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”

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Joel

    @BKbell 11/12 9:25PM

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

  • 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.)

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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!~~

  • 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.

  • 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

    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.

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • jsmeeker

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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)

    “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 :)

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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)

    @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?”

  • 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 :)

  • Kay

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

  • IGIF

    Frances: Again, I must say how much I enjoy and agree with your thoughtful comments on this blog. Wish all the bloggers would have your common sense and lack of vindictiveness. I think Mr. Rulman did a great job judging, as well as providing this blog for exchange of ideas and opinions, pro or con. I couldn’t help rooting for Chef Besh, but Chef Symon was such a close second, that I’m not disappointed really, and agree that his TV “personna” will well suit him in his new role. Go Michael Ruhlman, Go Chef Symon! (Can’t wait to hear AB’s take on this…)

  • 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? btw, I agree that donatella seems like a woman who’s used to getting her way, and that’s not a compliment.

    second, chance, I think you’re taking this whole thing waaay too seriously. ruhlman doesn’t owe you, or any of us, an explanation for why he voted how he did. I was glad he offered one, as it was interesting and shed a lot of light on what happened behind the scenes. 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”.

    third, to those of you who think the ICs voted for symon because they felt “threatened” by besh… umm, they don’t battle each other. doesn’t it make more sense that they’d want to maintain the high standard of their relatively elite group?

  • Debbie

    I followed the competition from the beginning and will say I am somewhat disappointed with the outcome. Personally I feel John Besh was the best Chef for the position and I see problems with how the final judging was done. I feel the original judges should have been the ones voting with comments from the Iron Chefs taken into account, but they should not have voted.

    Symon is more flashy and perhaps that is what they wanted. His laugh annoys me to no end though (just a personal note). I also find your reasons for voting for Symon a little lacking but in the end, none of that matters. Symon is the next Iron Chef and Besh’s future is bright and I am sure he will go on to have bigger and better opportunities placed before him.

    The finale was a disappointment, no matter the outcome. I have to agree with many in that regard.

  • BKbella

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

  • Dale

    Let me see here. Throughout the competition, “Good Chefs have bad days” and if your dishes were lacking, you got booted. For the finale, Besh’s dished were superior to Symon’s but somehow Symon wins the competition? I heard Symon’s dishes described as mealy, poorly seasoned, etc. Besh, meanwhile, was spot on with his seasoning, presentation, etc. The only complaint was the Swordfish wrapped Lobster Roll showcased the Lobster instead of the Swordfish (no one said it was a bad dish) and his LAST MINUTE/TAKE A CHANCE/PUSHING THE ENVELOPE SWORDFISH DESSERT didnt taste a lot like swordfish. Again, no complaint that it was a bad dish.

    It seems that the rules were changed to stack the deck in Symon’s favor. Throughout the competition, food is tasted and the maker of the worst dish goes home. Same three judges throughout the competition. What the chef did yesterday was no protection for what would happen today. For the fianle, we are led to believe it would be just like a Iron Chef competition. But then we bring in different judges (so why didnt we have different judges each episode). Then instead of the score card we see at the end of an IC episode, it’s lets all sit a circle and decide who derserves to be the Next Iron Chef. HUH? By all accounts, Besh won this competition but because Symon won 4 previous episodes Symon deserves to win the whole competition? When was it established that winning an episode would be taken into consideration in the final tally? If Besh’s dishes were superior that day, he should have won the competition.

    Breaking the cardianl rule of never asking a question you dont already know the answer to, in the next to last episode in Paris, Alton leaned over to Donatella and said “Everyone seems to think the clear choice for the next Iron Chef is a slam dunk (or something to that effect) and Donatella agreed with him. SO who were they talking about at that time? Besh or Symon?

    Frankly, I think FN erred in choosing Ruhlman as a judge from the beginning if they knew Symon was going to be a contestant. Intentional or not, home town officiating always creeps into the process. It’s one thing to choose a judge from NY when a competitor is from NY as well, but in a city as small as Cleveland it hard to get around the fact that few top quality chefs are going to be working in a critic’s backyard so a familiarity is going to exist if not a quite championing of that chef’s skills.

    To be fair, I am not advocating that Symon wont make a good Iron Chef. Besh simply won the evening and deserved to be named Iron Chef based on how the competition had unfolded to that point. When Symon hits on a dish it is out of the ballpark. But when he misses, he misses badly. However, they all agreed that Besh was consistanly in the top two every week. Cora complained that Symon’s dishes werent properly seasoned. Didnt this get one chef kicked out (even though the seasoning being washed off wasnt his fault?). If the network wanted a TV friendly personality all along, then this whole show should have scrapped and they should have just announced Iron Chef X is retiring and Chef Symon will take his place. Wasnt Morimoto the third Iron Chef Japanese on the original and there was no competition? Have a legitimate competition or just announce your own choice.

  • Freke

    I’m just going to spit it out: I wouldn’t want to eat anything Besh made, for fear that he would have sweat all over it. Gross dude.

    By the way Ruhlman, I have an issue with a little part about Fischetti’s class in “Reach of a Chef”. You happened to sit in on my class for that part of the book…and what ended up in the book wasn’t quite right…

  • Sakurako

    I think the phrase “woman who’s used to getting her way” was just a figure of speech. Or, at least, that’s the impression I had.

    Oh well. It’s over now, anyway.

  • Frances

    From the looks of the comments on Adam’s blog, viewers are leaving FN in droves – at least the shallow, insensitive ones anyway. There’s hope for the FN yet…

  • BKbella

    Chance:

    Thank you for your comment re: “I think she’s a woman who’s used to getting her way. That’s just a guess.” His statement perhaps sheds some light on why the first chefs to go were women. Or it just shows a lack of respect toward women that have nerve to be skeptical of his decisions. Or…. maybe it’s a Cleveland thing…

  • janet

    Um, Shelley, this time it was Ruhlman who brought up the issue of bias, or favoritism, or whatever you want to call it. That’s what a good bit of the post is about.

    BK — I think that would qualify as “inadvertant damage to your keybord.” I think we can settle this out of court, don’t you?

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

    @ Michael Ruhlman:

    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.

    M.R. Thanks for taking the time out from the schedule to post your thoughts and experiences. I thought you did a splendid job throughout the series (which, in general, I did not care for much, and thought would improved and gain steam over the course of 7 broadcasts – but, that is not your responsibility.) Having said that much, I really enjoyed your guest appearance on Ming Tsai’s show, which aired about two weeks ago – not sure if it was a repeat or not, but maybe it was.

    On to my thoughts on your above comment… I do not understand how your final decision was rooted in a IC Board of Directors collaborative, when the triumvirate was only on board for one of the seven shows: IMO, that deference should have been reserved for your fellow judges, Donatella and Andrew.

    In other words, if they felt Besh was the best, and since they’d gone to battle with you from Shows 1 thru 7, then they would have served the same purpose as that which you instead reserved for the sitting IC trio. However, since your immediate colleagues were both pro-Besh, and the IC committee (using this catch all phrase loosely, but they are a or were a Gang of Three) was pro-Symon, by saying you deferred to the ICs based on the fact that they are skilled, professionals – and, with all due respect, you, Donatella and Andrew are either not as skilled or not at all, at least in the case of Donatella and Andrew – guaranteed that Symon would win: since all three ICs voted for Symon, and your vote, while not the “swing” vote in the classic sense of the term, if you had voted for Besh, then, the vote count would have been tied at 3-3 (if I’ve done my math correctly: if not, my bad.) So, in the end, your voting method and your rationalization served the same purpose as a swing vote, since, as you noted, if the end result was a tie, it would’ve been left to The Chairman and FN to break that tie and arrive at a conclusion.

    In essence, while I think you are honestly expressing your point of view, I also think it’s a great or convenient rationalization.

    @ Michael Ruhlman:

    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.
    If I’ve read correctly, your friendship with Symon was detrimental for Shows 1 thru 6 but not Show 7? That’s interesting.

    @Michael Ruhlman:

    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.

    Well, I would say that, your remark about Donatella didn’t require a gender assignation: everyone knows she’s a woman. I will say, however, that your comment is borderline sexist (and I’m a man, so it’s not as if I’m a female blog reader who’s used to getting her way.) Especially when one considers that women have not always (and must still fight harder) to reap the benefits of the so-called “last great meritocracy.”

    A simple, “I think she’s spoiled” would have sufficed, IMO. In fairness, there’s always the possibility that Donatella had visions of developing and financing a new restaurant with Besh at its helm (since she obviously loved his cooking.) But she’s no more or no less spoiled (or used to getting her way) than Keith McNally, Rande Gerber or Danny Meyer.

    @Michael Ruhlman:

    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.

    Again, IMO, your explanation of your voting process, while logically sound, is also a rationalization. I think you should have reserved that consideration for your immediate colleagues (Donatella and Andrew) instead of for the presiding ICs: who, I believe, were somewhat threatened by Besh. Just because they heaped more praise for his dishes, doesn’t mean it couldn’t have served as a ruse or device to distract from their already made-up minds. And, yes, in the end, it’s just television, and as before, Besh has a great career and the sky is the limit for him and his talents. Although Symon is no slouch, in the end, I think Besh was the best candidate for the job (I treated the show as if it was one long, or overly long, interview process for a t.v. cooking gig). However, if it is “just television,” then the show, and the end judgement, was never about cooking, and never about food to begin with..

  • Dale Cruse

    @7cats You are incorrect, according to ABC News. The report from them said Food Network will no longer air “Molto Mario” but that he would still be a part of “Iron Chef America.” But that brings up another question: Do we now have five Iron Chefs? This was never acknowledged or address during the run of “Next Iron Chef.”

    I believe Food Network has lost its way. It’s not about cooking anymore. It’s reality TV and people taking shortcuts with food. This very much reminds me of when MTV started airing more reality shows and fewer videos.

  • resolvablenebulae

    Well, I have to vent my peculiarly strong reaction and say that I am feeling, for some odd reason, genuinely BETRAYED that Besh didn’t win – it seemed to me that he was clearly the superior chef, and suddenly when he lost the competition the whole Food Network Iron Chef wink-wink chairman’s uncle nonsense just seemed really horrible – even Alton Brown, who I otherwise adore, took on a certain sinister conspiratorial air… Yeah yeah, Symon’s a TV friendly guy and Besh did come off as a bit smug at times, but the whole thing seemed fishy to me.
    it was like when I saw that subliminal Iron Chef McDonalds
    ad revealed on YouTube…I’m sure I’ll get over it but it’ll take a while.

  • WhatisCanadianCuisine?

    Robert Schoenfeld is the same guy who called Ruhlman an asshole on previous blogs. He’s obviously not interested in proper discussions. I personally, am ignoring anything he has to say.

  • Joel

    Wow. I think some of you folks take this way too seriously. In spite of everyone at the Food Network calling this the most important night of the chef’s careers, it wasn’t. It really is just a television show and there probably are hundreds of much better places for a professional chef to end up other than the Food Network.

    I enjoy watching Iron Chef, I miss the Japanese episodes, the ingredients and dishes seemed much more exotic, and I was hoping Besh would win, I just like him more, but to get bent out of shape over this? Nope.

    I hope Donnatella kicked your ass Micheal, good for her. :)

  • kanani

    Well, you could have said, “Oh, Donatella. It was the way he cooked those hanging chads.”
    Or, “Wasn’t the mystery ingredient CHAD roe?”
    Oh dear, I’m being irreverent toward Donatella, aren’t I?

    Sorry, but I find any nagging from her or anyone having to defend their votes to be VERY offensive, petty, and akin to a hissy fit.

  • Alisa

    Tony has been so silent! Where are his snarky comments? Surely he must think SOMETHING about the lack of hair that won the competition!

  • catherine

    Frances: Thank you. That was the exact interpretation of Michael’s post that I had and I was getting quite frustrated that people didn’t see it thay way.

    On another note, I’m very excited to watch Symon’s first battle although I think he looks a little odd in the blue chef’s garb than in his usual black.

  • SalNichols

    “Perspective”? How about the missed opportunities that would have made this show one hell of a lot more entertaining?
    We sit through 8 weeks of build up for an episode that had less than 18 minutes of cooking. This could have been resolved by pumping the show to 90 minutes and dumping that idiotic Rachel Ray/Giada cookoff that followed.
    FN had 6 former contestants with nothing to offer but their presence. I’ll bet they had something to contribute had someone taken the time to ask.
    Swapping the judges at the last moment was a REALLY CHEAP bit of theatrics for no real purpose, considering that the “original” judges did get to taste and rate the food.
    The producers of this show lacked any real vision for the climatic episode, that was obvioius. It almost felt like the contest itself was an afterthought.

  • BKBella

    Shelley– just because you don’t agree with what I have to say doesn’t mean my arguments are whiny. In fact, I haven’t resorted to ad hominem arguments like the one you used above.
    I think there have been more than two that have discussed this as well. Why should I stop responding to the discussion just because you don’t like what I have to say?

    And really now — the word “bias” has not appeared in any of my posts in this thread.

  • Shelley

    BK, we’ve all heard that whiny argument about Ruhlman’s “bias” here from you and two of your friends. Give it up, please. It’s such a tired, tired issue.

    Robert, you think Irvine is the last real chef on FN? I hope you’re joking. I do get how pitiful it is to see the Deen boys, Sandra La-La, the history of M&Ms, and Diner Guy getting so much airtime, but… Irvine??? Hi-volume institutional cooking in bad weather? I don’t find that chef-spirational to watch.

    Frances, I agree that Ruhlman seemed to want to defer (at least somewhat) to what the existing Iron Chefs believed. To me, that was a smart strategy. Many of the earlier tests had little to do with what goes on in a real competition, so even without the “standard” scoring method, I think it’s smart of him to listen to how they would vote.

    Frenchie, I also wondered about the restaurant perspective of Donatella and Knowlton when I finally read about who voted for Besh vs. Symon at the end. Still pondering that.

    This has been (mostly) fun here, and I’m glad Ruhlman leaves his blog open to the public as a forum to talk about the show. It’s affecting my day job, though. :}

  • Rachael

    I admit it- I watched the whole thing blithely assuming that Besh was the winner no matter what. I was shocked to see that Symon won, but not in a bad way. I liked both guys equally and would have been fine with either choice.

    But it seemed clear to me that, based on the judging that day, Symon would win. The Iron Chefs even said that they had to judge only by what they had that day and I really thought that Symon came out looking like a champ.

    Honestly, I don’t see how you can accuse the show creators of “rigging” it. Like I said, I thought Besh would be the clear winner and I think he was most certainly the FN favorite going in. Besh has gotten lots of bones thrown his way from FN (with good reason!), as I’ve seen his face both as a judge and as a contestant for Food Network Challenges. He’s a great guy, a big personality, and certainly a formidable chef. I doubt he’s walking away from this experience with less than he had to begin with. Ask him how business is these days and I bet you get a positive answer.

    I don’t really question Ruhlman’s judgment on this deal and frankly, I don’t even care that much. It’s a TV show and since these guys are already seasoned, I don’t think many are crushed that they lost.

    Finally: I bought my boyfriend a Ruhlman book (we’re behind the times, I know, I know) JUST so he had a good reason to go to the Ferry Building in SF yesterday. We plum forgot about it on Sunday until it was too late! I feel guilty now, but frankly it was probably a good deal for all involved. Had I come along, I would have been drooling the whole time. Mmm, Ruhlman. Hot.

  • Kali

    It’s been pretty well established that FN usually pairs up the IC chef and challenger.

    On another note: can it really be true that Symon never tried sous vide until this show? That seems odd–especially since he seems pretty interested in expanding his repertoire (and sous vide is hardly new and cutting edge)

    I’m glad he’s blogging (hope he’ll get a proofreader). It’ll be fun to read his cooking experiences on iC and, hopefully, elsewhere.

  • Kay

    Yes, everyone on The Food Network is a stupid, talentless whore EXCEPT Robert Irvine.

    BEST NIGHT EVER, GUYS!
    (to be read while bending over and spreading one’s tuckus for Tuschman’s ease of entry).

  • laura

    Michael, I just discovered you are the author of walk on water. I had an open heart surgery 9 years ago in Cleveland Clinic performed by Dr. Mee. Since we found out about your book some years ago, my husband wanted to buy it, but I read a little bit in Amazon.com and it was to much for me. I mean the surgery you discribed could have been mine (altough I wasn`t a newborn). A long time has passed, and now that I know you thanks to NIC I will buy the book and read it as an homenage to you, to Dr. Mee and to all the staff at CCF. I rooted all the time for Symon since he represents the city where I was born again. Next time I go to Cleveland for a check up I will make reservations either for Lola and Lolita. Last time (4 years ago) we could make it to Lola, but now that is downtown it will be much easier.

  • Tags

    I think the opponents Symon and Besh chose in their original battles speaks volumes.

    Symon clearly wanted the most accomplished and most experienced opponent, taking on Morimoto. That showed he has an iron set of cojones, and predestined him to be the next Iron Chef.

  • French Laundry at Home

    I find it interesting that the two restaurant-related judges (Donatella and Andrew) backed Besh, and the trained chefs (including you, Ruhlman) backed Symon. Is there a chance that Andrew and Donatella were judging the dishes and experiences with a restaurant framework/lens, while everyone else was judging fundamentals, technical skill, and the other elements an Iron Chef must possess? There’s a certain TV-readiness (as well as a willingness to be available to do advertiser/affiliate-related things) needed for this show, and if the 3 current ICs believed Symon had the chops, then I think the judging was fair.

    Having had the pleasure of dining at both Lola and August, it is fair to say that these two deserved to be in the finale based on their skill, experience, and deliverables in each challenge. But ultimately, who is going to drive ratings and advertiser support? Symon, without question. It’s a business, and Symon can better deliver the goods that support Scripps’ business goals.

  • BKbella

    Janet:

    Well said. Another side effect of reading your comment was nearly spitting my coffee onto my laptop.

    I too have nothing against Symon, etc. I do believe that he fits the mold of an Iron Chef better than Besh. However, I also agree with Robert that it seems like the outcome was determined from the beginning.

  • BKbella

    Janet:

    Well said. Another side effect of reading your comment was nearly spitting my coffee onto my laptop.

    I too have nothing against Symon, etc. I do believe that he fits the mold of an Iron Chef better than Besh. However, I also agree with Robert that it seems like the outcome was determined from the beginning.

  • BKbella

    No this is not Nuremberg, but we are consumers. We are subjected to commercials and promotions. Heck, perhaps the reason why Ruhlman decided to judge this show was so the finale would coincide with the release of his book (Elements of…, where have I heard this before?).

    We should expect professionalism from the folks on FN just as we should expect our politicians to act ethically (Haliburton in Iraq anyone?).

    These discussions are taking place, because many of us our acting as infromed consumers. This thread represents the idea of media literacy, where we are discussing why we are presented with a particular idea and what the possible consequences of those ideas are. Surely this discussion is taking place elsewhere.

    As for the other chefs — there are many reasons why they may not be complaining. 1. They are prevented from commenting under contract 2. They are being professional, and are hoping for another bite of the FN apple, or 3. They have nothing to say. Nevertheless, I question the FN’s decision to use Mr. Ruhlman as a judge, and I believe that I have a right to do so as a consumer.

  • janet

    Claudia, I think the other judges couldn’t complain, even if they thought the judging was unfair — the only result of complaining would be to make them look like bad sports. Nobody wants to look like a bad sport, which I think is why Kaysen didn’t say anything about the salt issue when it might have made a difference to the judges.

    Just to be clear (because I, too, have had words put in my mouth by other commenters), I have no reason to believe that there was any deliberate favoritism. I have no reason to believe any of the other contestants thought the judging was unfair (except the “brown people” comment of Sanchez’s, that Ruhlman reported). I don’t have anything personal against Ruhlman, Symon, the Food Network, or representatives of the Breck brand. Side effects of reading this comment may include raised blood pressure, tense shoulders, and inadvertant damage to your computer keyboard. This comment is not for everyone — ask your doctor about this comment!

  • Robert Schoenfeld

    This whole thing was rigged from the beginning.. Why didn’t they just call it ‘The Next Iron Chef: Symon and the other losers’. This thing was scripted with biased judges and hookie reality show bullshit. I cant believe the Food Network can trash chefs of this caliber and expect any of them to ever want to work with them again.

    Why fire Batali and hire Symon there personalties are almost carbon copy. And what the hell is with Flay the worst of all food network chefs? Chef Besh has more talent in one of his pinkies then Flay has in his entire blue corn meal cooking ass. Oh and Chef Cora’s remarks are priceless, this coming from someone who only cooks things her Momma (Near and dear to her heart) used to cook her when she was kid. Give me a break.

    Just another example of why the food network has gone down in quality. Lets hope they have enough common sense to keep Chef Robert Irvine at all costs. Their last real Chef.

  • 7cats

    I think NIC was a step up for FN. Aside from MasterChef on BBC America, I can’t remember a cooking show (or reality show period) that didn’t involve contestants constantly bickering, whining, and bursting into tears. It was really nice to see the NIC participants good-natured approach to each challenge. I attribute that to the professionalism of the chefs and judges, not FN. Otherwise, I’m pretty sure NIC would have been a freak show like Next Food Network Star.

  • Clare K.

    I agree – Symon is the ideal Iron Chef. While Besh is a consistently good chef, I think Symon brings more “wow” factor to the table. He seems to take more chances, and he’s just got that edgier personality (read: better for television). Batali is out, from what I hear…something about how he wouldn’t agree to be on Iron Chef if Food Network didn’t renew his other show (they didn’t).

  • Claudia

    BK:

    I don’t agree with Ruhlman all the time – and I’ve certainly said when I don’t. No one is trying to put words in your mouth. I’m just saying that not only did FN know that Symon and Ruhlman were friends, but so did all the chefs – and NONE of them have griped about any ethics issues in the judging. The only comment any chef made about the judging (after the fact, and as an aside) was Kaysen, who pointed out the cooler leeked water all over his food, affecting the seasoning. So all I’m saying is, if all the chefs were OK with Ruhlman judging (and they have all obviously gone home and gone on with their careers and lives), why should anyone else have an issue? AND that this is, yes, just a TV show. Not Nuremburg.

  • Chad Edward

    I didn’t taste any of the food and editing is powerful enough to create any reality an editor likes. (For instance, I thought Donatella seemed very classy on the series. Guess reality is much different…) It was entertaining to watch. It framed the competition in a story, which was something lost in translation from the original “Iron Chef”. As I posted elsewhere, I consider Iron Chef Symon to be the first Iron Chef America, having endured such seemingly irrelevant trials. I can’t wait to watch his first battle next Sunday.

  • Frances

    The way I interpret what Michael has stated about his decision is that he felt that for the final round, Besh’s food was only slightly better – he edged Symon out. But he didn’t feel it was by a wide enough margin to overcome Symon’s overall lead throughout the competition. I believe he waited for the IC’s opinions to make sure that he wasn’t being biased toward Symon.

    As for his statement about it being only a TV show, that was meant as a perspective for the importance of the decision – in that there were no lives at stake and nobody was going to jail. Despite that, he took his judging very seriously.