I realize this first aired sometime in 2004, but I saw the majority of it last night on FN. For those that haven't seen it, the battle secret ingredient was Spiny Lobster.
Anyways, it was a wonderful battle to watch. My only problem was I was appalled at the members of the judging panel! Not completely, but 2 out of three. The panel was Kerry Simon, Melinda Clarke, and John O'Hurley. Kerry is the only one with any real culinary background that would qualify in my opinion as being worth to judge such a competition. He was in a battle himself with IC Cat Cora, and I believe he won. Sadly, with the knowledge and experience he has, he certainly didn't portray it. Had I not done research on him, I would not have thought that he was so well versed in culinary arts based on his judgment comments.
As for Melinda Clarke, if the information I find on her is accurate, she has less than no culinary experience, and IMHO had no business judging any battle on ICA, let alone a battle between two of the ICs. She's and actress and trained soprano. How that makes you a culinary expert, I don't know. Her acting isn't very good I guess since she couldn't act like she knew what she was talking about. She did try, but it was obvious that anything beyond the basic taste and presentation, she was clueless.
Then with John O'Hurley, he should stick to his roots of being a self taught pianist and classically trained vocalist. The closest he comes to culinary arts is being an owner of a large part of a restaurant chain (not sure which). Otherwise, he's an actor. He should stick to his singing, acting, and Progressive Insurance commercials as I didn't think his comments were worthwhile on the show either.
I am surprised they did not get the high caliber judges, particularly Jeffrey Steingarten. At a minimum, in a battle of this caliber, he should have been involved. Also, perhaps the likes of Chris Cognac or Ted Allen, or maybe Karine Bakhoum. There have been far more educated culinary experts to judge such a battle on the show then the three chosen. Frankly I am disappointed. Very disappointed. In a standard battle, maybe not so much. A battle between the ICs, very disappointed!
All that aside, it was a great battle! Very educational and informative, and enjoyable to watch!