Monday, June 29, 2009

Smackdown on Iron Chef

Iron Chef America

Flay vs. Excoffier

I’m not talking about the smackdown between Chef Bobby Flay and Chef Philippe Excoffier.* I’m talking about the one between judges Michael Ruhlman, noted food writer and blogger, and Andrew Knowlton, restaurant editor of Bon Appétit on Iron Chef America last night.

Although I caught only the last half of this Iron Chef, it was enough to see the virtuosity of the French Chef Philippe Excoffier. (That spelling really does look strange.) We also saw the seemingly endless inventiveness of Bobby Flay, a real American treasure.

This is what happened: Excoffier had had his turn and the Iron Chef was being judged. The secret ingredient was the fish Dorade (which I've always known as Dorada). Ruhlman and Andrew disagreed mightily over Bobby Flay’s Hot Dorade Ceviche. Bobby heated the elements of the dish and then poured them over the thinly sliced fish. Bobby liked that it didn’t taste solely of citrus, like most ceviches. That’s where the problem started.

Andrew thought the level of acidity in the dish made it almost inedible. He said,”The acidity in the dish kind of knocks you back.” “In THIS dish?!!” Ruhlman queries, as if Andy is crazy. Andy says YEAH, it’s “overpowering”, but he says he loves the texture of the fish.

Ruhlman looks at Andrew, over the head of the third judge - the ninny Jenna Wolfe from Today (and not even the weekday Today) - and says in a raised voice, “IT’S A CEVICHE.” He pronounced it in the 2 syllable French way, rather than the 3 syllable Spanish. (It DOES come from the Spanish, though.) Ruhlman adds, “IT’S SUPPOSED TO BE ACIDIC.”

Andy: It shouldn’t be like biting into a lime.

Mike: You’re too delicate.

Andy: It still doesn’t taste good.

Whoa! Bobby’s right there.

He (Bobby) laughs. They spar a bit more and who knows what they’ve edited out. But Ruhlman has no patience for Andrew… that much is clear. Why he doesn’t the smack the knowledge-less Jenna when she says, “I like this. I like that,” I have no idea.

The two judges revisit their battle while tasting Bobby’s last two dishes.

Andrew says the Crispy Dorade Fillet With Sour Orange Vinaigrette has just the right amount of acidity. He wants Ruhlman to agree that the other had too much. Ruhlman agrees about the current dish. “It’s an appropriate level of acidity for THIS preparation.” But he doesn’t take back what he said about the ceviche. Andrew looks frustrated.

Bobby’s last dish is a Dorade With Cauliflower Sauce.

Ruhlman does voice his concern that Bobby has showed fewer techniques than Excoffier has and that he’s presented them basically with fish and 3 sauces several times, while Excoffier’s menu had been more varied.

Bobby shares his philosophie (my word, not his). He says he likes to make the main ingredient the star and then have a few “friends” along for company.

That’s the last we hear until the verdict is announced. How will it play out? Will Ruhlman continue tut-tutting Andrew and will they get that moron away from the judges’ table.

Here are the scores:















The Iron Chef reigned supreme. Thank goodness for that, but it wasn’t a surprise. Fewer techniques notwithstanding, Bobby got them with his rambunctious, remarkable cooking. But I do wish they’d learn to spell Excoffier’s name right.

*Note: The Food Network spells his name EXcoffier. But in the book he wrote as chef to the American Ambassador in Paris, it’s spelled Escoffier. That looks more correct, but since I’m writing about him on the Food Network, I’ll spell it the way they do, even though it looks weird.


Adam said...

I wish I saw that heated debate over the ceviche. Is it just me, or are the judges just getting more and more lame? I've seen rappers on the table, and they say stuff like "this is good..." Wow... really? A chef made a good meal? Huh?

Anyways, I'm done :)

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

ICA judges arguing about the food. Now that's cool.

Maybe with a name like Escoffier the FN thought there would be too much bias, so they spelled it incorrectly?

If there was so much contention with Flay's food, I have to wonder why he won.