Nicep6new_iron_chef
On book tour and a bit squishy here in Seattle so will try to be concise.  As Andrew Knowlton comments on his post, we all tasted the food. I pretty much agree with his assessment.  Donatella I’m sure would too.  Where I differed with my fellow judges was the degree by which Besh bettered Symon.  I would say Besh edged Symon whereas Donatella and Andrew felt he beat Symon by a wide margin.

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

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

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

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

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

  • Kay

    Anybody who didn’t taste the food should pretty much shut up and get on with their lives. Jesus.

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

    @Allie:

    first of all, I’m female, and I don’t see how saying “she’s a woman who’s used to getting her way” is sexist at all. if I said, “he’s a man who’s used to being in charge”, that wouldn’t be sexist either. why does even referring to the race or gender of someone these days automatically make us racist or sexist?

    ~~~~~~~~

    Because, in most instances where and when it is about a man, the gender is never specifically pointed out. i.e. it is a given he gets his way, because he’s a man.

    As for Ruhlman “owing explanations,” readers are allowed to post their opinions, as long as they are phrased in a respectful tone. If they ask for Ruhlman to elaborate, that’s their right and it’s his decision to explain or refrain.

    On the other hand, I do not think it is up to you to think for Ruhlman, which is what it appears you are doing.

    As for “three scrolls down,” why did it take you three paragraphs to get your point across?

    Talk about taking it so seriously.

    Again, it is not up to you to decide what and how something and someone should take seriously or not.

    Last but not least, if you don’t think the Iron Chefs do not have ego battles, you may wish to think again, and Besh is worthy of their so-called standard.

    Next time, I’ll post 10 scrolls worth, in memory of you :)

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

    @Allie:

    however, I’m not sure what you’re trying to accomplish with a comment that took three scroll-downs to get through, accusing him over and over again of “rationalizing”.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    It’s Ruhlman’s blog, but keeping with your line of questioning, it took Ruhlman a heck of a whole lot more space for him to explain why he would have or would not have, voted for Symon.

    If you ask one, ask all, whether or not you agree.

    So, ask Ruhlman, “why so many down-scrolls to get to your point, Michael, as to why scenarios by both judging panels played into how you would vote for either Besh or Symon?”

  • BKbella

    When I first read the comment at issue, I was taken back by the statement. He has often defended Knowlton on this site, yet when Donatella calls him out on something, he belittles her. That graf cut right through me. He was attacking her instead of attacking what she said. At the very least, it was a very unprofessional response to her criticism, but I personally saw it as a sexist remark — something that would not have been said if Andrew made the comment. Others may see it differently — that’ ok. To me, it’s not just that he referred Donatella as a woman, but that he made a personal dig that had a sexist overtones.

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

    @BKbella:

    What BKbella said.

    Nice and concise (no downscrolls at all! ;-)) in a most lawyerly and litigious fashion, at that!

    Mazeltov on the bar!

  • Chad Edward

    No one can doubt Michael Ruhlman, the foremost culinary writer in America, has the credentials to judge the next Iron Chef. I find comments ridiculous that suggest Ruhlman was selected to “rig” the competition in Symon’s favor. Ruhlman deserved his post as judge as much, if not more, than the other two judges. Besides that, Symon was a favorite from the beginning because he’s a GREAT chef. Had a woman won 4-2 with Donatella casting the winning vote, would there be the same accusations of favoritism because a woman won? Sounds ridiculous? That’s how you sound if you think Symon won because Ruhlman lives in the same city.

  • Shelley

    Bye, everyone! This was fun for a while, but… never mind. I’m keeping my Final Comment to myself. Thanks again for the forum, Mr. Ruhlman.

  • Kali

    BKBella–well put. And that’s how sexism (like bias) gets expressed, with the user blissfully unaware that it’s even happened.

    re: “Ruhlman’s biased because he lives in Cleveland, too”–I suggest reading “The Soul of a Chef”, Ruhlman’s book that includes his laudatory bio of his GOOD FRIEND…Michael Symon.It’s that–not Cleveland–that’s the most telling connection.

    As for not feeling bad about criticizing Ruhlman on his own blog–well, I don’t. I applaud his honesty here, but…well, he should have known the APPEARANCE of inpropriety, in itself, is reason enough not to do something.

    This response is one reason why–and surely was 100% predictable.

  • Sandy

    Dear Michael,

    I have heard some of the snark throughout the competition and, for what its worth, feel you did yourself justice by staying above the fray most of the time.

    As I said last night, I think both Besh and Symon deserve to be seen, their food experienced. I feel that making it all about who you knew or didnt know before the competition cheapens everything these chefs actually accomplished.

    It is as if people who believe the conspiracy theories really don’t believe their favorite has the goods where food is concerned. Food is the only thing that counts at the end of the day.

  • Skawt

    OK, I’ve read all the comments, and I really only have one comment to make: I still like Donatella’s tits even if she is a bitch.

    Time to get beaten by my wife now.

  • LosGatosGirl

    I have to laugh at most of these comments.
    Michael, thanks for such wonderful blogs. Your candor is refreshing and delightful. I’ve actually bought some of your books and am finding a nice style that’s fun to read.

    I’m not surprised by Donatella, nor I as a woman, am insulted, but agree with you. That’s why there’s the acronym SWMBO.

    I’m really happy that the 3 Iron Chefs were the primary judges. Think about it. This is TV, not life or death. However, it was also a job interview of a really strange kind. I would never take a job if I couldn’t interview with my peers. Nor would I want to work with someone that I didn’t have input into hiring.

    The IC’s should have had more weight. At the end of the day, they’re going to have to work with TNIC. They also know the job better than any restaurant owner or writers. They spoke. And I agree. Chef Symon is far more interesting to watch, and was the entire season.

    And for the record, if anyone cares, I really enjoyed TNIC. And I watch the FOOD network for food, not cooking. I’m glad you were a part of this show.

    And I’m still pissed off beyond all belief that you didn’t come down to Los Gatos for a book signing at Borders or Sur La Table. We have MANRESSA for pitypat’s sake. We’re on the map.

    Warm regards.

  • catherine

    Personally, I think it makes perfect sense for the Iron Chefs to be at the judging table. Michael, Donatella and Andrew know how well Symon and Besh did during the tests. Flay, Cora and Morimoto have more insight into whether the final performance was of IC caliber.

    Also, for those saying that Besh had been the clear winner and Symon was set up to win.. the show went through a brutal editing process. Ruhlman has pointed out that an hour of discussion was cut down to a few minutes. FN could have edited the show to portray anything they wanted. I’m sure there were enough postive comments about Symon’s food to make him appear to be the “clear winner” for all 8 episodes, but that would not have been as interesting.

    BKbella, congrats on the bar! I hope to pass in the near future.

  • jeana

    There must have been pretty good reasons that all three of the IC judges voted for Symon. They’re the ones that are in the trenches of the show and are absolutely qualified to judge who can hack it on their team. I actually appreciated the blend of judges; while the NIC judges had seen a progression over the course of the competition, the three ICs balanced it out by judging simply on the final battle (which is the ONLY one that truly resembled actual ICA battles). Their impressions on both the food and the chefs added to the mix, being from the only ones who truly know what it’s like to be an Iron Chef.

    The Ruhlman/Symon bias argument is getting really old. Whether some of you think some favoritism came into play or not, his vote mirrored ALL the Iron Chefs’ conclusions. I personally believe in Ruhlman’s integrity and professionalism. And I, for one, am glad that there was not a tie and the decision was not left up to the FN execs. What a disappointment that would have been for the competitors and fans.

  • allie

    “As for “three scrolls down,” why did it take you three paragraphs to get your point across?”

    maybe because there were three separate points?

    if donatella did, in fact, have the audacity to berate any of the iron chefs for voting the way they did, then she more than deserves a “personal dig”. sorry, I just don’t get the whole “all us women have to band together against the big bad patriarchal male-dominated society”. if a woman behaves badly, she deserves to be called on it.

    also, I never said besh wasn’t “worthy of their standard”, I simply pointed out why they wouldn’t pick an inferior chef simply to assuage their own delicate egos.

  • Carmen Hudson

    I just wish Besh would have won. I don’t like Symon’s personality very much. Besh was consistently good, calm, professional, polished. Besh has actually /WON/ the Iron Chef when he was a guest on the show, which very few people do. Symon was just this dude with a really, really annoying laugh. I didn’t see what was so great about his dishes either. I did see that Besh pulled out 7 offerings, as well as Morimoto’s dessert request. It is what it is, but for my part, I’m a John Besh supporter till the end.

  • chicoca

    This whole thing stinks worse than that swordfish would after a week or two. My take is that the Iron Chefs knew who they were voting for before they sat down to eat…Food Network told them who they were voting for. As stated above, a tie (Ruhlman, Knowlton and Donatella v. Flay, Cora and Morimoto) would have left the decision up to the FN execs, so there was no way for Symon to lose. Lets see, this started at the CIA, the CIA is apparently a major sponsor, FN wants ties with the CIA and by this morning the home page for the CIA has a big picture of alumni Symon with a blurb about his winning. Symon was the winner from the begining…

  • sorchar

    Good Lord. All this vitriol and anger. I think I’m going to skip reading it all because my head hurts enough already. Personally, I think either chef would have made a great addition to the show and I’m just surprised that Michael proved me wrong and was generous enough to let Symon leave Cleveland. I was afraid he might go all Misery or something.

  • Warren Hampton

    Enough Already,

    M.R. gave it to you straight. Suck it up! Mike a crazy, but seriously fun Chef will be the next ICA. Truly, does it matter all that much. He brings a new way to cook to ICA and he does more for greek cooking than spin pans and drink Ouzo.

    M.B. is a fine chef. I have had his food and no shame is his departure.

    I am a bit pissed how Mirimoto was treated. He has language issues, always has, any reason to treat him like an idiot? No.

    Mike will be fun to watch, that laugh demonic in a angelic sort of way, will be fresh and fun.

    No cranberries is his future makes life watching FN a good thing.

    Just curious what does Tony B have to say about this?

    Having eaten at Besh’s flagship, I would Love to see what Mike could do. Besh had simply the best dinner I have ever have had. If Mike S. could better I would lover to try it.

  • Steph

    “I find it interesting that the two restaurant-related judges (Donatella and Andrew) backed Besh, and the trained chefs (including you, Ruhlman) backed Symon.”

    Me too!
    I, for one, couldn’t be happier with the results of the show.. Symon’s skill and dynamic personality makes him a perfect candidate to be the next “Iron Chef.” While Chef Besh’s food always looked pretty during the series, I never felt any sort of desire to eat anything that he had cooked.
    Just one girl’s opinion.
    – S

  • theFrog

    What is wrong with several of you people? No matter what you believe, it’s just a show… one that several of the most critical people in this forum have already said they are completely uninterested in. If you don’t like the show THAT MUCH, why are you even posting anything at all, or giving any credence to something that bores you?

    “A woman who’s used to getting her way” is sexist? I see it more as you are being reactionary and hypercritical because you don’t like the way Ruhlman voted. Yes, it was a personal dig at Donatella, but we don’t know what she said to him exactly – maybe she deserved a personal dig. Maybe she deserves to be called a lot worse than “a woman who’s used to getting her way,” and Ruhlman’s being a gentleman for NOT saying it. And before anyone chimes in about treating people with respect and dignity at all times, NO ONE who’s likely to be critical of this particular comment has a right to call anyone out for being rude based on what I’ve read so far.

    In the end, Ruhlman was a judge on a reality TV show. He wasn’t sworn in, nor was he contractually obligated to vote in any way other than the way he felt. This isn’t the Supreme Court, people – it’s food TV. Get over it and yourselves.

  • Iris

    What a sad day for Iron Chef America and for the Food Network. It has sunk to the level of all of the other “reality” shows which I despise, by choosing the chef with the most flash and “bad boy” attitude over the far more accomplished, humorous “gentleman” chef. I will no longer be watching that show, although it has been my favorite over the last several years.

  • JoP in Omaha

    Bottom line: none of us can have an informed opinion because we didn’t taste ANY of the food.

    As for me:

    1. I enjoyed NIC — all of it. I learned stuff and enjoyed watching highly skills chefs cooking week after week.

    2. I enjoyed watching Michael as a judge. Having read the books, it was great to see him on screen, to get an ideal of the persona behind the name “Ruhlman.”

    3. Symon’s food must be good. He won more of the week-to-week tasks than anyone else did. Cora said of it dish “It ROCKS!!” Morimotot said “punch, Punch, PUNCH!” We heard that Symon’s dishes had higher highs than Besh’s, and yes, perhaps, lower lows. We can’t judge that; we didn’t taste. The decision is the decision. I’m happy to accept it.

    4, For those who think ICA has lost its integrity, don’t watch it. For those who think FN is way off track, don’t watch it. For those who think Ruhlman is (pick your failing….biased, unethical, sexist….), then why are you reading this blog? Go read the blog of someone you like.

    5. I liked NIC. There are some shows on FN that I like ’cause I learn stuff. I like Michael’s blogs, and I like Ruhlman. I’m happy for the opportunity to read his thoughts about food and the industry.

  • Todd

    “Lets see, this started at the CIA, the CIA is apparently a major sponsor, FN wants ties with the CIA and by this morning the home page for the CIA has a big picture of alumni Symon with a blurb about his winning. Symon was the winner from the begining…”

    Besh graduated from the CIA in 1992, Symon in 1990.

    And to head off the next conspiracy theory… both were named to the Top Ten New Best Chefs list in Food and Wine magazine, 1999 and 1998 respectively.

  • Sandy

    Oy, people. Do you really think you’re helping Besh somehow by doing this?

    Besh was great. So was Symon. Why not lobby FN for a joint show or a Besh show. Be creative with it and not just ranting in a judge’s public blog.

    Oh… whoever was saying the Chairman needs to go? I would have agreed last year. He’s gotten a bit better this year.

    PS. Michael, I wish you and AB would come to Denver.

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

    “I am a bit pissed how Mirimoto was treated. He has language issues, always has, any reason to treat him like an idiot? No.”

    Fwiw, I’m with you there, but has the FN ever been any other way, really, when it comes to their “what-are-we-gonna-do-with-them?” approach to so-called minorities? (Include anyone you please, in this grouping; women, ethnic minorities etc. but especially ethnic minorities on both sides of the gender aisle.)

    The women were eliminated before the disembodied Chairman appeared on one of those porto-screens Alton was carrying around like an appendage, and after that, you just knew it was a matter of time before Morou and El Guapo were relegated to status in the FN’s dustbin.

    Thankfully, all of the chefs eliminated were already a success, well before this competition, and I enjoyed watching those who were previous combatants on ICA.

    (Speaking of that acronym, shall we dial-in another conspiracy theory, by rearranging the consonant, to obviously spell out CIA? I doubt it, but why not.)

    As for those who are slamming other people whom they claim are slamming Ruhlman and Symon — and accuse said-alleged slammers of investing too much — I don’t see that anyone is behaving unusually, except those defending the honor of Ruhlman and Symon. You folks condemning those of us expressing contra-opinions and obseravtion should get over yourselves, and, stat. We’re allowed that right, and if everyone here agreed, it would be really boring.

    Then again, if those of you who think along such lines (that is, that no one who thinks against the grain, and in an informed manner, should be banished or silenced) support the team mentality of “you’re either with us or against us,” it should not come as any surprise that, you support only the point of view that jibes with your thinking; that which you find to be agreeable. Since, after all, such narrowmindedness is consistent with FN’s handbook and policy when it comes to keeping the quo.

    What — it’s only “negative” and “vitriolic,” when, someone does not share the same thoughts and feelings? Well, these same people are pointing out the positives of both sides of the coin, while trying to find the middle ground on a toss that, by all means, feels as rigged as the last two presidential elections.

    On that note, there is something odd about Ohio, or Ohioans, and elections: whether regarding the White House, or mindless, inane broadcasting fare, such as FN.

    It’s little wonder folks like Bourdain and Batali have left: at least they tried their best, but left with their self-respect intact.

    Would FN have improved if Besh had won?

    No.

    Not anymore than when Symon was hailed as victor.

    It’s up to the producers, the FN TV personalities (whether Alton, Kevin, The Chairman, the ICs and rotating judging panelists) but most of all, its demographic: which, by all means, screams out “I want Patsy’s from East Harlem!” but is too effing scared to travel in the hood, and phones in Domino’s, instead.

    Very few walk the talk, and how many here ate anything other than Chick-Fil-A before the arrival of FN?

    I was born, raised and educated in NYC, which automatically gave me a passport and visa to visit and indulge in every imaginable culinary adventure — from the high to the low and in-between — and I’ve never needed any network to tell me what to eat, or what to be unafraid of, or to be polite to my hosts, no matter what they serve.

    That’s for out-of-town philistines.

    And that’s the bulk of the FN viewership.

    I think Ruhlman did a good, credible job, but, to think he did not have a bias in the least, re: Symon? That’s absurd, IMO. Again, keywords to recall, reactionary “foodies,” would be, “to think”: not, to state as indisputable fact.

    To think that “no one complained” (about any such bias), well, how the f*uck do you think anyone gets on — much less to stay — on FN?

    Yes, that is right: by NOT complaining.

    In a righteous world, Lydia Shire, Sara Moulton (yes, she’s there, but barely), Ming Tsai, David Chang et. al. — and similarly talented chefs — would be all over FN like white-on-rice.

    But, that’s the issue: FN likes everyone to be like, and everything served on, white rice.

    Look how colorful your ICs are now, how varied, how representative not only of the world’s cuisine, but of the most diverse city on the planet, New York?

    You’re going to tell me that, women and minorites are not capable of cooking alongside — as good as or better — than the ICs, when the ICs (save for Morimoto, but as dispicably shown last week, FN gets a kick out of his castrated tongue – at least when it comes to the English language)? When almost everything they cook is based on or borrowed from indigenous or minority cultures?

    That’s what is meant, by, like white-on-rice (mentality): Emeril, George Duran, Tyler, Bobby, Paula, Giada, Ina, Nigella, Alton, Guy Fieri, Amy Finley, Chiarello, Al Roker, Sandra Lee, Rachael Ray, Robin Miller and so on and so forth.

    That’s what it means to be the FN, and, in the end, to be a regular viewer — a snowblind devotee — of FN: no different from those Golden arches, since it’s about billions served.

    Allie, this post is dedicated to you, since, like Symon’s almost going down on a tomato, you have been known to go down-scrolling :)

  • Frances

    Having good humor, frankness, and a sense of fair play counts as being a gentleman too. I think Chef Symon has that in spades. I liked all the competitors, and I liked Chef Besh a lot. But I could point out some awkward moments where he didn’t necessarily shine as a gentleman.

    Actually, in a previous thread, I did make a small reference to some unbecoming comments Chef Besh made about his competitors. I don’t recall FN getting a single sound bite of Chef Symon trashing his opponents. He mentioned that he thrives under pressure and that he wanted to win. Displaying bravado is waaayyy different from displaying an air of superiority.

    Winning often involves playing above your game – or that the competition brought your game to a higher level. To say “I want to win” does not mean “I’m better than you.”

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

    PS: Meant to include that, this was fun, but I’m outta here like a fat kid playin’ dodgeball (even though I am not fat, but no matter, it’s just an urban thang.) And so, if there any replies to any of my posts and there is no reply, please do not confuse my silence for being in either agreement or disagreement: but, most of all, not for being silenced. Cheers to Ruhlman, Shelley and BKbella!

  • Sandy

    I thought it only counted if you were born in Paris anyway.

    *waving a sarcasm flag for all to see*

  • Frances

    To no one in particular, if I invited someone into my home and they started making attacks on my character, or that of my friends or family, I would show them the door. If they wanted to debate in favor of capitol punishment, I’d be happy to oblige, but they’d probably end up pissed off and leave on their own.

    When in doubt, respect your host. When you feel the need to insult him or her, remember that it is often better to be kind than to be right.

  • ICA Fan

    To JoP in Omaha – Nail on the head.

    Thanks, Michael, for the insight. It really helped to get a better understanding of what happened in the judging. I agree with a few people above that the show should have been longer, simply because I really enjoyed it. I normally can’t stand reality shows. For all the Symon bashers above: You did not taste the food – you only heard the EDITED comments that the FN wanted you to hear. Props to both Chefs and to the FN for a great show!

  • Neworleans

    This had way more to do than just chefs. This was a chance New Orleans could really get a break. If Besh were the Iron Chef that would bring loads of new tourist in to try his food. This could have helped a city that has been on the fall, a new exciting chef, to take the reigns Lagasse left behind could really bring in tourists to help the city. In a couple years no one nationally is going to really remember John Besh and that is the sad thing. This was a great opportunity to show southern cajun cuisine which has never been shown on iron chef and you decided to go with another mediterrean style chef along with Cora? Give me a break, the execs have no idea how much this meant to new orleans and how many people in the city were upset by this. The bigger picture here is far more important.

  • ModernMaven

    OK, Neworleans, your comments have propelled this into the outer limits. NO needed this competition? Please. You are still one of the top tourist destinations in the country. And to decided the Iron Chef based on this? Ridiculous. Cleveland could use some tourism money and some good press as well… NO doesnt have the market cornered on that.

  • Claudia

    BKBella:

    “Nevertheless, I question the FN’s decision to use Mr. Ruhlman as a judge, and I believe I have a right to do so as a consumer.”

    As a consumer of – what, exactly? Do you feel because Besh lost to Symon (unfairly, apparently), that, ipso facto, you’ve been “lied” to by TNIC and FN, and therefore cannot patronise any of Besh’s restaurants? Does the judging of TNIC represent an ethical issue so volatile for you that now you cannot “trust” the entire network and feel you cannot, say, buy the Rachel Ray chef knives from the FN store, or go out and buy that sporty new KIA they’ve been touting?

    Our “rights as consumers” are pretty much limited to being told about any harmful ingredients/chemicals in a product, any dangers inherent in its design or manufacture, etc. – not a “right” to have a judge on a reality TV cooking show recused because he knows a contestant (as did both of the other judges.)

    “We are subject to commercials and promotions. Heck, perhaps the reason why Ruhlman decided to jusge the show was so that the finale would coincide with the release of his book . . .”

    Well, we’re subject to commercials and promotions only insofar as we sit through them – I personally think they are the perfect time to go scoop kitty litter or clean out a drain. And even if we are all subjected to ads and promos, etc., does sitting through them, in thrall, still give us an inherent “right” as a consumer to expect a network to recuse a judge on an ENTERTAINMENT program because of his familiarity with a chef’s bacon ice cream dessert? No. We DO have the right, however, to change channels. Or go scoop kitty litter.

    As for Ruhlman’s book coinciding with the finale of the show – publishers set their book releases a good six months ahead of time, so the decision to carry it on the fall schedule was made most likely back in April. And the publisher makes the decision – not Ruhlman. (Who was probably busy writing it back in early- to mid-2006, anyway.) While you could argue that Ruhlman might very well have known that the finale of IC would coincide with his book release when he accepted the position of judge, you will notice that at NO time did the FN ever mention Ruhlman’s book or the fact it was being released imminently. Andrew Knowlton was introduced every time as the restaurant editor for Bon Appetit and Donatella as a restauranteur (Anthos, David Burke & Donatella), and quite correctly, but Michael was only ever introduced as a food writer, author and trained chef. While WE all might know the full range of Michael’s work and know he had a book about to come out, I guarantee – a lot of the rest of the country hasn’t a clue. Even if they watch FN. (My own sister, a bigger FN watcher than I AND Ruhlman fan, hadn’t a clue.) So just how did Michael benefit from “engineering” the timing of the TNIC finale with the release of his book? (The dude can’t even get his publisher to line up some book signings in LA (!))

    “We should expect professionalism from the folks at FN just as we should expect our politicians to act ethically (Halliburton in Iraq, anyone?)”

    I would be thrilled if our politicians acted half as ethically as the TNIC panel did, en masse (yes, even Knowlton). But to suggest the ethics of judging a TV show is even comparable with the ethics (or lack thereof) inherent in the Halliburton situation is not only not fair, but ludicrous.

    I fully celebrate cynicism and the right to question that which we are told by those who lead, govern or influence; I sincerely hope the same squinty-eyed level of examination is applied to, say, the 2008 elections rather than whether Chef Symon is ready for his close-up . . . or deserves one.

  • Phil

    Thanks for confirming what I could only presume all along, Michael – that Donatella was an uptight princess who was used to getting what she wants.

    I’m glad you voted for Symon. The guy’s electric. But it really was a no-lose situation for ICA. Both of those chefs deserved to be on that podium. I think it would be interesting to see Besh return and challenge him.

    Who does Donatella think she is? She actually took Cora and Flay to task after that? That’ll be the last time she’s invited out to play with that group. Way to go, girl.

    And I must have been living under a rock for the last month, because it wasn’t until I saw that episode that I realized that Mario was no longer involved. And that bummed me out. At least they’re still showing his Molto Mario re-runs on Fine Living. I really must keep up. Next thing I know, Rachael Ray will be doing commercials for Ritz crackers.

  • Toocherie

    Ok, so here’s what I don’t understand: FN touted the final as “winner take all.” So shouldn’t that have meant that if Besh won the final challenge–even ever so slightly–he should have been named the overall winner? I will also admit that I thought I was prepared for either Symon or Besh to be named winner, but in the end believe that Besh is the more mature and “fun” chef–Symon’s laugh is not endearing–to me it smacks of nervousness. Besh is in another class both culinary and personality-wise.

  • Db Sweeney

    After reading a lot of these comments, I also surmise the following:

    1. A lot of you can’t believe that the contestants on the Bacherlor and other reality Romance shows don’t actually stay together and find “true love.”

    2. A lot of you think “reality TV” is actually real. They shoot hundreds of hours of tape and then edit it to make it interesting. Sorry to burst your bubble, but reality TV isn’t real at all.

    3. You claim to hate FN because it isn’t about food and chefs. In the same posts, you rip Bobby Flay. Umm, he’s one of the more accomplished chefs on the network. Like his food or not, he’s far above Bad “Off the Hook” Haircut, Corn Nuts Lee, and Yummo Ray. We want more chefs + food shows. We hate Bobby Flay. Look up hypocrisy in the dictionary is my advice.

    4. Go and look at the rules for judging Top Chef. The judges opinions, with the advice of the producers. Top Chef was as fixed as this ever was. Take a valium, it will be Ok.

    5. You actually believe Ruhlman was sitting in the back room with a white cat pulling the strings a la Vito Corleone to allow Symon to win. It’s so laughable it’s not even worth discussing. He was told to judge the food and that’s what he did.

    6. One person claims this has contribued to the ruin of New Orleans and destroyed that cities comeback from Katrina. If victory over Katrina is going to be measured by making John Besh Iron Chef, we need to shut down the goverment right now and ask England to take us back.

    It’s reality TV folks which means it isn’t actually real. It’s a TV show and it’s meant to be entertainment. That’s how thousands of hours of footage becomes six hours of TV. It’s edited in order to keep you interested. Seeing how easily they were able to suck a majority of this blog’s fans in, I am sure we’ll have more reality FN shows now to serve as “sous cooks” with Rachel, Guy, and Sandra.

    It’s just a TV show. It’s entertainment, not real. The sun will still rise in the East tomorrow and set in the West. And if this TV show’s results ruined your Monday, find a hobby and get a life.

  • jsmeeker

    Michael’s first battle is Sunday. It’s “Thanksgiving” themed. Who is the challenger? Anyone know?

  • The Food Yenta

    I have been traveling for business for nearly 20 years and I have NEVER been to Cleveland (for pleasure, either–do people go there for pleasure?). This is not a slam on Cleveland, but perhaps that’s why this decision in favor of Symon isn’t such a bad one. Is Cleveland a food mecca I have missed?

    I HAVE been to New Orleans (pre and post Katrina) several tims and was just there less than a month ago. Ate at Besh’s Restaurant August, and it was one of the finest meals I have ever had (ate there before watching any episodes of NICA) I thought the guy would win. Try his pork belly and lobster dish if you go. He is very charming and down to earth in person too. I’m confident New Orleans still gets much higher marks than Cleveland as a foodie city. Even the food in the convention center was awesome!

  • The Food Yenta

    I have been traveling for business for nearly 20 years and I have NEVER been to Cleveland (for pleasure, either–do people go there for pleasure?). This is not a slam on Cleveland, but perhaps that’s why this decision in favor of Symon isn’t such a bad one. Is Cleveland a food mecca I have missed?

    I HAVE been to New Orleans (pre and post Katrina) several tims and was just there less than a month ago. Ate at Besh’s Restaurant August, and it was one of the finest meals I have ever had (ate there before watching any episodes of NICA) I thought the guy would win. Try his pork belly and lobster dish if you go. He is very charming and down to earth in person too. I’m confident New Orleans still gets much higher marks than Cleveland as a foodie city. Even the food in the convention center was awesome!

  • The Food Yenta

    I have been traveling for business for nearly 20 years and I have NEVER been to Cleveland (for pleasure, either–do people go there for pleasure?). This is not a slam on Cleveland, but perhaps that’s why this decision in favor of Symon isn’t such a bad one. Is Cleveland a food mecca I have missed?

    I HAVE been to New Orleans (pre and post Katrina) several tims and was just there less than a month ago. Ate at Besh’s Restaurant August, and it was one of the finest meals I have ever had (ate there before watching any episodes of NICA) I thought the guy would win. Try his pork belly and lobster dish if you go. He is very charming and down to earth in person too. I’m confident New Orleans still gets much higher marks than Cleveland as a foodie city. Even the food in the convention center was awesome!

  • ImusLover

    What a joke the finale was – I was so disappointed! The Food Network had decided Symon was their next Iron Chef whether or not he deserved it or not, in my humble opinion. John Besh was the clear stand out from the get go.

    You were such a pouty, whiny judge, not as bad as Andrew, but close behind.

  • janet

    I just wanted to point out that opinion of the judging process and opinion of the outcome aren’t necessarily the same. As I’ve said in another comment, of the two finalists, I preferred Symon. But that doesn’t stop me from believing that the process AS DESCRIBED BY MR RUHLMAN was deeply flawed.

  • Andy

    If none of the other weeks were taken into consideration and the vote was simply based on the last week, that would have been a real shame. All of the challenges demonstrated abilities an Iron Chef should have, and Michael Symon won three challenges (four including the last week), while no other contestant won more than one. Iron Chef doesn’t award someone who is in the “top two” every week, it awards a winner. Symon showed he had the ability to win consistently. Besh showed he had the ability to finish in the “top two” consistently. The problem with that is, one finishes in the “top two” in every episode of Iron Chef.

  • janet

    One other thing I forgot to say: It seems to me that a lot of you want it both ways. It’s just a game, get a life, it’s not Nuremberg, etc., so it doesn’t matter whether the judging was fair. But at the same time, you’re convinced that the judging was done seriously and was absolutely fair, and anybody who questions that (including Donatella) is vindictive, snarky, bitchy, or deranged.

  • Mels

    Well, Besh is probably too good for Iron Chef anyway. I mean, why is Cat Cora there? She’s style over substance and Flay is only fixated on the same flavors each week. Flay turns me off with his massive ego. Batali was my favorite and he was fired by FN, what a mistake.

    I hope Besh will get a show somewhere, preferably not on the same network as Sandra Lee and Robin Miller – I’m a better chef than those two! Does anyone watch them? Ugh.

  • ktdid747

    TheFoodYenta, I’m from Cleveland (have been here my entire life) and have traveled A LOT and I was a bit offended by your post (not a slam?….it kinda was..but I guess we’re used to it even though it gets pretty ridiculous at times).. New Orleans may be “better known” as a “foodie city” and more of a tourist destination but it is also very beautiful here and a very wide array of excellent food choices here!–it’s just different and that’s not a bad thing (the jokes and the bad things that are constantly portrayed are NOT what this city is though people who have never been here seem to think so)..

    Before making your “confident comments”, you need to come here and have a local show you around and you WILL see that what is said (or should I say “assumed”) is NOT what it is. I think Besh and Symon are both very talented chefs and I think either would have made a great Iron Chef (we were ready for either one to win), I don’t think ANYTHING was “fixed” and I think Michael Symon will make a great addition to Iron Chef America..he’ll be entertaining that’s for sure!…and, if anything, it will help open people’s eyes to what Cleveland REALLY is. (we have great food in our convention center also–I just went to the Fabulous Food Show which is a yearly event, rubbed elbows with great chefs and sampled all kinds of food, and was not disappointed).

  • The P/A

    Nothing I could say right now would likely move the ball forward in this commentary thread.

    Notwithstanding, now that all is said and done on NICA, I’m curious to see what Symon can do. No doubt, he’ll be amusing!

    I’ll watch on Sunday for sure.

  • ImusLover

    Top Chef is the far superior food reality program. The Next Food Network Star is lame and this series was uninspired and unoriginal – many challenges were borrowed from knockoff of Top Chef.

  • The P/A

    Janet: Agreed about some people wanting it both ways! Apologies for aping your comment, though.

    Db Sweeney’s amusing commentary above was rife with witty euphemisms and hipster snark, but sure did confuse the hell outta’ me.

    How can this TV show be “not real,” yet Ruhlman’s judging on the TV show be “real”? Der.

    The show was real. Ruhlman’s judging was real. The results just shouldn’t be really upsetting to anyone. It was fun to watch! Crisis.

    OK. I’m done. Now I’m going out to a real lunch.

  • mirinblue

    “Sigh”

    Well, after all of the slinging going on here, this is just one girl’s opinion. Thank you MR for giving us this venue so all of our (self) important views could be aired. I am thrilled MS won, I hoped from day one that he would. And I am not even from Cleveland!

    Aside from talent which all of the Chefs possessed to some degree, MS was just plain the sexiest of the bunch. And if you don’t think sex sells, my friends, think again!

    MR, AB (Anthony Bourdain…NOT Alton Brown) and new ICA MS…love you all! ~~Rock on brothers!~~

  • Brad @ www.IBDoF.com

    DB Sweeny – well said, regarding the differences betweeen ‘reality tv’ vs ‘reality’.

    Besh appears to be a fine chef and an even better gentleman and philantropist, and he’s already successful by every measure of the word … Symon just happened to win this particular gig, and i’m sure he’ll be entertaining to watch. Other than that, i’m not losing sleep over this, and anyone who is needs to get a life.

    I’ll just say one thing … you can bet we’ll be seeing a lot more of Besh in the near future, because this was good exposure for him, and because of that, he didn’t really lose anything.

    Say, remember how in the original IC (Japan) they had the otah faction (sp?) always going after morimoto ? In the same vein, I wouldnt put a Besh/Symon rematch (on ICA) past FN. I think that’d be fun.

  • BKbella

    Janet — re: your comment “I just wanted to point out that opinion of the judging process and opinion of the outcome aren’t necessarily the same. As I’ve said in another comment, of the two finalists, I preferred Symon. But that doesn’t stop me from believing that the process AS DESCRIBED BY MR RUHLMAN was deeply flawed.”

    Agreed! Unfortunately each time I attempt to make this argument, my comments are dissected and skewed. Which brings me to Claudia — I am not going to respond to your “interpretation” of my post for the reasons just stated except to say that we are consumers of a television show and you need to learn to recognize sarcasm.

    And to adopt Chance’s last comment — I am out as well, for now. Any failure by me to respond to a post is not to be interpreted as agreeing or disagreing with any response to my posts.

    It’s been fun, folks. Take care.

  • Db Sweeney

    The simple point of my snarkiness is this: Reality TV takes thousands of hours of footage and mixes it into eight hours of television. Each episode is a mash of “things” that happened. Comments are placed in without the benefit of any context.

    Yes, what you saw was real. Yes, the judging was real. The food was real. Yes, the characters were real. However, the context of what you viewed the commentary and actions of contestants and judges in regards to the show was not real. Ask Chris Costentino about his run-in with the overly aggressive cameraman if that was really what happened. Ask Gavin if his lack of seasonings in his dishes were real and really what happened. You are only seeing a carefully edited version of reality.

    Ruhlman stated that there was an hour of discussion in the finale. You saw five-minutes edited to make you wonder who was going to win and the editors, as they always do, made it seem that the judges seemed to favor Besh. Heck, I even made a snide remark to a friend wondering if Cat Cora had a date with John afterwards the way she was talking about him. Yet, Cora actually chose the other way and picked Symon. Now, was what the edited version of what I saw “real” or clever editing? You tell me.

    My points still stand:

    1. It’s reality TV where you have no context to place commentary and actions due to editing. It’s designed to create confusion and debate. Triage was successful in this case.

    2. None of us who weren’t there can draw a firm conclusion because we weren’t there for all it. We don’t know how judges were instructed to judge the finale. We have what Ruhlman gave us. And even that’s his opinion. A Snip from a Mullet and Her Royal Cleavage Highness might have had a different interpretation of how to judge it. Unless you were there, you just don’t know. It’s on the other thousands of hours of footage we’ll never get to see.

    3. If it ruined your Monday, you need to get a life.

    4. The reason that Besh didn’t win IS NOT because FN executives don’t like New Orleans. My point about begging the Queen for forgiveness and to take us back stands.

    5. At the end of Top Chef, it says that judges decisions are made while in consultation with producers of the show. If TNIC made you upset with the judging, that show should make your head explode. You trust Padma to judge food based on what? I’d trust her in a book-judging contest because she could ask Salman, that’s about it.

    6. Ruhlman (as much as his Bourdain-influenced, miserable power-hungry little mind) would have probably loved to be able to do this, but I am pretty sure he wasn’t walking around the back telling people how to judge. I don’t think he made anyone offers they couldn’t refuse. I’m sure he’d love to make that claim to ensure Elements overtakes any Buford/De Laurentis/Ray/Barefooted Eater/Bourdain scribes, but I just don’t think he was the puppet master that some of you make him out to be in this “competition.

    7. People who go on reality TV looking for the love of their lives are the reason our enemies hate us.

    8. If they do this again to find co-hosts for Guy, Sandra, and Rachel, I’m excited to read how some posters on this blog will react. I’m predicting results on par with disgruntled postal workers.

  • Hunter Rose

    I offer a thought to those unhappy with the results:

    Did the FN at any time say that the final battle would be a “winner take all” competition?

    No?

    Then I suggest that Symon is easily deserving of the win based on his past challenge victories REGARDLESS of whether you believe Besh won the IC face-off by whatever margin.

  • mrw

    I watched the entire season and thought the outcome was a foregone conclusion far too early. Just watching the show’s editing told me that Symon was going to win — he got the lion share of time on screen. And he fits the FN profile — biker chic. Another New Orleans chef probably wasn’t the network choice, either. After all, they already have Emeril.
    Having had a great birthday dinner at Restaurant August, I wanted John Besh to win. But I could see the writing on the kitchen stadium walls pretty early on.
    (Besh isn’t the best chef in New Orleans — Susan Spicer (Bayona’s) wins that one every year.)

  • Joel

    @BKbell 11/12 9:25PM

    I agree. It would have been better if the “Donnatella incident” weren’t mentioned at all.

  • Corey Haim & Cheese

    @Db Sweeney

    “8. If they do this again to find co-hosts for Guy, Sandra, and Rachel, I’m excited to read how some posters on this blog will react. I’m predicting results on par with disgruntled postal workers.”

    Your reaction isn’t unlike your last sentence above. Hopefully, you work the graveyard shift as a mail handler-processor, and not as a window clerk or letter carrier.

    And, reading your critique (of other critiques) is like really bad EW-wuss, Dalton Ross; and that’s not only bad, that’s the worst ever.

  • The P/A

    @ Db Sweeney: I understand and agree with your point that Reality TV editing misrepresents people and outcomes. And, yes, the lack of context during the Cosentino vs. Camera duel is the perfect example of this kind of misrepresentation.

    I just could not grasp what you meant by “[i]t’s entertainment, it’s not real.” Entertainment is real, yes? Yes.

    FYI. I’m not looking to get into some ontological discussion here, so if there is a person who wants to go there. Please. Spare us.

  • Db Sweeney

    @ The P/A

    You make a fair point. Yes, you are correct. Entertainment is “real.” All I was trying to make was the point about context. I could have chose a better way to say it. I hope you got where I was going and how arguing an outcome without any context is an exercise in futility.

    @ Corey Haim and Cheese
    Love the name. Did you ever catch the Corey Haim True Hollywood Story on E? Watershed television. One of my all-time favorite actors for reason solely un-related to his actual ability.

    I take no offense to your post, I actually rather enjoyed it and chuckled too. That’s the first rule of these blogs as I see them, to be able to chuckle and laugh at oneself and never take anything too seriously….Like a TV show.

    Ok, back to work. The automatic stamp machine is broken. It’s going to be a long afternoon…going to need some Evian.

  • Corey Haim & Cheese

    @Db Sweeney

    Great post, Db S. I was just testing out my snark, and anticipate your eventual retort!

    But, thanks for playing fair.

    Also, was that Evian comment a reference to Top Chef? It was one of their sponsors.

    Trying to make lemonade out of a lemony topic, but, one has to try.

    Well, I lurked for the longest time, and this subject did bring me out from the woodwork, so, why not have fun?

    What one dish that each finalist (Symon And Besh) prepared in the grand finale, would you have wanted most to dine on?

    I’m directing this Db S’s way, but I hope other readers will join in.

    My choices as follows:

    Besh – Swordfish Brandade Agnolotti

    Symon – Clam w/Swordfish Collar in Broth

    As for “who deserved to win the most,” while I was not there to taste the food, I’d just have to say that both were more than Iron Chef material.

    Excellent choices, two diverse chefs representing different parts of the country, one with a penchant for fish, the other for meat, yadda, yadda, yadda.

    It was fun!

    And, you just have to love this photo:

    http://www.superchefblog.com/images/nextironchef_cast_100dpi360x150pxl.png

  • harlock_JDs

    NO needed this win? what NO needs is for people to stop being idiots and MOVE OUT before it gets smacked with a cane again.

    it’s like people who continue to rebuild houses in flood plains… move the heck out and stop jacking up my insurance.

  • Claudia

    BKBella, I can recognize sarcasm when I see it. I can also recognize perspective when I see THAT. I did not see either in your arguments, which is all I’M saying.

  • Darcie

    Damn. I just wasted my lunch hour reading these posts. Although I must admit that it’s entertaining to read the back and forth, kind of like watching my dad and my husband argue about politics and religion. In the end, the results are the same. No one’s opinion changes and sometimes feelings are hurt. I just hate it when people get their knickers in a know. Sigh.

    Now on to my own comments since I just can’t help but beat a dead horse (which I hear is tasty).

    One must remember that FN is a profit-based entity, and that profit is based on advertising revenues, which are based on viewership. I’m sure the choice of NICA judges was based on the number of people they could draw in and maybe also the choice of contestants (did they apply? I have no idea how they were selected). Conflict of interest didn’t weigh in much, especially when one considers that probably 99.9% of viewers had no idea of the relationships between any of the contestants/judges. Also, FN, an entertainment channel, has absolutely no responsibility to be fair or impartial. It is not a court of law. About the only things FN needs to worry about are slander, libel and maybe personal injury. I’m sure the contracts are ironclad and their disclaimers as well.

    Also, the types of shows FN is now airing are there because *people watch them.* FN has no responsibility to deliver any particular type or level of show. I am hoping there is a FN spinoff ala MTV and VH1 for a sister channel geared toward a different audience. If the numbers support that I’m sure it would happen. So instead of complaining about the (quite obvious) deteriorating quality of the FN, start a lobbying campaign to get better shows!

    Do I care if NICA was rigged? Not really. Do I care that the last two Presidential elections appear to be? You betcha. I’m saving my vitriol and indignation for different venues.

    I watch TV to be entertained, maybe educated and, very occasionally, inspired (which is why I watch ICA). NICA didn’t really deliver as much as I had hoped due to poor editing (I want to see the food dammit), but I won’t lose any sleep over it.

    Oh, and as for New Orleans needing this – Cleveland, bless its heart, has the one of the highest rates of unemployment in the U.S., and in 2004 was ranked as the nation’s poorest big city. Cleveland is just as deserving as NO.

    Lastly, I am quite happy that Michael Symon won. I liked his character, his dishes looked good, and I think he has the competitive spirit needed by an ICA. Besh has the skill and spirit, but his persona really grated on my nerves.

    The Postman just arrived with my Elements of Cooking, so please excuse me whilst I do something productive (it’s too gray and dreary here today to get much work done).

  • Db Sweeny

    @ Corey Haim and Cheese,

    I sat here for 20 minutes trying to find a way to work the Glad family of storage products + the post office into a retort, but couldn’t do it. That’s why Bourdain and Ruhlman do book tours and I write posts on blogs on my lunch breaks (and other times) I guess. I had to go with Evian instead. I’m looking forward to a TNIC vs. Top Chef debate. You know the opinions are out there and are two favorite posters should be on opposite sides of the “discussion.” It should get personal and I ,for one, cannot wait.

    I’m glad you finally decided to come out from the rock you’ve been hiding under. We were all under the assumption that you were trying to fulfill your father’s prediction of an Oscar and doing your best to find a way to have the academy finally recognize the genius that was your documentary. We knew we could get you back, whether it was a debate over TNIC or the direction of Lost Boys II.

    The bigger question is where is Ruhlman? Over 160 posts with several questioning his objectivity (and even his manhood as I read it) and no defense? Perhaps Elements is taking on Vince Flynn’s new book and he’s becoming too big to bother with such common-man such as blogging. Perhaps he found Andrew Knowlton’s hair salon? Did he decide to forego the writing career for a spot as the new member of Pearl Jam while in Seattle? Did somebody drown him in a vat of coffee? Or did he try to emulate his idol Bourdain and still hasn’t come to after a night of self-abuse via the bottle? Inquiring minds want to know….

    In regards to the dishes, I’m not going to pretend to be smarter than Bobby, Cat, and (oh, I’m afraid I’m going to kill the spelling on this, my apologies and I mean no disrespect) Morimoto or the 3 musketeers. My thoughts were the pretty much the exact same as you. When all three Iron Chefs went nuts over Symon’s Clam and Collar, I wanted to try it that second.

    But in regards to Besh, I wanted to try the Swordfish dessert. I live in the Twin Cities, hometown of Bizarre Foods Andrew Zimern (another spelling disaster I fear). Maybe his zany brand of eating is wearing off on me. But if somebody has the guts to try something like that, I really wanted to see how it tasted, how Besh did it. I’ll admit that freely. I know that the IC judges were lukewarm on it. However, I could somewhat picture the tastes in my mind with the other dishes through different dining experiences. But not on that one and that’s why I wanted to try it.

    Both were Iron Chef material. And if the rumors about the possible departures of Mario and Morimoto prove true, I don’t think they need to look any further as both demostrated the ability to get it done.

  • ImusLover

    From NY Magazine:

    Say it ain’t so, Molto Mario! (Oh God, sorry.) The only New Yorker we’ve ever forgiven for wearing Crocs has been fired from the Food Network. Mario Batali, star of the shows Molto Mario and Iron Chef America, has been dropped from the popular channel’s lineup. He’ll still have his upcoming PBS show about Spanish cooking with Gwyneth Paltrow, but let’s be honest, watching that is going to be like spying on the princess and Rumpelstiltskin on a road trip together. Nobody wants to see that. We’re hoping with more time on his hands, he’ll be able to open more fabulous restaurants in the city — maybe even ones at which we can get reservations.

    Mario was the only decent Iron Chef but he’s gone.

    John Besh is my winner.

  • dagoo7

    “Posted by: theFrog | November 13, 2007 at 04:04 AM

    What a sad day for Iron Chef America and for the Food Network. It has sunk to the level of all of the other “reality” shows which I despise, by choosing the chef with the most flash and “bad boy” attitude over the far more accomplished, humorous “gentleman” chef.”

    Is this really what people think is at the root of this purported grand conspiracy to get Michael Symon as the TNIC at all costs? Because he is the “bad boy” with the “most flash”? That would be somewhat laughable even if the attributions were true. Unfortunately, simply shaving your head and growing a soul patch doesn’t make one a “bad boy.”

    Symon is hardly a “bad boy” and like most Clevelanders (my hometown) he has a decidedly noticeable absence of flash. He is simply a good ole’ dorky hometown guy that can cook like hell. He and Besh were both extremely professional and mature about the challenges and exhibited great respect for each other. I just hope that the tempest in a teapot being generated here doesn’t have a negative impact on either of them.

    If Besh’s food was better, even by a slight margin, I don’t know maybe he should have one based on that one performance. However, as said before, three iron chefs voted for Symon. And I’ll take Morimoto’s opinion over Donatella and Knowlton any day.

    Symon is a great chef and from earlier challenges clearly deserved to win the challenge. Besh will do just fine and maybe be better not having to pimp in anyway for FN. My only concern is that when I go back to Cleveland to visit my folks that I can still get some roast suckling pig and and a cheese plate on a Tuesday evening.

  • Sue

    Donatella Arpala’s behavior as described here was childish, insulting and showed an extraordinary lack of grace and courtesy (not to mention just plain old manners). And, Michael, telling everyone that she did it, isn’t much better. The only people who can feel bad about what was done and said (and the public repeating of same) are John Besh and Michael Symon and why would you or Arpala want that? I know that neither Besh nor Symon are children who need to be protected from bad behavior by other people, but there is something really unseemly about the kind of foot-stamping by Arpala that you described and by your resuscitation of it.
    I vote for having grown-ups judge the next contest. And don’t get me started on Andrew “do-you-even-know-what-you’re-talking-about??!!” Knowlton….

  • Claudia

    Darcie – aptly put. And I hope your knickers are now unknotted . . . and Donatella’s, too (!)

  • Shelley

    I don’t expect Ruhlman to respond to this huge thread. Didn’t he title this “Final Conmment” in the first place? I think he’s addressed many people’s concerns already (ad nauseum) in other blog postings, and if I were him, I’d be ready to move on and leave the NIC arguments behind me. Show’s over. I’m still glad he was willing to share info about what we didn’t see on the screen — yes, Sue, especially about Donatella. Not childish, just stating facts.

    Now I really AM going to depart this conversation. Love the dialogue, but at this point it’s giving me a migraine!

  • Anglophile

    Iron Chef America aside, Food Network has basically gone to the dogs, in my opinion. I just took a look a the home page at Foodnetwork, and was greeted by Rachel Ray’s smiling face enticing me to try her “Orange You Glad It’s Thanksgiving Soup”. Food Network has become the quintessential Food-for-Dummies via bullshit offerings from Jamie and Bobby Deen, Paula’s Party, Have Fork will Travel *whatever it’s called* and Iron Chef America is the last bastion of real cooking on FoodTV.

    What happened on TNIC, while it was pure entertainment and not a legit contest of chef skills and ability, nonetheless lacked cohesion and that was nowhere more apparent than in the final twist with the judging.

    I’d personally like to see a competitor network up the ante. For now, I’ll find solace with Rick Stein’s Food Heroes reruns on BBCA and pray that Symon restores some dignity to an otherwise faltering series.

    Ruhlman did what he was probably invited to do by the Food Network, and probably believed that he could separate himself from his personal relationship with Symon and put forth his objective opinions. Whether or not he achieved this is hard to say. Does it matter? Maybe. Maybe not. Was there an agenda on part of Food Network. Most certainly. I’ve worked in television and I can attest that nothing is done without an agenda. That doesn’t mean the execution of a project is worth a damn, however.

    As for Bordain’s pov, if he decides it is worth his time and energy to put one forth, I imagine he’ll back Ruhlman, and if I were put in that sort of position, I’d probably back my friend, too.

    After all the dust settles, we’ll still be left with a network chock full of crap programming that furthers the idea that Americans will swallow most anything dished out to them.

  • Uncle hulka

    Man,

    Some of you people seem to think that the Food Network is some kumbaya, non-for-profit, altruistic community center.

    Grow up.

    It’s a free-market, for-profit, business, responsible for making a profit for the shareholders of its parent comapny.

    If Rachel Ray, Bobby Flay, and Emeril sell more advertising, guess what?, that’s all that matters. If they help educate some people on food, then that’s fine, too. But it’s a BUSINESS and making a profit is why it exists.

    TV shows do not exist to please elitist foodies, unless, of course, pleasing elitist foodies means big money, then it will…with gusto.

    Until that day comes, the Sandra Lees and Giada’s will keep on keepin’ on, because they sell ad space.

    If you don’t like it, don’t watch. It’s that simple.

  • dagoo7

    Umm. As a side note … It would appear that user names are being mistakenly attributed to posts. My previous post was attributed to “Imuslover” (and I am most decidedly ImusAmbivalent) and the poster following mine got my “dagoo7″.

  • dagoo7

    Ignore that previous post. I am apparently none too bright about this technology business.

  • Lucy Christensen

    I think that John Besh got ripped off. He performed much better through the entire competition and certainly deserved the title.

  • JULIE

    What a joke this show was!! John Besh was SO MUCH BETTER than Symon-People said he was arrogant- there is no way!! The judges were arrogant!! Especially the blonde guy!! They probably can’t boil water. What a big loss to the Food Network. They keep making wrong choices. Besh should start his own Food Show. Uggg

  • Stillpissedoff

    I think the whole thing was an insult to John Besh–the superior chef
    Ruhlman you know it! To prostitute your vote. If was iffy when you started
    since you were a Symon shill. I have no respect for your opinions anymore.
    Why did Bobby Flay vote against Besh?? Pure jealousy of Besh, I have eaten at
    2 of Bobby’s restaurants and 3 of Besh’s. The meals at Besh’s were superior.
    I think you people insulted a great American chef

  • Elizabeth

    Stillpissedoff–have you tasted Symon’s food? It was a competition between Symon and Besh, not Flay and Besh. Not like Flay had the deciding vote, anyway.

  • keith

    hulka-

    I’d kind of liken Food Network to a local band that “sells out” and becomes glossier once they get a major-label record deal.

    Intially, FN WAS about pleasing foodies, because it knew that the number of foodies was growing, and thus, it saw a sustainable target market. Hence, Mario, Emeril, Sarah Moulton, Ina Garten, Bobby Flay and the rest of the first wave of FN chefs. When the ratings for FN far outshone the initial tally they took of that market, they saw the opportunity to broaden their appeal. Hence the current wave- RR, Giada, Tablescapes, Dinner REALLY DIFFICULT(c)Bourdain et al.

    Some of the stuff is still about the food- and when they hit the mark, it reminds people of what FN used to be; for instance, Giada would fit in on the original FN. She can cook, and the recipes are simple without being pap.

    But when the net falls short- such as with NIC, it’s really disappointing, like with that band- because we know that the songs that closed their set when they were still local would have been just as successful if they had major-label style support back then. If NIC had spent NEARLY as much time on the actual COOKING as it did trying to create drama by recapping, explaining rules and showing the judges bickering, it would have pulled the same, if not higher ratings.

  • Uncle hulka

    Keith,

    I agree with what you’re saying…I too lament the shift over the years.

    My favorite show ever was Taste with David Rosengarten, and that was all about food, kind of like Alton without the sets, props, and budget.

    One guy. One set. One specific food/genre per episode. Simple.

    I find most of the stuff on there pap now, too. My point was simply that it’s a money-making enterprise and that the hosts and shows that are on air will stay there as long as they continue to make a profit for the network, even if (or maybe because?) they pander to a wider, less-Foody-ish, demographic.

    It is what it is.

  • Iris

    Two guest chefs impressed me this year–Chef John Besh and Chef Mark Tarbell. They were classy, skilled, and both exhibited charm and intelligence way above the norm.

    I, for one, interpreted Chef Besh’s “arrogance” as confidence. Perhaps I just appreciated his sense of humor and his ability to stay cool in the kitchen.

    Yes, it’s just a TV show, but now Chef Symon will be on just about EVERY Sunday night, way too much for my liking. Wish it could have been a tie.

    And, please, the last thing I want in a chef is someone who is “biker chic” as someone referenced in an earlier post. I hope some smart network executive makes John Besh a great offer to have his own show. Now, THAT would be something to look forward to every week.

  • Kalyne

    re: Janet’s point about people criticizing the PROCESS is not the same as criticizing the OUTCOME. That seems so obvious and yet…apparently it isn’t to those who take critical comments about FN and NIC personally. Really, criticizing the process isn’t the same as saying, “Symon should have lost! Besh should have won!” Clearly, either was deserving.

    re: “Being a polite guest on someone’s message board”. If Ruhlman only wanted posts saying how great he and everything he does is, he would (1) post that as policy and (2) delete any criticism. He doesn’t do that so…don’t worry about it. He apparently doesn’t mind.

    Besides, every blogger knows you often get more web hits for controversy than for agreement. We “dissenters” may actually be….helping!

    Last, I’m amazed at how the people who are critical of FN/NIC/judging are being attacked personally, over and over. On the other hand, I haven’t seen any of the critics making directing personal insults and rebukes to the legion of NIC defenders here. Interesting!

    Either man deserved to win, but (as usual with the “new and improved FN”, imo) the competition was sloppily conceived and, as a result, seemed unfair (to SOME!) Personally, I think ALL of these talented chefs deserved better (and AB should have been more in the Colicchio mode. He wasn’t even Padma here).

    Point is, if they do it again, hopefully they’ll do it better….

  • Anglophile

    Kalyne, you’re right. Alton wasn’t in Colicchio mode and he wasn’t even Padma here.

    It appears to me that Alton Brown has become the Food Network’s bitch, for lack of a better term.

    And yes, I fully expect the daggers to fly my way now.

  • Skawt

    Ashley pouts:

    “Nice picture of Symon on Ruhlman’s “about” page. http://www.ruhlman.com/about.html

    “That lends ever so much credence to Ruhlman’s whines about objectivity.”

    And so are Thomas Keller, Brian Polcyn and Eric Ripert. None of whom were Iron Chef contestants. So is Dr. Roger Mee, an open heart surgeon. Should he have voted for Dr. Mee instead? You know, spread the vote out to all his friends?

    This is ridiculous. Folks, let me point something out, because many of you seem incapable of BASIC MATH. If Ruhlman had not voted at all, the vote was still 3-2 in Symon’s favor. If he had voted for John Besh, it would have been a 3-3 tie, in which case the decision would have been out of his hands and in the hands of the FN execs. You also apparently didn’t watch the rest of the entire competition where Symon pretty much wiped the walls with everyone after his slow start.

    It other words, blow it out your ass.

  • Sandy

    Kalyne said:

    Last, I’m amazed at how the people who are critical of FN/NIC/judging are being attacked personally, over and over. On the other hand, I haven’t seen any of the critics making directing personal insults and rebukes to the legion of NIC defenders here. Interesting!
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    You probably missed the post where everyone from Cleveland (quite a few here) were slammed and since the poster came from NYC they were their own sole arbiter of… food, tv and whatever the hell else. I couldnt tell if it was everywhere except Cleveland that sucked — which would have included Besh’s town and a few other decent food places (including grandma’s house) — or if it was just our beloved mistake by the lake that was so maligned. You knew the discussion had sunk into a new, Cuyahoga-River-on-fire kinda place when that happened.

    It’s been both ways, believe that.

    And oh yeah, before good Clevelanders jump on me — born in Bay Village before coming out here to Elway country. We represent out here for the Browns.

  • Sandy

    Bah, make that “everywhere except NYC that sucked”. Its time for happy hour.

  • doodad

    Anglophile,

    No need for asbestos. The rumor I always heard was that Alton signed a long term deal for moderate $ and now, as it is coming to an end, the FN wants and wants. That would make me bitter as well and those of us in Atlanta hope he finds a well deserved niche. He is too talented IMHO.

    Full disclosure, my wife to be was in his REM video.

  • Brian

    Michael:

    I have yet to watch the episode that i TiVO’d Sunday and made the mistake of reading your blog. Damn! However, I have eaten at 2 of John Besh’s restaurants a couple of years ago (August is truly amazing!) and plan to dine at Lola on my way to the New England Culinary Institute in Vermont next March (“The Making of a Chef” was my inspiration}. Care to join me for dinner – my treat? All best. Brian

  • Brian O

    First, thanks to Mr. Ruhlman for providing some insight into his NICA experience. (I also find your books and blog immensely enjoyable.)

    I found the overall series OK but I had much higher expectations. Unfortunately, we’ve already seen three seasons of Top Chef, so FN had an uphill battle.

    Why was it disappointing? Personally, I felt that each episode fell short in the representation of almost every dish (until the last battle). I also felt like I wasn’t getting enough of the judges’ discussions near the end of each round. This seems to clearly be in the editing that FN was doing. Both NICA and TC are an hour long, yet I feel there is so much more conveyed about the judges’ decision process and the nature of each plate being judged. How Bravo manages to get all that into an episode and still include the mellow-drama and the long-pause-over-hyped decisions is beyond me. That being said, (most of) these chefs were clearly superior to the TC chefs. And I also liked that there was no judge in the Colicchio as mentor/boss/angry parent role.

    Onto the finale –– I was completely shocked that Chef Besh did not win the finale (at first). Overall, Besh did seem to outclass Symon and his food appeared to be much more refined. I thought after the very first episode that Chef Besh would be the one to beat. He is clearly a very talented and skilled chef. A thought that WAS well conveyed in the finale was that Besh is very steady whereas Symon is more of a roller coaster ride. OK, good setup, lots of contrast beteen the two.

    Both of these chefs were talented enough to win, but beyond that I really thought the decision was going to come down to FN’s preference for which chef would be better for TV. From a quick glance that would appear to be Besh. But then, less than 5 minutes after I saw Symon win, I realized why he won.

    Who is Symon replacing? I saw one blog state that it would be Morimoto, but it was the Batali who wasn’t there at the finale. Bourdain has stated that Batali and FN have parted ways and this would seem to confirm that. Batali leaves some might big clogs to fill. His are usually the only battles that I don’t keep hitting the “30sec skip” on my Tivo for. Batali is as talented as it gets and he has a BIG personality.

    Let’s face it BF may be talented, but he comes off like a stiff p%@#k on ICA (and most of his other shows). Morimoto is very interesting to watch but can’t seem to buy a win on this series. Cat Cora is only on because she’s a female and everyone knows it. So if you have to replace your biggest star on a particular show, you replace him/her with another star or someone that has the potential to be a star. Michael Symon has personality in spades and it shows up on camera easily. Besh could be seen as bland in comparison. Bottom line – there was a lot at stake here and FN WILL/DID take all things into consideration.

    So will I watch Iron Chef Symon? Sure, why not! I am much more looking forward to driving to Cleveland and eating his food though. (Almost got there this summer, but I couldn’t make it past the Melon Festival in Milan. [That’s MY-len, not mil-LAN.])

  • bonnibella

    BK: “I don’t know Janet… I just passed the bar exam. I might be looking to test out my litigation skills ;-)”

    Oy vey. How…predictable. Good luck with your impending legal career (you’ll need it). And don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.

  • Nancy Misra

    What experience do the iron chefs have in judging others? It appears to me that there is an independence impairment here. Forget about you and your ties to Cleveland and Mike Symon. If TV Foodnetwork had not allowed the Iron Chefs to vote, who would be the next iron chef? Why can’t you make a decision on your own? Did it ever occur to you that the Iron Chefs are threatened by Besh? Who wouldn’t be? He is the most charismatic chef I have ever seen on Foodnetwork. He is so interesting and different than anyone else…He hunts and fishes…he wears a blue blazer… he is a Marine…maybe not liberal enough for the network, maybe not liberal enough for you..I wish Jeffery Steingarten would have been a judge…he would have voted based on his own opinion, not on consensus.
    So tell me Mr. Rulhman, were you the network plant? Who really could not take Besh being the next Iron Chef? I was there when Emeril’s first show aired on the network…I watched East Meets West with Ming and Bobby Flay when Jackie was his sidekick. But no more…I am done with all of it…I feel so cheated…I was really looking forward to Sunday nights…watching Besh compete on ICA…but since he will not be there we will not watch anymore…You should not have been given the privilage to judge someone far greater than you. It’s a damn shame…….

  • Kal

    Wow. Lotta thoughts, people!

    I mostly wanted Besh and Symon to go head to head because I knew the competition would be fierce and funny, and I wouldn’t be disappointed if either won because they’re both so damn good.

    Personally, I think it’s really hard to armchair-judge food competitions; unlike sporting events where you can check out instant replays and alternate camera angles, you really truly can’t be sure what’s going on in those dishes unless you were there and got to taste ’em.

    I have to admit that I did root for Symon all the way, as a matter of my personal opinion of who I’d rather watch on TV. I liked him in Ruhlman’s book, have never laughed so hard just because someone else was laughing when he showed up in No Res, and enjoyed watching his spunky self all NIC long. His personality seemed the most dynamic of all the contestants, and on TV, that matters. I also just genuinely like him, based on what little I know.

    I wouldn’t have been disappointed if Besh won, though. Clearly the man has the chops and the charm as well. I trusted the judges. They’re educated in this field and got to actually taste the food. I figure that gives them an edge over me sitting on my couch at home when it comes to making the right decision.

  • Stephen

    Jeez, Bourdain gets mentioned so much in this blog you’d think he was apart of it.