Going with the "standard" Iron Chef America format for the finale seemed fitting. We're guessing that Alton Brown got out of that tuxedo as quickly as possible once the taping was over. Just a little too "high falutin'" for AB.
Flay, Cora and Morimoto were there to observe and, ultimately, to judge. Conspicuous by his absence as Mario, and they skirted the issue by saying something like "three of the Iron Chefs" instead of "all of the Iron Chefs." (What does this all mean? Dunno.)
The editors did a good job of keeping things up in the air, but it seemed pretty clear to me that Symon's dishes were wowing the chefs more during the initial tasting. Perhaps they tried to "even it up" a bit during the discussion after the tasting.
While the finale was all well and good, it was really the journey to get to this point that was the real treat. By all accounts, the short series has been a tremendous success. Hey, if Tony Bourdain can't come up with something bad to say about you, then you know you're doing something right. For all of the pedigree that Top Chef brings to the table, the quality of the participants, the high stakes created by the ultimate reward and commitment to winnowing down the participants using nothing but the merits of the competitors has made The Next Iron Chef perhaps the most compelling food reality show to date.
When it comes to the final results, I think you're dealing with professionals of such developed skills that both are more than qualified and able to do great things in Kitchen Stadium. The dynamic that Besh and Symon would bring, however, would have been vastly different. Besh brings more of the quiet professional feel, and would certainly fit the mold of the lofty and intimidating Iron Chef that we saw on the old Japanese version of the show, and which added to its campy fun. Symon has a puckishness, an obvious joy and fun that he communicates through his comments and body language while in the kitchen. Mario Batali is probably the most entertaining Iron Chef for the same reason...because of his obvious fun and the occasional dialogue with Alton.
TVFF's Shakespearean allusion guide: Small Guy + Fun = Puckish (Symon). Big Guy + Fun = Falstaffian (Batali)
Did the "right man" win?
If it is true that we'll be getting less Batali in the future, Symon should do a fantastic job of filling is shoes (clogs?). His energy and inventiveness make him exactly the kind of person you want to see on a regular basis. Plus, he bested a fantastic set of competitors, so his chops are more than proven.