I've been watching Iron Chef for 10 years, dating back to the days before it was picked up (and dubbed) by The Food Network. In its first incarnation, it was a Pure Good.
Iron Chef America didn't start out quite as well - but it has slowly gathered steam, borrowing a bit of the camp that made the dubbed Iron Chef so much fun and combining it with some genuinely good cooking and drama.
Admit it, too - you have to love the goofy expressions 'the Chairman' brings to the secret ingredient reveal each week.
So it was with some curiosity that we began to watch "The Next Iron Chef" show back in September, mostly because a chef I admire was part of the show.
Cleveland's own Michael Symon, chef at Lola and Lolita (read the Zagat review), is a mensch. His food is as distinctive and ebullient as he is; if you caught a sight of him on the No Reservations show, you've heard his maniacal laugh, seen his tattoos, and watched jaded Tony Bourdain gush over his food. Read this interview with him and you'll get a feel for what it is that makes him tick.
When 'the Chairman' revealed Symon's portrait on the finale last night, I hooted and did a little dance. Even my wife, a fan of pretty-boy John Besh, was forced to admit that on that night, for those five dishes, Symon showed what it took to win.
Iron Chef is about personalities and alchemy; you expect your Iron Chefs to be a little bigger than life. Michael Symon will do very, very well.
Sometimes the good guy does win.
Now I want to see Michiba sensei float in for some Rosanjin school cooking, just for contrast.