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Allez Cuisine!
December 22, 2013 5:39 AM   Subscribe

"Tell me what you eat, and I'll tell you what you are." -- Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

Background
Twenty years ago, a man's fantasy became a reality….

In 1993, "Ironmen of Cooking" (料理の鉄人 Ryōri no Tetsujin) premiered on Fuji Television.
A stylized cook-off, the show featured guest chefs challenging one of the show's resident "Iron Chefs" in a timed cooking battle built around a specific theme ingredient. While always a success in Japan [it ran for six years on Fuji TV, ending in 1999], Iron Chef became a surprise cult favorite in America when it was picked up by the Food Network and dubbed in English. Part 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.
"Imagine Julia Child joining the WWF and moving to Asia…." — Matt Riggsby describes Iron Chef in Pyramid Magazine (2001)

The Iron Chefs
Each Iron Chef is classed according to cuisine specialty, and is presented to the viewers as a warrior defending that cuisine's honor from the challenger.
Iron Chefs Japanese: Roksaburu MIchiba (道場 六三郎), Koumei Nakamura (中村 孝明), Masaharu Morimoto ((森本 正治) and Jun Kurogi (黒木純)
Iron Chefs French: Yutaka Ishinabe (石鍋), Hiroyuki Sakai (坂井 宏行) and Yōsuke Suga (須賀 洋介)
Iron Chefs Chinese: Chen Kenichi ((陳 建) and Yuji Wakiya (脇屋 友詞)
Iron Chef Italian: Masahiko Kobe (神戸 勝彦)

The Chairman
Takeshi Kaga (鹿賀 丈史) is an actor who, among other stage and screen roles, played Jesus Christ in Japanese stage productions of Jesus Christ Superstar (1976), and Jean Valjean in Les Miserables in 1987. You can hear him in 'Who Am I?' and at the beginning of 'One Day More' on the official soundtrack. He was also one of the 17 Valjeans singing "Do You Hear The People Sing" during the 10th anniversary concert in London. He's also done commercials for Nissan. As Chairman Kaga on Iron Chef, he's fun, flamboyantly over-the-top and a total ham.

"It's easy to get caught up in the dramatic lighting, editing, and sound effects. And then you remember you're watching a cooking show." -- TV Tropes

Battle Rules / Show Format
At the top of each show, Chairman Kaga unveils the theme ingredient. Each Chef has one hour to prepare a multi-course meal and each dish they create must utilize that ingredient. Once the dishes are prepared, a panel of guest judges determines "which chef best expresses the unique qualities of the theme ingredient." In the event of a tie, the Chairman casts the deciding vote. Challengers who beat an Iron Chef win "the people's ovation and fame forever." The average number of different dishes chefs create in an hour is four, and depending on the number of judges, five or six servings are prepared from each dish: one for each of the judges, one for Chairman Kaga and another for photography.

Before the actual taping, the chefs are given a short list of possible themes, allowing the producers of the show to obtain any ingredients that may be needed.

Throughout the show, running commentary is provided by announcer Kenji Fukui, who talks about various ingredients, the chefs and the finished dishes -- usually peppered with sports metaphors. He is joined by Yukio Hattori, principal of Hattori Nutrition College as well as one or two of the guest judges. There is also a floor reporter who provides additional details and brief quotes from (and interviews with) the challenger and iron chef.
Aside from "Allez Cuisine" the phrase most often associated with Iron Chef is "Fukui-san!". "Uttered by floor reporter Shinichiro Ohta, it was usually followed with an enthusiastic "GO!" by Fukui. And go Ohta did. Like a three year old on Red Bull, Ohta would quickly rattle off the laundry list of ingredients in a dish and follow it up with a humorous anecdote about the Iron Chef's attitude or errors. You got the feeling that the hardest working person in the room wasn't the chef who had to create a culinary feast within an hour but Ohta who, in the same hour, managed to find time to keep up with 50 ingredients in 10 dishes while still having long philosophical conversations with the contestants."
Disclaimer
Some may find certain scenes in these shows disturbing: Some ingredients, including Octopus, Eel, Lobster and others, are not killed prior to cooking by the chefs. Other ingredients may be subject to rough handling, or blood may be visible during preparation.


Whose Cuisine Reigns Supreme?

Battles, Organized by Theme Ingredient and Food Type
There were 309 battles in all including specials. 175 are currently available on YouTube. Unless otherwise indicated, each is dubbed in English. Most episodes are an 45 minutes to an hour long.

Dairy
* Milk (Iron Chef Chen vs. Masahiko Miyamoto) This is the first battle with a liquid ingredient.
* Yogurt (Iron Chef Chen vs. Junichi Ito) Watch for: Chen's "Oh Crap" expression when they announce the ingredient. Yogurt is not typically used in Chinese cuisine, so Chen doesn't have a lot of experience working with it. He spends the entire battle stressed out and irritated, while his challenger appears calm and relaxed. Guess who wins?

Fowl
* Chicken (Iron Chef Ishinabe vs. Jacques Borie)
* Duck (Iron Chef Sakai vs. Masatoshi Kimura)
* Duck II (Iron Chef Sakai vs. Mitsuo Hazama)
* Egg (Iron Chef Michiba vs. Zhijian Wang)
* Egg II (Iron Chef Nakamura vs. Toyoaki Suanuma)
* Egg, Chinese 100 Year-Old (Iron Chef Chen vs. Masao Takagi)
* Foie Gras (Iron Chef Nakamura vs. Kiyoshi Suzuki) Nakamura's debut
* Foie Gras II (Iron Chef Chen vs. Dominique Corby) There was an overtime battle afterward: Battle Asparagus
* Guinea Fowl (Iron Chef Sakai vs. Tomoji Ichikawa) Watch for: Chairman Kaga's completely serious description of the challenger, whom he praises with "excels at using Wedgewood."
* Ostrich (Iron Chef Nakamura vs. Gillian Hearst)
* Quail (Iron Chef Sakai vs. Seiya Kawasaki) Thing You'll Never Be Able To Unhear: Chairman Kaga's cooking direction: "Quail is the virgin. Duck is the mature woman." / Alternate Link: Not dubbed
* Turkey (Iron Chef Michiba vs. Hiroshi Furusho)

Fruit
* Apple (Iron Chef Sakai vs. Wayne Nishi) In Japanese, with subtitles. Video is poor quality. Watch for: Sakai is known for the unique way he peels apples.
* Apple and Chocolate (Iron Chef Sakai vs. Fuyuko Kondo)
* Banana and Chocolate (Iron Chef Kobe vs. Hironobu Tsujiguchi)
* Mango (Iron Chef Kobe vs. Yosei Watanabe)
* Pear and Chocolate (Iron Chef Sakai vs. Tadashi Yanagi)
* Pineapple (Iron Chef Chen vs. Shunji Morikawa)
* Plum, Pickled (Salt Cured -- Umeboshi) (Iron Chef Michiba vs. Kenji Kaji)
* Strawberry (Iron Chef Sakai vs. Masayo Waki)
* Tomato (Iron Chefs Michiba and Chen vs. the Cuomo Brothers) / Alternate Link Tag Team Match
* Tomato II (Iron Chef Kobe vs. Franco Canzoniere)
* Watermelon (Iron Chefs Kobe vs. Sakai. Billed as "IC Team Asia vs. IC Team Europe")

Meat
* Bacon (Iron Chef Sakai vs. Phillip Baton)
* Beef (Iron Chef Sakai vs. Mitsuru Saito)
* Beef, Mishima (Iron Chef Sakai vs. Kumiko Kobayashi)
* Escargot (Iron Chef Sakai vs. Bruno Menard) Watch for: This bit of insane snail cooking advice from Chairman Kaga: "Don't waste a drop of the lady's sweat."
* Lamb (Iron Chef Sakai vs. Mario Nakagawa)
* Lamb II (Iron Chef Sakai vs. Kazutaka Okabe)
* Lamb III (Iron Chef Nakamura vs. Keiji Azuma)
* Lamb IV (Iron Chef Sakai vs. Michael Husser)
* Liver (Iron Chef Chen vs. Lee Myong Suk)
* Oxtail (Iron Chef Sakai vs. Koji Hosogai)
* Pig, Black (Iron Chef Sakai vs. Isao Makio)
* Pig, Suckling (Iron Chef Chen vs. Spano Stervio) Watch for: The Iron Chefs are on a rare losing streak. Chairman Kaga boycotts the show. Commentator Yukio Hattori (Principal of Hattori Cooking College) fills in as temporary Chairman.
* Pork, Jinhua (Iron Chef Sakai vs. Shuzo Shimokawa)
* Pork Belly (Iron Chef Chen vs. Liang Shuqing) Overtime Battle: Konnyaku (More info on this ingredient: "What the heck is Konnyaku?"
* Spare Rib (Iron Chef Chen vs. Matsuo Nagamasa)
* Turkey (Iron Chef Morimoto vs. Jiro Ogue)
* Veal, Milk-Fed (Iron Chef Chen vs. Kyoko Kagata)

Seafood
* Abalone (Iron Chef Sakai vs. Tomatsu Takao)
* Abalone II (Iron Chef Morimoto vs. Takeshi Kajimoto)
* Abalone, Dried (Iron Chef Chen vs. Jinyi Gao)
* Anglerfish (Frogfish) (Iron Chef Michiba vs. Yasuo Kawada)
* Ara (Iron Chef Nakamura vs. Toshiro Kandegawa)
* Carp (Iron Chef Chen vs. Sozo Miyamoto)
* Carp II (Iron Chef Chen vs. Kaoru Miyazawa)
* Caviar (Iron Chef Nakamura vs. T. Houngues)
* Clams, Hamaguri (Iron Chef Sakai vs. Kunio Santo)
* Clams, Short Neck (Iron Chef Chen vs. Yoshiko Takemasa)
* Clams, Pen Shell (Iron Chef Chen vs. Takashi Shimamura)
* Cod (Iron Chef Sakai vs. Shigeo Yuasa)
* Cod II (Iron Chef Chen vs. Tatsujiro Yoshida)
* Cod Roe (Iron Chef Nakamura vs. Katsuko Nanao)
* Cod Roe (Iron Chef Morimoto vs. Yuuske Yamashita) There was an overtime battle afterward: Battle Scallion
* Crab, Blue (Iron Chef Michiba vs. Ming Xing Zeng)
* Crab, Blue (Watari) II (Iron Chef Kobe vs. Miyoko Sakai)
* Crab, Horsehair (Iron Chef Chen vs. Kiyotaka Ikegama) Challenger is a former sumo wrestler
* Crab, King (Taraba) (Iron Chef Morimoto vs. Tetsuji Iio)
* Crab, Matsuba (Iron Chef Michiba vs. Masao Suzuki)
* Crab, Shanghai (Iron Chef Chen vs. Toru Matsushima)
* Crayfish (Iron Chef Sakai vs. Phillipe Aubron)
* Cuttlefish (Iron Chef Chen vs. Ichio Gotoh
* Cuttlefish II (Iron Chef Morimoto vs. Akira Watanabe)
* Eel (Iron Chef Michiba vs. Yasahiko Yoshida)
* Eel, Giant (Iron Chef Morimoto vs. Hirokazu Handa)
* Eel, Pike (Hamo) (Iron Chef Sakai vs. Hirohisa Koyama)
* Eel, Pike (Hamo) II (Iron Chef Morimoto vs. Yoshimi Tanigawa)
* Lobster (Iron Chef Sakai vs. Ron Siegel)
* Lobster, Giant (Iron Chef Kobe vs. Makoto Osada) Watch for: Lobsters used are 30 years old.
* Lobster, "Homard" (Iron Chef Sakai vs. Tadaaki Shimizu)
* Lobster, Spiny (Iron Chef Chen vs. Xie Huaxian)
* Mackerel, Horse (Iron Chef Michiba vs. Tatsuo Umemiya)
* Mackerel, Spanish (Iron Chef Chen vs. Mitsuro Harada)
* Octopus (Iron Chef Sakai vs. Tadamichi Ota) Watch for: Any battle involving octopus typically has the chefs working with live animals. They don't kill them before cooking, which can be a bit disturbing to watch. Sakai, who hates working with what he calls "slimy" ingredients, accidentally dropped one. Announcers: "It's getting away!"
* Octopus II (Iron Chef Kobe vs. Hiromi Yoneda)
* Oyster (Iron Chef Sakai vs. Phillip Groult)
* Salmon (Iron Chef Nakamura vs. Bernard Le Prince) French Showdown. 90 minute show
* Salmon, Juvenile (Unisex) (Iron Chef Morimoto vs. Suichi Fujii)
* Salmon, Salted (Iron Chef Chen vs. Akihiko Inouye)
* Salmon (Iron Chef Sakai vs. Joel Beaulian) Watch for: If Joel wins, the Chairman will make him the new Iron Chef French
* Sardine (Iron Chef Chen vs. Yukihiro Noda)
* Sardine II (Iron Chef Chen vs. Hideki Marayuma)
* Saury (Iron Chef Michiba vs. Tsutomu Hiroi)
* Saury II (Iron Chef Sakai vs. Kazumi Nagayama)
* Scallop (Iron Chef Sakai vs. Osada Senji)
* Scorpion Fish (Iron Chef Chen vs. Hiroshi Yamanobe)
* Sea Bass (A tag team battle: Iron Chefs Michiba and Chen vs. Bruant and Furutaka)
* Sea Bass II (Iron Chef Morimoto vs. Yoshihide Koga) This was show #302 -- the final regular show filmed
* Sea Cucumber (Iron Chef Chen vs. Tsugio Fujiwara)
* Sea Urchin (Iron Chef Sakai vs. Yuji Wakiya) Announced as "Sea Urchin" but roe is the main ingredient.
* Sea Urchin II (Iron Chef Chen vs. Hisima Hirano)
* Sea Urchin III (Iron Chef Chen vs. Yuji Tateno) / Alternative Link
* Shark Fin (Iron Chef Michiba vs. Xu Peirong)
* Shark Fin (Iron Chef Chen vs. Mitsuo Suganuma)
* Shrimp (Prawn) (Iron Chef Chen vs. Takahi Saito)
* Shrimp (Prawn), Scampi (Iron Chef Chen vs. Masahiko Hagiwara)
* Sole (Iron Chef Sakai vs. Takaoyshi Kawai)
* Squid (Iron Chef Chen vs. Tetsuyoshi Shimazu)
* Squid, Supreme (Iron Chef Sakai vs. Kyonuri Miura) Watch for: Sakai's squeamish reactions to the ingredient: "Hey, how many times do I have to tell you guys, I don't like slimy things!" and "Oh, give me a break! I don't even like touching these! Ew!" as well as his surprised "They're alive!" when the Chairman announces it. One bites him.
* Stingray (Iron Chef Sakai vs. Yoshihide Koga)
* Sturgeon (Iron Chef Chen vs. Ryozo Asao)
* Sushi (Iron Chef Morimoto vs. Keiji Nakazawa) / Alternate Link
* Sweetfish (Ayu) (Iron Chef Michiba vs. Katsumi Hanato)
* Sweetfish (Ayu) II (Iron Chef Sakai vs. Haruyoshi Omino) / Alternate Link
* Sweetfish (Ayu) III (Iron Chef Morimoto vs. Kenichi Miyanaga)
* Tilefish (Iron Chef Michiba vs. Keisuke Tamano)
* Tuna (Iron Chef Michiba vs. Takashi Mera)
* Tuna II (Iron Chef Nakamura vs. Yukio Hattori) Hattori is Principal of Hattori Cooking College and a play-by-play commentator on the show.
* Tuna, Fatty (Iron Chef Kobe vs. Shinya Tasaki)

Vegetable
* Asparagus (Iron Chef Sakai vs. Toshihiro Komine)
* Asparagus II (Iron Chef Morimoto vs. Yasuhiko Habushi)
* Asparagus III (Iron Chef Chen vs. Dominique Corby) This is the overtime match for Battle Foie Gras
* Bamboo Shoots (Iron Chef Chen vs. Munetaka Takahashi)
* Bamboo Shoots II (Iron Chef Morimoto vs. Tetsuo Hagiwara)
* Bell Pepper (Iron Chef Michiba vs. Artur J. Rutter)
* Bell Pepper II (Iron Chef Kobe vs. Constantino Gemmoli)
* Bonito (Iron Chef Sakai vs. Hiromi Funatsu)
* Broccoli (Iron Chef Michiba vs. Etsuo Joh)
* Broccoli II (Iron Chef Kobe vs. Mario Frittoli)
* Cabbage (Iron Chef Chen vs. Hiromi Yamada)
* Cabbage, Chinese (Iron Chef Chen vs. Hisao Oidate)
* Cabbage, Chinese II (Iron Chef Sakai vs. Hiroshi Yamaoka)
* Cabbage, Shanghai (Iron Chef Chen vs. Hisao Yaginuma)
* Carrot (Iron Chef Chen vs. Kiyoshi Takahashi)
* Corn (Iron Chef Michiba vs. Keiji Nakazawa)
* Cucumber (Iron Chef Chen vs. Miyuki Igarashi)
* Daikon Radish (Iron Chef Sakai vs. Humaki Sato)
* Eggplant (Iron Chef Chen vs. Koichi Tabata)
* Eggplant II (Iron Chef Sakai vs. Shinichi Nagamatsu)
* Eggplant III (Iron Chef Kobe vs. Yashiro Sasajima)
* Konnyaku This is the Overtime Battle resulting from Battle Pork Belly (Iron Chef Chen vs. Liang Shuqing) (More info: "What the heck is Konnyaku?")
* Leek (Iron Chef Sakai vs. Jinichi Tateyama)
* Lettuce (Iron Chef Chen vs. Yewen He)
* Lotus Root (Iron Chef Sakai vs. Toshiro Kandagawa) Watch for: Kandegawa taunting Sakai. He was a frequent challenger. At one point Sakai snaps and tells Kandegawa to leave him alone, yelling: "You're always bothering people! Nobody likes you!
* Mushroom, Jumbo (Iron Chef Kobe vs. Shoji Yamaoka)
* Mushroom, Kinoko (Iron Chef Chen vs. Hideki Osako)
* Mushroom, Kinoko II (Iron Chef Chen vs. Daniella Ouzik) In Japanese, with Subtitles
* Mushroom, Maitake (Iron Chef Kobe vs. Ryuji Sasaoka)
* Mushroom: Matsutake (Iron Chef Sakai vs. Masamitsu Matsutake)
* Mushroom: Matsutake II (Iron Chef Michiba vs. Minoru Noda)
* Mushroom, Porcini (Iron Chef Morimoto vs. Marco Molinari)
* Mushroom, Shitake (Iron Chef Chen vs. Takaya Nakazawa)
* Natto (Iron Chef Michiba vs. Kuniyuki Ishikawa)
* Natto II (Iron Chef Morimoto vs. Tatsutoshi Kumamoto)
* Onion (Iron Chef Sakai vs. Masao Omiya) Watch for: This is the first challenger who works in a diner
* Potato (Iron Chef Chen vs. Katsuyo Kobayashi) Watch for: the scene where Kaga asks her to choose an Iron Chef
* Potato II (Iron Chef Michiba vs. Lin Kumbi) This is the first battle that [spoiler] ended in a tie. The overtime battle is Sweet Potato.
* Potato III (Iron Chef Chen vs. Kentaro)
* Pumpkin (Iron Chef Chen vs. Koji Kobayashi)
* Pumpkin (Iron Chef Kobe vs. Kensuke Sakai) Theme in honor of Halloween
* Scallion (Iron Chef Morimoto vs. Yuuske Yamashita) Overtime match after Battle Cod Roe ended in a tie.
* Soy Beans (Iron Chef Chen vs. Yoshie Urabe)
* Spinach (Iron Chef Chen vs. Katsuaki Mori)
* Sweet Potato (Iron Chef Michiba vs. Lin Kumbi) This is an overtime battle after Battle Potato ended in a tie.
* Taro (Iron Chef Michiba vs. Kunihiko Hashimoto)
* Tofu (Iron Chef Chen vs. Chiyo Cho)
* Tofu II (Iron Chef Morimoto vs. Takaji Yoshida)
* Truffle (Iron Chef Michiba vs.Yukio Hattori) / Alternate Link Hattori is Principal of Hattori Cooking College and a play-by-play commentator on the show.
* Turnip (Iron Chef Sakai vs. Koji Yamada) / Alternate Link
* Yam (Sweet Potato) (Iron Chef Sakai vs. Sotetsu Fujii)

Other
* Curry Powder (Iron Chef Sakai vs. Hidetoshi Ushimaru)
* Japanese Girl's Day Festival (Iron Chef Sakai vs. Motohito Kondo) Watch for: No theme ingredient. The chef who best articulates dishes for the Girl's Festival using ingredients available in kitchen stadium wins.
* Mochi (Rice Cake) (Iron Chef Chen vs. Toshiyuki Nakagawa)
* Noodles (Iron Chef Chen vs. Toshikatsu Nakagawa)
* Rice (Iron Chef Sakai vs. Sadaharu Nakajima)
* Rice II (Iron Chef Morimoto vs. Masayoshi Kimura)
* Swallow's Nest (Iron Chef Chen vs. Jinlun Li)
* Udon (Iron Chef Nakamura vs. Kenji Motai)
* Udon II (Iron Chef Sakai vs. Toru Komori)
* Wine (Iron Chef Sakai vs. Yuki Wakiya)

Additional Videos
* Iron Chef Nakamura's Retirement Retrospective. Was followed by Nakamura's retirement Battle Tuna II (listed above).
* 21st Century Battle Aired on 1/1/2001, more than a year after the end of the regular show. The show is 83 minutes long, and the opening includes 7 Iron Chefs ascending into Kitchen Stadium.
There were two battles here, one right after the other:
Battle 1: Iron Chef Sakai vs. Toshiro Kandegawa: Red Snapper
Battle 2: A rematch for Iron Chef Morimoto vs Bobby Flay: Lobster)
* Iron Chef World Cup: Japan vs. America. Aired on July 4th, 2013. In Japanese without subtitles, but includes English language interview clips with Hillary Clinton and Will Smith. American Chefs: Tony Maws, Eric Ziebold and Frank A. Ruta. Japanese Chefs: Yuji Wakiya, Yosuke Suga and Jun Kurogi.

Recipes
* Cooking Channel: Cook like an Iron Chef!
* Men's Health: Cook Fish Like Iron Chef Morimoto
* Iron Chef Fan Site: Reverse Engineered Recipes

Fan Sites
* Iron Chef Fans Wiki. Also see their main site

Music
Primarily, three movie soundtracks were used for the show's music:
* The most prevalent is Backdraft
* Glory
* Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story
Background info on what audio tracks were used and when, can be found at The Iron Chef Collection. If an episode has the music muted, it was probably removed for copyright reasons.

Spinoffs
* Iron Chef America: Food Network offers individual episodes on YouTube for $1.99. Some can be seen for free here and here.
* Iron Chef Australia (which only only ran for six episodes before cancellation). Not online. Small clip here.
* Iron Chef USA was an abortive attempt, hosted by William Shatner. Not online. Clip here.
* Iron Chef Israel is called "Krav Sakinim (קרב סכינים)," literally, "Knife Fight". Not online. A Hebrew-language commercial.
* Iron Chef Thailand: Clips and a few full episodes can be seen here. Videos are neither dubbed nor subtitled.
* Iron Chef UK: 25 episodes here, but not available in the US. Some episodes broken into parts here, but "Iron Chef UK: Irredeemably Awful" should probably be viewed first. The host is an even bigger ham than Kaga.
* Iron Chef Vietnam (Not dubbed or subtitled, but still mesmerizing; the chefs show a lot of flair.)

A revival for the Japanese show aired last year. Not online. Details: The Return of Iron Chef: Part I, Part II and it was quickly cancelled due to low ratings.

Alternate Links
* Currently 91 of the Iron Chef Japan episodes linked in this post have also been uploaded to this YouTube Channel
posted by zarq (152 comments total) 423 users marked this as a favorite

 
For the curious: the foundation of this post is this spreadsheet. (Not mine. I found it online when I began researching this post.) It lists every episode and notes episode airdate, who participated, trivia and theme ingredient.
posted by zarq at 5:40 AM on December 22, 2013 [10 favorites]


I loved this show when it was on TV here; the US versions (I couldn't even watch them enough to realize that Iron Chef America and Iron Chef USA were not the same show) were but pale imitations of the original.
posted by TedW at 5:48 AM on December 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


I could have sworn I saw a Tripe Battle episode...maybe that was the US version?
posted by The Card Cheat at 5:52 AM on December 22, 2013


I love the original Iron Chef. It's kind of sad, though, to think such a unique, fun, and fantastic show was the progenitor for the junk Food Network shows today.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:52 AM on December 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


This is amazing. I am emptying the contents of my fridge into the ice cream maker in anticipation.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 5:57 AM on December 22, 2013 [53 favorites]


Holy mothballs zarq what a post! Wow!

I loved this show when it was on TV here; the US versions (I couldn't even watch them enough to realize that Iron Chef America and Iron Chef USA were not the same show) were but pale imitations of the original.

I have to say that I actually really enjoy Iron Chef America; it's fairly playful in many ways but you can tell that, while they are having fun with the chairman and stuff, this is really important to all the chefs. Every chef just lights up when anyone compliments their food -- it clearly means a great deal to them. And while they have fun with the chatter at the beginning, they are obviously really, really tense while they wait for the verdict; everyone on Iron Chef American clearly really does care about this and take it seriously. Also, Alton Brown is a great host and I have learned a ton about fancy techniques and stuff from his commentary.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 6:01 AM on December 22, 2013 [8 favorites]


Yes, this is excellent. I agree that the US versions might be good in their own way, but they never really appealed to me. The Japanese show is fantastic, kitschy, and never fails to make me hungry.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:10 AM on December 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Iron Chefs French: Yutaka Ishinabe (石鍋), Hiroyuki Sakai (坂井 宏行) and Yōsuke Suga (須賀 洋介)

Let's not kid our selves here. THERE IS ONLY SAKAI!!
posted by mattbucher at 6:17 AM on December 22, 2013 [25 favorites]


I love the silent "goddammit, not again" look of nervousness that sweeps over Chen Kenichi's face when he is selected as the challenger.
posted by dr. fresh at 6:18 AM on December 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


Bravo, zarq! I've had the pleasure of dining at Morimoto in Philadelphia, and have even met Morimoto-sensei himself a couple of times, so I always root for him. Once he served me a dish of black codfish with a miso glaze and foie gras, and it was one of the most amazing things I've ever tasted.

Possibly my favorite battle is the one you identify as Bamboo Shoots II. It's actually a battle for Boys' Day, bamboo shoots being a traditional food because they grow up fast, straight and tall. At the time, Morimoto was coming off a losing streak, with the judges complaining that he was being too conservative, so this time around he went completely nuts and cooked some of the craziest things ever. You've got to see it to believe it.
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:24 AM on December 22, 2013 [10 favorites]


Thank-you so much for this - said to the husband only last week that I should look at see if the 'proper' Iron Chef was on youtube, and lo, MeFi provides...
posted by Megami at 6:25 AM on December 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


First one I ever saw was Natto I. I had no idea what natto was, or what the show was, or what the hell was going on, and it was awesome.

I feel like that happens so rarely these days...it's so hard to stumble across something truly confusing and new that hasn't been buzzed and posted and re-Tweeted to death.
posted by JoanArkham at 6:26 AM on December 22, 2013 [10 favorites]


Oh, I loved the Natto episode, just for the Chairman's disgust as he announced the ingredient.
posted by rmd1023 at 6:29 AM on December 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


The first time I saw it was in early 2000 when a friend showed up at my apartment with a VHS tape. I too miss the days when things could be sprung on you like that.
posted by The Card Cheat at 6:30 AM on December 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


My husband and I love to impersonate the panelists. I always do the giggly actresses ("It's like Jell-o, but more... Jell-o-y!") and he does the old scholar guys ("It... reminds me... of the cherry blossoms in... springtime...")
posted by Madamina at 6:37 AM on December 22, 2013 [43 favorites]


Jesus, zarq, this is amazing. It is the Iron Chef of FPPs.
posted by Room 641-A at 6:38 AM on December 22, 2013 [18 favorites]


Bravo, zarq! I loved the original Iron Chef. I'll still sometimes interject with, "Fukui-san!"
posted by ob1quixote at 6:48 AM on December 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


The Japanese show is fantastic, kitschy, and never fails to make me hungry.

Yyyyeah, I'm gonna have to go the other way on that last part. It was always interesting, but... mostly I didn't particularly want to eat what they made, especially all the seafood*. I did like how often one judge or another would say something that boiled down to "The Iron Chef successfully hid the taste of the broccoli (or other food Americans regard as totally innocuous) by covering it with fish guts."

*Though I bet my opinion would differ if they made smell-o-vision.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:49 AM on December 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


"Fukui-san!"

"Yes, Ohta!"
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:50 AM on December 22, 2013 [13 favorites]


My favorite episodes are the live ingredient ones. Sakai-san locked in a life-or-death struggle with the octopus. Or the squid episode where Morimoto-san basicallly just pops the heads off of them on TV.
posted by ob1quixote at 6:56 AM on December 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


zarq, this is truly an epic post. The amount of effort you put into it shows. It was fun watching this in Tokyo. Now I know where to go to get my Iron Chef fix. Thank you.
posted by Dodecadermaldenticles at 6:59 AM on December 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


**please don't be about Rob Ford**
**please don't be about Rob Ford**
**please don't be about Rob Ford**
**please don't be about Rob Ford**
posted by Fizz at 7:00 AM on December 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


PhoBWanKenobi: “The Japanese show is fantastic, kitschy, and never fails to make me hungry.”
ROU_Xenophobe: “Yyyyeah, I'm gonna have to go the other way on that last part. It was always interesting, but... mostly I didn't particularly want to eat what they made, especially all the seafood*.”
I'm with ROU_Xenophobe on this one. That's the greatest thing about the show. So many of the dishes are food that I would never actually put in my mouth. Like when they bring out some dish that costs $2,500 a plate and the only thing I can think is, "Y'all got any Captain's Wafers?"
posted by ob1quixote at 7:07 AM on December 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


After reading this FPP I have come to the realization that Iron Chef is my favorite TV show, ever, in any genre. While reading the awesome parts I remember I'm literally pumping my fists and going "yeah!" So yeah. Food Network showed Iron Chef at 10:00 every weeknight and it became a bedtime ritual for us. Until one day they stopped showing it altogether. Food Network was dead to me after that.
posted by zsazsa at 7:14 AM on December 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


Nice one zarq! I foresee quality time with YouTube in my future.
posted by Roger Dodger at 7:21 AM on December 22, 2013


Holy awesome post. Nice.

and depending on the number of judges, five or six servings are prepared from each dish: one for each of the judges, one for Chairman Kaga and another for photography.

This is slightly different on ICA, according to Kevin Brauch. The chefs have one actual hour to create one plate of each dish; that's what's filmed, and that plate goes to photography. They then have 90 minutes off-camera to cook dishes for the judges, in a style much closer to restaurant cooking; this is why the judges aren't eating cooled (or melted) and/or congealed stuff.

Except for the poor chairman. Remember that dish that was sent off to photography a couple hours ago? Yeah, unless the chef is doing tableside service, that's what the chairman eats. Which is why he basically never eats.

Also apparently Batali liked to psych out his opponents by standing just off camera and Watching Intently while their dishes are tasted and judged.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:25 AM on December 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


My husband and I love to impersonate the panelists. I always do the giggly actresses ("It's like Jell-o, but more... Jell-o-y!") and he does the old scholar guys ("It... reminds me... of the cherry blossoms in... springtime...")

And, of course, every comment must be followed by, "Thats... just how I feel."
posted by BrashTech at 7:47 AM on December 22, 2013 [20 favorites]


*claps hands with glee*

Zarq, you are the best. I used to watch this late at night on the Food Network with my sisters, and ICA just can't compare.
posted by alynnk at 7:48 AM on December 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


holy maximum post batman! this was quite a nostalgia overload. I've watched probably every episode of iron chef america, but it doesn't have the quite the same flair that the original does.
posted by young_son at 7:50 AM on December 22, 2013


I loved this show so much that I made my incoming AIM tone on my computer "Fakui-san!"
posted by Wild_Eep at 7:52 AM on December 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


I love Iron Chef!

I still have flashbacks to Battle Turkey, when one of the chefs makes....turkey tartare.

OMG YOU CAN'T EAT RAW TURKEY WHAT'S HE DOING NOOOOOOO..........
posted by DiscourseMarker at 7:52 AM on December 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


Mrs_Eep and I always thought the chefs were phoning it in when they'd head to the ice-cream maker.
posted by Wild_Eep at 7:58 AM on December 22, 2013


This is the post Iron Chef deserves. Wonderful!
posted by absalom at 8:03 AM on December 22, 2013


Mrs_Eep and I always thought the chefs were phoning it in when they'd head to the ice-cream maker.

Trout ice cream is not exactly 'phoning it in.'

Also whatisname, the bald dude with the nervous giggle on ICA, did a sorbetto out of the water and whey from mozzarella once, which I thought was fascinating.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:03 AM on December 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I loved this show so much that I made my incoming AIM tone on my computer "Fakui-san!"

Oh my. What a great idea. I may have to hunt down an appropriate audio clip and turn it into a ringtone.
posted by rmd1023 at 8:07 AM on December 22, 2013


When I moved to Japan in '97, I became obsessed with Iron Chef- you'd think it would have been a source of culture shock, but it was actually one of the first things I could discuss with my Japanese co-workers (well, that and SMAP x SMAP, which is a different story). It very quickly went from "what is this crazy thing?" to "OMG- uni battle!"


The Japanese show is fantastic, kitschy



Yes, the Chairman's outfits were the kind of thing that would make a 19th-century hussar go "Ooo- that's a bit much isn't it?"


*bites pepper*
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:30 AM on December 22, 2013 [15 favorites]


I was sure that the first Iron Chef battle I ever saw, back in the 90s, was something like lumpfish. And, of course, one of the chefs made lumpfish ovary ice cream. But the google isn't backing me up on this one.
posted by moonmilk at 8:31 AM on December 22, 2013


Watch for: Any battle involving octopus typically has the chefs working with live animals. They don't kill them before cooking, which can be a bit disturbing to watch. Sakai, who hates working with what he calls "slimy" ingredients, accidentally dropped one. Announcers: "It's getting away!"

This, this, this. This was one of the first episodes I saw, a "holy crap" edge-of-your-seat moment, and a clear indicator that the series was not made for U.S. television.
posted by gimonca at 8:34 AM on December 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


I remember when in order to watch Iron Chef, we had to set the VHS to record the last 15 minutes of Mori Motonari because of the weird way the late-night Japanese language programming on that channel was scheduled.

I tell anyone who hasn't seen the opening credits for the first time, "The yellow pepper is dosed w/ fast-acting hallucinogenics".

And is it just me an Lexica, or does it seem like Kishi-san started all of her opinions with some version of "I thought this would suck, but..." (I paraphrase).
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 9:04 AM on December 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


This is the best MetaFilter post ever.


MetaFilter: the yellow pepper is dosed with fast-acting hallucinogenics.
posted by Foosnark at 9:08 AM on December 22, 2013 [8 favorites]


I tell anyone who hasn't seen the opening credits for the first time, "The yellow pepper is dosed w/ fast-acting hallucinogenics".

Ha!!!!!!!!!

When my wife and I first moved in together, we didn't have cable tv, but were able to take the actual cable wire and plug it into the back of our tv. Which gave us the over-air network channels and a handful of unscrambled basic cable channels. One of which was Food Network, where we discovered Iron Chef. This was before Twitter, Facebook and other social media.

We quickly became obsessed. And convinced all our friends to watch. Everyone loved the show. The commentary, the insane dishes, the Chairman's over-the-top outfits.

But holy crap, the chefs were brilliant. Was so bummed that Food Network stopped airing them. And so happy to find them online!

Putting together this post took forever, but man, it was such a blast.
posted by zarq at 9:17 AM on December 22, 2013 [12 favorites]


Was so bummed that Food Network stopped airing them

FN has not yet met a concept that they can't suck the life and fun out of in favour of making food porn.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:19 AM on December 22, 2013 [12 favorites]


The judging panels are so fantastic. My favorite is that one fortune teller lady (that's what they say she is! I don't know if that's a weird translation or if she's Miss Cleo) who appears to know more about cuisine than any other possible guest.
posted by dismas at 9:29 AM on December 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


I don't know if that's a weird translation or if she's Miss Cleo

She's basically Miss Cleo, but fortune telling is a little more respectable in Japanese culture than the (equally scammy but more, I dunno, circus sideshow) equivalents in Western culture, if my memory serves me correctly.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:31 AM on December 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


And, of course, every comment must be followed by, "Thats... just how I feel."

"It's gentle in my mouth."
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 9:36 AM on December 22, 2013 [7 favorites]


Kazuko Hosoki, fortune teller. Apparently she has a white Rolls.
posted by gimonca at 9:37 AM on December 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


First: is the Cooking Channel no longer showing these? They started when the Food Network stopped.

Second: my favorite part is the panel of judges. There's the photographer who in the VoiceOver got the audio equivalent of the "Bravo Bitch Edit" with a dopey sounding translation. There's the novelist who we called the Japanese Stephen Fry. The "East German" judge, of course. And the politician who was there All. The. Damn. Time. So every time we would see him, my husband and I would shout at the screen at the same time: "GET A JOB!"

The politician has a web site called Homopants. He seems like a bit of a dick.
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 9:46 AM on December 22, 2013 [3 favorites]




I checked the Cooking Channel web site: they dropped Iron Chef Japan.

Boooooooooooooo. May they be force fed mackerel ice cream every day in the executive dining room.
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 10:00 AM on December 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


They then have 90 minutes off-camera to cook dishes for the judges, in a style much closer to restaurant cooking; this is why the judges aren't eating cooled (or melted) and/or congealed stuff.

This is really disappointing. I swear there were some episodes of Original Flavor where judges docked points because dishes arrived cold, etc.
posted by Sara C. at 10:00 AM on December 22, 2013


Oh, zarq, thank you, thank you, thank you— and dammit, I had hopes of getting something constructive done during the next week (which I have off from work). Not any more…
posted by Lexica at 10:01 AM on December 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Batali's always struck me as an accidental celebrity that the latest decade of FN has been vaguely embarrassed by. He's fat, he's sweaty, he gives no fucks about anything other than putting stuff in your mouth that tastes good; he's pretty far from the media-ready muppets that FN churns out on a regular basis. Emeril was pretty similar, but the FN handlers turned him into a bombastic caricature of himself and he became a superstar. Sad.

I usually contrast Flay and Batali; they both rose to prominence at the same time, but one of them was a chef-who-happens-to-be-on-tv and the other was a tv-star-who-could-kind-of-cook (though according to friends who've eaten at Flay's restaurants, his food is generally uninspired at best, and at least back when he was still cooking in his own kitchens, not even very good boring food, and certainly not for the prices).

Then there's Alton Brown, who I adore, but who sold his soul to FN for financial stability I think. I do wonder, though, whether his presence on Next Food Network Star is a contractual obligation, because every so often they let some stuff through that seems to pretty clearly indicate he hates the entire premise of the show and is taking the piss out of it at every opportunity. Not that he won't do his job, and do it competently, but I choose to believe he's doing it under duress. Such a shame that he was so wedded to the FN stable, and Top Chef didn't get him as a permanent or at least regular judge. Watching him and Colicchio go head to head over something would make for excellent TV.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:01 AM on December 22, 2013 [10 favorites]


Thank you for this post! I loved the original Iron Chef. ICA was okay on its own but it just made me miss the original even more.

We're off to the in-laws tomorrow for a while and now I know what I'll be watching on my laptop during the John Wayne movie marathon day. *packs headphones*
posted by kimberussell at 10:01 AM on December 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


though according to friends who've eaten at Flay's restaurants, his food is generally uninspired at best, and at least back when he was still cooking in his own kitchens, not even very good boring food, and certainly not for the prices

I've eaten in a Bobby Flay restaurant. I hate him, so I went in ready to tear the whole experience apart. It was actually pretty good. I wasn't paying, so that angle is removed for me. On the other hand anyone can read a menu in advance and figure out whether that's an experience they're comfortable paying for. Le Bernardin it ain't, but it's a far cry from Flavortown, too.

Batali, though? That man is a genius.

I have actually eaten in a surprisingly large number of FN chef restaurants, now that I think of it.
posted by Sara C. at 10:08 AM on December 22, 2013


I almost forgot my favorite judge! Korn, the Japanese rapper! I'd love to get some of his music!
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 10:12 AM on December 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


This is really disappointing. I swear there were some episodes of Original Flavor where judges docked points because dishes arrived cold, etc

Unfortunately it's really the only way to make the show happen in anything like an equitable way. If they didn't do this, if they actually forced the chefs to make all the plates in the hour allotted, whoever presents second would have at least an hour delay in serving their food. Probably longer once you consider camera resets and wardrobe/makeup touchups etc. Hell, it takes them something like three different camera setups over a couple hours just to film the ingredient reveal. (The reaction shot from the chefs is, however, their true reaction to seeing the ingredient for the first time.)

Of course, they do know the secret ingredient ahead of time. Something like six weeks out from production day each chef is provided a list of five ingredients, of which the secret ingredient is one. This gives them time to work out and practice their menus (I mean seriously, nobody could possibly have believed that Homaro Cantu just came up with all his stuff on the fly; dishes like that take ages of development before they work), and submit back to FN lists of required ingredients and any special equipment.

Which leads to a really funny story. When Susur Lee was on ICA, he submitted requests for five different pieces of equipment, each one for one of the ingredients on the list from FN. He knew the secret ingredient the moment he walked into the studio, just by looking at how his kitchen was set up. So he had approximately three more hours of mental prep and problem solving than the Iron Chef he was challenging.

Also, apparently Cat Cora really, really liked to screw with everyone's heads. The other Iron chefs would usually try to time their cooking to 57 or 58 minutes. She started by pegging her time at 55, and worked her way down to an average of 52-53 minutes per battle. The show is cut so it looks like everyone's working down to the wire, but if you've ever looked carefully in the background on her episodes, from time to time you'll notice these really shocked and harried expressions from the challenger's team, since she and her team are doing shots of ouzo about seven minutes before the end of the actual battle.

(Also: more strong female chefs please. More out queer chefs please. Cora was both of those things, FN, and an incredibly talented and diverse culinary talent. She should have had a hell of a lot more exposure.)
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:12 AM on December 22, 2013 [17 favorites]


I've eaten in a Bobby Flay restaurant. I hate him

I initially read that as I ate him, and was going to thank you for your services to humanity in general and the culinary world in particular. Dude's a useless twat who has never met a camera he doesn't like. Even his aw shucks I got beaten in a totally rigged contest stuff rankles, because it's coming from the same arrogance and entitelment.

I'm with you on the Flayhate is what I'm saying. He's a wannabe rockstar who cooks, nothing more.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:15 AM on December 22, 2013 [6 favorites]


If they didn't do this, if they actually forced the chefs to make all the plates in the hour allotted, whoever presents second would have at least an hour delay in serving their food.

But how was the Japanese version able to accomplish it?
posted by Sara C. at 10:17 AM on December 22, 2013


I'm with you on the Flayhate is what I'm saying. He's a wannabe rockstar who cooks, nothing more.

But if forced to make a choice, I'd pick Bobby Flay over Guy Fieri any day.
posted by Faint of Butt at 10:17 AM on December 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


But how was the Japanese version able to accomplish it?

I have no idea, my inside info is from ICA only. I suspect similar editing trickery, to be honest, though that doesn't square with how many plates you see them putting up. In conclusion, Iron Chef is a land of contrasts.

But if forced to make a choice, I'd pick Bobby Flay over Guy Fieri any day.

To eat?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:19 AM on December 22, 2013 [6 favorites]


I suspect similar editing trickery

The editing is not at issue. What is at issue is the fact that the original show actually required competitors to have a sufficient quantity of all dishes to serve everyone, ready to serve within the allotted hour. Whereas the American version gives the competitors an extra 90 minutes on the food that is actually to be judged. Seems like sort of a cheat, especially since the original show didn't seem to require that.
posted by Sara C. at 10:24 AM on December 22, 2013


I mean, don't get me wrong here. If a talented exec and two sous (who are usually execs in their own right; cf Anne Burrell always working for Batali on the show) can't bang out five courses for four people in an hour they have no business cooking. My understanding from KB (hey I wonder if Kevin and Alton call each other AB and KB) is that the extra cook time really is a matter of making a level playing field for both competitors. I also suspect it's a cost-saving measure for FN; compare with the size of the teams you'd see on ICJ, how much bigger the ICJ studio was, etc. Smaller teams and smaller studio mean smaller budgets. (That being said, almost any aspiring chef in NYC would probably leap at the chance to volunteer to act as a sous/partie on the show. Looks good on a resume.)
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:24 AM on December 22, 2013


What a fantastic post! Thank you, zarq, sincerely. Reading through this post and the comments just gave me such a big rush of wonderful emotions.

The Food Network airings of the original Iron Chef were during the absolute quality peak for the channel, and Iron Chef was the crown jewel. It's all but unwatchable now but there was a time when almost every show was just fantastic. Chef du Jour, Anthony Bourdain's A Cook's Tour, David Rosengarten's Taste... many more.

But Iron Chef was something else entirely. I would religiously watch reruns every day (and the show seemed to always be on the air, especially late at night). It wasn't just that it was supremely campy and fun. It was a window into a different world of tv entertainment and culinary sensibilities than what I was accustoned to. Everything about the concept was perfect. I love, love, love it. ICA is... better than I thought it would be. But watchable as it is, it definitely doesn't capture the magic of the original series.

Anyone else ever feel a bit bad for Kobe? Besides his tacked-on addition to the intro sequence, he always seemed to be the black sheep of the show.
posted by kryptondog at 10:25 AM on December 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


Whereas the American version gives the competitors an extra 90 minutes on the food that is actually to be judged. Seems like sort of a cheat, especially since the original show didn't seem to require that.

They are required to cook exactly the same way, use the same ingredients and plating, etc. I get your point, but I'd be surprised if the Japanese show didn't do something similar. They may have to throw up all 20-28 plates at once, but there's no way all those dishes could hold for the time needed for the first contestant to be judged. There's a reason why chefs scream at servers when they let food die in the window.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:27 AM on December 22, 2013


Oh, the crew and studio size might have a lot to do with it, actually. The Japanese production team may have been shooting with three cameras to the American production's one camera, for instance. Thus eliminating camera reset time as a factor.
posted by Sara C. at 10:28 AM on December 22, 2013


David Rosengarten's Taste

I miss this show more than I can say. And I think it's not unreasonable to draw a really, really direct line from St Julia through Rosengarten's show to Good Eats. But Rosengarten, again, wasn't the kind of face (or body) the newer management at FN thought they could package and sell, so he was quietly dropped.

Oh, the crew and studio size might have a lot to do with it, actually. The Japanese production team may have been shooting with three cameras to the American production's one camera, for instance. Thus eliminating camera reset time as a factor.

The American production uses a lot more than one camera. If my memory serves me correctly, they have one or two on cranes, at least one or two guys with free-ranging cameras, and some fixed cameras. The multiple setups for e.g. the ingredient reveal are a matter of getting multiple angles without getting the other cameras in the shot.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:30 AM on December 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


Right you are, Ken
posted by avocet at 10:32 AM on December 22, 2013 [8 favorites]


Anyone else ever feel a bit bad for Kobe? Besides his tacked-on addition to the intro sequence, he always seemed to be the black sheep of the show.

Was that the Italian chef with his own orchestra?

We called him "The Kid" -- we didn't see him that often cooking.
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 10:34 AM on December 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


A smaller studio size may limit the number of camera used for the judging part, thus making something that should take about 20 minutes take hours.

There really is no reason it should take a terribly long time to shoot the judging segment. If it really requires multiple camera setups and the second chef's food cooked later so as to be presented in edible form, it's because they're working with limited equipment and staff.

If a sitcom can be shot in front of a live studio audience, five B-list celebrities can eat a bite apiece of a four course meal without it taking hours to do.
posted by Sara C. at 10:34 AM on December 22, 2013


Wasn't the English language voiceover crew based in someplace like Vancouver? I have this mental image of a bunch of Canadians sitting around a restaurant table talking about their food, and they all sound like Iron Chef.
posted by gimonca at 10:38 AM on December 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, the voiceover team is really top notch. In my opinion they really make the show. I can still giggle at Madamina's story about impersonating them, more than ten years later, because their work was so evocative.
posted by Sara C. at 10:42 AM on December 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


If a sitcom can be shot in front of a live studio audience, five B-list celebrities can eat a bite apiece of a four course meal without it taking hours to do.

I recognize that your expertise is in television, but mine is in cooking: you cannot serve a five course meal to four people who are intent on having every dish explained, as well as pontificating on each one, in less than half an hour, minimum. And that's pushing it. Plus, if you watch the judging segments, they clean their plates a lot of the time; in fact it's pretty rare that they're just eating a bite of each dish. And when you're eating eight to a dozen dishes in a few hours, you're going to be slowing down towards the end. I think giving the judges time to rest their palates and digest may also be a factor in why it's filmed the way it is. Forcing them to blast through each meal in twenty minutes, I think, is not going to give them enough footage to stitch together into something narrative for TV, because:

That means you have a total of 4-5 minutes per course. That includes: chef explaining the dish, setting and unsetting the table, tasting of every component of each dish even if not cleaning their plate, every judge commenting on each dish, every judge making their notes and evaluations, and extra time if anything is being finished or plated at the table, which is not infrequent on ICA. I really don't see any way to do that in 4-5 minutes while being able to actually get good footage. I'd be kind of surprised, actually, if it's anything less than 10 minutes from setting the table to plates being cleared for each course.

My understanding is the 90 minute cooking time is structured so that they are serving the food a la minute; the last plate needs to hit the pass when the clock hits zero, but all the other dishes are going to be served much earlier in the process. Bear in mind that the filmed 60 minutes includes them doing a lot of prep that will then be used when recreating the dishes for tasting; they're not starting over again from scratch.

A close analogue, in the restaurant world, would be that they're using the filmed time for prep and to photograph dishes for the menu/website, and then the 90 minute time is much more akin to service in the restaurant. You're recreating the exact same stuff, but now you have all or most of your prep done.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:48 AM on December 22, 2013 [6 favorites]


Watch out for Kandegawa-san. He's got a faction. And Really Big Knives.
posted by Public Corruption? at 11:00 AM on December 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


That includes: chef explaining the dish, setting and unsetting the table, tasting of every component of each dish even if not cleaning their plate, every judge commenting on each dish, every judge making their notes and evaluations, and extra time if anything is being finished or plated at the table, which is not infrequent on ICA.

A lot of this was not done on Japanese Iron Chef. They literally just show them eating the food and making one or two comments on it. Which is another thing that might explain the different rules.

It's perfectly OK if the answer to "Why does the American version give extra time to the chefs?" is "Because the FN execs had different goals for the show." Asking that question is not an indictment of ICA.
posted by Sara C. at 11:02 AM on December 22, 2013


Not thinking you're indicting it, and I'd rather watch ICJ any time than ICA, because I think in many ways ICA missed the point.

And I guess my memory isn't serving me correctly (seriously I've made this joke three times in an IC thread and come on people IF MY MEMORY SERVES ME CORRECTLY...), because I very much recall ICJ chefs explaining dishes, plating and finishing tableside, judges discussing the dishes.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:06 AM on December 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


Batali's always struck me as an accidental celebrity that the latest decade of FN has been vaguely embarrassed by. He's fat, he's sweaty, he gives no fucks about anything other than putting stuff in your mouth that tastes good; he's pretty far from the media-ready muppets that FN churns out on a regular basis.

Deja vu.

ARTHUR DENT:
Who are the Dentrassi?

FORD PREFECT:
The best cooks and the best drink mixers and they don't give a wet slap about anything else. And they will always help hitch-hikers on board, partly because they like the company, but mostly because it annoys the Vogons.

posted by Foosnark at 11:07 AM on December 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


Henceforth he shall be named Mario Dentrassi.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:08 AM on December 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


Anyone else ever feel a bit bad for Kobe? Besides his tacked-on addition to the intro sequence, he always seemed to be the black sheep of the show.

Yeah, I never got that. I'm much more familiar with Italian cuisine than Japanese, but in many ways they seem antithetical. Italian's all carbs and veggies and big bold flavors simply prepared, and Japanese cuisine, at least the haute cuisine the show focused on, seemed a lot more protein focused and all about balancing complex, subtle flavors. I mean, I know there's big regional variations in Italy, I'm sure there are in Japan as well. And there's plenty of seafood in Italy, of course, so there's gotta be some overlap. But I always scratched my head wondering what kind of Italian food would be popular in Japan in the first place. The sensibilities of the Japanese and the French seem much more closely aligned, and not only in cuisine.

Anyway, Sakai was my favorite part of the show. There was one episode where they showed him decapitating eggs with the tip of what must have been a 16 inch chef's knife, that won my heart forever. His platings were always amazing.
posted by Diablevert at 11:09 AM on December 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


The sensibilities of the Japanese and the French seem much more closely aligned, and not only in cuisine.

Both the Japanese and Italian culinary traditions, especially if you're going to talk about Japanese haute cuisine (Kaiseki), are about showcasing ingredients at the height of their natural perfection, with minimal fuckery. In that sense, Japanese and Italian are much closer to each other than Japanese and French cuisine; the latter pair are more linked by devotion to perfecting technique. Which, to me anyway, explains why both cuisines are popular in Japan.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:15 AM on December 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


"The Delacroix of French cuisine!"
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 11:16 AM on December 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


Diablevert, I'm watching the Octopus battle right now, and so my first thought is "squid ink risotto". But one problem with Italian cuisine in this format is that a lot of it relies on low and slow cooking (risotto being a great example). I'm not sure how you reconcile that with the demands of what Iron Chef is.

(Iron Chef Italy would take a week for each battle, I think, not just an extra 90 minutes.)
posted by Sara C. at 11:18 AM on December 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I liked the cooking part of the show very much, but I think my two favorite parts of the show were:

- The Kaga-narrated intros, which inevitably culminated in "So, [challenger's name] show us the true power of [challenger's background]!" Those intros built up battles as well as any fight promo or wrestling speech.

- The dramatic, confrontational entrances. The Ohta Faction marching in with headbands and drums a-poundin' or Hei Chin Rou's banners and fireworks. It appeals to a fantasy I have in which restaurants really do barnstorm each other instead of just gossiping.

If an Ohta Faction or Hei Chin Rou chain ever opens a restaurant here, I'm there, dude.
posted by ignignokt at 11:20 AM on December 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


Actually to put it another way: I think Japanese and Italian and non-haute French cuisine share far more similarities than they do differences. They're all about fresh ingredients, prepared relatively simply, and allowed to speak for themselves. I think you could draw a pretty simple line between, say, Provencal, Tuscan, and Japanese cuisine. The concept of simplicty carries across all three, only the palettes change.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:22 AM on December 22, 2013




(And yes I know I am rather glossing over regional cuisine differences in Japan, which definitely do exist, but I think there's a little more uniformity in Japanese Cuisine than there is in French or Italian, both of which developed across much larger countries with significantly more heterogeneity in both geography and available ingredients).
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:28 AM on December 22, 2013


We called him "The Kid" -- we didn't see him that often cooking.

We called him "Chef Doogie".

Mario Batali has a surprisingly responsive and charming Twitter feed where! He answers questions! With sentence fragments! With exclamation points!
posted by JoanArkham at 11:30 AM on December 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


It appeals to a fantasy I have in which restaurants really do barnstorm each other instead of just gossiping.

There should totally be a restaurant industry Rumble, sharks and jets style.
posted by Sara C. at 11:34 AM on December 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Battle Caviar is one of my favorites, if only for the expressions on the chefs' faces when the ingredient is unveiled. They are both like "oh, crap, what do you do with caviar?" Spoiler: they mostly sneak it in as a garnish, which seemed like cheating but what are you going to do?
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:38 AM on December 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Spoiler: they mostly sneak it in as a garnish, which seemed like cheating but what are you going to do?

FROZEN YOGURT
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 11:44 AM on December 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well, you could always have it with white chocolate, either solid or in a souffle.

FROZEN YOGURT

Fuck yes, but I was thinking maybe more of a frozen yogourt ice lolly with caviar.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:47 AM on December 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


caviar encrusted cake pop

the cake interior can be made from blini batter, maybe with a creme fraiche frosting to hold it together.
posted by Sara C. at 11:55 AM on December 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


Something just occurred to me as I wrote down that caviar dessert idea.

I think the influence of molecular gastronomy and fusion cuisine has really upped the ante in a way that the ICA folks are forced to deal with. I just watched the octopus battle, and most of the dishes are conventional savory approaches to how a sane chef would really serve octopus in real life. Various takes on octopus stews and soups. Grilled octopus. Fried octopus. Octopus carpaccio. None of it was particularly delicate or elaborate. I think one or two dishes needed to be assembled tableside to preserve them, but before assembly they are all things that can be held indefinitely under a heat lamp.

Start serving octopus sashimi on a bed of tart frozen yogurt with a lemon foam, and you need a bunch of extra time to cook each dish to order immediately before serving each judge.
posted by Sara C. at 12:02 PM on December 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


But where are the truffles?!?!

And don't forget to boil up pounds upon pounds of lobster, just to through the lobsters away and just use the lobster water to add to your pasta.
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 12:03 PM on December 22, 2013 [7 favorites]


And then encrust it in a sandbox-sized mound of Salt-Crust Grill.

And something something matsutake mushrooms. In EVERYTHING.
posted by Madamina at 12:05 PM on December 22, 2013 [6 favorites]


It's a misnomer until iron is the theme ingredient.
posted by nightwood at 12:19 PM on December 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


And don't forget to boil up pounds upon pounds of lobster, just to through the lobsters away and just use the lobster water to add to your pasta.

If memory serves, one of the Iron Chefs said in an interview that they got to take leftover ingredients back home with them, so they would regularly open up big packages of foie gras just to use a tiny bit of it in a dish because, hey, free foie gras!
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:26 PM on December 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


FROZEN YOGURT

As I recall, it was a bloody mary sorbet with a caviar garnish.
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:35 PM on December 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


I miss this show more than I can say. And I think it's not unreasonable to draw a really, really direct line from St Julia through Rosengarten's show to Good Eats.

Oh, totally agreed. I always thought of Good Eats as a spiritual successor to Taste, and I can definitely see the link to Julia Child's shows. I loved that David spent no less than half his show talking about the ingredients to be used before he'd get to the recipes.

Taste was such a great show; I was so sad to see it go. It did seem like Food Network was shifting focus and that someone like David just didn't fit into the new picture. First they relegated him to some boring news-style show, briefly, and then he was gone. Just one of many decisions down Food Network's path to becoming a never-ending stream of Fondant Iced Road Truckers.

Not relevant to anything at all but my high school self had a massive crush on David.
posted by kryptondog at 12:41 PM on December 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


but before assembly they are all things that can be held indefinitely under a heat lamp.

Errrr...no. When you're cooking at that level, leaving something under a heat lamp for more than the couple of minutes required for a server to pick it up = unacceptable loss of quality; dead plate. While I get your central point that deconstructivist cuisine is more elaborate and much less forgiving of long waiting times (well, depending on what you're making; lots of the stuff in Adria's 'snacks' category can be made well in advance), when you are cooking at the level of being on ICJ/ICA you are not making food, except for the odd thing here and there, that lasts for very long or can tolerate much time between plating and serving.

Octopus, especially, will just toughen under extended heat, unless you have 6-24 hours to devote to cooking it sous vide or braised.

Start serving octopus sashimi on a bed of tart frozen yogurt with a lemon foam, and you need a bunch of extra time to cook each dish to order immediately before serving each judge.

Not to pick on you (honestly), but that's a terrible example. You can make frozen yogourt in twenty minutes, and depending on the exact method you're using, making a lemon foam won't take more than ten. I have personally done a last-minute request from a guest for a deconstructed chocolate dessert (we usually didn't indulge that sort of offmenu ordering where I worked at the time, but it was the partner of one of the minority investors and chef said frog so I jumped) in half an hour, six components on the plate. Admittedly the actual making-of was a bit of a blur ;) The really nice thing about a lot of deconstructivist cooking is that so much of it is really so very quick to do. Need a carrot foam? Juice some carrots, add lecithin, shear. Five minutes start to finish. Powdered brown butter? It's going to take longer to brown the butter than to powder it. Etc. Until you're getting into sous vide timing, or mega-multi-component dishes (like Alinea's multiple _____, Too Many Garnishes To List dishes), deconstructed cuisine tends to be an extremely quick affair to make, if not to plate. Most of the prep time going into these sorts of dishes is extremely front-loaded in the actual recipe development, not the execution. YMMV, but that's what I've seen and experienced myself.

the cake interior can be made from blini batter, maybe with a creme fraiche frosting to hold it together.

Genius, and I'll probably steal this. Call it Caviar Sara ;)

If memory serves, one of the Iron Chefs said in an interview that they got to take leftover ingredients back home with them, so they would regularly open up big packages of foie gras just to use a tiny bit of it in a dish because, hey, free foie gras!

That's not uncommon in a lot of competition cookery. One of my chefs at school used to compete a fair bit, and her husband looked forward to post-competition with a mixture of drooling anticipation and reaching for the Pepto, because they'd have mountains of foie and duck and whatnot to get through after. She said this was not unusual, and frequently when she competed everyone would get together afterwards and trade ingredients around.

Taste was such a great show; I was so sad to see it go.

Me too. Far too few shows elevate the how of cookery over the why. Give someone a fish/teach someone to fish, you know? That's really the only major benefit of a culinary school education anywhere other than CIA, Cordon Bleu, or J&W (maybe a couple others; obviously those gold-star schools provide many other benefits); the emphasis is on learning concepts and how and why things work the way they do. Example, I have no shortbread recipes at all in my head. What I have is the 321 ratio, which lets me do anything I want. Same with, say, truffles. I don't need a recipe for any kind of truffle, I just need to a) know how to make a ganache, and b) sometimes how adding alcohol will change the underlying texture. After that, I can do whatever.

This is why Rosengarten, and Alton Brown later, should be lionized as such important TV cooks. They delve into the why, in engaging and approachable detail, which gives you a much bigger toolbox than just what and how.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:59 PM on December 22, 2013 [9 favorites]


Ok -- last comment because I have to go shopping for Christmas feast and get a tree and also because if you have noticed I can talk about this show ALL GODDAMN DAY --

Whenever they feature homard lobster we like to shout out "Homard's comin'!"
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 1:01 PM on December 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


(On postview and not wishing to abuse the edit function, you can actually make froyo in thirty seconds with LN2, derp)
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:02 PM on December 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Errrr...no. When you're cooking at that level, leaving something under a heat lamp for more than the couple of minutes required for a server to pick it up = unacceptable loss of quality; dead plate

I think you might be overestimating the level of perfection required of the food on a cooking show. Something like octopus broth can't sit out for hours, but half an hour while the other guy does his tasting should be perfectly OK for the show's purposes.

I have a dim memory that the sushi battle amended the rules so that each competitor would be able to present dishes to their best effect. Which is what makes me think the original Japanese show likely held somewhat realistically to the "five servings actually for real cooked over the course of an hour" premise. Nothing in the episodes I've watched this afternoon seems like the sort of thing that cannot possibly be held for half an hour without going off.
posted by Sara C. at 1:11 PM on December 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think you might be overestimating the level of perfection required of the food on a cooking show. Something like octopus broth can't sit out for hours, but half an hour while the other guy does his tasting should be perfectly OK for the show's purposes.

I think you might be underestimating the level of perfectionism seen in chefs of that calibre. Whether it's being done for TV or not, the bottom line is that these chefs are competing, and we are a seriously competitive bunch; we want our food at its best. Holding anything of the delicacy cooked on ICJ for half an hour--or, as I have pointed out, almost certainly longer--would kill most of it. Which is also beside the more important point: whoever's food sits around for longer is going to degrade in flavour, thus leaving them at a disadvantage. Trust me when I say that even if it's in fun for a TV show, almost no chef is going to participate in something that puts them at a disadvantage that, when freshness is always key, is so severe.

Which is what makes me think the original Japanese show likely held somewhat realistically to the "five servings actually for real cooked over the course of an hour" premise.

As I pointed out above, the chefs on ICA are almost certainly making (or at least prepping to just short of service) four portions of each dish, just that only one is making it to the plate for photography (and for the poor Chairman to pick at).
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:25 PM on December 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's going to be 42C here today. I'm going to be retreating to my bedroom, cranking the ac up to full and watching this until about February. Thank you, Zarq, for making it possible for me to enjoy Christmas.
posted by ninazer0 at 1:32 PM on December 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


Post of the Year.
posted by four panels at 2:05 PM on December 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


I just realized that this:

I think you might be underestimating the level of perfectionism seen in chefs of that calibre.

probably sounded snarky and fighty, and I am very sorry if it came across that way. Unintended, I promise. I think in some ways we're talking past each other; our areas of expertise are pretty different.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:13 PM on December 22, 2013


I still giggle at the fact that, before Alton Brown was shanghaied/sold out to "Iron Chef America", his "Good Eats" show did an episode that parodied the format: "SCRAP IRON CHEF", and Food Network still keeps it up on its site (may not be available everywhere, but that's just how TV channel sites are).
posted by oneswellfoop at 2:14 PM on December 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Just stumbled across this entertaining piece about the dubbing process.
posted by neroli at 2:15 PM on December 22, 2013 [6 favorites]


Iron Chef is one of very few examples in my life of my coming upon something that would end up being a pop culture sensation years before it hit the mainstream. Sometime in 1995 or 1996 (I can place it within this timeframe since I know it was after I graduated college in mid-95 but before I moved to Southern California at the end of `96) I was at my sister and brother-in-law's apartment, stoned out of our minds after several bong rips, and flipping channels on the TV. My brother-in-law (now a professional chef himself) was in culinary school at the time so of course stopped once he came upon a food-themed show. We were mesmerized. This was when IC was airing on the local Japanese language channel, not the Food Network, and the episodes were subtitled, not dubbed.

I'm sure there is some "their indie stuff was better, man" at play here, but there was definitely some charm lost when the show starting airing on Food Network with English commentary, as opposed to the original subtitled version when you would hear this excited, screaming commentary in Japanese, while the subtitles would read something along the lines of, "MAN ALIVE, HE IS MAKING A COMPOTE!!!" I watched the Food Network incarnation, drew the line at Iron Chef America (the first batch of episodes where the American Iron Chefs conveniently beat all of their Japanese counterparts felt about as authentic as pro wrestling or Duck Dynasty), but I have to admit, as cliche as I'm sure it makes me sound, I kind of miss the days when IC was this secret little thing between me and a few people.

Shameless sibling promotion - my sister's blog post about this very topic.
posted by The Gooch at 4:34 PM on December 22, 2013 [7 favorites]


Iron Chef Japan totally blew me away when I first saw it. A cooking game show? Unpossible! Then enthusiastic goofiness of it all went way past camp to pure entertainment, excellent television.

It's interesting that 75% of the Food Network programming is based on the premise of Iron Chef, cooking game shows. Our guilty pleasure is Chopped, mostly because we like Ted and the show is an undemanding end to a day. I miss the actual cooking content shows though, like Lidia Bastianich. I guess Sunny Anderson still has her show.
posted by Nelson at 4:45 PM on December 22, 2013


In 2005, my husband and I dressed as Chairman Kaga and Iron Chef Sakai for Halloween.

In 2007, I read that Iron Chefs Sakai and Chen were actually coming to Sydney to cook a seven course fancy meal. The cost was ridiculous, but we'd just gotten a tax refund and I convinced my husband we should go. It was pretty damn good*, and we even got our photo taken with them. Neither spoke very good English, but I managed to have a small conversation:

"Chef Sakai, do you know 'Halloween'? ... I WAS YOU!"

One of my all-time life highlights there.

*No fish ice cream though, sadly. I was totally up for it.
posted by web-goddess at 5:30 PM on December 22, 2013 [15 favorites]


I miss the actual cooking content shows though, like Lidia Bastianich.

I don't think she ever had a Food Network show. Her show has always been on PBS.

In fact, I'm just going to lay it out there: PBS cooking shows are FAR superior to anything on the Food Network.

Except that weird manic Swedish girl who always seems to be cooking in Ibiza or something.
posted by Sara C. at 5:54 PM on December 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


What I loved about Iron Chef was the way that it engaged with some of the ultra-fine regional and traditional/technical distinctions in Japanese cuisine that you'd otherwise only appreciate if you lived there or were a complete Japanophile. The preamble would introduce a challenger who was a renowned master of the narrowest of niches, and sometimes the contest involved the chosen Iron Chef trying to compete on the same territory, while other times the Iron Chef would head off in a completely different direction.

Majestic post, zarq.
posted by holgate at 5:54 PM on December 22, 2013 [7 favorites]


Just stumbled across this entertaining piece about the dubbing process.

Wow, I kind of always assumed all the dubbing was done by Japanese-Americans or Japanese-Canadians. (More just for "people most likely to be bilingual" reasons, than anything else.) Interesting that the English voice of Fukui-san is a white guy.
posted by Sara C. at 5:57 PM on December 22, 2013


Ok, back. Tree-ed up and Beef Wellington fixin's all purchased.

I'm back because my husband reminded me of a mystery we can't solve:

In the intro, WHO IS MEDALS GUY?

He's the fellow who is cheerily waving as he enters the stadium. We try to work out the flag behind him, but we can't figure it out. We reckon that it is an early episode that may not have been translated/aired in the U.S.
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 6:35 PM on December 22, 2013


I am a huge Iron Chef fan and even have the book. My favorite tidbit from it is Chen talking about how the chefs did get a list of possible secret ingredients beforehand. Unlike the other chefs Chen never looked at the list because he didn't feel it was in the spirit of the show. I have no idea if this is true or not since most of the players remain in character for what is supposedly a behind the scenes book but I'll always have a soft spot for Chen because of it.
posted by edeezy at 7:05 PM on December 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


I never liked Flay, but the time on ICJ when he jumped on the cutting boar made it incontrovertible that he was a total douche.
posted by Chrysostom at 7:11 PM on December 22, 2013 [11 favorites]


potsmokinghippieoverlord, I watched nearly all of these episodes over the last 6 months (let's say 125 or more out of 175) and don't remember seeing him. There are over 130 episodes not in this post because I couldn't find them online. I suspect he's from one of those.

BTW, if you or anyone else are interested, as I mentioned upthread, I built this post off a spreadsheet I found online. I still have my version in a Google doc, which includes a column next to each show showing the YouTube link I found for each of the videos in this post. I doubt that would help you track down 'medals guy' tho. But if you'd like access to the doc, memail me.
posted by zarq at 7:15 PM on December 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Fantastic post, zarq. Thanks!

The first time I saw it, I turned it on just in time to hear one of the judges say "my mouth is filled with harmony." I was hooked.
posted by homunculus at 8:00 PM on December 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Huh, looks like there is revival of Iron Chef that started in 2012. I wonder if it's any good.
posted by zsazsa at 8:06 PM on December 22, 2013


I always pictured the original Kitchen Stadium as being on some supervillain-esque volcanic island fortress, with Kaga's minions kidnapping challengers.
posted by jason_steakums at 8:07 PM on December 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's a misnomer until iron is the theme ingredient.

It's a misnomer until the chefs are giant robots. Maybe I would also accept Tony Stark
posted by pianissimo at 8:09 PM on December 22, 2013


I love Iron Chef, thanks Zarq. Some random memories:

The dubbing was majestic, and as hammy as it deserved.

Hiroyuki Sakai is amazing - he was my favourite on the show, and if you're in Tokyo I can totes recommend his restaurant for lunch, it was only about 80 bucks if memory served and stood very well on its own. If he's there he will come out and say hi, ironically he was in Australia the day we were there!

Sakai is also the most famous/televised of the iron chefs in Japan, though - and I was surprised when I discovered this - Kenichi is arguably more famous as a chef and his restaurant is much more exclusive/expensive.

Michiba was such a prick. Like, world-class. I remember once once of the judges had a (minor) criticism of a dish, and he lost his shit at her and basically implied the was a complete idiot (to be fair, she may well have been).

I loved those grudge battles that funny chef who was on multiple times would have, and then his proteges etc etc. He has a real Wario vibe to Sakai's Mario.
posted by smoke at 8:27 PM on December 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


one of the best shows and one of the best posts
posted by 404 Not Found at 9:09 PM on December 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Anyone remember the times Hattori competed? Apparently he was awful!

I am envious of anyone who has met an actual Iron Chef! And the Halloween costumes were awesome!

I've been to Morimoto Napa once -- nice if pricey, and a lovely location by the Napa River.
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 9:45 PM on December 22, 2013


The Curry episode currently links to Swallow's Nest Soup episode. I assume this is the curry powder episode that was supposed to be linked.
posted by tychotesla at 10:48 PM on December 22, 2013


[Thanks, tychotesla; fixed in the post!]
posted by taz at 10:52 PM on December 22, 2013


Iron Chef is my favorite shonen fight-of-the-week series. Seriously, take a look at the second Ayu fight; the brash upstart with odd, innovative methods, fighting the apprentice of the former Chef Japan- it even superimposes the faces of the chefs ina style that could be used in a "cut to commercial" panel. I can easily imagine the Dark Tournament sequence of Yuu Yuu Hakusho, only with chefs.
posted by happyroach at 10:55 PM on December 22, 2013


This is outstanding, with a fantastic flag from me! There's a wealth of enjoyment here for some time to come but I have to dive right in to watch the crawfish episode because we've planned a crawfish course, maybe Crawfish Newburg Popovers, to precede the Christmas goose. And, as I'd just idly ordered a cookbook about the cuisine at The Inn at Little Washington, I know I'm in the mood for some culinary stimulation so this post is timely for me and absolutely hits the spot.

I usually point to Miko's Alice's Restaurant post to illustrate the kind of thing that I think is so great about MetaFilter and I do believe I have a shining new example in this post, zarq. Thank you.
posted by Anitanola at 1:14 AM on December 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Iron Chef watching was a family ritual back in the day. Like other fans, we had an Iron Chef contest/dinner of our own: Battle Pasta! Myself, my son (who was a professional cook), and a friend made a bunch of pasta dishes -- lasagna, ravioli (my son formed ones that had individual herb leaves on the pasta dough so that they showed through after cooking like little green jewels) and other stuffed items -- all from fresh pasta and served them up to six or seven other people while the theme from Backdraft played at full volume. We ran back into the kitchen to ditch our aprons (which I had screenprinted in my shop) and came out to discover that everything, every fucking morsel, had been eaten, and people were waiting for more. We ran back into the kitchen (which is maybe a tenth the size of kitchen Stadium) and used up all the dried pasta we could find -- several different dishes, each one excellent -- and served them up. Once again they were sucked down into the voracious collective maw of our guests. By that time we had had it. We hadn't gotten to eat a bite and the guests hadn't scored a damn thing while they gobbled. We sat and drank wine and listened to guests complain about no dessert. My friend gave me a Japanese knife with "Iron Chef Kootenay" carved into the handle, which I treasure and use to this day. And I still wear the apron from time to time.
I want to second the Iron Chef Official Book -- it's great and lists all the battles (probably the source for that spreadsheet). It has the Chairman's top ten dishes and a wealth of other info about how the show was produced. It was remaindered ages ago and hard-cover copies can be found for very cheap.
The judges were amazing: Korn, who said that he was offbeat and liked odd bands like Chumawumba; the photographer who did soft porn and was convinced that Japanese cuisine was the best, because it was Japanese; the Lower-House member who had a theory that apes only became human after they discovered clothes, hence "Homopants" (Perhaps he picked this theory up from Genesis); and, of course, the Bimbo de Jour as the Iron Chef newsgroups called the babbling actress-wannabes who were probably scouted by the photographer.
One fascinating element was seeing how Japanese palates differed. An Italian chef's dishes were dismissed for having too many herbs. On the other hand, any dish with soy sauce and starch that could be linked to the judges' childhood was a winner. Right there is a lesson about the heart of cuisine.
Takeshi Kaga/Chairman Kaga had already been diagnosed with cancer when the show visited New York to kick off the American series. (The show where Bobby Flay stood on his cutting board.) You could see that he had lost weight and looked bad. Whatever else he was in I will always remember him as The Chairman.
Once in a while I watch an Iron Chef America, but it just isn't the same. But I doubt a Japanese re-issue would be as good as the original, either. Some things belong to a particular time and place and, if you were there, you had the fortune to enjoy them. But you cannot manufacture these great moments, they just happen.
posted by CCBC at 1:23 AM on December 23, 2013 [8 favorites]


Thank you tychotesla! And thank you, taz! Sorry about that!
posted by zarq at 4:30 AM on December 23, 2013


As seen on kottke.org. Thanks, zarq!
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:31 AM on December 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


If memory serves me correctly, I love this show. Thanks for another awesome post, zarq!
posted by Gelatin at 7:06 AM on December 23, 2013


If memory serves me correctly

I already did this joke. Three times. And nobody laughed. I'm going down the garden to eat worms.

:P
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:30 AM on December 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


zarq, so many thanks for this.
posted by Dashy at 7:49 AM on December 23, 2013


Is that just how you feel?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:50 AM on December 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


One fascinating element was seeing how Japanese palates differed.

This is the most interesting thing about the show. Last night I was watching an episode where everybody was really excited about a texture described as "gummy". Every episode I watched yesterday, if there was cheese, at least one of the judges would say something disparaging about it.
posted by Sara C. at 8:39 AM on December 23, 2013


Yeah there are some really fascinating differences in textural likes/dislikes between (just going to be broad and overgeneralize here) Eastern and Western palates. Over here, we tend to have aversions to gummy, mucilaginous things. Not always--okra's very popular, and certain kinds of gummy texture are quite popular (gummy bears e.g.). Asian cultures, I think, quite like gummy/mushy textures (e.g. glutinous rice balls), and very hard gels (see: popularity of agar as a gelling agent all over Asia), whereas we tend to prefer more of a middle ground between those two extremes.

I think this comes from a few things. The combination of much-more-common vegetarianism (rendering gelatine, a much softer gelling agent, less common) with much less use of large animals like cows and horses (excellent sources of gelatine), led to the use of things like agar (and other ocean-derived gelling agents such as carrageenan). They behave differently in the mouth; gelatine melts at body temperature, while agar melts at several degrees above.

I think, and this is more gut instinct than any actual half-assed looking into research, that Western mouths tend to also prefer crunchy things at a greater rate than Asian culinary traditions tend to provide. Fried foods aren't uncommon in most Asian cuisines, but it seems to me the general textural palette tends more towards soft/chewy/mucilaginous/dry-gel kind of textures, whereas Western cuisines look more to crunchy/chewy/melty-gel textures.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:02 AM on December 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


Which is to say nothing of the flavour palette differences, most of them imposed by geography of course. But the frequent Asian disdain for cheeses isn't universal; cultured yak butter in Tibet, fermented milks in Mongolia, for example.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:03 AM on December 23, 2013


The Food Network website has an Iron Chef drinking game.

They also have an Alton Brown interview with Dr. Hattori.
posted by zarq at 9:56 AM on December 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


You have to drink every time Ohta says "Fukui-san!"????

This isn't a drinking game, it's a death sentence.
posted by Sara C. at 9:59 AM on December 23, 2013 [8 favorites]


The Card Cheat: "I could have sworn I saw a Tripe Battle episode...maybe that was the US version?"

No tripe battle on the original show. (It's offal, and the theme ingredients were usually not.) But it's a fair bet that tripe was used by at least one chef over the years.
posted by zarq at 10:00 AM on December 23, 2013


This isn't a drinking game, it's a death sentence.

Unless it's aimed at chefs, in which case it would be like a pretty normal Saturday post-service.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:03 AM on December 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


For those wondering upthread about what the Japanese take on Italian food is, the second Tomato battle is pretty enlightening. The challenger is an Italian chef who presents traditional Roman dishes, up against Kobe, who does more of a fusion style (for example one of his dishes is a cold clear ravioli soup). Kobe wins, but only by a hair. And you have to wonder if it's because he's pegged his menu more to a Japanese palate.
posted by Sara C. at 10:41 AM on December 23, 2013


We are at Pizza Hut.

Mads: "Do it agin. Do that voice agin."
Husband: "It... reminds me of... the Olive Garden..."
Mads: "In springtime?"
Husband: "When I... have nowhere else... to go..."
[later] "It cures... the mange... in a 24-hour period..."
posted by Madamina at 10:48 AM on December 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is pretty much the best possible ending to the sentence "Nearly a decade ago, a man's fantasy became reality in a form never seen before..."
posted by Horace Rumpole at 4:21 PM on December 23, 2013


Anyhow, what happened to DigitalDistractions? Any hint?
posted by elpapacito at 7:05 PM on December 23, 2013


My town, Northampton, did an annual fundraiser called "Iron Cook" (ha! you see what they did?!) for several years. One year, they got Bobby Flay to participate and coincidentally, a friend of mine who is head Chef at Eastside Grill was competing against him. So we had a talk about how to get into Flay's head. We came up with an idea - I would take a large cutting board and wood-burn shoeprints into it to recall his notorious Morimoto event. While I was at it, I burned in the date and the event logo.

Before the event began, they auctioned off a few things including a guest judge position. They brought out the cutting board and presented it to Flay. Oh, he was pissed. It was if they had presented him with a framed picture of his mom in flagrate delicto. He was not happy and spat out, "that's real funny" betwen clenched teeth. Success. They then auctioned off the cutting board to a member of the audience.
posted by plinth at 12:09 PM on January 7 [22 favorites]


Oh my god that story made me so happy

the only thing that could make me happier would be video

and a pony
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:57 PM on January 7


Here is the cutting board:
One
Two
Three
posted by plinth at 3:07 PM on January 7 [5 favorites]


Flashing back to the first time I found this Iron Chef slashfic (NSFW)!
posted by cadge at 7:21 PM on January 7 [1 favorite]


no i refuse that does not exist
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:20 PM on January 7 [1 favorite]


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