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Next Iron Chef Redemption Episode 5 (spoilers)

I thought I'd start a new discussion thread for Episode 5 of the Redemption series.

I have to say it was a very odd episode for a variety of reasons. I thought the auction format was intriguing but deeply flawed as it gave all the chefs wildly different cooking times. Plus the secret advantage that Faulkner won on the previous episode was terrible and poorly thought out. A contestant should never have to judge his/her fellow contestants when there's already three judges for the whole series. I noted that Faulkner's criticism of the dishes were quite different, often the complete opposite, of what the judges later said of the same dishes.

As for the showdown in the second half I was surprised to see Faulkner lose. It was also the most emotional part of the entire series to date. The judges themselves were even in tears. The secret ingredient was anchovies, the theme was taking risks, and it seemed that Faulkner had a stronger emphasis on anchovies and did take greater risks in her preparations than Appleman, who made something much more conventional. She got blasted for overusing saffron in one of her dishes which is odd as I've never thought of saffron as ever having an overpowering flavor.

I noticed that when Faulkner walked off the show both judges and cooks described her as one of the greatest chefs in America, a term that I haven't ever heard applied to the other contestants. I do think compared to the other chefs she demonstrated a wider range of cooking techniques, was more likely to produce dishes to wow the judges and had a more creative approach to the secret ingredients. I thought her cooking approach was much closer to the other Iron chefs and while she wasn't perfect by any means she seemed to have a level of expertise and originality superior to the other contestants. I may sound like a champion for her but while I haven't been rooting for any particular candidate I did always look forward to seeing what she would cook, more than for any of the other chefs and now that she's gone it will be harder to remain as interested in the program.

Any other thoughts?

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  1. I thought first of all, what has been said on another thread about the Save Card being used in a close match is out the window. From what was said, this was a close one. Everyone appeared devastated at voting Falkner off. Doesn't mean the option to save a chef isn't there, it just means it wasn't used here.

    Although like I said earlier, if Falkner knew there was the option of keeping her on in a close call (which really seemed to be the case here) that would brutally hurt, and she did seem really stunned at losing by an overuse of saffron, compared to Appleman's lack of seasoning (which is so often a deal killer in these shows).

    16 Replies
    1. re: ennuisans

      Your last sentence does bring up an interesting point. Are the judges fairly applying a consistent judging standard to all the rounds and showdowns? We've had contestants eliminated in the past for lack of seasoning and for not emphasizing the secret ingredient enough (usually by making it very much a secondary ingredient in the final dish). Appleman made both "errors" yet he survived.

      Hey, we only know what was shown to us and we can't taste the dishes so we have no idea if Faulkner's couscous was truly overpowered and awful. Perhaps it was but there was something about last night's judging that somehow didn't seem right and was off the mark. Perhaps it's my own disappointment at seeing Faulkner go but the reaction of the judges last night as well as their emotional response in voting her off was a bit extreme which is causing me to question exactly what was going on.

      As a side note I remember watching a next iron chef competition years ago when the final two came down to Michael Symon and some chef from New Orleans. The NO chef had been the overall better cook throughout the entire series until the final episode, when as a kicker three iron chefs were brought in to judge alongside the three existing judges. As it turned out two of the original judges sided with the NO chef in the final episode, the three iron chefs and Michael Ruhlman (a buddy of Symon from Cleveland and one of the original three judges) voted for Symon. So Symon won, but one of the dissenting judges pointed out that the NO chef had been the more consistently reliable, winning and innovate chef throughout the series, which the three iron chefs couldn't have known, so was it fair for them to vote in the final episode?

      It makes one wonder if the Food Network deliberately rigs the show to create drama and tension as a way of keeping interest in the show going. As it is I do think there's too many iron chefs.

      1. re: Roland Parker

        "We've had contestants eliminated in the past for lack of seasoning and for not emphasizing the secret ingredient enough (usually by making it very much a secondary ingredient in the final dish). Appleman made both "errors" yet he survived."

        His anchovie taste may not have been prominent enough but when you consider he made anchovie and potato torta, anchovie aioli and one other anchovie thing (I think), it wasn't for lack of trying or trying to sneak it in there. I actually was glad he won even tho I'm not a fan of either of them. Enjoyed Marcel's victory and as RP noted, Faulkner's comment about his too tough cow head vs. the judges' loving his dish was interesting.

        1. re: Roland Parker

          It's just the rules of the game to have past performance not count for anything. When March Madness rolls around and we have a single-elimination NCAA basketball tournament, it is perhaps unfair that a single bad game could allow for the team with the much better regular season performance to be eliminated, but that's just the way it is.

          I don't think the Food Network is rigging outcomes to create drama and tension. The very fact that you force chefs into an elimination showdown is enough to create drama and tension. You would, however, have a good case for arguing that they edit the show to make things appear closer than they actually are to preserve drama...and there's nothing wrong with that.

          1. re: FoodPopulist

            And if it was rigged, so what?

            As long as you (or I) don't know the outcome, it's still dramatic.

            Movies are rigged, and as long as I don't know the ending, I still enjoy the movie (and sometimes I enjoy it even when I do know the ending).

            The journey, as they say, is oftentimes more interesting than the destination.

            1. re: ipsedixit

              Eh, I watch movies for drama, I watch competition shows for competition. While that includes the drama associated with competition, that drama falls flat if I find out the competition was not a competition at all. The drama for me is in what dish the judges found to be the best/worst; there's no enjoyable drama in what chef the network chose to have win or lose.

            2. re: FoodPopulist

              "It's just the rules of the game to have past performance not count for anything. When March Madness rolls around and we have a single-elimination NCAA basketball tournament, it is perhaps unfair that a single bad game could allow for the team with the much better regular season performance to be eliminated, but that's just the way it is." I'm forever greatful for the times that UCLA under John Wooden and Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor Jr. won, but I digress.......

            3. re: Roland Parker

              John Besh, I believe, is the name of the NO chef.

              ~TDQ

              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                You are correct. It was Besh. I thought he won and was surprised Symon did.

                Totally bummed about Faulkner.

              2. re: Roland Parker

                "As it is I do think there's too many iron chefs."
                where are the former Iron Chefs? did they take off? get bored? lose interest? get canned?
                some are boring and lack luster to me, sorry but true. they have to have that "something" "it" factor to hold my interest in watching the show. it's gotta be more than just being great cooks.

                RP, have you been to Lola in Cleveland?
                have you been to August in NO?
                I've not been to Lola but have been to August.
                the food at August is beautiful, the restaurant is beautiful, the waiter that waited on me was wonderful, my meal, all apps plus many pitchers of water, perfection. the bill high, very high, worth every cent. in my opinion John Besh got ripped off. he is all I want in an IC however, that said, MS is doing a wonderful job and his credentials are VERY impressive.

                1. re: iL Divo

                  Second that on August. I've had several great meals there.

              3. re: ennuisans

                Her looking stunned was the hardest part for me.

                1. re: Shrinkrap

                  For me it was her saying that she needed air, and a member of the crew opening the door for her. We normally don't see the crew like that. The news really knocked the wind out of her, it appears.

                  ~TDQ

                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                      She really thought she was going to win this. So did I. And she is the second person in a row who got the "advantage" of judging her peers and was eliminated (the first being Ann Burrell).

                      1. re: chicgail

                        Is it just me or does having the advantage turn out to be a curse more often than not? I swear I'd never want the "advantage" on these competition shows--it often seems to backfire.

                        ~TDQ

                2. I think the auction format is one of the better, if not best, formats for the NICA challenges. It's not only a test of culinary skills, but an inside peak how much confidence each chef has in his/her own abilities.

                  I, too, was sorry to see Faulkner go, but honestly I think this is Mehta's to lose.

                  1. "She got blasted for overusing saffron in one of her dishes which is odd as I've never thought of saffron as ever having an overpowering flavor."
                    Of course we can't taste her dish, but I can speak from experience that even a slight "overdose" of saffron can render the dish very bitter. A lot of saffron will make a dish inedible.

                    Marcel starts to look perhaps a bit more interesting as this goes on...

                    21 Replies
                    1. re: RUK

                      I once had a saffron creme brulee that had an overpowering taste of saffron and it was inedible after just a bite or two, but the person who prepared it thought it was so exquisite and had splurged so much for the saffron, I ate more of it than I should have to appease her. But, blech.

                      ~TDQ

                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                        In my case it was a printing error for a type of Challah recipe. It was one of my earliest attempts of making yeast breads ( at this point I had little experience) and I had followed the recipe exactly. The next edition of the magazine showed the correct amount of Saffron with an apology. Too late, the Bread was inedible and went into the garbage. Lesson learned - tread carefully around Saffron!

                      2. re: RUK

                        Goes for me too. A little saffron is more than enough.

                        1. re: RUK

                          I suspect that soffron falls into the same category as cilantro, some of the "newer" cooking oils, the heat of chiles... Different strokes for different folks. But there may also be a difference in intensity that comes from the grade and origin of the saffron. Last time I bought saffron, I splurged big and bought 14 grams of top quality Spanish saffron, which is a huge amount for a home cook. Then there's also the interesting question of whether, at age 79, I will live long enough to use it all up unless I go on a 3-meals-a-day paella diet! Anyway, when cooking for just me, I have intentionally tried to use too much saffron, and so far, I haven't managed to do that. At least not for my taste buds.

                          I've heard other people talk/write about the "tinny" taste of too much saffron, but I've never experienced it. I suspect one (or more?) of the judges has this flaw in their saffron tasting taste buds and held undue influence over the rest of the panel. I think it would be a good approach for any contestant on these "reality" cooking shows to avoid things like cilantro, saffron, and other things that don't seem to have the same flavor for all tasters.

                          I think "Iron Chef" (America) and "The Next Iron Chef" have really blown the original concept of the show. The podium of Iron Chefs now only has one REAL Iron Chef left, Masaharu Morimoto, and all of the rest are simply contenders turned usurpers. Maybe they need to change the name of the show to "Iron Chefs of the Moment"? But I did feel (still do) that Faulkner was the best candidate of this lot. I will miss her!

                          1. re: Caroline1

                            Simon seemed to be the first one to mention there was too much saffron, Donatella "disagreed", and then Zarakian also said he thought the dish was a little heavy handed with the saffron. It seems to me (from this and the pineapple+pork incident from last season) that Simon has these really strong preferences about which he is not really willing to bend.

                            ~TDQ

                            1. re: The Dairy Queen

                              I find Simon Majumdar to be the most irritating judge on any food related "reality" show. But I would enjoy seeing him and Jeffrey Steingarten get into a tiff over the worthiness of a dish. Gee, I'm wicked! '-)

                              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                If I had to bet on how the judges voted it would be that Donatella wanted to keep Faulkner and the two men voted to kick her off.

                                My overall problem with the iron chef competition is that the best cook doesn't necessarily win. I get the comparison to the sports tournament format as mentioned by another poster but we're talking about someone who will go on to repeatedly cook in competitions against challengers. I don't want to watch someone who got lucky enough to win but turns out to be a less than stellar iron chef competing against second tier regional chefs (I'm looking at you Michael Symon, while not mediocre you're still no Mario Batali).

                                All the contestants in the Redemption series are stellar in their field but I thought that Faulkner was simply more interesting than anyone else. She took more risks, her dishes were more creative and she pushed herself harder to get out of tight cooking spots. To top it she produced more dishes that truly wowed the judges. Then there's the personality side as well. Faulkner actually has a distinct personality, both character and cooking styles, that can lend itself to developing an Iron chef following and I don't see that happening with any of the other contestants.

                                Not everyone likes Faulkner but this viewer is looking through the remaining contestants and is thinking while you're all nice people and good cooks I don't see myself wanting to watch Iron Chef to see what you do in the way I might have with Faulkner.

                                1. re: Roland Parker

                                  My overall problem with the iron chef competition is that the best cook doesn't necessarily win.
                                  _____________________________

                                  ICA and the NICA is not *just* about the best chef, it's about the chef who is not only the best at his/her craft, but doing it while under time pressure (and other external forces -- e.g., pseudo-surprise ingredients).

                                  It's relatively easy to be the "best" at your craft when you have control of your environment, it's quite another to be at your best when things around you are, for lack of a better word, kind of fucked up.

                                  Sort of like free throw shooting. Shooting by yourself in a gym with no one around, it' easy to be a 90% FT shooter. Game on the line, in a visiting arena, with 15,000 hostile fans and people screaming at you, and the lights shining directly at you? Another story entirely.

                                  1. re: ipsedixit

                                    I think Faulkner was sent to the showdown several times, more than any of the other candidates, and came back with stellar dishes that wowed the judges. So even using your criteria she displayed an ability to cook herself out of very tight spots more than anyone else did.

                                    The judges should be allowed to consider previous results as well when deciding how to vote. Wouldn't we all be better off, both Food Network and the viewers, if the truly better chef was allowed to survive and not get kicked off due to one lousy mistake (and possibly only a mistake due to the subjective taste of one or two judges). After all, the actual iron chefs aren't booted off the show if they lose to a competitor and Morimoto has lost quite a few challenges if I remember correctly.

                                    1. re: Roland Parker

                                      The "better chef" is the one that can survive these challenges, week in and week out.

                                      You only believe that the "better chef" lost (unfairly) because of a personal bias for Faulkner.

                                      There's really no objective reason to believe that Faulkner is better, or worse, than any of the other competitors. Our personal biases, and perspectives, gives us, mostly a false, sense of certain competitors being "better" than others.

                                      There's really no way to objectively determine whether one chef is better than another because we don't taste of any of their dishes on the show and most of us have not sampled the food, fully, from all of the competitors to even determine whether any of them are -- in absolute terms -- better than any other one.

                                      1. re: ipsedixit

                                        You're correct in that all opinions are subjective but when both judges and fellow contestants describe Faulkner as one of the greatest chefs in America (a term that has not been applied to any of the other contestants), I stand up and take notice.

                                        As it is, she's gone, many of us are disappointed and life goes on.

                                        1. re: ipsedixit

                                          The best competitor is not necessarily the best chef.

                                          1. re: chicgail

                                            The best competitor is not necessarily the best chef.
                                            _________________

                                            But isn't that exactly what ICA is looking for? A competitor cum chef?

                                            1. re: ipsedixit

                                              Yes. ICA is looking for a competitor cum chef.

                                              But, these trumped up competitions - auctions, cooking outdoors, canned food -- really are not indicative of what an IC actually does. None of those things happen on a real episode of IC. They all make pretty good television. They're good for drama.

                                          2. re: ipsedixit

                                            "The "better chef" is the one that can survive these challenges, week in and week out."

                                            I agree. I think of this like the play offs. Lose and you're out. They don't say, well, they had the best record over the season and are probably the better team...

                                            1. re: chowser

                                              And this is how it's like on the ICA show.

                                              Let's say Bobby Flay scores a perfect 60 one week against Challenger X and beats her by 10 points. So he has 9 "extra" points. Then the next week he could flub his toe and score only a 55 and lose by 1 point to Challenger Y.

                                              Flay doesn't get to carry any of his extra points from the prior week, right?

                                          3. re: Roland Parker

                                            If it were up to me, and fairness was more important than watch-ability and ratings, I'd start with 12 chefs in three pools of four. Each pool does a round robin of the secret ingredient showdown, producing one dish in 30 minutes.

                                            The winners of each pool go into the semifinals. The fourth slot goes to the winner of a last chance battle between the second place chefs in each pool.

                                        2. re: Roland Parker

                                          If that is really the case, then what you want is for them to scrap any form of competition whatsoever and just have the producers hand an Iron Chef gig to whoever they think is most worthy.

                                          1. re: FoodPopulist

                                            Actually, last season (Superstars or whatever it was called), they had some really high profile chefs and it made me wonder if any of those folks had a secret deal with the food network that they will be on their NIC show, but that they really don't have the time to actually be an iron chef and pre-arranged that they would lose, but finish respectably, maybe in the top four or something.

                                            ~TDQ

                                        3. re: The Dairy Queen

                                          Perhaps the producers want to pair Simon and Donatella as judges because they have conflicting tastes that will make it hard for anyone to produce a dish that is a unanimous favorite unless everyone else fails at the task.

                                        4. re: Caroline1

                                          Too much saffron really does leave a nasty taste, but maybe sensitivity to saffron is similar to sensitivity to cilantro. I'm one of those people for whom cilantro tastes like soap except in very, very small quantities.

                                          You could include that good saffron in your will, making sure that someone who appreciates it gets it in case you you don't go on a major paella binge. I would hate to think that someone who doesn't know what it is or appreciate it, may toss it.

                                      2. I was crushed, crushed I tell you when Falkner got the boot. Now I'm just sad :-(

                                        12 Replies
                                          1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                            Me too. I'm a little traumatized.

                                            If this episode was supposed to be about risk, then Alex should have been in the bottom instead. There was nothing risky about a bison steak and some potatoes, even if they were well cooked.

                                            1. re: chefhound

                                              Her "risk" was stealing something from Marcel... Hardly a giant risk from a culinary perspective.

                                              (ETA: Donatella called Alex out on her lack of risk, actually. And Alex joked, "My risk was my lack of risk" or something along those lines.).

                                              Someone mentioned Alex and her drama in another episide--did anyone catch Alex saying in her confessional, "I'm terrified." I just had to laugh.She is kind of a drama queen, isn't she?

                                              ~TDQ

                                              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                I think the whole Iron Chef artificial reality lends itself to drama...oh my GOD--they're dishonoring the CRAFT by putting their food on the SAME PLATE! I must consult with the CHAIRMAN!

                                                That might just be Alex's way of playing the game.

                                                1. re: coney with everything

                                                  You know, a sense of humor fun in an Iron Chef. Maybe Alex has more of a sense of humor than I've been giving her credit for...

                                                  ~TDQ

                                              2. re: chefhound

                                                Especially considering it was Faulkner's risk, of frying the scales, that got her sent to the bottom. Had she left them off, her dish would have been fine.

                                                1. re: chowser

                                                  Frying the scales seemed like a dumb idea when she first mentioned it. They looked like they'd make better guitar picks.

                                                  1. re: paulj

                                                    Yeah, that was a major brain lock on her part.

                                                    I can't imagine the last time I had fish scales and thought, "wow, no more potato chips for me, I've found my new nirvana!"

                                                  2. re: chowser

                                                    Paiche is an endangered species of fish in the Amazon. I have no idea why they'd paid for one, fly it to the US so Faulker can butcher it and fry its scales.

                                                      1. re: FoodPopulist

                                                        Well, next time I go to Peru I'll have to try some. I heard they are very tasty.

                                                  3. re: chefhound

                                                    I totally agree, although I like Alex and am glad she's still there. But I despair to think that Faulkner is gone. And seriously..... mortadella foam????? just because it's risky doesn't mean it should garner points. If you do risky bad does it count more than if you do less risky well>

                                                    Water under the bridge. She's gone. I for one was hoping to see her become the next Iron Chef. She is talented beyond belief, thinks outside the box (she made white bread toast ice cream!!!) and doesn't rest on her laurels.

                                              3. I was pulling for Faulkner last time around and would have been happy if she won but this time don't care as much that she didn't make it to the end. It almost seemed like she expected to win. I agree about the overuse of saffron--it would be hard to use so much of it that it made the dish almost inedible. I wonder how much that dish cost to make!

                                                I agree w/ Zacharian about Marcel seeming more mature this time around w/ cooking. He seems to be holding his own among the other chefs, much more so than Spike.

                                                6 Replies
                                                1. re: chowser

                                                  Did anyone notice the "evil grin" Nate had when it was announced that he was moving on? I thought it was kind of funny. I liked Falkner but you know, someone good had to go (well except maybe for Marcel, despite the fairly obvious "good edit" he got on this episode)

                                                  1. re: DGresh

                                                    Well, I don't blame him. He felt like she chose him because he was a strong competitor, not because he had the worst dish (which may or may not have been true, that wasn't clear). So beating her and sending her home had to have felt like, pardon the usage, redemption.

                                                    1. re: LurkerDan

                                                      You know a few folks have mentioned that the dishes the judges tasted seemed to be vastly different than those Faulkner tasted. I'm guessing she tasted the "first" timed run and the judges tasted the "final" timed run. Alex said she was afraid she undercooked her bison and Faulkner agreed. The judges got perfectly cooked versions.

                                                      Faulker seems quite put off by the mortadella mousse and that seemed to be the deal breaker for her. It did sound....well.....slimy. I think that would have made me put his name down as well.

                                                      I also saw the evil smirk.....and I'm sure we'll see some commentary from him to back it up.

                                                      1. re: Dee S

                                                        Didn't Appleman ask Marcel for xanthum gum even thought he constantly trashes Marcel? Basically Appleman is a douchebag.

                                                        1. re: Worldwide Diner

                                                          He's a douchebag for asking another competitor for an item from the pantry that the other competitor had grabbed and brought to his station? um, yeah.

                                                          Appleman has occasionally looked like an ass in his times on TV for sure, but that sure wasn't one of them.

                                                          1. re: LurkerDan

                                                            I'm not sure that item is from the pantry. Marcel usually brings his personal stash to these game shows. Even if it is from the pantry, Marcel is under no obligation to give him any. This all started when Doucheman shoved Marcel out of the way and then asked Marcel to share his truffles.