So, was I right?  Questions and comments?  I’ll try to elaborate on the food tomorrow answer burning questions.

Monday Morning Update: This was a really difficult decision–Cosentino or Sanchez.  Symon was the clear winner from all of us, for the incredibly juicy salmon (he made a risky decision to finish it in the airplane rather than reheat), but his other dishes were on the money too.  Besh’s asparagus salad was a little lacking, just wasn’t all there.  And he told me why afterward.  In the rush to get all his food into the box he forgot one of his vinaigrettes!  This challenge was indeed really hard–the time, the number of dishes, the unfamiliar kitchen and the cameramen getting in your goddam way.  I personally thought Chris was being kind! And showing uncommon grace under pressure by not ripping the camera out of their hands and mauling them bloody–you have no idea what a drag they are when you’re trying to cook. They are of course required for a show, however.

Nicep4aaron5 Chris’s crunchy cauliflower and Aaron’s nasty fish skin hurt them.  Neither prepared dishes with the muscle Besh and Symon did.  We had an hour between when we actually delivered a verdict and Knowlton argued vociferously, actually taking me by the lapels and slamming me against a concrete wall way in the back of the hangar. He was persuasive. They were so close in fact that I had to take their overall performance into account. In the end, we all wrote down our choices and handed them to Alton, and it was unanimous.  Chef Schmitt did not judge but his comments and opinions were very important to our evaluation.

And yes the editing. It was kind to Knowlton this week. He’s just as much of an ass as ever.  Donatella just as elegant.  (Kidding about Knowlton!)  If anything, I was the snooty one this week, nothing but curled lip and disdain.  The consomme issue is important.  Besh used it to make the dish sound prettier.  But by doing so he’s diminishing the value of the word.  Soon it won’t mean anything. He trailed me in the Charles de Gaulle airport the next day saying, "Consomme was in quotes!"  He even dropped his bags to make quote marks in the air.

For the record, to respond to a grumbler, I do not and never have called myself a chef, because I am not a chef.  A chef is a leader of a kitchen.  I am a trained cook, and spent a very brief and not inglorious time as a line cook at a Cleveland restaurant owned by Marriott (which gave health bennies, thank god).  I make my living as a writer–perhaps the grumbler should check out my new book. Also, I don’t know who said it, but no winner was pre-selected.  We were told repeatedly by the producers to vote from our gut.  And if they had told me anything else, I would have said, f.u.

Now, after a falling out with these producers, I have decided to reveal the big secret from next week’s show:

Besh is in fact an undercover agent for the international police and arrests both Symon (frigging peacemonger, Besh was heard saying, as he put the cuffs on) and Cosentino for illegal foie gras activity, citing an obscure Chicago ordinance as his justification.

Read fellow judge Andrew Knowlton’s comments and picks for top three bottom three dishes, which i agree with.

And the inimitable Amateur Gourmet here.

UPDATE: I put this in the comments, but a reader suggested putting it here and I agree.  I got an email from Cosentino this morning saying this:

thanks for defending me with the camera guys. these guys were german and not understanding of space every time i moved my elbows touched someone. i thought i was going to hurt my self. also i found out later that eytan with this ear piece was telling the camera guys to get closer to me . In kitchen stadium they understand the dangers of being to close and they want you to succeed, in this episode all they wanted was the shot. that is why i got hostile i told them from the beginning to give me space since the kitchen configuration was really bad we had a very small pass way to get to equipment (like bowls, pans )and they were always blocking it and wouldn’t move when we asked them . thats when the hostility came. now that 1/2 the country thinks i am an asshole as some one put it in another blog. life goes on.


262 Wonderful responses to “Next Iron Chef: Hardest Challenge According to Chefs”

  • allie

    “Nothing that you or Andrew have been bickering about has any merit…it is as if the two of you are having a pissing contest to come across as the most knowledgeable. Well, when critiquing you should have facts to back you up and not your opinion.”

    francesca, as none of have tasted any of the food, it’s difficult to say which critiques have merit and which don’t. and since we only see about 5 minutes of their deliberations anyway, who are you to characterize it as a “pissing contest”?

    either way, claiming that food should be judged based on facts and not “opinion” is just plain silly. presumably you think food should be judged on taste, and that is, by definition, an opinion.

  • rmw

    ya know…i blogged long ago..I watch for the escapism (sp?) My family of 4 watch to get out of reality..our lives our busy, hetic, money pressures, bills, dues, kids sick, elder parents is too short to spend this amount of time on a damn TV show…..enjoy it for what it IS…FUN..escape….don’t judge….kick back…drink one…laugh…that is what TV is about….Ya’all BREATH….

  • Todd

    I wonder how many people who are judging the judges have credentials as TV critics…

    This panel is better than 99% of the ICA judging panels (and light years ahead of any panel that has Mo Rocca on it, as funny as those might be).

    They’re all qualified.

    As far as this episode, why did Sanchez go? Uh, his fish was terrible. Yeah that got the snarky edit, but… if the judges agree that the fish skin was soggy, that’s enough to tell me they’re right in their choice. I’ve had soggy fish skin. It’s gross. You don’t need any culinary background to tell you it’s not a good thing.

    Why was Cosentino there at the last two? He threw a gallon of chives on undercooked cauliflower. It looked like crap on a plate and with those competing strong flavors, I can’t imagine it doing anything but overpowering the other ingredients (which, consequently, the judges implied). Raw cauliflower is unpleasant in all but a small handful of composed dishes. (And anyone who watched the top chef episode… cauliflower, planes? eew.)

    I think the show misses its mark only because these chefs are being asked to do things that they wouldn’t normally do as part of an Iron Chef competition. Well… that and I just don’t like andrew. Didn’t like him before NIC, don’t like him now.

    In the end, I really hope Symon wins it and I’m not really that big of a Symon fan. I think he’s played fair during the challenges where they could screw each other over (putting the unused proteins back, picking a wide range of ingredients for the paired chef) and his edits don’t show him insulting the others’ food.

    All of the other chefs have stumbled big at some point and the ones that haven’t (Besh, in particular in this last episode) have good sound bites where they’re bashing others’ food (“I guess I’ll just use olive oil and garlic like everyone else…”).

    If it comes down to who wins the last challenge, though, the fatal flaw will be revealed if that person wasn’t consistently at the top of their game. The chairman wants wins? Then they’d be best off picking the guy who won challenges 2, 3 and 5 and 6, and not the one who only won 1 and 8.

    Ugh… ramble. Thanks for the Forum, Ruhlman. The popularity of the show and your willingness exposes you to the snark. It’s a sad fact, but…

  • Vanessa

    Loved it, loved it, loved it. Symon was excellent, Michael was too. I especially liked the shot of Michaels hand jotting notes as he ate…impressive skills you’ve got there my man…I can’t eat and write….I can eat and read though.

    Symon rules.

    Thanks Michael.

  • Shelley

    Francesca, perhaps you should READ this thread before you post a comment. Been there, heard that. And many of us couldn’t disagree with you more! What you see is all about editing, not about what actually goes on in this competition.

    I, too, am getting tired of all the snarky whiners here.

  • Francesca

    I am disappointed by the judges. I don’t think that the judges were picked appropriately. For me, I feel that these Chef’s should be judged by other respected and established Chef’s. It is a bit of an insult to be judged by people who have had no formal training to be a Chef. I would just expect the best to decide who is the next Iron Chef.

    I feel as if the audience has not received explanations for the elimination of the Chef’s. All I hear is whining from the judges, mainly Andrew and yourself. I have nothing to say about Donatella…she does not impress me either. I just want to put out there that I have had no formal training from a Culinary School but was raised in a family with cooking being a central part of our lives and my sister attended the CIA. I think she should be a judge…I mean she went to the CIA for longer than 9 months. I guess I should not be trivial but my point in being this way is because of how the judges have come across to me. I expect so much more and have been so disappointed by the judges. I feel FN could have and should have had a higher standard in picking the judges. These trivial fights are just tasteless. Nothing that you or Andrew have been bickering about has any merit…it is as if the two of you are having a pissing contest to come across as the most knowledgeable. Well, when critiquing you should have facts to back you up and not your opinion. That is how the judges are coming across….childish.

    If there will be another series for the NIC I hope that FN take the time to find judges who can be more detailed and factual about the elimination. As I said, the judges have been a disappointment.

  • WhatisCanadianCuisine?

    I also wanted to say thanks. I come here after every episode and during the week and truly enjoy reading this blog. I’m so sorry the trolls are trying to ruin it. Please do ignore them, they’re probably just bitter or looking for someone to blame(pathetic)!

    Seriously, there are a lot of us who enjoy all your updates, all your informative blog posts and your responses. The trolls will be long gone after TNIC is over, and the rest of us will still be around to enjoy your articles and comments.

    I for one, am grateful for you and Tony’s existance!

  • Christie

    It’s hard for me to be impartial when I’ve got the hots for Michael Symon. But after watching this last episode I can honestly say I’d be happy with either a Symon or Besh win. Either of those two will make a fine Iron Chef.

    I just wonder if either of those two can give us that stern, serious “Iron Chef look” in Kitchen Stadium. “Okay, take 56!”

  • stephanie

    Well said, IGIF, and LONG past due.

    Mr. Ruhlman, I would like to thank you for your insider view of this show. I look forward to every blog post, NIC, or otherwise. Please don’t let the trolls stop you from providing your insight to those of us that truly appreciate it. Unfortunately, some people are so miserable in their own lives that they need to cause strife for everyone around them.

  • IGIF

    Thank you, Michael Ruhlman, for sticking with this blog and occasionally responding to a lot of unnecessary BS about “conflict”! In my opinion, you have the integrity to judge the food, not the chef, and in doing so, may even err on the opposite side just to be “fair”. And Chef Symon…God bless him! He is SO neat (sorry, I’m 65 — could have said swell)– such a gifted chef, entertaining personality, and, if I weren’t living on SocSec in FL, I would be happy to meet him for a couple of drinks and laughs, too. I’d even go to his renewal of vows, since I didn’t make the wedding. Give this up, you guys. Enjoy what back knowledge we get from Mr. Ruhlman’s blog and just email each other so this whole comment section doesn’t get overwhelmed by this holier-than-thou, you cheated!, he can’t possibly be objective, etc. contingent. Ruhlman rocks, and I love Bourdain, too! Rooting for Symon and Besh and don’t think one judge will decide the outcome. Thank you again, Mr. Ruhlman.

  • Susan

    I’m not a chef and certainly not out to “get” you. In fact, I’m one of the people that buys and likes your books. However, I’ve had it with the overly critical eye of the judges. Give it a rest and go have a fast food burger. Maybe then the excellent food put in front of you might taste less than cardboard and more sublimely wonderful.

  • Dianne

    I agree! C’mon! Ruhlman is giving us a birds-eye view that we’d never see elsewhere. Let’s say “thanks!” and give him a break!

  • BiteNotBark

    If you think about how many of the chefs knew or worked with each other just in this group of 8, there’s little chance that they don’t have some connection to the judges. The food world is indeed a small place, and everyone knows everyone else in some way, either directly or indirectly.

    A good deal of the production team was based on the same floor as my office at the CIA during the filming, I can say from our observations that the judges seemed to take their jobs pretty darn seriously – I saw Knowlton going out of his way to re-route his walk to the filiming location because of where the contestants were, and also saw Donatella hanging around in wardrobe and hair/make-up because a few of the chefs were doing “confessionals” in a nearby room and she knew they were walking around. But the kicker? The day Ruhlman was forced to use the ladies room near my office because all of the contestants were mingling in the hallway he would have to walk down to get to the mens room, and he told my colleague “No, I can’t walk down there. I can’t interact with them, it’s not appropriate.” If the judges weren’t concerned about this production and their participation in it, I don’t think we would have seen anything like this.

    (And although I know my co-worker was a little surprised to “meet” you in our ladies room, I for one am grateful that you didn’t want there to be any impression of fraternization/favoritism, real or implied.)

  • Pablo Machio

    People don’t think they’re joined at the hip, but Ruhlman did write about Symon extensively in his book. There’s no denying it. Go ahead and exaggerate people’s concerns and comments without fact, French Laundry. You are simply a fanboy sucking up to Ruhlman and it’s rather transparent.

    What’s that sound I hear? It’s French Laundry wiping the brown off his nose as his eyes roll.

  • ruhlman

    logicalmind, sorry, i honestly didn’t know there was actual speculation. Michael and I have been friends since before soul of a chef. This is well known. I did go to his wedding, which coincided with soul of a chef work, as i recall. I have never been to velvet tango with him, though i wouldn’t hesitate to. happy to answer any genuine questions about this.

    but tomorrow… i have spent too much time with this post today, this blog will drive me crazy.

  • Brenda Mac

    Perhaps all of this “relationship” business, is none of ours. Please allow the gentlemen to get onto more important issues, such as having private lives.

    Now where were we…………? Oh yeh, TNIC.

  • Kansas City rube

    I don’t doubt Ruhlman at all but is it really that hard to understand why other people might perceive a problem? I find it difficult to believe that you all can’t even fathom that this reaction would come from certain factions. It should have been expected and that’s why I think it’s FN’s fault. I don’t think you have to think there’s actual bias to understand why some people object.

    JoP, the reason the discussion continues here is that some posters and even Ruhlman himself have been pretty flippant and dismissive.

  • Kalyne

    “Those who think otherwise should take their complaints to FN… does no good to complain here. Can we PLEASE move on to another topics????”

    Well, it’s a blog about NIC, after all. I think the comments about the ethics of the show definitely belong here (they can always be deleted if ruhlman gets sick to death of them. Until then, it’s a VERY fair discussion point, imo–even more so as the competition progresses.)

    And public criticism is the price of deciding to do the judging this way–with a close friend of one chef on board as a judge. (And if that’s really Symon, well the “Actually I’m good friends with ALL the judges” defense is a pretty ROFL one, when you think about it. That addresses the “fairness to all” question…how?)

    The concept of this show is fun, and they have great talent. I’m just frustrated with the producers because they’ve missed out on a lot of great opportunities to showcase these chefs by trying instead to be a “Top Chef” clone and cash in on TC’s popularity.

    To paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld, they should have showcased the talent they have, not the (lower-level) talent they (apparently) wish they had.

  • sailorgrrl07

    I’d like to suggest that we all keep in mind that Mr. Ruhlman doesn’t owe us this blog, we’re fortunate he’s devoting time to helping us get involved in the show. Remember gang this is, after all, *television*….I would like to see a little less sanctimonious-ness (not a word) regarding his involvement. Just my two cents.


  • The P/A

    Crisis, people, some of these comments went too far.

    Ruhlman, if you’re still reading these comments, you can dodge the daggers.

    The have-nots will always be gunning for you.

    Ignore them.

  • JoPin Omaha

    I’ve been trying to bite my tongue, but logicmind got to me..

    I have read “Soul of a Chef,” and ya know what? I don’t doubt Rulman’s ability to judge the food, not the person. Not for one second. I have complete trust that Ruhlman’s opinions are based on the food. Period.

    Those who think otherwise should take their complaints to FN… does no good to complain here. Can we PLEASE move on to another topics????

  • logicalmind

    I don’t understand why you like to downplay your relationship with Symon. Clearly you two are close, or were close at one time. If it’s a non-issue in terms of your impartiality, why not just disclose what your relationship actually is rather than having people guess about it. If you haven’t gone to his wedding then say so. If you haven’t been to velvet tango room with him in two years then say so. Lets see some full disclosure. End the speculation.

  • ruhlman

    fyi, it was symon. the address on the post was symon’s e-mail address. I know this because we are so close (and because he’s promised to put my kids through private school and cover our mortgage–out of his own generosity, of course).

  • French Laundry at Home

    Ruhlman, I think you should shave your head and grow a soul patch tonight so that not only can you and Symon be BFFs, you can also look like twins since people here in the comments section think you’re joined at the hip. Maybe also exchange matching bracelets or something just to show your undying love for one another. I know — get a big ole bicep tattoo of a heart with Symon’s likeness on it. Precious. What’s that sound you hear? Oh, that’d be my eyes rolling.

  • JMW

    It’s definitely a shame to see Cosentino presented in this light. The producers have tried from the start to characterize him as somewhat irascible (as TC did to Hung from the start); the editing is preposterous.

    I can’t say I know the man, but I’ve eaten at Incanto a few times now recently and he’s not exactly charging around his (relatively small) kitchen with horns forward.

    At any rate — I have to reiterate that I just don’t get the point of this challenge. I understood the molecular gastronomy challenge because it represented the cutting edge that an Iron Chef should know. But why should an Iron Chef be good at using a blast freezer to preserve “product” in this way?

    Would it also be an appropriate Iron Chef challenge, for example, to have the chefs prepare the Next Generation of Keebler Snack plates with custom crackers?

    What bothers me about the TC connection isn’t that it’s the same challenge, per se. But rather it represents the same intention to infuse the show with blunt cross-promotion. The only thing missing is Padma’s deadpan endorsement — campy to the point of hilarity.

    So where are we going with this, Mr Ruhlman? Will you preside over the final challenge in a Campbell soup factory? Then the winner gets their face on their own Iron Chef-branded chunky soup?

    The first-class challenge is dangerously close to Chicken Ceasar territory. Ironic it almost brought down Cosentino; he represents everything airline food isn’t (and never will, or should, be).

  • Dianne

    Michael, of the flowing locks, I’m amazed at your comments about the intrusiveness of the camera crew, but very glad you made mention of the problem.

    This seems to show a bias of some sort from the FN editors. Why in the world would they want to make Chris out to be some sort of nasty prima dona? I know that manufactured drama is inherent in any “reality” show, even a cooking one, but why would they do this? Prior to this episode, he was one of my faves. After this episode, I thought “If he can’t handle these guys, he’ll never make it on IC.”

    I think next years’ contest, if there is one, deserves a new editor and production crew.

  • logicalmind

    Imagine you are writing a biography of a person starting a business. You follow that person for months. You learn about their family, you meet their wife and kids. You live through their highs and lows watching as the emotional side of the business takes its toll on the person and his family. You would have to get really close to this person to do a good job. You’d be a robot if you didn’t. Most likely, in the end this person is a good friend of yours. Heck, you may even be invited to their wedding. May even be a drinking buddy that you meet up with at the velvet tango room on the weekends.

    If you were now asked to judge the person to which you followed and became so close with, could you do it impartially? Knowing of this persons struggles. Knowing of the impact that what you say will have on the life and family of this person? Rulhman says he can, so we all must believe that.

    But this is the kind of relationship we’re talking about here. This is basically what Ruhlman did with Symon. If you read the book(Soul of a Chef) you will see that they became incredibly close. So anyone trying to write this off as just some industry acquaintance is not correct.

  • Natalie Sztern

    at least it’s not me this time….Kansas City Rube your first paragraph belongs on the bible in every courtroom in the country and in Canada, either you are a lawyer or a litigant but either way you are definitely no virgin of the justice system…

  • Kalyne

    First, I don’t think there’s a chance in Hell that post was really Symon’s. C’mon, people!

    Second, re: ethics. I’m enjoying Michael’s insider perspective, but I still have to give Janet some support for her point. If Cosentino was Knowlton’s good buddy, we’d all be griping like crazy about AK’s bias. It’s fair to question if anyone should be allowed to judge a contest where their friend is a competitor .

    Personally–no reflection on Michael Ruhlman–but I think the answer to that should always be, “No.”

    I don’t fault him for doing it (as he says, who could resist this opportunity?) But I do fault FN. There are many, many other people who could have judged this, untainted by close ties to any of the chefs. Whether friendship has impact or not on the outcome, it just isn’t right, in principle.

    Re: Cosentino. Thanks to MR for sharing the email. If it’s any consolation, I assumed FN had to use German cameramen who were being unusually annoying (innocently or on purpose). FN shouldn’t have edited it the way they did–but I’m sure a lot of the audience understood that the problem wasn’t Chris.

  • gfweb

    This whole conflict of interest thing is interesting/depressing. By the reasoning of many of you, the more prominent a reviewer is… the less able he is to be impartial because he has met/known more people. So therefore only the inexperienced should be allowed to judge a competition?

  • thespian

    I completely understood where Cosentino was coming from on the camera issue; they also showed Symon almost running into the guy with the lights at one point, and while he didn’t swear, he sure looked like he wanted to. Everything I saw about the German crew said to me that they didn’t have the slightest idea how to shoot around working chefs. Cutting behind Symon, in front of a pot of boiling water? That was BEYOND unsafe; when I have to do something like that in a kitchen, I announce it from 3-4 feet away, “I AM GOING BEHIND YOU, CHEF,’ and I don’t do it UNTIL I know they heard me. I had wondered if Cosentino wasn’t overreacting, myself, until I saw that fuck up, and it became obvious that the camera team was being unsafe and foolish.

    Diverging: I recently discovered that when Kaysen was in France for the Bocuse d’Or, one of the reasons he was penalized was because a French dishwasher assumed that a couple of chicken wings for his plate were discards, and ate them. Following on the recent issue with the FN techs moving his cooler in a way that the food wound up submerged, I’m wondering if the issue isn’t that Kaysen should just keep his eye on his food AT ALL TIMES! Never let it out of your sight again, and you should be good to go! ;-)

  • Claudia

    Oh, dear God, it’s Monday, and the trolls are out AGAIN.

    Michael, I hope the beer mugs WERE twice the size of your head, writer’s embellishment notwithstanding. Has no one heard of satire around here?

    Please tell Cosentino I sympathize with him – the KS cameramen do know, from experience, how close in to get. Even Alton, who I snipped at just last week for getting too close to the chefs when they’re in the weeds and making them talk about it, wisely stayed out of Cosentino’s way. I don’t think CC is an asshole – I think he was working under tough conditions made tougher by the scoring of “video gold”. And I don’t think Cosentino got sent home because he was a Not Ready For Prime Time player this week, either. I really thing the judges (who didn’t see the camera issue) judged him on his food.

    The Symon/Ruhlman ethics issue is getting real tired. For chrissakes, Ruhlman busted him right at the beginning for using his pastry chefs’ recipe – which no other judge called him out on, or COULD call him out on, since Ruhlman has an encyclopedic knowledge of Symon’s cooking. Let’s give THAT one a rest, hmmm? Every freaking Monday with that issue . . .

    But Ruhlman, no matter what you say, a lot of us DO think Knowlton is a prissy little pudknocker. Sorry, dude.

    Oh, and Not Gullible – Ruhlman does check the tags occassionally. When there’s an issue.

  • Tags

    Not gullible:

    Did you not enter an email address when you posted?

    So did everyone else. If Michael R saw an email different from the one he corresponds with Michael S on, don’t you think he’d call him on it?

  • not gullible


    Are you assuming that Mr. Ruhlman has nothing better to do all day than to read the posts on his blog?

    Surely that won’t help pay the mortgage.

    Have you wired any money to a Nigerian prince lately?

  • Shelley

    I think it’s cool that Mr. Symon himself contributed to this thread. Just one more reason I’ll be rooting for him to be an iron chef! Now, if I could only find a legitimate reason to visit Cleveland…

  • Not gullible

    It seems as if anyone can pose as anyone on this here blog. I wouldn’t be so quick to attribute the above post to Chef Symon.

    Will the real Chef Symon please stand up?

  • LauraTheRed

    I think that both Ruhlman and Symon do possess the maturity and professionalism to treat this competition with objectivity and fairness. This whole “Youjustwonbecausehe’syourFRIEND!” stance is incredibly childish, not to mention this point of view obscenely overlooks the facts that these are grown, educated professionals just doing what they’re called to do, and also that Ruhlman is only 1/4 of the vote. It’s not like Michael Symon’s drinking buddies are on the panel. For christ sake, grow up.

    BTW, Allie, that last sentence was very well-said :-)

  • allie

    janet, you accuse him of being racist, sexist, and favoring one contestant, and you’re surprised that his response isn’t more pleasant?

    I think you’d be hard-pressed to find qualified judges/food critics who aren’t acquainted with at least one of the contestants. and they’re certainly familiar with the reputations of these chefs, so there’s no way to go into that situation completely unbiased. that aside, that’s why there are three judges, and I doubt any of them would take kindly to obvious biases on the part of the others. do you really think michael’s friendship with symon has had more of an impact on the competition than knowlton’s seemingly unreasonable dislike of sanchez?

    regardless, if ethics are of that much importance to you, I would suggest avoiding reality tv altogether.

  • Andrew

    I have a question about the ‘consommé.’ I often make fruit consommé by using gelatin and the freezer. Harold McGee recently wrote about this. Does this count as a real consommé?

  • janet

    For the record, I have never said that the show is a set-up. I have never said that Ruhlman would intentionally favor Symon. I have never said that there was a racist or sexist conspiracy. Please respond (if you must respond at all) to what I have said, not to a caricature of what you think I said. Kay?

    Now I’m really turning off the computer.

  • dan s.

    Janet, what about Andrew, Donatella and Alton? Didn’t know Mr. Ruhlman alone had the power to crown the Next Iron Chef.

  • Kansas City rube

    It’s not surprising at all that Symon knows all three judges. It’s the same in the world of law with nearly all the judges and lawyers knowing each other. And most judges think they will have no problem remaining completely objective during a trial but often recuse themselves because the rules say they must based on some financial/familial connection. Believe me, like Ruhlman, they all think they can remain objective and wouldn’t recuse themselves if they had a choice.

    The rules are set up to maintain the illusion of impartiality, which is just that: an illusion. To some, the recusal rules seem pretty silly but I think they are also useful in maintaining the public’s faith in our system. When judging something, we all come in with biases but that doesn’t mean we’re not capable of reaching the right decision.

    The Cleveland/”Soul of a Chef” connection is pretty substantial, though. Again, I think Ruhlman is perfectly capable of remaining objective and if I were him, I never would have turned down the job. But I am a little surprised that the FN people didn’t see the relationship as a problem and let it slide.

    I also agree that it is only TV and all in good fun, so the janets out there really need to lighten up. But I think you can also make the argument that to the chefs who are trying to win and the people who work at their restaurants, this is more than just a silly show. The opportunity to be Iron Chef could mean a great deal of money and exposure for a lot of people.

    Personally, I’m glad to see Ruhlman on there because I respect the hell out of him and I find his comments insightful. He is without a doubt one of the greatest food scholars out there. Whoever questioned his credentials either knows nothing about him or is flat-out stupid.

  • janet

    Ruhlman: “janet, please. you are investing a little too much of yourself in the verdict. this is not law, this isn’t journalism. if i was ever out of line, don’t you think it would be obvious?”

    No, not necessarily, especially not to the viewer, since, as has been pointed out ad nauseum, the show is heavily edited. But again, it doesn’t matter whether or not you were “out of line.” It doesn’t matter whether or not you try to be fair. Frankly, I would have thought that Symon would object to your being a judge, given how it will look to some people — especially people who dislike you and/or him — if he wins.

    Your only response to questions about sexism, racism, or favoritism on the show has been to be snotty. I can guarantee that if Symon wins, more people will be accusing you of favoritism, so you might want to come up with a better response. But that’s your lookout.

    And now, as you suggested, I will go do something more useful.

  • Warren Hampton

    Help me with this one. There is a specific discussion about how altitude and cabin pressure effects your ability to taste resulting in you having to season the dishes differently, more intensely. Why bother mentioning it and then have everyone dine on the ground in the airplane hanger.

    How exactly is an accurately is the consideration of how the dish is seasoned and whether it will be enjoyed on the FLIGHT if you eat it on the ground?

    While I might like Besh and have enjoyed his food, you get the impression the food was were not heavily seasoned. At 10,000 feet would his dishes been flavorless and Constentios or Sanchez’ better?

    I agree with you on the comsume issue. A Napoleon unfortunately now just means anything stacked on a plate.

  • symon

    for those of you questioning my relationship with michael i feel it is important for you to know i also know donatella and andrew very well too!!…so i guess this whole thing must be fixed!!!..its a conspiracy theory i tell ya..i knew it all along..first will get rid of the women then marou and that damn aaron and then symon knows all those judges..the perfect storm!!..oh yeah one more quick note..we all knew the judges and they us..this is a small bussiness folks, very small…live to cook, ms

  • Brenda Mac

    Chef Symon……..Well Said!! Bravo!!

    For the record, you have had my vote from the beginning. Very refreshing to be presented with a “real” person. Thank you.

  • logicalmind

    Hey Symon, if that is really you. I had hear a rumor on another board that Ruhlman was actually at your wedding. Can you clarify whether this is true or not? Were Andrew and Donatella there as well?

    On a side note, nobody is questioning your skills as a chef. At least I am not. You could easily win whether ruhlman is a judge or not. My beef basically comes down to the fact that rulhman personally benefits from you being on the show. Whether that is because people wanting more information about you are going to buy more of his books. Or whether your success is going to benefit cleveland as a food city. Let’s face it, food network is new york based. Inserting a cleveland chef into that scene is going to be beneficial for you and ruhlman. I don’t see how any of the other two judges benefit from any other potential winner. Correct me if I’m wrong.

  • tokyoastrogirl

    In response to Kali’s comments about diversity- the high level of these contestants and judges overrides any need for the network to balance out the chefs or judges. In shows like Hell’s Kitchen or The Next Food Network star, I truly believe (but can’t prove) that the network has to consider if there are enough females or Asians on the show regardless of whether the top 10 qualified people are all, let’s say, white males. It’s annoying as hell to watch contestants of that show stumble theur way through cooking a steak when the prize is their very own RESTAURANT or COOKING SHOW. Give me a break.

    This show, however, seems to really be trying to pick top tier talent, regardless of race or sex, and frankly, it’s refreshing. I don’t watch this show to root for a female soley because she is one- I want the best chef to win. There are no “token” minorities on this show- they are all first-rate chefs that are well matched.

    Another thing to keep in mind is that this is the first season of this particular show- maybe next season they’ll mix it up with ideas like having three “international” judges but for now, it works.

  • Darclyte

    Hi Michael.
    You were right, this WAS the best episode yet. Stressed out chefs, Alton doing some “Good Eats” schtick, Donatella cleavage, and your facial expressions…priceless! It sounded like Sanchez at least had one good dish while Consentino didn’t. I read where you considered all their efforts so far, and that seemed a valid reason to kick off the last minority. So far, I was right with Final Four and Final Three. I’m betting it to be Besh and Symon like so many others here, and I hope if Symon wins they don’t hammer you for favoritism. I will call Bullshit on you though, Mr Ruhlman. They do NOT make beer mugs bigger than your giant cranium. Not in Germany, Austria or even Texas.

  • search_for_the_holy_gruel

    Hi Michael, just wanted to let you know that I dined at Comme Ca (Chef David Myers’ new restaurant) Sunday night. I wish I could report that it was perfect and everything was delicious. Unfortunately, I had an awful meal. I was really hoping for something excellent since Sona happens to be one of my favorite places. You can read the details here:

  • Sara

    “So is it ethical to be buds with a contestant when you are judging? If the competition is truly competitive then I think not… of course if the “Next Iron Chef” is fixed then I guess it is ok to be a “judge”.”

    I don’t think that being friends with a chef, or admiring him, will prevent Ruhlman being able to taste it if Symon cooks something elimination-worthy. Just because you like someone doesn’t mean you’re automatically biased in their favor, and I think all three judges deserve that kind of respect from us viewers.

  • Natalie Sztern

    You know this might not have anything to do with talent in the kitchen and cooking since i know very little about both but enjoy them nevertheless – but as a viewer who watches for the action rather than the performance i have to say that while all are very good looking men, for some reason Besh is the easiest on the eyes for me to focus on. Whether its his blue eyes or the fact that his face is clean; his on-camera presence and appearance is much more pleasing and appealing to watch….a thought probably no one but a producer would think about….

  • Sara

    To be the next to leap to Ruhlman’s defense: In a cooking show, judged by cooking experts (presumably), featuring eight very famous chefs, I believe it would be hard to get judges that were qualified to judge at not, at the very least, minimally exposed to the competitors, if they haven’t built a friendship with them.

    The food insdustry is a very friendly world — lots of people know each other, most people respect each other, and just about everyone is at least familiar with each other.

  • Bearnaise

    I am having a Ruhlman triple play:

    I just finished soul of a chef where an entire third of the book is focused on Michael Symon.

    While reading that section I saw a rerun of Bourdain’s visit to Cleveland where they go to Symon’s restaurant Lola.

    And then I see Ruhlman and Symon on “Next Iron Chef”

    So is it ethical to be buds with a contestant when you are judging? If the competition is truly competitive then I think not… of course if the “Next Iron Chef” is fixed then I guess it is ok to be a “judge”.

    And lastly, why does Ruhlman always come off so arrogant?

  • Frances

    Michael, is there any way you could copy Chris’ email to the top so that people can read it before labeling him an asshole?

    Some of the comments have been a bit ugly today. And not just about Chris. :/

  • Clove

    I know that you can’t talk about this, but I heard the latest episode of Michael Feldman’s PRI show “Whad’Ya Know?” this weekend.
    He was on-site in Cleveland and had Michael Symon on as a quest on the show.
    Feldman congratulated Simon on being the “Next Iron Chef” winner.
    Symon said that he could not and would not comment on this topic (under the $1 million penalty clause).
    Feldman said he understood but insisted that he “knew” that Symon was the winner.

  • bkbella

    Thanks for the correction. Now I can sleep better at night!

    There are enough unethical lawyers and journalists as it is.

  • Shelley

    Maybe someone has asked this already… are you going to get to be an Iron Chef judge on any of next season’s episodes? Hope so.

  • rockandroller

    The food world is likely very tight, just like the entertainment world is. I’m sure all the judges knew the chefs already before the show started. Some personally, some by reputation or word of mouth. Where do you draw the line? If a judge had ever visited one of the chef’s restaurants before, are they disqualified? What if they went AND had a conversation with the chef, is that the line that’s crossed? If they’ve read someone’s cookbook before the show, should they disclose that as they might be “biased” in knowing that the chef made a dish they were already familiar with? I mean, the varieties of how and where and when you could draw the line are endless and unnecessary. None of these chefs have achieved such uber-celebrity status that any person judging the competition would be so “oooh” “aaah” over their work that they’d be assumed to turn all sow’s ears into silk purses just because of who they are (or just serve the sow’s ears, which are tasty).

    I know a chef/owner of a restaurant in my town, and while I enjoy the food there, I also know when something is not done correctly and wouldn’t hesitate to send it back even though I know and like the owner. I don’t see why knowing someone, even being a fan of their work somehow should disqualify you from judging them, in their restaurant or in a contest like this. People know each other, know about each other, etc.

    What – should the judges have all been people who are from a town with no TVs and no magazines so they’re not familiar with any of the players?

    And as another poster pointed out, he’s a judge on a TV show, not in a court of law.

    I will say that I would have preferred the food to be presented without the chefs there, so the judges wouldn’t know whose food was whose. This is the only way I think the public at large would have 100% believed that Ruhlman is not some how “favoring” Symon.

  • BKbella

    “this is not law, this [is] journalism”

    I would hardly call this journalism (where ethics most certainly apply). This is marketing, advertising, theater and entertainment.

    The judges and chefs comprise what is likely a small, incestuous group. Surely, each chef could claim that the other has an advantage with a judge. Luckily for Ruhlman, Symon has brought his “A” game, so it would be difficult for the others to point fingers.

    Despite Ruhlman’s hard on for Symon in his book, I would be suspicious of a bias favoring Besh — Besh and Ruhlman must have the same barber.

    Finally, while I know very little about television production, I wouldn’t be surprised if a winner (or at least the 2 finalists) were determined before the show began. Editing is a powerful tool. Perhaps that is why there should have been a more “Iron Chef” head-to-head elimination.

  • Shelley

    Thanks for the update, Ruhlman! LOVE the big reveal…. and it’s nice to keep getting inside looks at messages you’re getting from the chefs.

  • The P/A

    Janet – You have a valid point about the Ruhlman/Symon ethics issue.

    But I, for one, am gonna let it slide.

    Yes. It is because this is TV, not the International Court of Justice.

  • janet

    Yes, the question of Ruhlman’s relationship with Symon keeps coming up. Why? Because Ruhlman judging a contest with Symon as a competitor is absolutely unethical. Period.

    Ruhlman’s only answer to this question has been to get up on his hind legs and say “How dare you insult my integrity.” Well, a person of integrity would have recused himself. But that is beside the point. It doesn’t matter whether it has an actual effect on the outcome of the competition. It doesn’t matter if Ruhlman has superhuman restraint and objectivity. It looks bad, and there is no way to change that.

    If Symon wins (and it looks likely that he will), the question of Ruhlman’s conflict of interest will continue to be asked (by people who care about such niceties). But hey, it’s just entertainment; it’s just a TV show. Who cares about ethics?

  • The P/A

    A few disjointed comments:

    Cosentino is a very reasonable person. That email above proves it.

    Besh is not an undercover international agent. If he spoke a language with an odd accent on a job–like he did upon dish presentation here–he’d be compromised very quickly.

    Symon showed some serious Iron Chef chops (read: agility) when he made it through the cooler door first . . . while Chef Besh overshot it. Loved that!

  • ruhlman

    janet, please. you are investing a little too much of yourself in the verdict. this is not law, this isn’t journalism. if i was ever out of line, don’t you think it would be obvious? certainly, the fiercely skeptical and courageously ethical Knowlton would have called bullshit. furthermore, you think i’d recuse myself from this fun, are you crazy? Schweinsaxen! Beer in mugs that are twice as big as my head! Spending some time with these excellent chefs and judges and the manic hilarious Alton. I took every contest seriously and judged as best as I could, which is all any of us can do. I urge you not to watch this show. go do something useful.

    logicalmind–besh didn’t benefit from four dishes–if it had come down to him and sanchez the extra effort may haveld have helped. and no, consomme or soup, i was just busting on him for a pet peeve of mine. that was a great dish.

  • logicalmind

    A couple of questions.

    1. Chef Besh made 4, rather than the required 3 dishes. Did he get any credit for doing this? Presumably he was judged on his 3 best dishes of the 4. Isn’t that what happens when chef’s make extra dishes in kitchen stadium?
    2. If Chef Besh would have named his “consomme” a “soup” would he have won?

  • eat4fun

    I’m thinking ahead to the finale – Besh and Symon?

    It would be great to have the final two battle it out in Kitchen Stadium since it’s going to be “home” to one of the chef contestants.

    Also another plus would be to supplement the judging panel with the the current Iron chefs and Jeffrey Steingarten.

  • Annie

    Although I’m addicted to this show, I’m beginning to miss the very first, non-elimination challenge: that of simply prepping various ingredients for the kitchen.

    It was fascinating to see how a professional chef does this, and I enjoyed it very much. Now the challenges are showing less of what these men do professionally and more of the kind of panic we’d all have in a tough situation.

    On the other hand, the present mood of the show–more time with the judges, understanding their decisions–is interesting as well.

    As to the editing never showing Besh or Symon “in the weeds”, please. Symon was practically screaming for his Mommy last night. Can’t blame him for that, but the editing certainly did show it.

    For another POV, please read

  • stephanie

    They had a shot of Symon actually saying he was weeded last night, Annie. Which, IMO, was great to see, only in that it showed that he’s not actually super human! :)

    I’m really pulling for Symon to win this. I’m completely addicted to his laugh, and would love to watch him compete on a regular basis. Besh is good, but Symon’s better.

  • ruhlman

    i simply wanted to know his reasoning, he wasnt criticized for it. his reasoning had nothing to do with umami, though that would have gone over big.

  • chadzilla

    Thanks… and they are, afterall, the guts of the tomato. We would never expect Cosentino to discard the guts of anything.

  • recipes, give us recipes

    I thought this was not your best hair episode, personally, but after a day of indulging in schweinehaxen, I can understand entirely. Mmmm. Did you get some obazda, too?

    I want the coconut milk ceviche recipe — actually, I want a LOT of these recipes on

    The show would not be as enjoyable without you blogging about it and without all the above comments about it. I hope FN gets this. You’re providing a behind-the-scenes that the whip-fast editing isn’t providing, and it makes the show more interesting to know I can come here on Monday and deconstruct.

  • ruhlman

    email from Cosentino just now, which i hope he doesn’t mind my sharing:

    sorry for the crudite. thanks for defending me with the camera guys. these guys were german and not understanding of space, every time i moved my elbows touched someone. i thought i was going to hurt myself. also i found out later that eytan with this ear piece was telling the camera guys to get closer to me. In kitchen stadium they understand the dangers of being to close and they want you to succeed, in this episode all they wanted was the shot. that is why i got hostile. i told them from the beginning to give me space since the kitchen configuration was really bad, we had a very small pass way to get to equipment (like bowls, pans)and they were always blocking it and wouldn’t move when we asked them . thats when the hostility came. now that 1/2 the country thinks i and a asshole as some one put it in another blog, life goes on.

  • Tags

    The retort to “Consomme was in quotes!” is “so was your asparagus salad.”

  • Jennie/Tikka

    Okay – I’m finally watching the show and I actually have reactions this time.

    I watched this episode with the dvr remote in-hand (which frequently wound up paused so I could mini-rant.)

    The time constraint thing isn’t working. What really got to me was that – because of the time constraints, the chefs went to knee-jerk reaction automatic dish regurgitation. A Gribiche??? That’s culinary school beginning sauce class! Ceviche (coconut milk version, et. al.)? Also very VERY routine. The guys simply didn’t have any room to think about things and come up with something that wasn’t an “autopilot” dish. What would the harm have been in telling them before they boarded the plane to Germany so they could think about it with all that time on the flight??

    Also – I agree about the consomme issue. If you didn’t make it with a raft and it isn’t crystal clear – it ain’t a consomme, period.

    For the record – I loved Symon’s dishes….I would have done Indian/french fusion personally if I was in their shoes (lots of seasoning, color, flavor – easily reheatable).

  • ruhlman

    good point kali, but we deferred to chef Schmitt on these questions–he was allowed to say this is illegal, and he didn’t, he ate every bit of his salmon.

  • chadzilla

    Why was there question to as why Cosentino opted to use the ‘guts’ of the tomato in his dish? The seeds and their encapsulating gel are the part of the tomato that is proven to have the most umami. I’m not sure if this is from glutamate or from inosine, but it’s the reason that chefs like Heston Blumenthal and Jose Andres focus on this part of the fruit.
    He should have been commended for this choice.

  • rockandroller

    Yay peace and foie! Down with Interpol employees masquerading as yuppie parents to a child in an expensive private school! :)

  • Kali

    “Symon made a risky decision to finish it in the airplane rather than reheat…”

    Shouldn’t that have disqualified him? Airline food is supposed to be reheated. No way does the staff have time to “finish” a dish mid-flight.

  • Jenn

    Do the judges see the chefs while they are making the dishes? Specifically, did you know that Cosentino was having a difficult time with the cameras? Would that impact your decisions? Because, let’s face it, it’s not just about the food.

  • Erika

    So was that coconut milk ceviche as delicious as it looked and sounded?

    What I would like to know is if any of the dishes presented have actually made it to Lufthansa’s menus- or if there are plans for them to do so in the future?

  • ruhlman

    no, we didn’t watch them cook, i was eating schweinsaxen and drinking liters of beer while they cooked!

    and the coconut milk seviche was excellent, his best dish.

  • CMHFoodie

    that Airbus A380 is such a beautiful machine. A friend of mine was in Singapore when the first flight into Changi by an A380 landed last Thursday, he said the plane is simply awe-inspiring. I wonder if Boeing is calling up FN to arrange for a product-placement in a future FN series for their new planes as well.

    Anyways, color my shocked that it was Sanchez to get the boot – the editing would not have led anyone to think other than it would be Cosentino.

    As for the challenge itself, well Iron Chefs have to perform under pressure. That much pressure, maybe not, but the point of these challenges has been to push these chefs to the outer limits and see how they respond. Those that respond well, make it through. And I think that is a good thing. Having a competition that was simply a round-robin elimination of traditional IC battles would have been boring after a while, I think.

    However, back a few weeks ago when this started I saw a link to a list of the six epis for this contest and what they involved, and the final is indeed a “traditional” IC cookoff between the the final two, with the winner of that taking the whole thing. So in the end, the last man standing will be the one that does the best in the arena.

    And as for Alton’s little spiel on Lufthansa’s food operations, I thought that was cool, defintely something I’d never seen discussed on TV before, and shows why Good Eats is such a good show – it imparts information without being “professorial” in its presentation. Now if he could only have worked those yeast puppets in, the circle would have been complete.

  • chadzilla

    It depends on the preparation of the fish.
    “Sous Vide Cuisine” by Joan Roca & Salvador Bruguees, p. 66, warm cod

    Here is a beautiful piece of fish that does not have crispy skin. I’m sure the textures in this animal and its skin are beyond great due to the preparation. A phenomenal dish, and also airplane friendly… cook, rest, chill, reheat at a controlled temperature right in the bag, cut bag, remove fish, plate, serve, eat.

    Thank you , Mr. Bias-Ness… I was actually referring to my friend, busi-ness, to which you should mind your own.

  • chadzilla

    Again, I said biasness towards crispy fish skin. There are lots of cultures and cuisines that keep the skin on the fish (since it is unctuously delicious and healthy) and yet… not crispy! Do not get me wrong. I love crispy fish skin, but it does not have to be that way. It’s not a corn flake in milk.
    And why does the fish have to be flaky?