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Nov 3, 2007 11:10 PM

Food Network Next Iron Chef -- Ethical Problem

I love Michael Ruhlman's work. His "Making of a Chef" series is a personal favorite, and I like his website as well. But how can he be a judge when one of the participants is Michael Symon, who was one of the primary subjects for one of his books and a follow-up in another?

I will agree that Ruhlman appears to be the best judge, far ahead of the long-haired Bon Appetit editor and "famous" restaurateur. I also think that Michael Symon has exhibited the most attractive TV persona and turned out the best food. But these two were and are friends. Their mutual success has aided one another. Hasn't anybody else noticed this or commented on it?

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  1. Noticed and commented on extensively at Mr. Ruhlman's own blog, Some critics there, but he's been dismissive (even flippant) about it.

    1. while i see your point, michael symon actually commented saying that he knows all the judges - and so do most of the other competitors - because it's a small and tightknit business (i think you can see that in the friendships between the chefs on the show). so that to find judges who DON'T know the contestants would almost mean finding less qualified or less famous for tv judges. just one other side.

      it certainly hurt symon in the first episode. since then i don't know. i do think that if it appeared that there was blatant favoritism it would be bad for everyone involved so i simply doubt that would happen. could be that's my wishful thinking or naivte though.

      1. I don't think this ''contest" or any other similar ones on TV has high ethical/scientific standards or else they would have a blind tasting by the judges. I would not rule out the whole thing being rigged like any other reality show. I am sure who ever wins is extremely talented, but personality will come into play as this is TV after all. That said, Michael Symon does make very, very, good and creative food and very likely could be the best chef there. Anyone who has not already,come to Cleveland and see for yourself!

        1 Reply
        1. re: lyn

          I loved seeing him on the AB show in Cleveland - what a laugh - and what great looking dishes.

        2. I think the real ethical problem for this show and food network as a whole is that there are no people of color on the network. I think there is a real, although most likely unconscious bias towards white males in this show and on the network.

          3 Replies
          1. re: karenfinan

            unfortunately the "chefing" world as a whole tends to have that problem - but i do agree that food network is especially afflicted.

            1. re: karenfinan

              I don't think you can accuse FN one hand of solely programming for the bottom line and then also accuse them on the other of prejudice against non-whites.

              I'll play devil's advocate here.

              First, find out how many non-white hosts FN auditioned in, say, 2006. If none applied, then none hired.

              Secondly, if FN did audition non-white hosts, were their performances on par with FN standards? Just because you're black or Hispanic doesn't mean you get your own show.

              Thirdly, what are the demographics FN wants? Say they want females aged 34-54 earning $48k - $129k as one possibility. If they think there are too few non-whites in that category and don't want to go to the expense of appealing to them, then that's their choice (and a stupid one, but I digress.)

              As for no people of color? What about Ingrid Hoffman? She's Hispanic. They also had Ming Tsai and Aaron Sanchez. The host on Food Finds is black.

              1. re: karenfinan

                what do you mean no people of color on the food network? aaron sanchez is latino, morimoto is asian, that other latina lady has her own show. most of the food show cooks (giada, rachel ray, paula, barefoot contessa et al) are female not male. do you just mean african american specifically? in that case you may have a point, but otherwise, you're just spouting an inaccuracy.

              2. I think the ethical problem assumes that Ruhlman can't set aside his friendship and judge the competition fairly and professionally. I believe he can.

                Also, I feel the final three are appropriate. It's not like Symon was performing poorly and via Ruhlman's influence got him through.

                It would be great if the final judging included the current iron chefs and Jeffrey Steingarten.