Vice President of Pommes Frites. Skill at cooking does not a chef make. The kitchen brigade is a simple, foolproof system. Why dork around with executive this, and junior that? We love our titles too much.

    * If you’re weirded out watching sweat pouring from a cook’s face, best to stay away from any restaurant. No matter the quality controls (I recall Chef Gordon Ramsay saying, “Please, someone, hand him a rag before he snots in the risotto!”) things happen.

    Whew, sorry for the rant.

  • drakeclark

    FYI, the Chairman appeared in the October 19th airing of Stargate Atlantis! I didn’t realize he was an actor with a lot of things on his resume.