Cutthroat-Cooking on Iron Chef

Welcome to the most competitive kitchen arena in the world.

Iron Chef is a spectacularly competitive cooking program available on cable and satellite TV where some of the finest contemporary chefs show off their skills in a heated showdown. Hosted in Japan and originally produced by FujiTV, the shows incredible success with viewers has opened it up to international audiences in recent years, with a long and proud history in Japanese television. The show has been so successful that it has spawned an American offspring, Iron Chef America, hosted here in the US (but still attracting the same quality of of local and international chefs).

For those that have yet to see the show, it’s hard to find a comparison that does it justice. Compared with traditional cooking shows on American television, which tend to be tame affairs with the sole purpose of teaching those in front of the tube some interesting recipes and cooking tips, Iron Chef is more a sports show than anything else. Here, all that matters is victory, and many of the chefs aren’t that interested in letting viewers in on their secret weapons and techniques; with the time restrictions imposed upon them, it’s more than understandable!

The show works like this: two lords of the kitchen face off in a 60 minute battle of the ages to provide a panel of renowned food critics a meal with as many courses as possible. One “challenger” chef is brought in to choose from among the academy of “Iron Chefs” an opponent of his liking…an intimidating affair, given that the Iron Chefs are at the top of their game. The better part of the show consists of chronicling the sweat-drenched trials and travails of each camp of the mega-kitchen, which seems more like an exercise in sports commentating than culinary critique. The movements of the chefs and their assistants is so frenetic that confusion and befuddlement often result along the way, but that only adds to the aura of mystique surrounding these brainiacs.

Ingredients have always been one of the big attractions of this show: the propensity toward unheard-of, expensive items surely does its part to reel in spectators, as well as the bizarre and unexpected combinations that the chefs come up with once the competition gets underway. Sometimes, the results are heavenly; other times, they can produce nausea in even the most open-minded viewer. Smoked trout ice cream anyone?

Iron Chef America has brought renewed interest in the original Japanese series at the same time that it has reinvented the show, brought it further into the mainstream of Western culture, and modified the ingredients list a little to include foodstuffs with which we might be more familiar. Some die-hard Iron Chef fans maintain that only the original show is worth watching and that the US spin-off is not as prestigious as its forebear, but most people have accepted the US version as creative, fun, and of the highest class. After all, there is some pretty good talent in America’s kitchens that need not play second fiddle to anybody.

Make sure you check your listings to find out when these heated battles are broadcast. Got an HD set? Watching Iron Chef in high definition can be just as exciting as catching your favorite ball game…find out for yourself.

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