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‘Journalist’ Flubs Up Attack On Iron Chef America


iron chef Like Christopher Columbus Robert Sietsema of the Village Voice has discovered something millions of people already knew about – that TV shows aren’t always what they seem.


Sietsema had the good fortune to watch a taping of Iron Chef America and once he saw what television was all about he attacked with the vengeance of a child who just discovered there isn’t a Santa Claus. And he does it in such a mean spirited way that if you didn’t know better you’d think he was actually on to something.

But he isn’t.

What isn’t clear is whether this food critic toying with investigative journalism is is trying to whip up a sensationalist piece hoping his readers are as equally uninformed or he’s just the worst researcher on the planet.

Additionally a large part of Sietsema’s issues with the production of Iron Chef seem to be a knee jerk reaction to learning for the first time how television shows are made. For example the audience is smaller than he thought but crafted and edited to look large (like SNL, Letterman, Leno, poorly attended sporting events, etc) and stars that are not going to be part of the particular episode don’t show up to be taped. That obvious bit of reality so effected the now disillusioned Sietsema (who apparently never heard of stuntmen or stand-ins) that it brought him to the absolute low point of his article at which for no good reason he levels personal insults about the physique of the poor staff member just doing his job standing in for Mario Batali. It was mean spirited and without cause, Sietsema would do well to learn the difference between insulting an inanimate piece of food as he does as a food critic and completely unnecessary personal insults directed at human beings. For this and other personal remarks he owes staff members of Iron Chef a huge and humble apology.

I’ll try not to waste too much time on this but suffice it to say that pretty much every allegation of pseudo-substance made by Sietsema has been well discussed by the Food Network themselves in their self produced special Food Network Unwrapped 2.

A summary of which can be found on Wikipedia

Several of the secrets to how the show is taped were revealed in an episode of Unwrapped entitled “Food Network Unwrapped 2.” It was stated that the chefs find out what the secret ingredient is about 15 minutes before the battle begins because the opening sequence is recorded many times. It is only the final taping of this sequence where the words “Allez cuisine” are said and the battle begins. Moreover, at the end of the one-hour battle, the chefs must still prepare 4 plates of each of their 5 dishes for the judges and the chairman. This is done during a 45-minute period after the battle ends and before tasting begins. They consider this to be part of the competition, and it is timed, but it is not recorded or shown to the viewers. The plates which the audience sees prepared during the one-hour battle are the plates used to obtain close-up footage of the dish for use in the final episode. Usually, on taping days, two different battles will be taped, one beginning at about 10 a.m. and the second at about 4 p.m. A Food Network crew has about 90 minutes between each show to clean the set and prepare for the second show.

Chefs provide the producers with shopping lists for each of the possible secret ingredients. Consequently, they can surmise what the secret ingredient will be just before it is officially revealed, based on which of their items was purchased.

So while it is true there is no Santa Claus, you have to feel a little sorry for the last kid in class to figure that out.

That is until he gets nasty about it.

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  • Chas J said:

    I totally agree with you on this one. I don’t know what Sietsema thinks is so scandalous. Though I missed the Unwrapped episode about Iron Chef America, I was able to figure out on my own what he thinks of as “deception” just by watching the show. For instance, anyone who watches the show SHOULD notice that before judging, only one portion of each dish is shown being plated. I always thought it obvious there was a second round of food preparation. I hope nobody tells Sietsema there is no Easter Bunny or Tooth Fairy. He’d be forced to debunk both the grand tradition of Easter egg hunts, as well as “ripping the lid off” of the whole dentistry industry. I think that is just too much social responsibility for one person. Maybe we should help him out; let’s write book titled “Roberto Quijote Charges the Peppermill- and Other Foodtastrophies that Never Really Happened”. We could take the proceeds from the book to send him to culinary school. That way, next time he ends up with egg on his face, he’ll at least know what to do with it in 60 minutes or less….

  • chowhound (author) said:

    What I found amazing was how many sites picked it up as a legitimate expose without doing a smidge of investigation like say googling the name of the show or looking it up in wikipedia.

  • Beltbuckle said:

    Did he really think all that was done in an hour? What an idiot!!! I am and RTV major and have produced my own cooking show and know how many turmoils can happen in taping. This guy is a “critic” the people we love to hate. Sorry his dream was shattered of the whole experience. Oh, by the way, Star Wars…..never happened.

  • lisa kane said:

    why was robert irvine fired. the food he made looked really good. why don’t
    the people at food network just renew his contract for a couple of more seasons.
    i loved his show. i just think it was a mistake to fire the guy. from lisa kane
    a faithful viewer.

  • Steve J said:

    Funny you mentioned the “Santa Claus” thing because when I read that whiny ‘article,’ my first thought was, “How long did this person cry when they found out the Easter Bunny/whatnot didn’t exist?” 😉 It was SUCH a ridiculous waste of typing and, like you mentioned, most of that stuff was ALREADY KNOWN…like they were revealing some incredible secret or something. It really was a childish rant (that went on WAY too long).

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