Taking the Rules Seriously – Critical Moments

by in Shows, November 26th, 2012

Chefs Vigneron and Mendelsohn with Alton BrownI am not sure that any chef would be pleased to be informed that they had to produce a meal almost entirely from the contents of a can. But if you want to become The Next Iron Chef, those are exactly the sort of obstacles that you have to overcome.

Chef Falkner’s mystery can contained a substance as far removed from USDA prime beef as I am from Brad Pitt. Despite this, she astounded everyone at the judging plinth by producing a dish so fine that it would have been acceptable in some of the best restaurants on the planet. It really was that good.

Chefs Mendelsohn and Vigneron, however, were far less successful. Chef Mendelsohn’s dish lacked balance, while the salt levels in Chef Vigneron’s dish drew the words “inedible” from all three judges and Alton Brown. It made it pretty obvious that these two high school friends would be competing against each other in the Secret Ingredient Showdown.

I felt that their decision to plate and present their lobster dishes on the same plate was slightly silly and a little bit disrespectful to both the competition and the other chefs. I would have been quite happy to grant them their wish of being judged together and send them both packing. In the end, however, all the judges decided that even if these two chefs did not take the rules seriously, we had to.

Going on that basis, Chef Vigneron’s ability to combine seafood and fruit without making me want to retch meant that he got my vote ahead of Chef Mendelsohn’s nourishing and well-made Malaysian Lobster Laksa, if only by a very small margin.

So Chef Mendelsohn was the latest chef to hear the words from Alton, “I am sorry, but you will not be The Next Iron Chef.” Chef Vigneron may never know just how close he was to joining him.

What did you think of the episode? Tell me in the comments below.

Relive the episode and take a look at an extended preview of next week’s episode below (click the play button):

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Comments (141)

  1. FanFare59 says:

    This is merely a cooking contest. Alton Brown is merely a game show host, NOT the 4th judge. His over blown opinions are not germain to the outcome and should carry no weight (nor should be made). All of the judges have an over inflated sense of self and should realize that they could be easily replaced by anyone. The players wouldn't care and the audience wouldn't notice. So, you all need to get over yourselves.

  2. Sherry says:

    Is there a specific rule that says each person must plate independently? If not, then no, they didn't break any rules. They are making a big deal about it to create drama. If they had broken the rules they would have eliminated both of them or told them when he said "do you want to plate together" that they couldn't do it. I am 99% convinced they did a "redemption" show just so they could get Guarnaschelli back on there and make her an Iron Chef. The other chef's don't stand a chance – not because they aren't as good or even better, but because the winner is already set. This season is BS.

  3. Jenn says:

    I personally don't see what the big deal is. I didn't think they're wanting to plate together was at all juvenile, silly or foolish. When I saw Vignerone and Mendelsohn plating together, I was excited- it was a move I had never seen before on Next Iron Chef and I didn't see it as them trying to be disrespectful. I saw it more as… they weren't afraid to try something new, to try and bend the rules a little. I'm a firm believer that, in like (some) rules are meant to be broken. If there's nothing in the rules of the competition that states that two competitors cannot plate together, then they didn't do anything wrong. The judges may have not liked what they did, but they didn't break any rules.

    In the end though, I think that with the decision to plate together, they should have chosen to win together or go home together, and that's what I thought the game plan was, until they were asked and Vigneron said that he didn't want to be judged in that way. Oh well, what is done is done and maybe the network heads will edit the rules as a result of this episode.

    I'm rooting for Falkner. I rooted for her last time, so I'm hoping she'll will this time, although I have a feeling Guarnechelli will win. I don't want her to (sorry Alex!), but I have a feeling she will.

  4. Shannon says:

    Oh where are the days of Jeffery Steingarten as a judge for this show. He was the only judge who did not play favorites and he was completely and brutally honest. He had no hidden agendas, had no favorites and did not care if you were an Iron Chef or not. He judged the food on the basis of the food and for no other reason. That is what is lacking here. I think the judges have preconceived notions and that's not fair.

  5. Kit says:

    I'm thinking this show is pulling in much lower ratings than last year…judging by the amount of comments this time. Several thought it was rigged and (I think) lost quite a bit of creditably (IMO.) Last time comments were almost ongoing and constant. Could it be fizzling out?

    • Jaycee in WA State says:

      Kit I actually agree with you. When I came here on Monday I was shocked at the low amount of comments. Last NIC these boards were screaming hot with a vast amount more than for this time around. I also happen to think that the avid FN fan has been turned off by NFNS that ran after NIC. Both really had issues. Maybe people are doing what they said they would do…just change the channel.

      Food Network. Pay attention.

      • Latest Episode says:

        There's a lot of competition even on one network. I used to try to catch Cupcake Wars but after 5, 6 seasons it's been replaced. Not that the show didn't have a fan base sometimes you just need to change things up after a while. CW is one of the best FN shows ever!

    • FanFare59 says:

      I agree with your assessment. The concept is weak if there is a Next Iron Chef contest every season. How difficult is it to enter? Just look at the current crop of mediocre cooks for this supposed "Redemption" version. 2 of the cooks weren't even previously on NIC! I think this season is watered down and luke warm. FN continues to churn out the same tired retreads of ideas (DDD all the day) with the same bored judges (who probably have palate fatigue) with the same repugnant host (AB), some viewers probably no longer care who wins.

  6. Michael Burke says:

    "Lighten up, Francis!" This is not some centuries old ritual, they are not choosing the next Pope. The final winner will be cooking for a Chairman overdubbed with martial arts sound effects (all that's missing are the 1960's Batman "Zowie" blurbs). When you judge on Presentation, it's supposed to mean the plate, not the chef

    • Latest Episode says:

      Speaking of the chairman where has he been this season? It seems like the past couple seasons there is less and less of his presence. He's more like a third person now.

      • FanFare59 says:

        You're right. "the Chairman" (who is a paid actor) has been seldom seen except on a very large screen (ala "1984" Orwellian style).

  7. Mommas56 says:

    this was wrong they played you all for fools there is no integrety now how sad these two guys ruined it for me

  8. tel4him says:

    Personally, I think if they wanted to plate together, they should have sunk or swum together. Either they both stayed or they both left. They acted like a couple of frat boys, they should have been treated as such.

    • Latest Episode says:

      If they both swum together there would have been no one to eliminate. I think they did it to make a stand out point–they're good friends. One had to go home, part of the show.

    • Jules in WA State says:

      I agree with this. I get that it is only a Food Network competition, but if they are there, they should take it seriously. The smirks and side comments showed that they weren't serious. One goes down, they both go down.

  9. pearljam77 says:

    My god!!! You guys are sucking all of the fun out of the show! I loved that Chef Mendelsohn and Vigneron thought to do something different to shake things up a bit! Bravo to the Chefs for thinking outside of the box. They both cooked their own great dishes that gave the judges something to think about. This is just entertainment not world politics… relax!!!!

  10. VWOttawa says:

    Note to commenters: there is no category for "personality" or "humility" for the judges to go by.

    The Iron Chef franchise is notorious for producing an inordinate share of WTF Moments (sardine ice cream, cheese on fire, knife to wipe sweat, etc.) TNIC really hasn't had a genuine WTF Moment since Aaron Sanchez tried to argue with AB for failing to complete his plating on time.
    Until now.
    Like others, I think the idea of "separate presentations" was a *convention,* not an actual rule. What few people seem to realize is that dishes prepared by different chefs have the potential to "clash" with each other, a point that Marcel seemed to realize only belatedly once Alton pointed out that the order of consumption actually mattered.
    By the way, I would not be surprised if a future episode of ICA featured an adaptation of this idea: that one of the five dishes be a collaborative effort. That would be a challenge, particularly if the chefs had never met before.

    • FanFare59 says:

      Yes, I can see this as becoming a future challenge: "Chefs will pair up and plate together but preprare their own individual dishes". The bad boys may have started a trend… Hahaha…

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