Nic_judges
An especially tricky challenge and some excellent food—and some not.  After Jill Davie, the only woman remaining, was eliminated, Aaron Sanchez was overheard speaking to Morou: “The women are gone," he warned. "Next they’ll be going after the brown people.”  True?  Find out that! and more!  Will Knowlton kill the bug that crawled up his ass?!  Will Ruhlman fix his hair?!  Will the judges spontaneously break into Yvonne Elliman’s “I Don’t Know How To Love Him”?!  Tonight at 9 on the Food Network.

UPDATE, MONDAY MORNING COMMENTS: Gosh the judges look like sour pusses up there.  I assure you, the editing makes us seem especially harsh.  I mean, I remember getting these long dangling lettuce leaves in Cosentino’s salad, which made it a little awkward to eat and seemed to reflect haste or laziness, but certainly it was a minor point.  But my expression and the weight the producers gave it—you’d have thought I was asking if Chris been exposing himself in front of little girls.  On the other hand, Andrew is every bit the menace he appears.  And it was hard to get to know him off camera—he had a lot of handlers, so it was difficult to get any time with him.

I liked this episode because I got to see chefs’ personalities in how they chose ingredients for their colleague and it did show resourcefulness in the challenge.

Standout dishes.  Symon was by far the best performance this week, and all four judges agreed with this.  His berry drink was refreshing and delicious as we sat in the hot sun (he’s no idiot).  The polenta took some skill—polenta needs a good forty minutes to cook; the first thirty of the chefs’ 60 minutes was spent getting enough heat; Donatella, a polenta snob, pronounced it outstanding.  And his presentation, family style was good and appropriate, flavors and seasoning on the money. “Out of the park” as Alton said.  I loved Sanchez’s escargot.  The serving method was ingenious and the flavor was excellent.  Besh’s food again was first rate, except for the soggy meat—it must have spent to much time steaming in its sassafras leaf.

The judging.  Cranky Andrew.  I got the feeling he had it in for Sanchez from the beginning.  Maybe it was the cynical journalist going after the New York chef, I don’t know, but his dislike of Sanchez’s dishes seemed disproportionate.

But none of us disagreed about the three chefs left standing.  Kaysen was the easy choice.  It was the Morou/Sanchez decision.  For me it came down to the fact that overall, Sanchez’s flavors and dishes had been more powerful and assured than Morou’s, which were only OK.  I felt flavorwise in this competition, they were even.  Morou’s plating looks good on camera and his one dish was indeed outstanding, but all in all, too fussy, dainty, and compartmentalized.  So, given that it was a toss up with an equal balance of pros and cons on this challenge, I asked myself, at this point, who would I choose to cook for me next time?

Now here’s the thing nobody knew.

Alton said to Sanchez, who’d just squeaked by: “If Chef kaysen had salted his quail eggs and frog legs properly he would be standing here.”

Well, Kaysen DID salt his food.  What he didn’t tell us, indeed what he only told me later that day as all were packing to go and he was heading to the airport, was this.  The way the competition works is the chefs cook their food under those strict time constraints you see on the show.   Food is then photographed and held.  Camera’s are reset, and the chefs get to reheat and put their dishes together for tasting.  This is the only way that each chef can be able to serve hot fresh food as he or she wishes to the judges, not food that’s been sitting around for a while, no unfair advantage given to someone who serves first.

That day was very hot and Kaysen stored his food in a tub on plenty of ice.  It was then stored by the culinary crew.  When Kaysen returned to his food, he found it submerged in ice water!  That’s something that I would have taken into account in the judging.  Salt quickly rushes out into water—he could have reseasoned the exterior but no wonder, it tasted under-seasoned.  Such is the nature of culinary competition.  But I’m sorry he didn’t say anything.

Good news for New Yorkers: Kaysen is taking over the kitchen of Café Boulud, Nov 12.  My guess is that the kid is going to shine.

[Adam Roberts funny take on lasting impact of NICA on the chefs.  And, btw, Adam, the dude really is THE Chairman--I've MET the guy.  Seriously]

[Adam Kuban's interesting take over at Serious Eats]

[Andrew Knowlton still hasn't posted on epicurious--still bitter, I presume.]

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119 Wonderful responses to “Next Iron Chef: Two Chefs Eliminated Tonight”

  • Kali

    Foul! I cry foul!

    If Gavin made the mistake that ruined his dish, that would be one thing. But the FN staff ruined it! How can he be penalized for that?

    So wrong.

    And ITA with Virginia. FN has no “minority” chefs (no, we can’t count Ingrid Hoffman’s phony semi-Latina schtick); THAT’S why it seems so wrong…and so predictable…to see chefs of color eliminated early on.

    Based on FN’s current programming, some of us would agree with Aaron–they never had a chance!

  • John B

    There is no color what so ever on the food network! All the shows have become watered down, and now the powers that be can’t even create an original show! There is no way that Mourou (sp) should have been kicked off last night. Since when is fried rabbit creative?? Are these the best judges they could find? Oh yeah, were the ladies really the worst of the lot? Or is that they lack sex appeal? I am also sick of rhulam and bourdain all over each other like teenage lovers. What is that all about?

  • derek

    Really, no one has tried to make chocolate catfish? If so, please share the experience.

  • Courtsma

    Racism and sexism are alive and well! The Food Network has no doubt heard all of the complaints before. But, they obviously don’t care about being seriously inclusive. They are interested in ratings and pleasing the majority. The person to be the next iron chef was probably selected before this show started. And anyone who would ever think that either of the women, or the black or latina man would be selected is really living in a dream world. Come on!

    Cat Cora is the “token” woman Iron Chef already. Chef Jourdin is seriously top notch–but doesn’t look like a beauty queen, and they would NEVER make two woman IC’s at the same time!

    There are NO black chefs on the FNW with shows that are airing. None! If they really wanted to have one—they wouldn’t need a contest to find one I’m sure! Also, Chef Sanchez in their view is far too ethnic. They told him that was their thinking 2 weeks ago!

    Chef Marou—plating issues! Please—how many times have Iron Chefs separated their foods on plates for presentation? They do it ALL the time. But, the judges had to find SOMETHING other than, “we need to let you go BECAUSE you are black,” didn’t they? The argument between the two judges was just a ploy to add a bit of drama to the show.

    Sanchez is next—or maybe he might last a week longer. However, he won’t be the next Iron Chef–not because he’s not good enough, but because he’s not white enough.

  • Skawt

    Ruhlman:

    If Knowlton is a nice guy in real life, then as with everything else that FN ruins, the producers and editors have decided to make him as unlikeable as possible.

    Mourou may be a great chef, but refusing to leave your comfort zone is a good way to lose points for plating and originality on ICA – and has been the downfall for many contestants, both challengers and iron chefs alike – when there was a tie on the taste.

    Aaron Sanchez may be talented, and he obviously did do a good job with the ingredients he had. But it’s become apparent that he doesn’t listen, he complains, and I’ve more than once felt that he comes off as hostile and confrontational. Now, again, this may be a result of what the FN powers that be want us to see. If so, he would need to keep a lid on that behavior at all times so as not to give them ammunition to use against him.

    Finally, Gavin Kaysen. I think he was robbed. And I also think that he should not have been penalized for something that was entirely out of his control. And if the FN handlers had not directly interfered and ruined Gavin’s dishes, then Sanchez would have been out.

  • Rachael

    Hate to say it, Ruhlman, but editing really DOES make him look like a jerk even if you say he’s not half bad. He seemed downright vicious at times!

    But I’m more miffed about the salt mixup. Alton’s always looming around during prep- he had no idea that was happening? Yipes! But if Gavin had stepped up and said someone messed with his food, it would have seemed odd. Kudos to him for choosing the high road and leaving looking like a total pro.

    I don’t get the plating commentary so much if only because I really don’t care that much about plating unless someone does an awful job. Maybe if someone was stuffing salad into a funnel a la Kitchen Nightmares I’d start complaining but this time around it seemed par for the course. I’m clearly out of touch there.

  • Doodad

    It’s racist and sexist not to have a female or minority (cough ahem Morimoto- the other white meat) New Iron Chef? Demographics of their viewing audience aside, maybe they should go for the trifecta and get a handicapped black lesbian chef.

  • Ann

    So true about Knowlton and the bug up his hindquarters. Too nasty and crochety for my taste. Always looks underwhelmed and like he just finished sucking on a lemon. He is overly opinionated and thinks waaay too much of himself and his opinions. I enjoy the thoughtful comments and critique from Arpaia and Ruhlman, and would love even more commentary (not just summary) from Alton. Sanchez is still too immature to be an Iron Chef. I think iof these remaining 4 and imagine them on the platform alongside the likes of Morimoto, Flay, Batali and Cora and the only one who I would be happy seeing there is Symon. Besh is too full of himself and annoys me and I can’t imagine that would change if he were on Iron Chef America. Symon is edgy, likeable and really should be the next Iron Chef, IMHO. Thanks for the blog!

  • Aron T

    Was Sanchez the only chef not to use his protein twice? No
    Were there chefs whose food was much worse in terms of flavor and cooking? Yes (what about Besh’s wet tissue?
    Why did no one say to Besh after he fried his food “Why are you sticking so much to your Southern roots”?
    On the one hand people call out Sanchez for getting upset on the other hand AB had the gall to question his passion. So he’s a passionate Mexican – does that make him confrontational?

    The so-called complaints of the judges against Sanchez just don’t hold together. The other chefs are given a pass while they attack him for more minor “sins.” As for not being able to make it on Iron Chef, let’s not forget this is the guy who tied Morimoto (the very best chef of all the Iron Chefs)! What did Symon do? Or Constantino for that matter whose food looks unappealing and bland (and the judges say the same as well)?

    If this show was about the food, then TFC would have done what someone else suggested – had the judges give points and add them up to find the winner and give all the chefs equal chances until the end. But it is all about the drama so having a pissy jerk like Knowlton as a judge fits in well with the whole tone of the show.

  • JP9629

    Seriously??? People… You’re quoting Jesus Christ Superstar on a cooking show?”.If you’re gonna’ go that route isn’t “Look at all my trials and tribulations” slightly more apropro? Or were you just trying to be obscure AND tragically hip? MR – you’re kind of a hard ass. Kind of think based on your books you don’t want Michael Symon to win. Is that fair?

  • Claudia

    Jesus, enough of the Ruhlman bashing. He’s neither going to favor Symon because he’s a friend, nor is he out to crucify him (sorry about the JCS allusion) just to prove he isn’t indulging in nepotism. Symon has THREE judges to contend with – one of whom, obviously, is prepared to go to the mat with Ruhlman when his cashmere sweater is all a-rumple. Aside from that, Symon has the distinct DISadvantage of having Ruhlman know his food inside out, and therefore knowing when he’s either just dipping into his repetoire or borrowing from his pasty chef.

    If you’re wary about bias, just keep your eye on Knowlton – he said he feels repeatedly disappointed by Sanchez and was prepared to send him home last week, so I bet he will be eyeballing him THIS week. It might not even be a conscious thing – but I think he’s got Aaron red-flagged, and is subcounciously expecting to be disappointed by him yet again.

  • Susan

    I have to defend Morou. I don’t want food touching on my plate, it drives me crazy. Maybe it’s from growing up with cafeteria food and tv dinners, but I was cheering when I saw Morou’s culinary segregation. It was suggested that he use different plates or bowls if he wanted to keep things separate – true, but that results in a lot of dishes to play around with (and wash later – take pity on the dishwashers!). Food slopping into other food…ick. If it’s not meant to be together, why would you want it touching? You should put it together only if it should be together. Morou is rising above a buffet plate with his lovely plating. Morou is awesome.

  • Claudia

    I like Morou, too. His plates were lovely, even if they are compartmentalized. Send the dude home for his PLATING? Bogus. My only consolation is that if he didn’t go home last week, he would’ve this week or next – I still think it will be Besh and Symon down to the wire. Ooooo – will Cosentino have a meltdown tonight, ya think, or Aaron?

  • Claudia

    I like Morou, too. His plates were lovely, even if they are compartmentalized. Send the dude home for his PLATING? Bogus. My only consolation is that if he didn’t go home last week, he would’ve this week or next – I still think it will be Besh and Symon down to the wire. Ooooo – will Cosentino have a meltdown tonight, ya think, or Aaron?

  • Pamellia

    First: I think Sanchez was right on target with his comments about “brown people.”

    Second: Prissy Little Lord Fauntleroy is annoying. And what is up with that hair?!

    Second, Alexandria, VA, is NOT stuck in the 80s–several chefs from Washington have fled that scene and are setting up shop in our fair city. If the plating “detracts” from your dining experience, maybe your issues run deeper than presentation. It’s about the FOOD, isn’t it?

    Run a google search, a NYTimes article featuring FarrahOlivia was written during September on that subject. Article also featured Vermilion and Majestic Cafe.

    Third, in any event, I’ve tried to give this show a chance. I’ve tried to ignore the obvious fact that it is a poor carbon copy of TC. But FN needs to seriously rethink its strategy

  • Norma Ave

    Michael always look like a skunk just went under the judges table. He does have a “turn up my nose” look.

    Norma