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Iron Chef

From Academic Kids

Iron Chef is a Japanese television program made by FujiTV. The original Japanese title is Ryori no tetsujin (料理の鉄人, Iron men of cookery). It began airing in 1993 as a half-hour show, and was soon expanded to a one-hour format. Aired as a prime-time TV show, the series lasted for six years and more than 300 episodes. The final regular season episode was broadcast in September 1999, with specials continuing to 2002.

The program has an eccentric flavor, even for a game show. Its host is the flamboyant Takeshi Kaga (鹿賀丈史), known on the show as Chairman Kaga (主宰) Its extravagant production values contrast with well-informed yet curiously pedestrian voice-over narration and polite but generally insipid commentary ("This is really very good") from the judges, not all of whom are food professionals.

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

Contents

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.

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). Originally, qualifying matches are held between challengers for the right to face an Iron Chef, but it was later omitted. It is interesting to note that although chefs appear to have the freedom to choose which Iron Chef he or she would face, the matchups are predetermined well beforehand.

In each episode, chefs have one hour to cook a multicourse meal with one theme ingredient that must be present in each dish. The chefs are given a short list of possible themes beforehand, allowing the producers of the show to get any necessary ingredients that may be needed. The chefs compete to "best express the unique qualities of the theme ingredient." Featured ingredients tend toward the exotic and expensive. Many theme ingredients reflect the Japanese nature of the show -- River Eel, tofu, udon -- though ingredients more familiar in the West – bell peppers, summer corn, peaches – are spotlighted as well. There are no specific requirements to the number of dishes that may be made - some challengers have finished only a single dish, and some challengers have finished as many as eight (although four dishes is the typical amount).

Each chef is also given two assistants, who are supposedly students of the Gourmet Academy. (In reality, they are students of the Hattori Nutrition College). In some cases, the challenger may not speak Japanese, in which case the chef is given students that can speak fluently in the challenger's native language.

Throughout the cook-off, running commentary is made by two "sports-casters" in a booth and one floor reporter.

At the end of one hour, a panel of three (later expanded to four, and later 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 from 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. As ties were possible in the era of the four-judge panel, the chef with the greater amount of points won should the judges be deadlocked 2–2. Should the scores remain tied, the chefs would immediately begin a new 30-minute overtime battle with a different ingredient. There, chefs must make do with what remains of their pantry or items that were previously prepared for the main battle but later discarded. The overtime aired as a separate episode. On one occasion, the overtime battle itself resulted in a tie, prompting Chairman Kaga to declare both Iron Chef and challenger winners.

List of Iron Chefs

These are the Iron Chefs who have appeared on the show (some have retired and have been replaced by successor iron chefs):

Notable challengers

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

(Please note that these names are not in the traditional Japanese style [i.e. family name first] but have been Romanized.)

  • Kazuhiko Tei - First chef to defeat an Iron Chef. The theme ingredient was octopus
  • Tadamichi Ota - leader of the "Ota Faction" of traditional Japanese chefs. The Ota Faction regularly challenged Iron Chef Morimoto and his neo-Japanese style. Ota 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 Otas Party of Heaven and Earth (OPHE).
  • Kyouko Kagata - The first female chef to appear on the show, and the youngest chef to be victorious.
  • Toshiro Kandagawa - regular challenger who aligned himself with the Ota Faction. Kandagawa has taken part in seven battles as a chef.
  • Bobby Flay - 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. Morimoto took exception to Flay's behavior, especially when Flay stood on his cutting board at the end of the battle. 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 on Iron Chef America.
  • Ron Siegel - Then of Charles Nob Hill in San Francisco. In Battle Lobster, became the first non-Asian, non-European chef to defeat an Iron Chef (Hiroyuki Sakai).
  • Serie A - A group of Italian chefs which named itself after Italy's top football league and frequently challenged Iron Chef Italian Kobe. No group member ever defeated Kobe, although one member did defeat Morimoto.

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:

(Please note that these names are not in the traditional Japanese style [i.e. family name first] but have been Romanized.)

Show staff

  • Dave Spector served as translator and commentator for "New York Special."

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 $8,000,000). Chairman Kaga, who tried every dish, consumed a total of 2,389,995 calories.

For the show's grand finale, the Iron Chefs faced off against each other, and the final winner was dubbed the "King of Iron Chefs". The victor was Iron Chef French, Hiroyuki Sakai.

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 US on the Food Network, and on SBS TV in Australia, 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. 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 the American dub gives the show is essential to its charms, heightened perhaps by the fact that the flamboyant Chairman is not dubbed.

10 Best Dishes

(These dishes were picked by Chairman Kaga as the 10 Best Dishes out of about 2,500 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 Ganire)
  • 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 la Drage (Challenger Alain Passard)

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 not a success. This may be because the show focused little on cooking—a major part of the Japanese program. The show had a small audience section in bleachers. 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 fellow Food Network personality Alton Brown as the announcer and actor Mark Dacascos playing the role of The Chairman.

The show received high ratings and rave reviews, and in October 2004, Food Network began filming 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 filming location was moved from Los Angeles to New York City.

External links

ja:料理の鉄人 sv:Iron Chef zh:鐵人料理

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