The Next Iron Chef Scorecard

October 9, 2007

I don’t know why I’ve got a weak spot for TV chef “reality” shows. I’ve watched Hell’s Kitchen (both the US and UK versions — the UK is much better, btw), The F-Word (UK), Top Chef, and I’m a big fan of Tony Bourdain’s No Reservations.

I also watch Iron Chef every now and again, mostly because I enjoy Alton Brown, but it’s about my least favorite “cooking reality” show.

On Sunday, the Food Network served up their newest effort, “The Next Iron Chef”. The format is roughly akin to Top Chef’s (short early challenge, which gets the winner an advantage in the main challenge), albeit with the usual Iron Chef ingredient goofiness.

As a seasoned Iron Viewer, here’s my scorecard:

  • Airing a new show in lo-def when they’ve got a hi-def channel: -20 points
  • Hosted by Alton Brown instead of Padma Lakshmi or a cardboard US version of Gordon Ramsey: +30 points
  • No “Glad Family of Bags” or other in-your-face product placement: +20 points
  • No contestant as hot as Casey Thompson: -15 points
  • No contestant as annoying as Marcel Vigneron: +15 points
    (may be revisited as we get to know the contestants more)
  • Michael Ruhlman as a celebrity judge: +10 points
  • No Tony Bourdain as a celebrity judge: -15 points
  • Lack of profanity: -10 points
  • Lack of excessive bleeping: +15 points
  • Lack of (so far) off-the-wall challenges such as cooking on a hot rock while hopping on one foot: +15 points
  • Lack of Big Brother-esqe induced drama: +15 points
  • Apparent lack of restaurant-skills challenges: 0 points

+60 points, at least thus far.

Not bad.

(spoiler warning, for those who haven’t seen the first episode)

The quality of the contestants seems excellent, too — watching these people wield knives in the first challenge was amazing.

I’d figured Traci Des Jardins was probably the name to beat, and she was the first loser out of the box.

I raised my eyebrows a bit about Michael Symon being a contestant and Michael Ruhlman being a judge, given their close acquaintance, but that apparently that bit him in the butt when he got called down for not cooking out of his comfort zone, so there would appear to be no favoritism there.

It’s also nice to be able to see some “behind the scenes” commentary from Ruhlman on his blog — for instance, he notes (with prompting from Cosentino) that since they shut down the vent hoods in the kitchen for audio purposes, it was 132 degrees in the kitchen during the competition, and one of the chefs was hospitalized for dehydration afterwards — small wonder the freezers and fridges weren’t working.

All in all, very interesting.

Should be worth watching.

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