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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Should the search for the next Iron Chef have a "Sudden Death" rule?

Nextironchef3

That Next Iron Chef thing is hot! Did you see Sunday's episode? I'm having so much fun watching that show, and even more so now that things are really heating up leading to the final round in Kitchen Stadium. It's been great watching these chefs having it out, and the closer to the finals, the more seriously they are taking the competition. Ok, the knives are not exactly out for the other chef-testants à la Top Chef, but the happy-go-lucky tone of the early shows are wearing off. Now you've got Chris Cosentino trash talking Michael Symon spending big money on Lobster, or John Besh calling Chris's cooking style erratic- or did he say erotic? A couple shows before this you also got Symon pooh-poohing everybody else's Berry Gastrique. It's all fun for us watching from the other end of the tube.

One thing that kept popping up in my head as I watched each episode is that there should be an out-by-technicality or a Sudden Death rule. Alton, in his constant improv narrating should swoop in and send someone home on technicality the minute he saw one of the golden culinary rules broken. I know it's in the heat of the competition and whatnot, but some things are just too outrageous to let pass. And I am surprised the judges have been so easy on the chefs!

What kind of things am I talking about you wondered? Well, let's begin on the very first show. Morou should have been sent home, immediately, for bleeding all over the oysters. Why not? The guy was bleeding profusely into food that would have been served raw. Your yuck meter didn't go off the charts on that one? Mine certainly did. He should've gone home on that show and Traci –who wuz robbed IMHO – should've stayed. She would've so made minced meat out of some of the boys in later challenges.

Who else should've gone home even before the food was tasted? Aaron, cute as he is, should've been home the minute he started on his third ceviche attempt in the same competition. On the first show I remember him complaining that the other chefs had taken all the scallops that he wanted for his ceviche. Ok that's one. Then he made a shrimp ceviche for another challenge, got it done before anyone but somehow managed to miss the plating. Ok that's count two. Then on the Airplane Food challenge he made – you wouldn't have guessed it – ceviche! Call me a wimp but you won't see me eating no ceviche on the plane, no sirree, not even when it's the cute chef serving it to me himself.

And, then there's my friend Chris Cosentino. I love you man, but I would have had you out before anyone tasted the last round of your food, good as they may have looked. You're cooking the ultimate American feast in Paris - of all places - and you went shopping for what, Burrata? Honestly! Remember what Charles de Gaulle said of France, "how can anyone govern a nation that has 246 different kinds of cheese?" So, Chris, you're in a nation with over two hundred different kinds of cheese and you went looking for boo-ra-ta. Ok, a tiny point to you for adapting and settling with Mozzerella, or moz-za-rell as you so aptly called it in Paree. What, you can't find any French cheese that could have melted as passionately on your take on the cheesesteak? I don't know, Reblochon maybe? Or Brie? Or two hundred forty four other kinds of cheese they've got over there? And to top it all off, you went and made your dessert with Grappa. Grappa! Man, it hurts me to see you go my friend but honestly!

Before you get on my case for being so hard on Chris, let me tell you if I had my way Michael Symon would be out on his ample fanny too. The man spent nearly eight hundred euros on glorious blue lobsters, and then turned them into hotdogs. Hotdogs! That's such an egregious assault on an otherwise innocent ingredient – and I'm not even mentioning the fact that he bought Turbot to help fill the texture of his "hotdogs" too - he should've been sent home on the spot! And that's hardly the end of it. I don't really know when the show was taped, but judging from the produce at the market – gorgeous white asparagus and frais des bois and whatnots – and the fact that Symon and Chris were wearing t-shirts, it was probably late Spring or early Summer. And Michael Symon was surprised there was no fresh truffle at the market? Undeterred, he went and bought truffle paste. Truffle paste? Yuck! In an earlier episode Symon was heard referring to his cuisine as fanatically seasonal. Seriously? You monsieur, you go home!

Unlike Andrew Knowlton and Alton Brown, I am not from the American South, so I am less bothered by John Besh taking liberty on such sacred a Southern staple as the dumplings. I'm also not all that disturbed by his hiding good caviar in a mayonnaise, nor his rather proper attire. His French pronunciation on the other hand....

While I'm at it, I'm a fan of Ruhlman's at times acerbic blog, but I'd be sending him home too if I could. For what crime, you asked? For not only forgiving Michael Symon's use of icky truffle paste but basically saying that there was no other way Symon could've elevated the mashed potato! Frankly, I don't know if Symon's mashed potato needed elevating at all – if it's anything like Robuchon's fabled pomme purée it wouldn't have – but how could it have been helped by such poseur an ingredient as the truffle paste I had no idea. Andrew, my man, I'm totally with you on this one.

That leaves me John Besh as the lone chef standing at the final. He can battle himself in Kitchen Stadium - or if the producers really want him to win he could battle Cat Cora. I doubt that it woud be a problem for the producers though, they just have to fill the time with Donnatella's boob shots. Just imagine what fun we'd have with those!

p.s. I assumed if you are at all interested in Iron Chef then you already know about my friend Adam's hilarious blog over on the Food Network page. But since a couple of you asked why I didn't link to it, here it is!

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