Monday, October 5, 2009

The Next Iron Chef

Chef Greenspan faces grasshopper plague

The thing to remember about The Next Iron Chef is that it’s not so much a competition as an audition. Sure an Iron Chef needs to be a skilled chef who can manage a kitchen, work well under pressure, and showcase any ingredient in their cooking, but they also need to be charismatic and likable. Not only that, they have to be able to banter and stay likable even in the heat of battle.

That’s of course why Michael Symon won the last season. Sure he was a good chef, but he was also relaxed and likable while still staying focused and driven. Runner-up John Besh could have done that too, but Iron Chef already has a conceited asshole on staff (cough - Bobby Flay - cough) and didn’t need another. (Bobby Flay is so conceited that he has a whole show built around the idea that in a short period of time he can make a certain dish better than a chef who’s spent their career specializing in it: Throwdown! with Bobby Flay.)

No contestant, regardless of how good a cook they are, is going to advance far in the show if they don’t have potential to be a TV personality. It’s interesting to note that of the 4 finalists of the last season all but 1 has their own show now on the Food Network. (Thankfully the 1 is the aforementioned conceited asshole John Besh.)

Nate Appleman might be a great chef, but unless he finds a way to wack himself with the likable stick soon, he will not be the next Iron Chef. He was a dick in the first episode. Iron Chef’s are not villains. They’re expected to win every episode and the viewers have to be OK with that.

But even if he suddenly became as charming as George Clooney, he probably won’t win. The producers have to be pulling for a minority (and by minority I mean not an American white male). The current crop of Iron Chefs features three white males, a Japanese male, and a white female. One of the said white males, Mario Batali is finally officially leaving the show (he hasn’t appeared in an episode in a season and a half) and said white female, Cat Cora, is pregnant (actually she and her wife are both pregnant) and will undoubtedly need to cut back on her appearances.

Anything other than an American white male will keep the show somewhat balanced in terms of race and gender. Fortunately for the producers, they eliminated one American white male last night (thanks to his inability to cook with grasshoppers) and now only have two more to go.

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