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The Next Iron Chef: Super Chefs (Episode 1: "Primal: Heat and Meat) [SPOILERS]

Was it really a surprise that Spike was the first one booted?

Given the slate of contestants, I think he was totally out of his league. The fact that he chose Samuel M. (one of the most decorated chefs in the group) as his partner sort of showed that he even knew he was out of his league ...

Anyone else think that Anne Burrell looks awful without makeup?

Can't imagine Falkner winning this competition.

I'm really liking this format -- Chairman's Challenge followed by a death match in kitchen stadium.

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  1. You said everything I was thinking.

    Except ... did you notice the pair was called Chef Samuelson (not Chef Marcus) and Chef Spike (not Chef Mendelsohn)?

    17 Replies
    1. re: chicgail

      I don't think there was a disrespect intended. Spike Mendelsohn got his TV persona as "Spike" on Top Chef. I too thought he was outclassed, or at least he has the least experience, of all the chef contestants. There are some contestants on this show that I like better than others, based solely on their personality that I have seen on various food TV shows. I think Alex Guarnaschelli proved through her comments on the first episode that she does not deserve to win.

      1. re: John E.

        <<I think Alex Guarnaschelli proved through her comments on the first episode that she does not deserve to win.>>

        I don't recall that the nature of "comments" are a criteria for winning IC. It's a cooking show, not a likeability contest. I found her to be pretty authentic. What did she say that annoyed you so much?

        1. re: chicgail

          To me, it was her high level of stress in dealing with the competition and she couldn't seem to get it straight. I can't imagine having her as a partner.

          1. re: chicgail

            I didn't say she annoyed me. I did not say she was inauthentic. I did not say she was unlikeable. She said she was having a panic attack throughout the first challenge. If she cannot take the stress in this competition, how can she take the stress if she won?

            1. re: John E.

              I totally get your point of view. You're right. Unless she gets those nerves under control she probably won't make it.

              1. re: chicgail

                I thought Elizabeth Faulkner was going to have to comfort Alex Guarnaschelli like she did with Seth Caro on the first season of Top Chef: Just Desserts when he was having his anxiety attack.

              2. re: John E.

                I take the comments by contestants with a big grain of salt - regardless of whether they express bravado or panic. Even when they aren't scripted, they are still selected and edited to lend drama to the show.

                1. re: paulj

                  I understand that. I took Guarnaschelli at her word. She looked panicked to me.

                  1. re: John E.

                    Yet wasn't her plate one of the most highly praised?

                    1. re: LurkerDan

                      Sure it was. I did not put the words in her mouth, she said them all by herself.

                      1. re: LurkerDan

                        And their other plate almost got them in the bottom.

                2. re: chicgail

                  In between her obvious panicking and the edit, it seemed to me like Faulkner carried her through this week. Whether or not that was actually the case is harder to say for certain - I'm not 100% sure who contributed what exactly to their dishes.

                3. re: John E.

                  I hope Alex Guarnasschelli gets booted soon. I can't bear to watch Chopped because of her sour expression, and she doesn't come off any better here. IMO, she is also out of her league as Spike was.

                  1. re: roxlet

                    I agree. I think Alex will go fairly early. I don't think she's what she's cracked up to be. Maybe she'll be less of a harsh judge on chopped now!

                    1. re: wincountrygirl

                      Just like how closing pitchers in baseball have to have a certain "makeup" to be successful, so does an Iron Chef. Alex Guarnaschelli doesn't seem to have that "makeup" as everyone has pointed out. Not able to deal with pressure or gather her thoughts when stressed, borderline going into full panic mode. Just a breakdown of composure and thought process.

                4. re: chicgail

                  Spike is akin to that old saying one of these things don't belong. He is clearly outclassed by the rest of the field, and he did choose Chef Samuelson to compensate for that. While cooking the challenge, he deferred much of the decision making to Chef Samuelson. I found it poetic justice that scallops sent him home.
                  I, too, don't find Alex Guarnaschelli an inspired choice as an Iron Chef or a Iron Chef-testant. The whining and freaking out was not encouraging.
                  It was funny to see that the heat melted the make-up for Anne Burrell and Alex Guarnaschelli.
                  I hope to see a Chiarello vs. Samuelson finale.
                  Was it me, or did NIC purposely overused interviews from the chefs mentioning Top Chef? The Chairman's challenge seemed much like TC: Vegas (season 6) where the chefs had to cook in the same manner in the desert and build their own fires. Seems to me that NIC is using the Top Chef and Top Chef Masters series to validate itself.

                  1. re: attran99

                    Episode 1 of season3 was similar - at a beach

                    FN also had a short run 'extreme chef' series, that included a 'ghost town' setting

                    It's worth keeping in mind that many of these shows are not produced by the networks themselves. There are many independent production companies,

                    Triage Entertainment is the production company for NIC, which doesn't have a lot of other food related programs. And the director is is M Pearlman, who has also done Chopped, NFNS, Worst Cooks etc.

                5. Thought it was very ironic that Spike's advantage ended up biting him in the ass, especially as he lost on scallops.

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: Miss Needle

                    He must have known going into the challenge that he was outclassed. I can't imagine his ego being that big that he thought he could compete.

                    1. re: chowser

                      He didn't compete to win. He competed for the media exposure with chefs way better than he is. He got that.

                      1. re: chicgail

                        I agree. As I said below, he's a far better businessman than a chef. At the same time, even if he knows he's outclassed, he still doesn't want to be humiliated, even for the publicity--not that it would happen. The editing always makes it look like it's a close call, even if it isn't.

                      2. re: chowser

                        Agree with chicgail that he went for media exposure. He must have one hell of a PR person. What I meant was that it was ironic that he was booted off on Next Iron Chef in the same manner he was booted off Top Chef Chicago.

                        1. re: Miss Needle

                          Not quite the same. He got booted in TC 4 because of inferior scallops. The NIC scallops were apparently quite fresh diver scallops.

                          1. re: John E.

                            I think you're taking me quite literally. Spike got booted off both competitions where he had the advantage by cooking with scallops. Fully understand that the scallops were different. But it seems that Spike doesn't have good karma with that ingredient. Seems like nobody gets what I'm trying to say.

                    2. I'm also liking this format. It gives each of the bottom two chefs a chance to try to redeem themselves before ultimately, one has to be sent packing.

                      I thought this first episode was entertaining and I think that this season is going to be a good one. I have to say, I'm really glad they got rid of Donatella as a judge...I really couldn't stand her in the previous Next Iron Chefs.

                      Does anyone have a favorite to win amongst these contestants? I like a lot of the chefs, but I would really like to see Chuck Hughes do well. He genuinely seems like a nice guy and his passion for cooking truly shines through. On his show, Chuck's Day Off and even on this very first episode you could really see how enthusiastic and excited he is while cooking.

                      As for Spike, I'm not a huge fan, but I give him props for his scallop dish in the battle match. Even though he didn't win, the dish looked and sounded delicious and all the judges seemed to thoroughly enjoy it.

                      32 Replies
                      1. re: yummfood

                        I don't really have a favorite.

                        But I do have a list of those who I do not want to see win. For example:

                        - Anne Burrell. I need my Iron Chefs to have a waistline. Sorry. But true.

                        - Robert Irvine. Not digging the saggy muscles. He needs liposuction to tighten up those biceps. So sad.

                        - Elizabeth Falkner. Between her and Cat Cora, I think Food Network would exceed the lesbian quota (kidding folks, just kidding).

                        1. re: ipsedixit

                          If a waistline is a necessity, you'll have to eliminate Beau McMillan too.

                          1. re: ipsedixit

                            So -- this waistline requirement.... is that only true for female contestants? I'm thinking of Garcés & Batali who aren't exactly GQ models either.

                            1. re: linguafood

                              Seriously, that would be the last thing I'd think as being a disqualifier. Never trust a skinny chef!

                              1. re: coney with everything

                                I trust both Marcus Samuelsson and Susur Lee. Both have girths the size of toothpicks.

                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                  Doesn't answer the question, really.

                            2. re: ipsedixit

                              Seriously? Anne Burrell is a great chef and a fierce competitor. This is not a beauty contest!

                              1. re: wincountrygirl

                                Hear, hear. I'm hoping the original comment was a joke.

                                1. re: wincountrygirl

                                  She's on TV.

                                  If I'm staring at the screen for an hour, I want some good eye candy. Anne Burrell is like stale Saltines.

                                  1. re: ipsedixit

                                    So an all male IC would be the death of the show for you?

                                    1. re: chowser

                                      He could still watch Bobby's sous-chef, Christine! But on cooking shows, including competitions, you rarely see the chef's waist (or lower). For example, how often do they show a chef's shoes? Only two come to mind - Mario's trademark orange, and Nadia G's heels.

                                      1. re: paulj

                                        Christine is a train wreck on ICA...burns or messes something up almost every time.

                                    2. re: ipsedixit

                                      Then maybe you should watch America's Next Top Model instead of a cooking show.

                                      1. re: ipsedixit

                                        Then watch next model or some porn. this is a cooking competition.

                                    3. re: ipsedixit


                                      well, i am very sorry if this is a news flash, but it is generally a good idea, when meeting a female pro chef (not talking about a food media person, but a career restaurant industry person), to assume that the lady is not straight, until informed otherwise. i am going to leave it at this, but many, many, many of the best female chefs in the biz are out and proud. got nothing to do with the food on the plate, y'know?

                                      1. re: soupkitten

                                        You think the majority? There are definitely a lot, but I don't know if people should go assuming all female chefs are gay. Or do you mean to say one shouldn't really make any assumptions either way?

                                    4. re: yummfood

                                      Not surprised to see SPike go first. He is clearly a good chef, but his talent is also in marketing, as he has marketed himself as a great chef.

                                      As for favorites, I'd have to think that the ones who have done more competition shows have an advantage.

                                      1. re: yummfood

                                        I'd say my two favorites are Samuelsson and Chiarello. The former won Top Chef Masters, and the latter made it to the finals ( I forget if they were the same season?) So they both have that under their belts and they are both very accomplished chefs. I liked Zakararian's dish, but still have the memory of him being pummeled mercilessly by Morimoto on Iron Chef a few years back.

                                        I wonder if FN feels like they need to replace Cat Cora with another woman?

                                        1. re: DavidPalmer

                                          I was wondering if they'd find a woman for Cat Cora, but that was also the speculation last time around. I think if they wanted a woman, they could hire one, outside of the show. I'm voting for Chef Samuelsson, even though it takes me forever to spell his last name correctly.

                                          I think it would add an interesting twist to Iron Chef, if at the end of the season, chefs who won less than 50% of the time (or another percentage) were asked to leave, and a huge bonus for exceeding say 80% wins, like the real world. The first season could be a gimme.

                                          1. re: chowser

                                            I'm late to the game in knowing, it appears, but what happened to Cat Cora?

                                            1. re: pine time

                                              The only thing I've heard is that she was leaving but don't know any of the details. Amicable. Maybe it was because she had a baby?

                                              1. re: chowser

                                                her and her partner were pregant at the same time...4 children now...
                                                She also opened a new restaurant in Orlando, FL

                                        2. re: yummfood

                                          I couldn't agree with you more about Donatella. I watched the filming of Iron Chef America when my cousin, Chef Rachel Yang of Joule, was on the show. Donatella and Jose Andres were both judges. Donatella had a 'better than thou' attitude and fought the Jose Andres though out the judging. Needless to say, I'm not a fan.

                                          1. re: marcellalala

                                            +1. Couldn't stand Donatella. My least favorite judge -- at least running neck and neck with Karine Bakhoum.

                                            1. re: jmckee

                                              Donatella has been my least favorite judge of all shows. I'm not a big fan of the English judge this time, either. When asked what he's looking for, he said it's all about taste. But, with Marcus's scallops, he complained about presentation, not taste.

                                              I don't think the judging was that close. I think they wanted to make it seem like it was but Spike's dish seemed to pale in comparison to what Marcus did, with each dish. Marcus was far more sophisticated. As I was watching the liquid nitrogen, I thought it would have been much better to have Richard Blais in this show.

                                              1. re: chowser

                                                Blais could have been a serious contender in this competition, even if he doesn't have the resume and recognition of some of these chefs. Spike was way way way down the list of Top Chef alums who deserved the nod, but he does market himself well!

                                                1. re: LurkerDan

                                                  If he were here, Blais would definitely be one of the front runners IMO.

                                                2. re: chowser

                                                  Blais would have been amazing. He can cook, has had experience in the Top Chef format, and also has had ICA experience as he's worked as Cat Cora's sous chef on ICA.

                                                  Even Ed Cotton, who's also worked as Cat Cora's ICA sous chef, would have been a better choice than Spike.

                                                3. re: jmckee

                                                  Nailed that one. Both of them are just awful!!

                                              2. re: yummfood

                                                I also love Chuck Hughes. His enthusiasm is wonderful to watch. When he said he almost cried watching the guys cook in the elimination the following clip seemed to indicate he actually meant it. He's fun to watch.

                                                1. re: mtlmaven

                                                  Yeah, I am rooting for Chuck too.. And not just because I am a Canadian... I saw him speak at a show around here last year (he did a cooking demo) and it was the best cooking demo I had ever seen.

                                                  1. re: ylsf

                                                    I'd never seen Chuck before this show. Somehow his facial expressions bugged me. He looked kind of goofy. And when he talked about crying it seemed just plain odd to me--over the top. Maybe you have to know his personality to appreciate him.

                                              3. How did Spike get thrown into the mix? A Top Chef Master winner vs a loser of Top Chef who only got as far as he did because he played games? Spike's made do with a burger and pizza place--he's a better businessman than chef. I've seen this episode to the Chairmans challenge but there was no doubt the Chef Marcus was going to win--not only based on skill but on previews of future episodes where you see Chef Marcus up front.

                                                I like this format, too, and think the chefs, for the most part, are very high level, much better than last time. I've been impressed with Chef Geoffrey Zacharian when he won Chopped All Stars. He can critique because he can perform. Alex Guarnachelli, on the other hand, fell apart. I'd like to see Elizabeth Falkner do well. Good to see a pastry chef competing in savory.

                                                3 Replies
                                                1. re: chowser

                                                  "How did Spike get thrown into the mix?"

                                                  I think the producers have to add a couple sacrificial lambs to the lineup to function as early eliminations so that the featured chefs can stay on a few weeks before they get eliminated, and it saves them the embarrassment of early elimination. For Iron Chef, the early elimination victims could not be utter unknowns to the FN audience, and they can add some drama before their big (early) exit. I think Spike was a perfect choice for this ... he displayed enough puffery and bravado in one episode for a whole season, and gets to make a big exit. But an Iron chef?!? ... In reality, he's a burger and pizza guy here in DC. It seems to me that Iron chefs need to have a lot more range.

                                                  1. re: MartinDC

                                                    Good point. Can you imagine being the sacrificial lamb? That's like being Seth or Craig on Top Chef Just Desserts.

                                                  2. re: chowser

                                                    I was surprised with Zacharian in this first episode...he's like a more polished Jonathan Waxman-esque jedi chef. A silent assassin. I still like Beau MacMillan to win, but if this first episode is any indication Zacharian is in the top half of the field.

                                                  3. I'd like to see Anne win. She was always an entertaining sous chef for Batali on Top Chef. And she already has a fan base from being on Top Chef and her other shows.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: Firegoat

                                                      I'd love to see her win. She certainly can handle the kitchen stadium!

                                                    2. Will all the episodes be 90 minutes? I assume that is the rationale in having the new format -- Chairman's Challenge followed by death match. Though I love Iron Chef, Top Chef and their ilk, I do find 90 minutes a bit more than I would normally be interested in investing. I suppose I will have to see how compelling the show is going forward.

                                                      1. did the ending of this episode get ruined for anyone else by the intro to the series, where chef samuelson is CLEARLY running at the front of the pack through the stadium?

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: mattstolz

                                                          I mentioned it above. At the point of the challenge, I stopped watching (I did finish it now) because it was obvious Samuelsson moved on. Plus, could there have been less focus on a contestant than Spike? They gave him, at best, a cursory introduction and then nothing, other than he was lucky/unlucky enough to draw the straw.

                                                        2. Didn't finish watching to see who was booted, as I told my husband I know who is going home first...Spike...why was he even there?

                                                          I am pretty much going to go for Anne winning...first she all ready has the experience in Kitchen Stadium, second I personally believe that "they" are looking for a female to fill the Cat Cora void, third she is a damn good chef and lastly I have met her and thinks she is a hell of a character!

                                                          But for eye candy...Go Chuck and Michael Chiarello ;)

                                                          Does anyone else think Jeffrey Zakarian looks like a doctor??

                                                          21 Replies
                                                          1. re: bermudagourmetgoddess

                                                            He doesn't look like a chef (whatever a chef is supposed to look like) he looks so straight with his perfectly trimmed hair - maybe a lawyer, banker, doctor but not a chef.

                                                            1. re: bermudagourmetgoddess

                                                              "Does anyone else think Jeffrey Zakarian looks like a doctor??"

                                                              Hey!..........what's THAT mean?

                                                              1. re: Shrinkrap

                                                                FoodNetworkHumor takes special note of Jeffrey's 4 fireplaces
                                                                (hope this media link doesn't get this thread moved over to the Food Media board - oops, it's there already. :) )

                                                                1. re: paulj

                                                                  Hmmm.......I guess I'm being dense....he doesn't look anything like me, nor any doctors I know (what is a doctor is supposed to look like?), and I don't know any with four fireplaces either!

                                                                  1. re: Shrinkrap

                                                                    OMG please ...I like Jeffery... I have eaten at The Lambs Club, the
                                                                    food is awesome!!

                                                                    Oh forget not even going to try to explain it ...

                                                                    1. re: bermudagourmetgoddess

                                                                      It's Geoffrey.

                                                                      Some of these competed in Chopped All Stars:

                                                                      Robert lost to Anne in the dessert.
                                                                      Beau lost in the entree
                                                                      Geoffrey lost to Aaron in the dessert (Aaron was on NIC a couple of seasons back)
                                                                      Anne was chopped in the entree of the last stage (Nate Appleman was overall winner).

                                                                      1. re: paulj

                                                                        I know it is Geoffrey...Sorry should have corrected myself, but didn't

                                                                        But Beau did will Iron Chef against Bobby Flay!

                                                                        1. re: bermudagourmetgoddess

                                                                          Good thing you were corrected, we never would have known to whom you were referring. ; )

                                                                    2. re: Shrinkrap

                                                                      LOL shrinkrap. was having that same thought. i mean in today's day samuelsohn and hughes and guarnischelli all could look like doctors. or none could.
                                                                      i certainly don't look like anyone expects.

                                                                  2. re: Shrinkrap

                                                                    I thought he looked like Dr. Drew Pinsky.

                                                                    1. re: jmckee

                                                                      I looked him up, and yes! I can see the resemblance. Maybe Geoffrey looks like a "TV doctor"!

                                                                      As a comparison, here are what some "real" doctors look like, at least in THIS neck of the woods;


                                                                  3. re: bermudagourmetgoddess

                                                                    "Does anyone else think Jeffrey Zakarian looks like a doctor??"

                                                                    Somebody else thinks he looks like the warden in the Shawshank Redemption

                                                                    1. re: coney with everything

                                                                      I think he looks like Dr. Drew. I have to get over that, though, cause I don't care much for Dr. Drew (JMHO), and every time I see Chef Zakarian, I don't get the ole "warm fuzzies" LOL

                                                                      1. re: huiray

                                                                        He is very nice and pretty good looking - met him last year

                                                                        1. re: pitagirl

                                                                          I'd like to believe that his surly jerk act is just for judging on Chopped. Cause I think he is going to do well this season.

                                                                          1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                            What about charges that caused him to declare bankruptcy, does that make him a jerk?

                                                                            1. re: Worldwide Diner

                                                                              He was nice to me, but I don't work for him!

                                                                                1. re: huiray

                                                                                  He hasn't been found guilty of any wrongdoing. Could it not be that this class action suit is a money grab orchestrated by a bitter former partner? It happens in business on a fairly regular basis.

                                                                                  From the article...

                                                                                  “Geoffrey Zakarian filed for bankruptcy due to the enormous costs of defending a class action lawsuit by former employees of a restaurant in which Mr. Zakarian is no longer involved. Mr. Zakarian denied the allegations in the lawsuit but it would cost him several hundred thousand dollars to defend the action.”

                                                                                  1. re: LiveRock

                                                                                    Of course he hasn't been found guilty of anything yet and it could all very well be a money grab.

                                                                                    But as for what you wonder about - let's see...from that same article one reads, two paragraphs above the one you quoted:

                                                                                    "Of the 179 creditors listed in the Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition he filed on April 6 in federal court in Bridgeport, Conn., 152 are former cooks at Country. They are part of a class action lawsuit against Mr. Zakarian and his management firm that claims that when he was an owner of the restaurant and its chef, he failed to pay the workers time and a half for overtime, falsified pay records to shortchange them and deducted from their paychecks for staff meals they were not given. They are seeking $1 million in damages and $250,000 in penalties."

                                                                                    Then one reads further down...
                                                                                    "What is striking about the suit involving Country is that a former partner in the restaurant, Adam Block, has filed an affidavit in support of the workers, and that another partner, Moshe Lax, has said in a separate suit that Mr. Zakarian violated labor laws."

                                                                                    and this...

                                                                                    "The workers say in their lawsuit that they were underpaid in a variety of ways. The suit says that when one worker asked when he would get the overtime pay, Mr. Zakarian’s response was, “Go peel some asparagus.”

                                                                                    The chief plaintiff, Prince Breland, said in legal papers that line cooks like himself were generally short-changed on lunch and dinner duty by two to three hours a shift. After Country started paying by the hour, he said, when he worked long shifts he would get $7.50 an hour rather than the $12 an hour he was due. (Mr. Breland, a 44-year-old Bronx resident who has worked in restaurants and catering for years, said in an interview that even when he became a salaried sous-chef at Country, he earned no more than $33,000 a year.)

                                                                                    He said he told Country’s bookkeeper: “ ‘You’re ripping everyone off with the hours. You’ll feel better if you just quit.’ ” He said the bookkeeper began crying and said, “They’re making me do this all the time.” "

                                                                                    ((Shrug)) He said, 179+2 said, a NYT reporter said. By all means, let it go to trial.

                                                                    2. Spike getting sent home first episode is the best possible outcome for me. I couldn't stand him on Top Chef, and was not looking forward to putting up with him here. Now I don't have to. Yay! I share others' surprise that he was even on this show. He lost regular Top Chef, but is in the same group as the dude who won Top Chef Masters?? Spike's PR people must have been working in over drive. I also think that if I were one of the chefs from a previous season of Next Iron Chef (NIC) I would be seriously insulted that the season where Spike (and some of these other folks, honestly) are appearing is called "Super Chefs" and my season was not. I think some of the people who appeared in earlier, "regular" NIC are more "super" than some of the chefs appearing now.

                                                                      I really like Alex G's personality. Seems like she has a nice sense of humor; some of the stuff she said made me chuckle ... though I admit she seems quite stiff in her own show and when judging Chopped. I think she is too high strung/easily stressed to win this, but I do like her and hope she sticks around for a while.

                                                                      I also hope Michael C. does well. I know almost everyone else in the CH world loathed him on TC Masters, but I didn't. I thought he was fine, and I was impressed with his ability then. I hope he shines here as well.

                                                                      Agree; totally dig the new format.

                                                                      28 Replies
                                                                      1. re: charmedgirl

                                                                        Agree with the sentiments about Spike.

                                                                        Disagree with the sentiments about Alexandra Guarnaschelli. I CANNOT STAND that woman, at least the persona she projects on her shows and ESPECIALLY on Chopped. Sour, condescending, snooty, everything about her on that show is like nails on a chalkboard. (In contrast, I find Elizabeth Faulkner to be amiable, professional, gracious, etc)

                                                                        1. re: huiray

                                                                          Agree re. Elizabeth Faulkner. Seems like a really nice person; and very diplomatic! Must have been hard to have a partner who was freaking out.

                                                                          I do like Alex G. though. Diff'rent strokes and all. I also met her (very briefly) at a food event once and she was really sweet, so that might be influencing me some.

                                                                          1. re: charmedgirl

                                                                            I think that is more likely the case charmedgirl. I met Kerry Vincent a couple of times, and she was just fabulously nice and spent about 15 minutes chatting with me (a nobody). And did say that her "nastiness" on the challenge show is pretty much a persona that the show wants her to do. It sure isn't her at all. Saw her again at the Sugar Show that she hosts and wow, what a nice, competent lady. That makes me give all the judges I "hate" a good grain of salt because who knows what is really going on behind the scenes.

                                                                            1. re: Firegoat

                                                                              By the same token, how do we know that Spike Mendelsohn isn't a really nice and competent guy in person? Or (keeping with his contemporaries), Mike Isabella, whom his fellow chefs like but who was detested by so many CHers? Or that the public persona of any of these people aren't just a show put on by them for their public, because that is what is needed, but behind closed doors at home they lambast all the little people whom they had to make nice to during the day?

                                                                              ...and let us not forget that Richard Blais (another contemporary of Mendelsohn, after all) is still primarily running hamburger joints and a hot dog eatery.


                                                                          2. re: huiray

                                                                            I wonder if this experience will soften Alex G up on Chopped. She might finally understand how tough it is working under time constraints with odd challenges. She seems a little high and mighty on Chopped. Cut the contestants some slack if they forget to plate something, or don't have the time to get it out.

                                                                            I agree about Elizabeth Faulkner. I hope she does well.

                                                                            1. re: chowser

                                                                              Are you suggesting that they change the rules on Chopped? 'You've all done so well that we are not going to chop anyone this time - so each of you gets $2500' :)

                                                                              But I don't think Alex is any more strict on Chopped than anyone else.

                                                                              complains about judging in the latest episode: a guy who plays it safe gets chopped instead of a girl who serves raw chicken (raw, that is, at the bone of a thigh). There does seem to be a shift toward encouraging more creativity, and being more lenient on technical faults.

                                                                              On the previous NIC, there was one elimination stage where they let the bottom 2 continue to the next stage, with a double elimination at that time.

                                                                              1. re: paulj

                                                                                It's her sour demeanor when someone makes a mistake that gets me. Sure they'll mess up, just stop treating it like it's some major felony. Chop them without the attitude. Smile some. Even when she tastes the food, she looks like she's about to eat something Andrew Zimmern would discard. Hopefully now she'll understand how hard it is for the contestants.

                                                                                1. re: chowser

                                                                                  Yes, sour was the word I used to describe her upthread. I completely agree, and it's one of the reasons I can't watch Chopped.

                                                                                  1. re: roxlet

                                                                                    but who's the other woman on chopped? she's often sour too. maybe it's the general expressions on faces or the fact that a lot of us can't hide them and then editors use them against people... but i think women judges often come out looking annoying. and i like women in general.
                                                                                    it's like bitchy/sour or annoying/perky/in your face with my sexuality (giada or rachel) is the only way they know how to protray women. aaaaaaahhhh!!

                                                                                    1. re: AMFM

                                                                                      Or may be it's our expectations. We expect men to offer criticism with a straight or serious face. But if a woman does the same, we describe them as sour or bitchy. A woman always has to have a smile or twinkle in her eye.

                                                                                      (I'm not endorsing those perceptions, but I suspect they play a role in these criticisms.)

                                                                                      1. re: paulj

                                                                                        I don't like Scott Conant either. He's sour and don't get me started on his expression when you serve pasta; fish and cheese or raw onions. I'm an equal opportunity disliker.

                                                                                      2. re: AMFM

                                                                                        There's more than 2 female judges on chopped, but you're probably thinking of Amanda Freitag, who IMO does come off as warmer than Alex.

                                                                                        1. re: LurkerDan

                                                                                          Much warmer, IMO too. Freitag is fine when she is "serious".

                                                                                              1. re: paulj

                                                                                                Nice article. I like Freitag. More after she was on the last Next Iron Chef.

                                                                                          1. re: AMFM

                                                                                            None of those people on Chopped are sour. Or bitchy. They are directed by the producers to keep a particular expression on their faces when they are delivering their verdicts. When they are watching the contestants or interacting with each other, their demeanor is totally different.

                                                                                            1. re: chicgail

                                                                                              Then perhaps it might be an idea that they need to be made aware (or their attention brought to) how they come off to at least some folks when they are judging according to the diktats of the producers.

                                                                                              1. re: chicgail

                                                                                                fyi. i don't think either of them may be sour. that's part of my point... that editors like to use facial expressions and that producers seem to like to portray women one of two ways. i CERTAINLY don't think women can only be those two ways! i am one. :)

                                                                                    2. re: huiray

                                                                                      I do agree re Alex G!!
                                                                                      Nice to see for once the shoe on the other foot!

                                                                                      1. re: huiray

                                                                                        You have to remember that while these are "reality" shows, the contestants and the judges are coached and directed by the producers and then the editors go to work to create those story liens.

                                                                                        1. re: chicgail

                                                                                          Yep. Alex G is a lot warmer on the Best Thing I Ever Ate, I am sure they want her to be cold and sour as a judge.

                                                                                          1. re: LurkerDan

                                                                                            I've seen her on that show too. I found her to smile with her mouth but not her eyes, it seemed to me, in my recollection for the 1 or 2 episodes that I saw her on. JMO.

                                                                                          2. re: chicgail

                                                                                            Of course. However, that is what one sees, that is the persona presented to the viewer, that is what one has to go by. The same situation could be said to apply to any "reality show contestant" including those on whom either opprobrium or lavish praise had been freely heaped by Chowhounders or other viewers in any number of threads. Those who know any of these people's true colors are likely to be only their closest friends, or their significant others, or their shrinks.

                                                                                            I said above that I thought Elizabeth Faulkner was an amiable person. Who knows, maybe her real/private persona may be entirely the opposite?

                                                                                          3. re: huiray

                                                                                            I find it interesting that on Chopped, Chef Alex Ican'tspellherlastname comes across as so ... I don't know ... smug and superior? Yet when the tables are turned and its her turn to be judged, she falls to pieces. I'm not surprised -- I remember seeing another Food Challenge show on the Food Network that featured her as a competitor. This was waay before Chopped, and she was just as big a stress monster then as she is now. Interesting! I have my money on Chef Samuelsson, too, although I had my money on Chef Ming Tsai last season and look how far THAT got me LOL!

                                                                                          4. re: charmedgirl

                                                                                            Totally agree on Spike and Alex. REALLY glad that Spike's gone. My other favorite is Jeffrey Zakarian.

                                                                                            Don't really like Robert Irvine (I think it's the voice - LOL) or Anne.

                                                                                            1. re: charmedgirl

                                                                                              I got a kick out of when Marcus Samuelsson was doing his "explanatory interview piece" said that Spike was "a nice kid". Don't think Marcus would have called any other chef in the competition a "kid".

                                                                                            2. I'm late to the party, but I just caught the episode. Liked the format. No big complaints. I'm hooked at least for the time being.

                                                                                              Just to get it down in writing so I can say I called it at the end of the season on the off chance that I'm even close to right, here's my handicapping of the contestants:

                                                                                              1. Chiarrello. I don't like the guy - I think he's a prick. But that prick sure can cook. He's also strategic and doesn't seem prone to mental gaffes.

                                                                                              2. Zakarian. I don't like him much either. But he seems to be... A) a damn good food technician and... B) not a head case. Those two factors tend to make for a strong competitor in these kinds of shows.

                                                                                              3) Burrell. She's consistent. She seems to impress mainly via flavor, which should play well with the judges. She has a lot of Iron Chef experience already. She doesn't push herself much outside her comfort zone, which is a mixed blessing - she won't go home for something stupid, and she should give herself an honest shot at the title; she also runs the risk of just being beaten near the end when no one makes any major mistakes but the other chefs have more wow factor. Still, it would not be a surprise to me if she won.

                                                                                              4) Samuelsson. He's arguably a better cook than most or all of those I ranked above him. But he can over-think a contest. And he is more prone to challenging the palettes of his judges - he doesn't always cook with them in mind. And especially with the judges this season, that might bode poorly. I'm rooting for him.

                                                                                              5) Elizabeth Faulkner. Don't know as much about her. Seems solid and unflappable. Hard to rank.

                                                                                              6) Alex G. I'm gonna take the freakout this episode as first episode jitters. I have a hard time seeing her beat any of the top 4. But she's no hack either. She also annoys me.

                                                                                              7) Robert Irvine. He's out of his league in terms of cooking talent. But his comfort with ridiculous time limits and other constraints will serve him well. Might last all the way to the final four on that basis alone. He won't win.

                                                                                              8) Beau. Also out of his league. But AFAIK he doesn't have the experience with time and equipment constraints that Irvine does.

                                                                                              9) Chuck's day on. Actually, I don't really know anything about him. Can't judge his cooking from his series, or really from the first episode. Who knows how he stacks up? Not me.

                                                                                              10) Spike. OK, I know he already got the boot, so putting him at the end of my list is sort of lame. But was anyone surprised? Did anyone think he would stack up well in this crowd? Actually to be completely honest, I wouldn't have been surprised had he made it further. His cooking seems more or less solid, though seldom amazing. And he has the guile factor.

                                                                                              27 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                                My assessment is close to yours. Except I have always had a fondness for Chiarrello and love Zakarian.

                                                                                                I'm hoping Irvine is next to go....between his voice and facial expressions it's really hard for me to like him.

                                                                                                1. re: Janet from Richmond

                                                                                                  Im not keen on Irvine pretty much because of that personal resume issue of his a few years ago. I really was irked that he came back on to Food Network after that, and it kind of made Food Network lose credibility with me. For that reason alone I hope he doesn't stay long.

                                                                                                  1. re: freia

                                                                                                    I'm with you on this one. It bugs me that there were basically no consequences, aside for a little embarassment.

                                                                                                    1. re: piccola

                                                                                                      My feeling, too. And, the embarrassment wasn't from Irvine, but from Food Network which got over it quickly when they realized they were losing ratings.

                                                                                                      1. re: chowser

                                                                                                        When did they lose ratings - when the resume padding came to light, or when they replaced Robert with Symon? The fact that they hired him back, and have given him further presence on the network, shows that he has an audience that is not bothered by the the 2006 issue.

                                                                                                        As for consequences, didn't the business deal that he was pursuing in Florida fall through?

                                                                                                        As illustrated by the comments on Bobby Flay, some people like to hold long term 'grudges' against FN celebrities. Maybe it helps justify the longing for the pure FN of the 1990s.

                                                                                                        1. re: paulj

                                                                                                          Don't know about the questions you ask but for myself I preferred Symon over Irvine on Dinner Impossible anyway.

                                                                                                          1. re: paulj

                                                                                                            Ratings lost when they got rid of Irvine so they asked him back, giving the impression that they think honesty isn't as important as ratings. I actually rarely watch FN so they shouldn't be concerned about what I think anyway. I do like this show, though.

                                                                                                            1. re: chowser

                                                                                                              Surprise - a business that is most interested in an employee's on-the-job performance!

                                                                                                              1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                Ya, I guess the character of your employee or what that employee represents is kind of meaningless...wonder why you have to disclose a criminal record or have references when you go for a job? Because apparenlty that shouldn't matter?
                                                                                                                To me, if you have a brand, and you put someone in to represent that brand, it really is in your interests to have someone with integrity and honesty there. If you don't, then that reputation can absolutely tar the brand or brand name.
                                                                                                                Its actually pretty common to check and test reliability and public perception of a celebrity "star" before hiring them as a spokesperson. Tiger Woods and the fallout after his meltdown is a prime example. He may (have been) the best at golf, but the perception of his character by the public makes him persona non gratis with respect to his ability to represent a brand.
                                                                                                                I still don't like Irvine and I don't trust him. I don't care how he cooks, I don't believe a word that comes out of his mouth based on his previous lies. For that reason, I hope he gets kicked to the curb. If he wins, I know I'll not watch ICA again as the show for me won't have any credibility. I don't really see FN in the same light either after the scandal as I did before. Jut that's just me...

                                                                                                                1. re: freia

                                                                                                                  I don't know, we (the public) let athletes and celebrities and politicians return to their professions after having done far worse than lie on a resume, after a period of sufficient chastising. Seems like he got the fallout and paid a price for what was stupid and ill-advised but was "victimless" and hardly a crime.

                                                                                                                  You're certainly entitled to feel however you like about him and the FN, but I don't see the point in getting outraged at it.

                                                                                                                  1. re: LurkerDan

                                                                                                                    LOL I'm not really outraged, I just find it sad. And I don't like the guy based on his actions. In a bigger sense,maybe that's a big problem for society today -- there seems to be a lack of shame or propriety out there.It doesn't really matter what anyone does anymore, noone seems to care about the truth and what lying about it really means. Maybe we're all just jaded. I may be dating myself, but I recall those days when what you did could and did impact your ability to make money in a public venue. See, Irvine isn't prevented from cooking. He can open a restaurant wherever he goes. The thing is, he's a public chef representing the FN brand. So its a shame that one can lie and cheat and suffer really no consequences for that aspect of his employment. I'm not saying he should be banned from a kitchen, it just seems to me that representing the FN brand after being found out as a big fat liar is kind of sad. And I kind of think it does speak to personal integrity, that's all. And for that reason, I'd like to see him gone.

                                                                                                                    1. re: freia

                                                                                                                      But not Zakarian? I do value integrity, and I don't love Irvine either way, I just think on the scale of offenses, it was very very minor. He lied about his qualifications, that's it. If even 1/4 of the charges levied against Zakarian are true, I hold that to be far worse than some lies on a resume.

                                                                                                                      Here's some details on the Zakarian thing: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/27/din...

                                                                                                                      1. re: LurkerDan

                                                                                                                        Or how about Beau's troubles in Arizona? :)

                                                                                                                        How I Learned to Cook: Culinary Educations from the World's Greatest Chefs

                                                                                                                        has brief first hand accounts of how many well known chefs got started. None of the NIC contestants are in this book, but it puts human face on many of the big names - and not always a flattering one.

                                                                                                                        Rhullman's The Reach of Chef describes the rise of the celebrity chef, both in the T Keller mold, and the Cat Cora and RR style.

                                                                                                                  2. re: freia

                                                                                                                    i don't think irvine has the chops or creativity to win, and some of his anal hangups would tend to trip him up. his primary talent lies in erm. . . "motivating" others. or yelling/berating/throwing a damn tantrum until he gets his own way-- depending on if you are a fan, or not :)

                                                                                                                    1. re: freia

                                                                                                                      Are we expected to like or trust any of these TV chefs? The only way one of them might hurt me is if I try one of their recipes and it flops. Especially when it comes to competitions I may be inspired by a dish that they make, but that has little to do with their personality, on or off the screen. It doesn't matter whether the chef (or judge) is a Dudley DoRight or a Snidely Whiplash.

                                                                                                                      While I enjoyed watching some of the Dinner Impossible episodes, I'm not an Irvine fan. On DI I was more interested in how someone, anyone, would cater an event in awkward conditions. Who was doing it really didn't matter. The Worse cooks and Restaurant Impossible series don't interest me. I could say the same thing for his British counterpart, GR. When he is trying learn cooking methods in Assam or Thailand I am interested. But not when he is trying to remake some restaurant.

                                                                                                                      1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                        The allegations against Zakarian, for ex., are far more damning to me (if true) than Irvine lying on a resume.

                                                                                                                        1. re: LurkerDan

                                                                                                                          Operative words being "if true."

                                                                                                                          1. re: chowser

                                                                                                                            Of course. But I'm not going to crucify Irvine for the victimless lies he told and let others get a pass because I'll never know for sure if the allegations are true (because I bet the suit ends in a settlement with a non-disclosure agreement).

                                                                                                                            It just seems to me that for all the allegations we hear about public figures, the bad things that they may have done, his is pretty small, and he paid the price for it (quite certain that he suffered a lot of embarrassment and loss of a lot of money). If he's still the best man for the job, I don't see any reason to hold a grudge against him or the FN for airing him.

                                                                                                                            1. re: LurkerDan

                                                                                                                              But is it really victimless? Perhaps Irvine was hired over another individual based on his resume? How much money has he profited from (aka taken from our pockets) as a result of his lies? How many endorsements has he made based on his resume?
                                                                                                                              It doesn't matter how severe one thinks his transgression is, or what anyone else may or may not have done that would be "worse", the fact of the matter is that Irvine is a proven big fat liar, and he did it for personal enrichment. Doesn't matter what anyone else does, because at the end of the day, Irvine was proved to be dishonest, and that speaks volumes to his character. He must have been pretty arrogant, too, to think no one would notice...

                                                                                                                              1. re: freia

                                                                                                                                How did he take money from our pockets? Even if he lied on his resume to get the job, he had to perform well to keep it. You don't get an endorsement deal based on a resume. You get an endorsement deal once you've proven yourself, otherwise no one would care which products you use.

                                                                                                                                What he did was pretty stupid. Maybe he did think no one would check - but he certainly paid for it. I think the public humiliation about covers it. So he was dishonest once, got slapped for it, and moved on. Does that mean he has to carry the label forever?

                                                                                                                                1. re: Whinerdiner

                                                                                                                                  Well, it seems to me that he got hired for FN shows based on his resume. I remember his early shows where he's elaborate on his resume credentials. So now that he's on FN, and on a show, commercial airtime gets sold for his show. The costs of those commercials are added into the price of the stuff advertised on the show. So when I buy something that's been advertised on the show, that cost is coming out of my pocket.
                                                                                                                                  The second way is to purchase something he's promoting. I may give his endorsement special attention because, after all,, he apparently baked Charles and Diana's wedding cake, so maybe he does know something about the product he's promoting.
                                                                                                                                  Most of the money these guys make isn't off the show, quite frankly. The show gives them promotion and visibility. From there, the real money comes in special appearances, cookbooks, pots, pans, and endorsements. And all that is derived from just getting on FN, and to get on FN you need to have personality and credentials. And he lied about those credentials.
                                                                                                                                  JMHO, and not everyone sees things this way, and I understand that. I just hope Irvine gets kicked to the curb. I personally don't think he was humiliated in the least. I think he was arrogant, was embarrassed that he got CAUGHT (not that he lied), and there was a tacit agreement for whatever reason to bring the guy back which is kind of sad. I haven't labelled anyone: he's proven himself to be a big fat liar. He created this himself, and I don't have to like the guy nor watch shows that promote him. JMHO and I know not everyone agrees. But for me, there's gotta be a standard somewheres, you know?

                                                                                                                                2. re: freia

                                                                                                                                  In some jobs credentials on the resume really do matter. Mostly these are civil service and regulated ones. I suspect they are less important in the case of TV personalities. The padding may have brought Irvine to some agent's attention, but the actual hiring must have been based on interviews and screen tests. And the continued contracts were surely based on past performance (i.e. ratings) on FN shows, not scullery work in the castle kitchens years earlier.

                                                                                                                                3. re: LurkerDan

                                                                                                                                  " let others get a pass because I'll never know for sure if the allegations are true "

                                                                                                                                  Everyone out there is potentially a criminal but in this country, they're innocent until proven guilty. There have been many allegations that have turned out to be nothing. I'm not a Zacharian fan and if the allegations are proven to be true, then it's far worst than what Irvine did. But, we don't know and I won't jump to condemn him.

                                                                                                                                  I think lies are lies, victimless or not (and freia makes good points that it might not be), and that it speaks volumes for his character. Since this is TV, I won't watch someone like him and give him better ratings. It justifies the action which I don't agree with. Best man for the job just means good ratings, not best cook or anything, as FN goes.

                                                                                                                          2. re: freia

                                                                                                                            "...but the perception of his character by the public makes him persona non gratis..."
                                                                                                                            Uh, the phrase is 'persona non grata'.

                                                                                                                            1. re: huiray

                                                                                                                              LOL correction taken. I think you all know what I meant!

                                                                                                                          3. re: paulj

                                                                                                                            Well, hard to believe but there are people who do value integrity over performance. Not many but there are some anachronists left.

                                                                                                              2. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                                                CC just show Faulkner's IC battle with Cora (Honey). Cora won 39 to 38. Faulkner waited to the last moment to plate, and was actually allowed tweak after time. And she left off one item.

                                                                                                              3. I wonder where this "wilderness lake" really was located. I saw a photo on-line and the 'lake' looked to be not much bigger than a stormwater retention pond in Minnesota. I suppose the bacteria contained in the lake would be killed in the cooking process but they don't know anything about the chemicals there are in the runoff that flows into that 'lake'.

                                                                                                                4 Replies
                                                                                                                1. re: John E.

                                                                                                                  The Food Network Humor link that I gave earlier claims it is some Orange County, CA park/lake. They also comment on the ducks in the lake. At least it's not one of the quarry lakes that Mythbusters likes to use.

                                                                                                                  The 'wilderness' quality in this episode reminds me of the short lived Extreme Chefs series.

                                                                                                                  1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                    heh. was the original "jaws" shark model still floating in the middle of the lake?

                                                                                                                    hollywood is, like, awesome.

                                                                                                                  2. re: John E.

                                                                                                                    LOLOLOL John E. I'd be really surprised if they used any of that funky water, it would impart an awful taste to the dish IMHO. I mean, if the judges are astute enough to detect a missing half teaspoon of spice along the way, they'd certainly be able to taste the funkiness of algae and bacteria-ridden water, even after it is treated/boiled/filtered. Blech...

                                                                                                                    1. re: freia

                                                                                                                      I had the same reaction to that water. Yuk! You could see how muddy and cloudy it was. A bit different than, say, ocean water which I can imagine gives a nice flavor.

                                                                                                                  3. ooo what fun! i haven't watched the show yet but spike being first to go was a big "DUH!" for me as well. i'm going to try to call it as well!

                                                                                                                    best chef, period: samuelsson
                                                                                                                    best chef in contest format: burrell
                                                                                                                    dark horse/most underrated: macmillan
                                                                                                                    i'm rooting for all three of them to varying degrees. barring serious mistakes they will make the final four.

                                                                                                                    next up for elimination: irvine or falkner (order of elimination does not matter)
                                                                                                                    next to go after those two: chuck and alex ( " )

                                                                                                                    after the first five eliminations, either chiarello or zakarian will round out the final four, i think chiarello may edge out zakarian, if i had to call it.

                                                                                                                    32 Replies
                                                                                                                    1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                                                      What have I missed where Beau has shown some serious skill? That's an honest question, not a rhetorical one.

                                                                                                                      From what little I've seen him cook, he's seemed imprecise at times, underwhelming at others, and also maybe a little prone toward culinary anachronisms (not the charming, surprising type). I admittedly haven't been to his restaurant or paid particularly close attention to his TV career.

                                                                                                                      So serious question: what do people who think highly of his cooking see in him?

                                                                                                                      In other matters - I agree that Burrell is really good at this format. I almost put her above Zakarian in my ranking, and in retrospect I'm surprised I didn't. I think her detractors might be misled by her persona or her questionable telegenicity - but every time I've seen her in a competition setting, she's killed it. And she learned from the best - Batali had a VERY good record in iron chef competitions while she was working under him.

                                                                                                                      Still, I find it hard to rank her above Chiarrello. He was IMO the rightful winner of the competition with the highest level and depth of competitors we've ever seen outside of the Bocuse D'or - Top Chef Masters season 1. And he never faltered, never really came close to getting the boot. As solid as Burrell is, Chiarrello has got to be even more intimidating in a contest setting.

                                                                                                                      1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                                                        Beau beat Bobby Flay on ICA, seems you have to have some skill to do that.

                                                                                                                          1. re: wincountrygirl

                                                                                                                            Flay has almost 20 more battles than anyone else and still wins 70% of them, a better record than Morimoto and Cora. I think that's pretty good. Batali and Symon have half the amount of battles and boast an 80% record.

                                                                                                                            1. re: DavidPalmer

                                                                                                                              DavidPalmer, I've always wondered about the judging, if there isn't a bias towards having the Iron Chef win. After all, if FN picked them, it wouldn't look too good if they kept getting their butts kicked. I always remember the original Japanese series, where Bobby Flay challenged Chef Morimoto, and Bobby Flay had a meltdown because his cooktops weren't working properly, making it an "unfair competition" according to him.. He had a full on temper tantrum. He lost, too, and I remember the host asking Chef Morimoto about this and Chef Morimoto said "it is a poor master who blames his tools"...that's always stuck with me. I never liked Bobby Flay after that -- it really was something to see. Anyways, i wonder how real those stats/wins are, or if it is something kind of dictated by Head Office so to speak. Kind of like the disclaimer at the end of pretty much cooking competition show out there, where "the decisions made for eliminations were made in conjunction with the production staff" kind of thing.

                                                                                                                              1. re: freia

                                                                                                                                I remember those battles against Morimoto, too. I do remember Flay complaining about the conditions, but I also recollect him standing in inches of water and getting serious shocks from the stoves. I guess I'm defending him because I love his food and have met him at Bar Americain and he was so amiable and generous with his time, he couldn't have been nicer. Maybe he's mellowed over time, but I know there are a lot of people who vehemently dislike his personality and I can see that. There certainly are numerous threads mentioning such things!

                                                                                                                                1. re: DavidPalmer

                                                                                                                                  DavidPalmer, that is so awesome that you met him I must confess that I really like his Throwdown show...and yes, now that I think about it, I do remember him getting shocked by his equipment, so perhaps he did have a point. Besides, I think that was early on in his 'competitive' career, too. Time may have mellowed him? :)

                                                                                                                                  1. re: DavidPalmer

                                                                                                                                    @DavidPalmer&freia: Re Flay's 1st battle w/ Morimoto - I particularly remember his standing on his chopping block (in his dirty shoes) on the counter at the end. The Japanese chefs were horrified. I was pretty shocked myself. What kind of uncivilized creature DOES that sort of thing!!??

                                                                                                                                    1. re: huiray

                                                                                                                                      That's been gone over ad nauseum. If you don't like him, so be it. He went to high five his sous chefs and they lifted him up on the counter in the heat of the moment. To call it uncivilized is a tad asinine.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: DavidPalmer

                                                                                                                                        It is my opinion that it was uncivilized. It simply would never occur to me to ever do that or to allow myself to do that. You call this opinion asinine. I call that behavior uncivilized.

                                                                                                                                        You kiss his hand. I do not. So be it.

                                                                                                                                        BTW you apparently have no problem recapping his "problems" during that contest but conveniently leave out the chopping block part then disparage someone else's recap (mine) of that incident.

                                                                                                                                      2. re: huiray

                                                                                                                                        I gave a link to Bobby's own account of that event.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                                          Excuses, excuses.

                                                                                                                                          The Top Comment (by Otimelost, 4 months ago) on that youtube video page was spot on.

                                                                                                                                        2. re: huiray

                                                                                                                                          Hey...back in the day I used to dance on tables in bars but I wouldn't do that any longer. He's changed.

                                                                                                                                        3. re: DavidPalmer

                                                                                                                                          I think Flay has mellowed over the years...big time!

                                                                                                                                          1. re: melly

                                                                                                                                            Indeed. Even so, some haters just gotta hate!

                                                                                                                                        4. re: freia

                                                                                                                                          If the judgement was dictated by Head Office, wouldn't a guest judge have spilled the beans by now? We already know that the challenger does not chose the IC at the last moment, and that both sides already a good idea of the secret ingredient.

                                                                                                                                          Just the experience of having cooked many battles gives the home team a big advantage. My guess is that if a IC does not work out, or starts to falter, he/she would be quietly dropped from the lineup. Such a chef might even excuse himself, citing other projects or priorities, rather than embarrass himself with a lackluster performance.

                                                                                                                                          I think the IC producers are more interested in drama that draws viewers, rather than bragging rights. Sure the script brags about the ICs being the best, but I doubt if an FN execs take that personally.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                                            Added to which, the IC do this all the time, know the kitchen well, how it plays out while the guest chefs are having to play it by ear. That must give them a huge advantage. The bias isn't from the judging but from how the whole show is set up.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: chowser

                                                                                                                                              Chowser, I read a competitor's account of what happened during her appearance during Cupcake Wars, where they get a bunch of mystery ingredients. Apparently, they get the list beforehand, so it isn't really off the cuff. They have the change to develop and test their product before the actual competition. And during the show, they apparently replicate an error that happened during their test runs at home, all the while their actual correct products are in the oven. I wonder if the mystery ingredient is revealed beforehand to the Iron Chefs and their competitors. I have a feeling that they do, their techniques and pantry items are suspiciously "there" if that makes sense. I also wonder to what lengths the competitors go to "rehearsing" for the big competition. I compare this to Chopped, where the chefs are clearly scrambling...I'd love to know...anyone? anyone?But you are right, the actual day, under the lights and cameras has to be a different experience for the competitor vx the Iron Chef who has 'been there done that" a good dozen or more times. :)

                                                                                                                                              1. re: freia

                                                                                                                                                It's been reported in several places over the years that the competitors on ICA are given a couple of options for the secret ingredient ahead of time so that they can make a game plan. They do not know the final selection until taping.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: pamf

                                                                                                                                                  Ah, makes sense...thanks pamf! Of course I suspect on the Next iron Chef no one has advance notice of anything. :)

                                                                                                                                                2. re: freia

                                                                                                                                                  I've heard what pamf has said. Chopped and Cupcake Wars are obviously much more balanced. I know these chefs are professionals so much more experienced with moving around different kitchens but personally, it takes me twice as long in an unfamiliar kitchen. I also wonder if this is why Mark Forgione (is that his name, the newest IC?) has the worst record, as the new chef on the block.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: freia

                                                                                                                                                    This is a great explanation of how Iron Chef works, from one challenger's experience: http://www.lohud.com/article/20070528...

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: LurkerDan

                                                                                                                                                      @LurkerDan - good article.

                                                                                                                                                      However, he doesn't mention any pots of stock he may have used. (Did he use any?) I seem to remember reading somewhere that (besides the pre-alert regarding the "secret ingredient" possibilities etc) the two competitor chefs (on ICA, at least) were also allowed to have two pots of basic stock, already done, ready for use at the start of the battle if they so wished. I do remember seeing some episodes where the chefs were indeed using stock, which they could not possibly have prepared from scratch within the very beginning of the hour...

                                                                                                                                              2. re: freia

                                                                                                                                                Here is Bobby discussing that 1st battle


                                                                                                                                                As to the faulty equipment, this battle was done in NY, on a stage set up just for this battle. It wasn't the regular Fuji TV studio in Japan, nor a well honed FN studio.

                                                                                                                                                On one of the earlier NIC episodes, the battle took place in Germany (Luftansa kitchens?), and the competitors complained that the (local) camera crews kept getting in their way. The experience and professionalism of the people we don't see is more important than most of us realize.

                                                                                                                                              3. re: DavidPalmer

                                                                                                                                                Another factor to consider - Batali especially has faced some really high level competitors on ICA. Flay too, though I think he's faced more competitor-of-the-week types in his many battles. Symon has some really good wins and often wins by a wide margin, but hasn't faced chefs who are generally as well known or respected as the other two.

                                                                                                                                                Here's a list of ICA episodes, along with matchups and final scores.

                                                                                                                                                Says a lot about each of the iron chefs. But IMO it's harder to draw conclusions about how good one of the guest competitors is (in terms of cooking competitions) from just one appearance on the show. Being a great chef and being a great competition cook aren't really the same thing.

                                                                                                                                          2. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                                                                            i'm curious about your one comment: "culinary anachronisms (not the charming, surprising type)." What do you mean by that? I can't seem to wrap myself around it....

                                                                                                                                            1. re: jmckee

                                                                                                                                              Hmmm. It's hard to pinpoint.
                                                                                                                                              Some of it is that half my frame of reference for him is what little I've seen of Worst Cooks in America. Now admittedly, a lot of the food on that show was trying to appeal to the Food Network's Sandra-Deen base, so it makes sense that the cooking on that show wouldn't be very cutting edge or even particularly timely.

                                                                                                                                              For another, it seems to me that he personally specializes in a kind of Asian fusion that is sort of outdated already. The kind where you take a classic American or French preparation and then just make it with some soy sauce, mirin, ginger, yuzu, and/or rice vinegar added in. That stuff can be delicious, but to me it already seems a little dated. 5-10 years ago. Especially for a competition setting. When I think of modern competition-level Asian fusion, I think of the more complicated, technique heavy dishes that Angelo was making in the last couple seasons of Top Chef.

                                                                                                                                              Again though - that's just my impression. I could have him sized up all wrong. Also could be the kind of thing that might not play on Top Chef but plays just fine on TNIC.
                                                                                                                                              Here are links to a couple of his menus and recipes - you can judge for yourself:

                                                                                                                                              1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                                                                                wrt the doubts about beau-- the man happens to be a helluva chef who can really throw down. i haven't seen many iron chef eps, but i followed the link you posted above and noted that macmillan won his challenge to flay, while samuelsson lost his own to flay by eleven points (corn)! i still haven't watched this show to see what you aren't seeing, so i don't have anything better to add other than "wait and see, he may really surprise you." i feel like a lot of people (i don't mean you, i really mean "a lot of people") tend to dismiss a fat, perhaps un-photogenic guy named beau in a lot of venues-- but a cooking competition should not be one of them! :) on a personal level, i admire macmillan's commitment to working for charities. so i would like to see him do well, and also to represent the great chefs who do great work in cities other than the nyc/chi/los angeles/san francisco arenas. fwiw i think the recipes listed on his website would tend to be "friendly," and aimed at being executable by average-good cooks, but they don't necessarily reflect the chef's technical abilities.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                                                                                  If he turns out to be a helluva competitor, I'll be happy to be proven wrong. I have nothing against the guy personally.

                                                                                                                                                  I think you're right about the website recipes - they're meant for home cooks anyway. His restaurant menu is a little more indicative of the kind of slightly out of date Asian fusion I'm talking about in my above post. But even then, a smart chef makes what sells given his restaurant's location and clientele, not necessarily what he's capable of cooking in a competition.

                                                                                                                                                  I can't really disagree, given this thread and others like it, that people can judge the abilities of a TV chef based on their looks. I tried not to do that in my assessments, but we all have our biases, subconscious or not.

                                                                                                                                                  FWIW, I think there's only so much you can surmise from a single performance on ICA. Kind of like evaluating a pro baseball team from one game. When we saw Samuelsson given more exposure in a longer competition (TC Masters), he made it clear that he is verrrry capable of coming out with some of the most impressive and wowing dishes in a high-level contest. But he also showed some of the tendencies I fault him for in my post above (not cooking with the judges in mind, challenging people's palates with food he believes in but is not well chosen for the competition). Also of note, Beau won his challenge in 2006 when his apparent style seemed maybe a little less played out.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                                                                                    okay, i finally caught up w everybody and watched the first episode. wow! i actually enjoyed it immensely and i have to say, i'm feeling pretty good about my cold ranking of the competitors! loved watching samuelsson cook his ass off once again, loved irvine pretty much shutting up for once. . . LOL :)

                                                                                                                                                    what wasn't clear to me from everybody's comments above, was that the macmillan/zakarian team actually was given the win for the episode, for two delicious looking dishes. so unless folks are overlooking macmillan's role in those dishes (and it looked like a very even partnership to me), macmillan is quite capable of competing with and probably outcooking many other competitors on the field. i don't think he's out of his depth at all, & i stand by my assessment that he's the most underrated chef on the show.

                                                                                                                                                    beau also came off on camera as i perceive him to be: a straight-up, likable guy, gracious team player and general good sport. as i stated, i think samuelsson is the best chef-- i never tire of watching him or reading his books. he's also connected to my hometown through aquavit and years after the restaurant closed, his influence is felt through the chefs who are still in the field, whom he trained. so of course i am rooting for him and i hope he takes it all the way. . . but i am also rooting for macmillan, and burrell, to go far in the competition and earn a little much-deserved respect. i would not be in the least bit surprised if either one wound up w the win-- especially with such a strong field of competitors, anything can happen!

                                                                                                                                                    as far as the others are concerned-- gotta say i wasn't impressed at all w chuck & chiarello's beet and pig's ear salad--very basic. points for chiarello for running off into the field for wild mustard though, i enjoyed that. burrell and irvine went simple w porchetta as well. samuelsson and spike's stew really looked surprisingly dreadful! reading everyone's comments about alex g, i had thought she really fell apart. i don't think it was that bad. i do think she's probably more compromised by getting taken out of her element than some of the other chefs & wouldn't be surprised if she's eliminated next.

                                                                                                                                                    fun to see some of these folks working well together. successful chefs often have such a rep for alpha personalities, i am glad that the editors let some light banter and more human moments come through. i thought everyone was allowed to come across as a likable person, including spike. looking forward to watching the second episode!

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                                                                                      I think Beau comes across as a genuinely likeable guy.

                                                                                                                                                      Which Twin Cities chefs did Marcus train?


                                                                                                                                                  2. re: soupkitten

                                                                                                                                                    I don't know anything about beau, so thank you for filling in with this perspective. I might be rooting for him a little harder now!


                                                                                                                                          3. does anyone else think they keep throwing Spike on (iron chef, next iron chef, etc) because they have something else in mind for him and are building his recognition?

                                                                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                                                                            1. re: LaLa

                                                                                                                                              Nah, though I'm sure Spike has something else in mind for Spike. Spike gets play because he is a willing and enthusiastic trouble maker, which reality TV editors LOVE.

                                                                                                                                              I don't remember where I read it, but I once saw someone in reality TV claim that they try to make sure that something like 40% of their cast fit diagnosable criteria for 'narcissistic personality disorder.' When you're filling a show with people who are already famous (for being chefs and foodies, not for being wackos), it's harder to get that quotient of drama queens into the cast. So someone like Spike who seems to just like mixing it up and causing TV-friendly trouble is going to be popular on the reality TV chef circuit. He's both a troublemaker and sort of grudgingly likable.

                                                                                                                                            2. My thoughts:

                                                                                                                                              1. Anne: Do you really see watching her crashing around in kitchen stadium for an hour every week? Not likely. Solid food chops, but makes my teeth grind

                                                                                                                                              2. Robert Irvine: I agree with other posters. He is going to excel in this format. Lots of challenges and constraints. But you know...I have never seen him have a real kitchen, a reasonable special ingredient, and just told to make it great. it always involves dehydrated jellyfish, blowtorches and 15 minutes.

                                                                                                                                              3. Geoffrey: He surprises me. he has all the style of an accountant, but always finishes on time with good food. Cool as a cucumber might do it. if he wins, it is not going to be because he is spectacular. it will be because he makes the fewest mistakes.

                                                                                                                                              4. Elizabeth: Seems like a solid cook and not likely to lose it in the heat of competition..

                                                                                                                                              5. Alex G: Almost made me smile to see her squirm. After watching her look straight down her nose at cointestants on Chopped, she makes it clear she wouldn't last one course on her own show without having Xanax in a Pex dispenser.

                                                                                                                                              6. Beau: Wow. i have seen him before and the man can cook. In a way the oppsite of Geoffrey. I see the ability here for some amazing food, but also possible disaster. this is what an Iron Chef should be.

                                                                                                                                              7. Chuck: Love his show. Great style. Great looking food. But I wonder about his range. And how he will stack up when the challenges start to become more silly ("Cook a Polynesian luau in an elevator using sterno!!!!"). I hope he wins, but I am not sure I see it.

                                                                                                                                              Last thought. I am glad the usual suspects (French/Italian/New American) are all represented, but does anyone else wish there was a Mexican or Asian food chef? Ming or Rick Bayless added some real difference that was welcome in past competitions of this type. Both cuisines are so popular, but not represented here. Curious.

                                                                                                                                              3 Replies
                                                                                                                                              1. re: Westy

                                                                                                                                                Ming was on Next Iron Chef Season 3 last year.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: Westy

                                                                                                                                                  Aaron Sanchez was also a NIC competitor. As for existing ICs, Morimoto is a master of Asian cooking. Flay does American SW, while Garces might be described as IC Hispanic (not exclusively Mexican). Challengers can also represent these cuisines.

                                                                                                                                                  But the American Iron Chefs aren't tied to a particular cuisine in the same sense that the Japanese ones were. Quite often they give us 'around the world' tours with their 5 dishes. On the other hand you could describe them all as cooking 'modern American cuisine' - with an emphasis on plating, innovation, and an eclectic borrowing from around the world.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Westy

                                                                                                                                                    I'm curious how Robert Irvine will do because on Dinner Impossible he relied heavily on pre-made product and basic, albeit good tasting, recipes made for mass serving in hot trays. He'll have to make refined composed upscale dishes from scratch, something he didn't have to do on Dinner Impossible.

                                                                                                                                                  2. I just wonder how on EARTH they made a show that should have been totally fascinating (10 top chefs with proven entertainment value) so BORING. Did anyone else notice that they blathered on for FIFTEEN SOLID MINUTES before they even got to start cooking? I turned off the set and left it recording for me to watch when I have the time to zap all the boring bits.

                                                                                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Kajikit

                                                                                                                                                      Boring. Master Chefs = boring and predictable show.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Kajikit

                                                                                                                                                        I think they were trying to highlight all of the "rivalries" between these individuals. Bah. I buy little of it.


                                                                                                                                                      2. you try wearing makeup in lot's of heat! yikes!!

                                                                                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                        1. re: melly

                                                                                                                                                          Don't sleep on Chuck. He can cook and definitely has the personality to be very popular. I'd like to see him or Faulkner win based on personality alone.