Last Night at Lolita: A Word with Next Iron Chef Judge Michael Ruhlman

Last night was again standing room only at Lolita’s for the latest viewing of The Next Iron Chef. As Michael Symon advanced to the finals, the whole restaurant raised glasses to the embarrassed chef. The crowd also had a surprise visitor: Michael Ruhlman, Cleveland native, culinary expert, and Iron Chef judge. Ruhlman, clad in a suede jacket, gnawed on pizza as he watched himself on screen. He seemed to find his own words quite insightful. Afterward, C-Notes chatted with him about the night’s episode, where the three remaining chefs had to prepare American-inspired foods for a group of dignitaries in France. Ruhlman informed us -- in a hush-hush tone -- that the French are as stuck up as we presume them to be. “They’re very arrogant,” he admits, but added that given their culinary contributions to the world, “they have reason to be.” Ruhlman also said he foretold the final title fight between Symon and Besh by the third day of shooting. “It was inevitable.” They’re cooking was “heads up above everyone else’s. All of us thought that.” He also warns viewers against believing in the whole “home field advantage thing.” The fact that both he and Symon are from Cleveland actually hurt the Lola chef. Because of their prior relationship, Ruhlman says he was extra hard on his fellow Clevelander. “I was worried” about being perceived as too pro-Symon, Ruhlman says. As a result, “It probably hurt him,” Ruhlman admits. When we asked Ruhlman to spill the beans about next week’s episode, he replied “no comment” -- with a sly smile. – Rebecca Meiser