Iron Chef

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The Iron Chef is a Japanese television program produced by FujiTV. The original Japanese title is Ironmen of Cooking (料理の鉄人 Ryōri no tetsujin?).

The television show began airing on October 10, 1993 as a hour-and a-half show with preleminary contests between Chefs, then final battles. After 23 episodes, it was shortened to a one-hour format, dropping the prelmininary contests. The show ended in September 24, 1999, but had television specials until 2002. The series aired over 300 episodes.

The program has an eccentric flavor even for a game show. Its host is the flamboyant Takeshi Kaga, known on the show as Chairman Kaga (主宰?). Its extravagant production values are highlighted with well informed commentary made by two regular commentators and one guest commentator (who also serves as a judge). The commentary is enlightening and allows the viewer to see what is happening in the kitchen, and also serves as entertainment as friendly banter is shared among the four commentators.

The English name Iron Chef comes from the show itself: Kaga would use this translation of the Japanese title when summoning his chefs at the beginning of the battle.

While always a success in Japan, Iron Chef became a surprise cult favorite in the United States when it was picked up by the Food Network and dubbed in English. Much of the U.S. appeal was due to the dubbing, which gave the show a campy charm that evoked English dubbed Chinese kung fu movies of the 1970s. Audiences also found amusing some of the over-the-top culinary concoctions regularly featured on the show. In one episode devoted to asparagus, the challenger boasted that he used over $1000 worth of lobster (which he then discarded) simply to flavor his asparagus in this battle against Iron Chef Morimoto. In another episode, Iron Chef Sakai made cod soft roe ice cream (which was pronounced inedible by the panel).

Contents

[edit] Format

The story behind Iron Chef was that an eccentric gourmet authority (Chairman Kaga) had specially constructed a cooking arena called "Kitchen Stadium" in his castle where visiting chefs would compete against his Gourmet Academy, led by his three (later four) Iron Chefs. Chairman Kaga himself is a showpiece in flamboyant, heavily decorated coats and jackets.

On each show, a challenger, typically a famous chef from Japan or elsewhere, is pitted against one of the Iron Chefs (with each Iron Chef specializing in a different kind of cuisine—Japanese, Chinese, French, and later Italian). Although challengers appear to have the freedom to choose which Iron Chef they face, the matchups are determined well beforehand.

Originally, challengers vied with each other in preliminary "battles" to earn the right to face an Iron Chef in a 90-minute competition, and should a challenger win twice against Iron Chefs, the challenger would be given the title of "Honorary Iron Chef." However, this format proved unpopular, and the preliminary round was scrapped and the main contest was reduced to the more familiar 60 minutes. The awarding of honorary Iron Chef titles was also discontinued, although this was a moot point as few challengers ever defeated two Iron Chefs in separate contests. Therefore, anyone who beat an Iron Chef had to settle for, according to the English version's introduction, "...the people's ovation and fame forever."

In each episode, chefs have one hour to cook a multicourse meal around a theme ingredient that must be present in each dish. Before the actual taping, the chefs are given a short list of possible themes, allowing the producers of the show to get any ingredients that may be needed. The chefs compete to "best express the unique qualities of the theme ingredient." In rare cases, the format changed—angler fish battles were typically 75 minutes in length, and noodle battles had the Iron Chef stop after 50 minutes of cooking, only to resume after the challenger's dishes were tasted so that the noodles could be served right after cooking.

Featured ingredients tend toward the exotic and expensive. Many theme ingredients reflect the Japanese origin of the show—river eel, tofu, udon—though ingredients more familiar in the West, such as bell peppers, summer corn, peaches, are spotlighted as well. Initially, a minimum of three dishes were to be prepared, although some challengers have finished only a single dish; four is the typical number. The highest number of dishes prepared for a battle was eight, first set by challenger Kenji Kaji against Iron Chef Michiba in Battle Umeboshi. Five (later six) servings of each dish are prepared: one each for the Chairman and judges, and one for photography and presentation.

Each chef is also given two assistants, who are supposedly students of the Gourmet Academy (in reality, they are students of Hattori Nutrition College). If the challenger does not speak Japanese, students who can speak in the challenger's native language are sometimes provided. Most notably, Ron Siegel struggled with his assistants, who did not speak English.

Throughout the cook-off, running commentary is made by an announcer, a commentator, and one or two of the guest judges in a booth, with one floor reporter (sometimes two) providing details of the action in each kitchen. The commentators and judges may discuss the style of cooking, culinary traditions and unusual food preparation.

At the end of the hour, after end-of-battle interviews with both competitors, each dish is presented to the camera, with a description of its properties (written by the show's screenwriters based on the chef's explanation) read by the announcer.

Then, a panel of three (later expanded to four and, later still, five) judges, of which typically one is a professional critic, tastes the dishes and judges them based on taste, presentation, and originality. Each chef may be awarded up to 20 points by each judge, with ten given for taste and five each for presentation and originality. The chef with the plurality of judges in support (not necessarily the chef with the greatest score) wins the competition. The Chairman also tastes the dishes along with the judges, but does not provide commentary or score points, even in the event of a tie.

In the case of a deadlock (as was possible during the era of the four-judge panel), first place is awarded to the chef with the greater number of points. On the rare occasions that the scores were also tied, an immediate "overtime battle" was held to determine the winner. The chefs are given 30 minutes to prepare dishes with a different key ingredient, having to make do with what remains of their pantry or items that were previously prepared for the main battle. The overtime battles are aired as a separate episode. On one occasion, the overtime battle itself resulted in a tie, prompting Chairman Kaga to declare both the Iron Chef and challenger winners <ref>This occurred during a challenge between Iron Chef Chen Kenichi and French challenger Dominique Corby of the Tour d'Argent. In Episode #IC1C16 the two chefs reached a tie in a Foie Gras battle, and tied again in the overtime battle, Episode #IC1C17, for best asparagus dish.</ref>.

[edit] List of Iron Chefs

Image:Ironchef.jpg
The portraits of the Iron Chefs in Kitchen Stadium

These are the Iron Chefs who have appeared on the show (some have retired and have been replaced by successor Iron Chefs) along with their records (win-loss-tie) [1]:

[edit] Notable challengers

Certain challengers have made repeat appearances, or have been particularly memorable.

(Japanese names are not in the traditional Japanese style [i.e. family name first] but have been written in standard European style [i.e. family name last].)

  • Alain Passard (Episodes 204 & 297) - Three star French chef and owner of L’Arpege, located in Paris. Ties Iron Chef Koumei Nakamura in the 1997 World Cup championship and was the final challenger in Kitchen Stadium, losing to Iron Chef Hiroyuki Sakai in the finals of the "King of Iron Chefs."
  • Kazuhiko Tei (程 一彦; episode 6) - First chef to defeat an Iron Chef. The theme ingredient was octopus.
  • Tadamichi Ohta (大田 忠道; episode 110) - Leader of the "Ohta Faction" (大田軍団) of traditional Japanese chefs. The Ohta Faction regularly challenged Iron Chef Morimoto and his neo-Japanese style (episodes 248, 252, 265, 272 (win), 276+277). Ohta Faction was the name used in the translated version shown on FoodTV. In the original Japanese version shown in the U.S. and transcribed by the Iron Chef Reporter in southern California the group is called Ohta’s Party of Heaven and Earth (OPHE; 大田天地の会).
  • Kyouko Kagata (加賀田 京子; episode 21) - The first female chef to appear on the show, and the youngest chef to be victorious. Challenged Chen Kenichi. An interesting side note is that the second female challenger (episodes 42 and 65) also faced Chen. The second indirectly picked Chen because she allowed Kaga to pick for her. Chen lost to the first and second, and purportedly caught some flak from chef-friends of his. Chen fought another two female challengers in episodes 94 (Takemasa; Kandagawa's faction) and 251 (Kagata again) and won.
  • Toshiro Kandagawa (神田川 俊郎; episodes 17 (win), 60, 107, 214 (win), 301 (win)) - Regular challenger who aligned himself with the Ohta Faction and often led his army of fellow chefs and proteges into Kitchen Stadium during challenges. Kandagawa has taken part in several battles wherein he supported apprentices to battle an Iron Chef and after numerous defeats finally agreed himself to battle an Iron Chef (episodes 15, 16, 32, 40, 65, 77, 94, 119, 150, 185 (win)). Kandagawa also participated in several "battle special" episodes, including the 21st Century Battle. Rokusaburo Michiba is his main rival.
  • Bobby Flay (New York Battle and 21st Century Battle) — A well-known American chef, Flay entered into a bit of a rivalry with Iron Chef Japanese Morimoto during the show's special New York Battle. Flay complained that his side of the kitchen was poorly laid out (it was noted in an Iron Chef America "Behind the Scenes" episode that the kitchen was hastily set up in the provided forum). At one point Flay received an electric shock, transmitted by a wet floor and faulty wiring, when he grabbed a metal pan on the range. Morimoto took exception to Flay's behavior, especially when Flay stood on his cutting board at the end of the battle. Flay has said in interviews that he was asked by show producers to play up an ugly American stereotype. Morimoto won, and Flay demanded a rematch. He got his wish, and his revenge, in the 21st Century Battle in Japan. Flay is now an Iron Chef alongside Morimoto on Iron Chef America.
  • Ron Siegel (Episode 250) - Then of Charles Nob Hill in San Francisco and currently Chef of the Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton, also in San Francisco. In Battle Lobster, became the first American chef to defeat an Iron Chef (Hiroyuki Sakai).
  • Michael Noble (episode 284) - The first Canadian to appear on the program, challenging Morimoto in Battle Potato in 1999 and losing.
  • Serie A (セリエA; also known as the "Big Leaguers") - A group of Italian chefs which named itself after Italy's top football league and frequently challenged Iron Chef Italian Kobe (i.e. Mario Frittoli; episode 223, Costantino Gemmoli; episode 264, Franco Kanthoniel; episode 275). No group member ever defeated Kobe, although one member did defeat Morimoto (pasta specialist Marco Paolo Molinari in a porcini mushroom battle; episode 257).
  • Club Mistral (クラブミストラル) - A group of young specialists in French cuisine that targeted Iron Chef French Sakai in a similar fashion, although they took on Iron Chef Chinese Chen and Iron Chef French Ishinabe once each as well. Only one of them managed a win (Kazutaka Okabe (岡部 和隆) versus Sakai, in a lamb battle; episode 83) despite several attempts.
  • Dr. Yukio Hattori (服部 幸應; episodes 26, 220) - A gentlemen's agreement went on between the Chairman of Gourmet Academy (Kaga) and the President of Culinary Academy (Hattori) where the Doctor agreed to battle an Iron Chef. If he won, he would be given a spot alongside the Iron Chefs and if he lost he would keep working for Kaga. As he remained a commentator until the end of the series, one can easily deduce the outcome of that battle.
  • Female challengers include: Kyouko Kagata (加賀田 京子; episodes 21 (win), 251), Katsuyo Kobayashi (小林 カツ代; episode 42 (win)), Fuyuko Kondo (近藤 冬子; episode 64), Yoshie Urabe (卜部 吉恵; episode 65) Yoshiko Takemasa (武政 佳子; episode 94), Katsuko Nanao (七尾 かつ子; episode 130) Jillian Harst (Australian; episode 182), Kumiko Kobayashi (小林 久美子; episode 233), Miyoko Sakai (酒井 美代子; episode 241) and Gyokubun Sai (崔 玉芬; episode 273 (win)), Meisyuku Ri, currently known as Myungsook Lee (李 明淑; episode 78; defeated by Chen).

[edit] Notable judges

Diehard fans note that a given show will be greatly influenced by the lineup of judges, which changes from show to show. A list of some of the more memorable judges includes:

(These names are not in the traditional Japanese style [i.e. family name first] but have been written in standard European style [i.e. family name last].)

[edit] Show staff

[edit] Broadcast history

The stage setting for the show, "Kitchen Stadium" (キッチンスタジアム), the high-quality (and sometimes very expensive) ingredients used in the cooking battles, and Kaga's extravagant costumes required the show to have a budget far higher than that of most other cooking shows. Some statistics: 893 portions of foie gras, 54 sea breams, 827 Ise shrimp, 964 matsutake mushrooms, 4,593 eggs, 1,489 truffles, 4,651 grams of caviar, and 84 pieces of shark fin were used during the show, bringing the total grocery bill to ¥843,354,407 (or about $7,115,520). One of the most expensive battles was Battle Swallow's Nest, which ran over $40,000 solely for that ingredient, not counting large quantities of shark's fin; for the battle, the producers were permitted to return any unused portions to Hattori Nutrition College.

For the show's grand finale, the Iron Chefs faced off against each other with the winner to face French chef Alain Passard, owner of Michelin three-star restaurant L’Arpege, with the winner dubbed the "King of Iron Chefs".

In the first round Iron Chef French Sakai defeated Iron Chef Japanese Morimoto in Battle Bell Pepper. The other first round match saw Iron Chef Chinese Chen defeat Iron Chef Italian Kobe in Battle Pork. In the semi-final match, Sakai defeated Chen in Battle Homard Lobster.

In the final match in Kitchen Stadium, with all of the current and previous Iron Chefs looking on, Iron Chef French Sakai defeated Alain Passard in Battle Ronkonkai Chicken. Thus, Hiroyuki Sakai was dubbed "King of Iron Chefs."

There were two reunion specials produced in 2000. The first was "The Millennium Special"; the second was "New York Special", staged in a makeshift Kitchen Stadium in New York City, and was the first appearance of Bobby Flay. Another reunion episode of the show (entitled "Iron Chef: 21st Century Battle") was produced and broadcast in 2001. A final reunion episode was produced and broadcast in 2002, entitled "The Japan Cup".

The show is presented in the United States and Canada on the Food Network, and previously on SBS TV in Australia (until 2006), dubbed and/or subtitled into English. It was also broadcast on Challenge in the UK in 2003 and 2004, as part of its "Japanese Christmas Cracker" and "Japanorama" strands and is also currently being broadcasted on the Finnish channel SubTV. In the case of SBS this is unusual as the network has a policy favouring in house subtitling. It may be felt that the tone given to the show by its American dub is essential to its charms, heightened perhaps by the fact that in most episodes, the flamboyant Chairman is subtitled instead of dubbed.

Many fans were disappointed when Iron Chef went off the air, and there have been petitions to have Iron Chef released on DVD[2].

[edit] 10 Best Dishes

(These dishes were picked by Chairman Kaga as the 10 Best Dishes out of about 14,000 during the course of the show)

  • Foie Gras Kanpon (Iron Chef Rokusaburo Michiba)
  • Thinly Sliced Sea Bream with Smoked Organs (Challenger Toshio Tanabe)
  • Roti of Homard with Vanilla Lindenbaum Flavoring (Challenger Pierre Gagnaire)
  • Cocotte of Bacon and Country-Style Cabbage (Challenger Philippe Baton)
  • Ayu and Watermelon Mousse (Iron Chef Chen Kenichi)
  • Yellowtail with Daikon Radish (Challenger Fumiaki Sato)
  • Chinese Cabbage with Mustard (Challenger Sai Gyokubun)
  • Roasted Duck Stuffed with Foie Gras (Challenger Dominique Corby)
  • Homard Steamed with Seaweed (Iron Chef Hiroyuki Sakai)
  • Ronkonkai Chicken à la Dragée (Challenger Alain Passard)

[edit] Iron Chef in pop culture

Because of its success, Iron Chef has been referenced or parodied in various media. Some of them are:

  • Blood Bowl: In the LRB 5.0 version of the game rules, a famous Blood Bowl team of Halfling players is named "The Iron Chefs". The team features members such as team captain Chins Caneatcheese (real life: Chen Kenichi) and head coach Kaga Sakisushi (real life: Takeshi Kaga).
  • Breath of Fire III: During an event of the game, to proceed further, the party requires a certain sushi-like recipie, from a popular chef. His theme song is called "Iron Chef Theme" and it plays once his spirits are revived.
  • Ceres, Celestial Legend (Ayashi no Ceres): In episode 4, in Yuhi's room, there is a painting of Rokusaburo Michiba, the first Japanese Iron Chef.
  • Escape From Monkey Island: Guybrush Threepwood visits a restaurant which has pictures of a Stainless Steel Chef, Copper Chef and a Tin Chef and comments that it seems like one is missing.
  • Fig Jam: As song by Butterfingers makes direct reference to the Iron Chef
  • Futurama: In the episode "The 30% Iron Chef", Bender challenges his idol Elzar (himself a parody of Emeril Lagasse), to a cook-off on the show "Iron Cook". The theme ingredient is Soylent Green.
  • Genshiken: The Japanese anime/manga series Genshiken features the "fake" anime/manga series Kujibiki Unbalance. In the case of the Genshiken anime, "Kujibiki Unbalance" was developed into an actual 3-volume OVA which is distributed with the anime DVDs. Episode 1 of this "series-within-a-series" features an Iron-Chef style cooking battle, in which two teams of 4 members each have 1 hour to prepare dishes that use a specified (theme) ingredient, in this case mushrooms. (The caveat being that a wide variety of mushrooms were available to choose from, including several poisonous varieties, and it was up to the teams to figure out which ones are poisonous).
  • God of Cookery, a comedy by Stephen Chow, is partly a spoof of Iron Chef.
  • Good Eats: Host Alton Brown (also a commentator in Iron Chef America) parodied Iron Chef and Scrapheap Challenge/Junkyard Wars with a skit called "Scrap Iron Chef."
  • Iron Wok Jan: A Japanese manga wherein the grandson of a famous chef barges into the culinary scene with his flapping mouth and sarcastic wit. In the series, he challenges many chefs, sometimes in elaborate cooking battles, à la Iron Chef.
  • Kanton Stir-Fry Sauce Advertisement: Australia, 2006. In a television ad that was obviously a take on Iron Chef, there was a cooking competition, an Asian cast, outrageous costumes, and a frenetic pace and commentary. The "challenger" used a commercial sauce (Kanton Stir-Fry Sauce), causing outrage on the show, but the judges voted for his meal. The "challenger", was calm and had time to spare, in marked contrast the other cook who was tense and bothered, a-la Iron Chef.
  • Keroro Gunsou: In Episode 72, Keroro and co. battle to determine who gets to take over Earth. Despite using the finest of ingredients from all over the galaxy, Keroro's dishes come out looking and tasting utterly repulsive.
  • King of the Hill: Bobby Hill, of the Hill family, is an avid fan of Iron Chef.
  • Looney Tunes: Daffy Duck does a parody of Iron Chef called Aluminum Chef.
  • Lizzie McGuire: In the episode Clue-Less in which the characters participated a 1920's murder-mystery party the title character's father (playing the dead man) said "If you'll excuse me I'm going to watch TV...There's no reason a corpse can't watch Iron Chef".
  • Magic Kitchen: A Hong Kong film featuring an Iron Chef-like TV show as a central theme.
  • Matantei Loki Ragnarok: In Episode 17 are have contest look like Iron Chef
  • The Order of the Stick, Origin of PCs: Vaarsuvius' back story contains his appearance on Iron Mage, a magical challenge with very similar rules to Iron Chef. He battles Iron Mage Conjuration, Hiran Sinkeye, the signature ingredient is bat guano and he is disqualified for blowing up the stadium.
  • Ranma ½: Ranma, a popular Japanese anime featuring a boy (Ranma Saotome) who turns into a girl when cold water is splashed on him, has referenced Iron Chef on more than one occasion. There are many unusal "martial arts" on the show, of which cooking is one. Ranma: "Who do you think you are, an Iron Chef?"
  • Saturday Night Live: A skit which spoofed the "Iron Chef". The battle featured "American Bachelor Chef" as the challenger creating food from the main ingredient – Shark Heads. This episode obviously pokes fun at the Shark Fin episode considering that most Americans do not eat any form of shark on a regular basis. The challenger won the battle, for comedy value, with the main dish of Shark Head Pizza, which he claimed "gets all the chicks" back home. Also of note is the reference to the rare gourmet delicacy, eel farts<ref>http://snltranscripts.jt.org/00/00iironchef.phtml</ref>.
  • Scrubs: In episode 1.20, after establishing that J.D. is his "beeyotch", Turk instructs him to "sit back, baby, 'cause 'Iron Chef' is on".
  • Slayers Next: In episode 7, Lina describes a dish with the phrase, "If memory serves me right..." a reference to the Chairman's opening dialogue at the beginning of each episode. In episode 15, Xelloss competes in an Iron Chef-like cook-off, for his challenge, in order to avoid being changed into a doll.
  • The Soup, on E!, has a running gag where clips of 'Iron Chef America' are shown with host Mark Dacascos yelling out the secret ingredient and the host and crew laughing at it.
  • Star Ocean: The Second Story: There is a mini-game that is a cooking competition, in which you compete with other chefs and eventually the master chef himself.
  • Suikoden II: As one of the 108 star heroes, there is a Chinese chef who runs a restaurant in your castle and fights back assassin cooks who were sent by his previous secret chef clan, the fight goes exactly like the "Iron Chef".
  • Tenchi Muyo!: In the manga collection "Chef of Iron", Sasami competes on the TV show, "Ferrous Chef". In one strip of the Tenchi Heaven Forbid! Great series, reprinted in Tenchi Muyo! Sasami Stories, Sasami challenges Iron Chef Sakai to Battle Pookians from Alpha Centauri. Also, in the Tenchi in Tokyo episode, "Old Friends", Ryoko does her impression of Chairman Kaga (complete with a cape) while unveiling to Mihoshi and Kiyone the secret ingredient, which is a dinosaur.
  • The War at Home: Larry asks his father if his insane Aunt Shelly ever had weird thoughts like, if she was on Iron Chef and she suddenly didn't know how to cook. (Episode 15; Looney Tunes)
  • Warcraft III: The Troll Witch Doctor when angered by the player starts a short skit as follows: "Fukui-san!" "Yes, go ahead." "What the Iron Troll is doing right now is putting heads in a pot. They have to boil for 20 minutes so the eyes can be used in a second dish, an eye and raspberry sorbet." "Mmmm, Sounds good!"
  • The Wrong Coast: Hiroyuki Sakai is shown in the skit "Seabisque" (a parody of Seabiscuit) faced off against Tobey Maguire in a Lobster Bisque battle, in which Sakai chops off his hand cutting cucumbers.

[edit] Related shows

The U.S. UPN network presented two one-hour episodes of Iron Chef USA hosted by William Shatner around Christmas 2001. These shows were neither a critical nor popular success, perhaps because the show focused little on cooking—a major part of the Japanese program. The show had a small audience section with bleachers, and the audience yelled relentlessly during the show (sounding much like a sports audience). Shatner walked around the kitchen sampling the more expensive items, the chefs refused to say what they were doing, and the cameras rarely showed the food preparation.

In 2004, Food Network announced that they would show an Iron Chef special, called "Iron Chef America: Battle of the Masters", featuring Sakai and Morimoto dueling with American Iron Chefs Bobby Flay, Mario Batali, and Wolfgang Puck, all Food Network personalities and renowned American celebrity chefs. (Morimoto and Flay battled in two previous Iron Chef specials that were made after the original series aired.) The specials featured Alton Brown as the announcer and Mark Dacascos playing the role of The Chairman. Even though both Todd English and Kerry Simon from Iron Chef USA have competed on Iron Chef America, there has been no mention of their ICU tenure.

The show received high ratings and rave reviews and in October 2004, Food Network began taping weekly episodes that premiered starting in January 2005. Some changes were made to the show, most notably replacing Puck with Morimoto as an Iron Chef (and a fourth, Cat Cora, was added later), and the location was moved from Los Angeles to New York City.

[edit] Footnotes

<references />

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

ja:料理の鉄人 fi:Iron Chef sv:Iron Chef zh:鐵人料理

Iron Chef

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