Monday, October 11, 2010

Round 2

Tonight, we look forward to the second episode of Season 3 of "The Next Iron Chef." Prediction: Ming Tsai will survive Round 2. Beyond that, I really can't say.

I always feel sorry for the person eliminated in Round 1 of any of these competitions. All it takes is a single bad hair day, and you're gone, without any chance to demonstrate that you're a better chef than a single round can demonstrate. If I were designing this competition, I think I'd rather do several rounds of point-accumulation first, after which, say, the lower third or fourth of the competitors would be eliminated. After that, single-elimination competition would seem appropriate, since we'd now have a better idea of who was consistently top-tier material.

One might respond that the ten chefs who make it onto "The Next Iron Chef" have already proved their mettle through years of achievement in their own respective culinary areas and styles, thereby obviating the need for a series of point-accumulation rounds. Still, I'd submit that no chef, however skillful, is perfect, so it seems unfair to start cutting chefs so ruthlessly from the very beginning, after a single bad performance. Witness what happens in an actual Iron Chef battle: each chef must prepare five different dishes; they can't be eliminated based on the demerits of a single dish. Instead, the judges have a chance to evaluate the trajectory of each chef's cooking, and to rate them on their overall performance. Consistency matters, which is why each chef prepares more than one dish; unfortunately, consistency is precisely what can't be tracked in a single-elimination challenge.

But as the expression goes, it is what it is, and "The Next Iron Chef" is, like it or not, a single-elimination challenge. If nothing else, the precariousness of every chef's status makes for interesting viewing. You never know who's going to stumble and get the boot. All I can say is... it won't be Ming Tsai tonight.


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