Michael Smith on American Iron Chef - Was it fixed?

This post isn't going to please any American readers out there (or the members of my nuclear family - who are all currently in the US.) Thankfully this blog is based in Toronto!

There have been discussions in Taste TO, Toronto Life and the Toronto Star who felt that the results were unfair. Even American blog, Slashfood, pointed out that giving the secret ingredient of avocado to Bobby Flay, king of Southwestern cuisine, seemed dubious. Michael Thomas Hastings wrote, "It'd be like giving Morimoto seaweed or Mario Batali basil. "

I don't think he necessarily should have won the competition, but to lose by 14 points was insulting. Chef Michael Smith is a James Beard Award winner after all!! Sheryl Kirby from Taste TO rightly pointed out that Iron Chef Bobby Flaw's presentation was hideous compared to Smith, but Flay received a score of 14/15.

Smith's presentation was whimsical and charming, definitely creative. He made anchors shaped out of potato dough,

Co-judges Donatella Arpaia and Anya Fernald were humourless and didn't appreciate any of Smith's creativity. I actually had to change the channel at one point because the whole debaucle was too hard to watch and he looked miffed off!

The theory that I have developed for the injustice of the battle results is as follows. Bobby Flay is Mister America-Yankee extraordinaire. He even owns a Restaurant in NYC called Bar America. USA! USA! Bobby Flay love-in! Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!

By contract, Michael Smith is the defector, the dodge-drafter (not literally.) Although he is NY-born, he has chosen a quieter, humbler life in Canada where he lives on the ocean in PEI with his wife and son.

I think he lost because of underlying sentiments about his expatriatism. Full stop.

I'd love to hear your thoughts. Did you watch the show? Did you think the results were justified?

PS In case you're feeling bad, Chef Smith is currently involved with food logistics for the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. He'll be just fine.


  1. Being a professional chef, and Canadian, I give no quarter to Michael Smith. His presentations were not "charming" at all. His dishes had the visual appeal of a 4-star hotel restaurant in 1983.

    Perhaps more crucially though, his potions were much too large and clunky, especially given the format of Iron chef. We also live in a very globalized part of the world, the use of avocados didn't favour either of the chefs, as a professional Smith should have easily been able to come up with some killer dishes.

    To add insult to injury, Smith had the audacity to open up a can of tuna an use it in one of his dishes. Seriously? People need to stop playing their conspiracy cards. Iron Chef is known to be rigged anyways, but there is no excuse for the poorly executed fare that Smith offered.

  2. Seaweedshark, thanks so much for your well-considered comment. I have to agree with you about the portion sizes as well as the can of tuna. (I cringed when that happened and even Alton Brown had a surprised tone in his voice when the can was cracked out.)

    Since I am not a professional chef, I certainly respect your opinion.

    I'm also glad that you acknowledge to that Iron Chef is fixed in general to some degree.

    Nonetheless, I felt that their was a weird sentiment in the air. It seemed like the judges were going out of their way to trash Smith. Would you at least agree that they were extra hard on him? Or do you think it was totally deserved?

  3. I was also shocked at the outcome of the Michael Smith/Iron Chef competition. I think however, that I was mostly shocked because of my own positive opinions of Michael Smith. I mean the man is obviously talented and obviously a worthy opponent, but he obviously didn't have his game with him.

    Iron Chef is such a difficult show to watch because we can't taste the food. We can see that the dishes look delicious, and can imagine how the flavours will come together - but besides that, it's all we've really got.

    Smith's presentation was creative at times - but I questioned where his head was the moment he served the assortment of chips for his three guacamoles in the food processor containers - I mean really?

    Bobby Flay clearly massacred him in the taste component and it was obvious to the judges, but not obvious to us as we are unable to judge that portion of the competition.

    I think we all have a soft spot for the gentle gastronomic giant - but I also think it's possible for even the "hero" to have an "off" day.

  4. Lin, thanks so much for commenting. I'm glad you got the chance to catch the show too.

    You raise some great points. The food processor presentation wasn't amazing.

    I'm trying to manage my biases. I love Michael Smith and think he is competent and smart and has a great food philosophy. Maybe that is clouding my judgement to come degree.

    But still, that nagging little part of me felt that something was off about the whole thing: the avocado ingredient selection, how harsh the judges were, how much he got marked down...

  5. Maybe this is just me, but I found something about Smith's demeanour really off-putting - it seemed as if he was incredibly full of himself. Maybe it's because his shtick on Chef at Home is so laid back, but it struck me as arrogant - even though I may not even be able to articulate why - and has actually turned me a bit against him. Maybe the judges had the same reaction? It's strange too, because I've always really liked Smith.

    I do think the disparity in points was too much, though. It seemed odd that Flay's presentation was quite ordinary but he scored much higher. Of course, it's possible that I'm just biased because I was seeing someone so familiar 'up there' on TV.

  6. Jess,

    This is an interesting discussion. Obviously, I wasn't there to taste the dishes and I thought that Sabatos Jr. had some ridiculous comments but I don't think Chef Smith was treated unfairly. Everything he put out looked okay but none it made me really wish I could try it.

    I think the bigger problem is that Michael Smith should not have been on the show in the first place. When is the last time that he cooked regularly in his own restaurant kitchen? Chef Smith is a good presnter but clearly this is a matter of Food Network Canada wanting to promote one of their stable.

    Let's see some current Canadian talent like Stadtlander, Bangerter, Yarymowich, Van Gameren, David Lee, or Martin Picard in Kitchen Stadium.


  7. Joanne, you're not the first person I've heard mention that Smith's demeanor could have hurt his results. I didn't find him arrogant, but I think his long hair and unshaven face might have sent an unprofessional message. (I think that was mentioned in the Globe & Mail.)

    I keep trying to manage my baises, but it's hard :)

    David, you raise a really excellent point about why Smith was even on the show in the first place. While he does have a strong professional background, he is not a restauranteur like most competitors. (He does know about scale though- as evidenced by his involvement with the Vancouver olympics.)

    I'm 100% with you about Canadian talent though: Stadtlander, Bangerter, Yarymowich, Van Gameren, David Lee, or Martin Picard would all make excellent and highly appropriate competitors.

  8. I did not watch the show. However, I did read the post-show stories in the print media that featured Smith's reaction to his loss. He positioned the entire adventure as "fun". But I'm sure he was disappointed he lost.

  9. Thanks for commenting Christine. I hope you'll get to see the episode in syndication!

    "Fun" sounds key messagey. :) I'm sure he was disappointed too. Poor guy.

    At least he has the Olympic chaos to look forward to.