Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Food Media & News >
Sep 12, 2011 08:13 AM

I simply don't get food as competition

I don't get it. From the beginning Iron Chef seemed staged and rigged. Even if something were intended to be an honest competition how does forcing someone outside of their niche enlighten or allow us to appreciate what it is they have to offer?

Besides, how it misrepresents what individuals are doing, what does making the format competitive accomplish? You don't get the focus on what's happening in prep to learn anything. Meanwhile, the quality of food product has never been about who's photogenic or even likable. But that doesn't stop the competition shows from nearly taking over the shows with instructive or reflective content.

So what's the attraction I'm missing?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Entertainment.

    Forcing someone out of their comfort zone, in theory, shows their mastery of the particular skill. I buy into that theory.

    1. I don't get the judges who judge these things. Especially chopped. "I've prepared chive covered dragon fruit in a pool of sweat with a side of croutons to soak up the sweat." Why oh why do they force the judges to eat sweat? Can they not afford AC in the kitchen or force contestants to wear sweat absorbing headgear to keep it off the food?????

      18 Replies
      1. re: Bellachefa

        Are you a chef or cook? I don't think there are many kitchens with AC. Sweat happens, if you don't want any in your food I think you should cook for yourself.

        1. re: melo7

          Even when there is AC, it doesn't really help that much when you are standing over the grill or fryer or gas burners with the salamander above at scalp level. I wouldn't want the AC counteracting the really high heat I'm trying to get in my pan.

          1. re: Sooeygun

            Not to mention what the AC would do to the food once plated and waiting to go into the dining room.

            1. re: Sooeygun

              Are studio lights still bright and hot? Or has increased camera sensitivity reduced the need from that strong light?

              1. re: paulj

                They're still pretty hot, but nothing compared to a working kitchen.

              2. re: Sooeygun

                True to all of those....the ole adage..."If you can't stand the heat.....get out of the kitchen" applies here.

              3. re: melo7

                Are you a chef or a cook? I am. And yes there are certainly many kitchens with ac to keep a temp control below the days when 110 temps were a normal kitchen temp and a health hazard to the cooks. I once took a chef's temp on one hot summer night and he was cooking with a dangerous body temp that would have been lethal to anyone not used to the severe conditions. Yet he had headgear and wasn't sweating into the food.

                1. re: Bellachefa

                  People can get used to lethal temps?! Good to know. How do you train for this and how did you learn how to stop sweating from the rest of your face when wearing headgear? I mean the rest of us not as well trained as you and your brethren have sweat dripping off our noses and chins.

                  1. re: melo7

                    i think there are a lot of things pro chefs do to cope with the conditions in very hot kitchens, or very hot stations in otherwise reasonable kitchens. but yes, having your brain function at ambient 116 degrees is something you can get better at with training/experience.

                    1. re: soupkitten

                      I agree you can "get used" to heat but lethal conditions for chefs would be lethal conditions for others.

                2. re: melo7

                  I suspect it has more to do with the TV lighting than a lack of AC. Not positive. But those studio lights are intense.

                  1. re: cowboyardee

                    I worked as a barback for a bit in a restaurant and the ice machine and dish washer was in the kitchen. I've also worked at Oxygen network and the studios were nearby. The lights in the studio were hot but they weren't so hot that the on air staff would sweat so hard you could see. In a kitchen it's not just the heat but the humidity from the dish washer and the pots of stock and water for pasta etc. It's tropics hot in the kitchen and no one cares what you look like.

                    1. re: melo7

                      I've been in many commercial kitchens. Plenty are hot, but some are well air conditioned, even with the grill and the dish washer and the stock pots simmering. There's no hard, fast rule about how hot a professional kitchen is.

                      I've never been under studio lights that weren't pretty intense. But I haven't been in anywhere near as many studios as I have kitchens.

                      At any rate, it's TV - if the producers didn't want the viewer to see the contestants sweating, we wouldn't. The similarity to a professional kitchen or lack thereof is sort of moot when you have makeup artists and selective editing, etc.

                3. re: Bellachefa

                  "I've prepared chive covered dragon fruit in a pool of sweat with a side of croutons to soak up the sweat."
                  That made me laugh :-). I suppose if one could obtain and market bonafide celebrity chef-sweat in crystalized form (mmm, Giada sweat, etc.), and sold it in customized ramekins, instead of 'sea salt', one could have 'she salt' or 'he salt'.

                  1. re: silence9

                    LOL, only problem there is the celebrity chefs never really sweat. The kitchen on Iron Chef is definately kept at a working temp, while shows like Chopped have the thermostat turned way up. Many of them sweat so much they could sub as a fire sprinkler system.

                    1. re: Bellachefa

                      You're not watching Iron Chef very carefully if you don't see the contestants sweating.

                      1. re: Bellachefa

                        'Get that man a towel' is a catch phrase from Iron Chef Japan. And for some reason certain posters like to highlight Jose Garces' sweat on ICA.

                    2. re: Bellachefa

                      Some people are just profuse sweaters. :/

                    3. I kind of half agree and half disagree with you....respectively of course.

                      On the Agree half lets say someone has studied an art for 20 years. be it Sushi or Interpretive Dance. "Now go and cook BBQ" "Now go and do Tap" Does not work.

                      On the other side someone with inate talent should be able to adapt to a point.

                      OK changed my mind I agree with you 3/4 the last 4th is it's American TV.

                      1. No attraction. The concept is worn completely through, showing just how little imagination resides among TV programmers. I'm ready for a show where contestants race the clock to corner-stun-skin-gut-butcher-cook and serve serve a hapless Angus steer or Berkshire pig. OK, maybe a fryer would do.

                        Whatever happens, there's sure to be FN equivalent of the greedy slugs bidding on storage lockers to show they're also near the bottom of the idea bin.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Kagemusha

                          FN has shown a few episodes of Extreme Chef that approximate your steer example. Most of the challenges are quite contrived. However one was rather funny. In the middle of preparing a main coarse, they had to go milk a cow to get some milk for dessert. One of the contestants almost got kicked, and refused to go further with that challenge. Instead he made a dessert without milk, and lost that stage.

                        2. I don't get it. Chowhounds repeatedly decry the prevalence of competitions and dearth of instructional shows, but what do they discuss on this board? Chopped, NFNS, and Food Truck Race? Where are the discussions about the 2 daily hours of instruction on CreateTV? The morning and afternoon instructional shows on FN? The cooking shows on Cooking Channel?

                          I don't think the problem is the lack of instructional shows, but rather the growing pickiness of viewers like you and me. A couple of decades ago, when the only cooking shows were on PBS Saturday afternoons, we lapped up everything - whether Julia, Jacques, Jeff Smith or Yan. Now we want something that we don't already know. But you know different things than I do, so we can't agree on what is a good instructional show.

                          Also when instructional shows are discussed, the focus is on the personality and voice of the cook. Look at discussions on Pioneer Woman or Bitchin Kitchen for examples. Few of us can get past the style of the cook to pay attention to the recipes or food.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: paulj

                            What'll it be? Diversion or instruction? I know what I want but spewing media geysers like FN are programmed to make sure I don't get it.

                            1. re: paulj

                              First off you are right.
                              Second thing is If I want to learn how to cook the perfect "insert item here" I (or you) can go to You Tube and sift through Hundreds of options.

                              The food show is dead IMO.

                              I can access
                              hundreds of recipes on-line from actually some of the best Chefs in the world that are at my finger tips anytime I want.