Love to Interrupt
The DiGeorge Files
Our ultimate competition is with
ourselves. That is what my uncle told me when I would visit
him as a young boy. Now I prepare myself for my most savory
challenge. My uncle, the man the world knows as Kaga the
Chairman, has decided that although America is a young
country, we now possess the proper palate to host our own Iron
Chef competition, an American celebration of the world's high
art of cuisine.
Recaps by Chico Alexander, GSNN
Host ("The Chairman"):
Culinary Commentator: Alton Brown
Iron Chefs: Mario Batali, Bobby Flay, Wolfgang Puck
Creator: Keiichi Tanaka (based upon "Ryori no Tetsujin/Iron
EP: Steve Kroopnick
Packager: Triage Entertainment, Fuji Television
Network, Food Network
Aired: April 2004
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Making Of... - April 23
If memory serves me right, this is the series I've
been waiting to cover... But before we dice a single
tomato, let's go back... the complete history (give or
take a few details) of Iron Chef as we know it.
In a castle in Japan, an eccentric gourmand (played
originally by famed Japanese stage actor Takeshi Kaga)
has spent his entire fortune to carve out a gourmet
academy to further his dream to find the culinary
descendant of Rosanjin, a Japanese chef who taught of
food as art. Not only this, but the Chairman, as he was
later called, would spread his message to the four
corners of the world. The cornerstone of this Gourmet
Academy would be a giant cooking arena, the first of its
kind, which would play host to gladiatorial culinary
battles the likes of which the world has never seen
before. The Chairman called his creation "Kitchen
Stadium." Finally, to complete the project, he sought
out the most elite chefs to do battle against any and
all challengers. These men came to be known as the Three
Divas for their combination of color, flavor, and
The Chairman called these three men "Ryori no Tetsujin"...
Cooking's Iron Men... the Iron Chefs. Each taught in a
different discipline of world class cuisine, they are
the invincible men of culinary skills. The first Iron
Japanese was Rokusaburou Michiba. The first Iron French
was Yutaka Ishinabe. The first -- and only -- Iron
Chinese was Chen Kenichi. Over time, the Iron Chefs
would pass their gifts onto a new generation of Iron
Chefs -- Michiba begat Komei Nakamura, who in turn begat
US-based Japanese chef Masaharu Morimoto, and Ishinabe
begat current Iron French Hiroyuki Sakai -- and a fourth
chef would be added to the Chairman's army,
Italy-trained Masahiko Kobe, but all had the same
mission: defend the honor of the Gourmet Academy and
Kitchen Stadium. Any challenger who would defeat an Iron
Chef would have their name live on in gourmet history
forever. The show bore some unforgettable characters,
such as Sakai the "Delacroix of French cuisine," Chen
"the Szechwan sage", Kobe "the Prince of Pasta", Toshiro
Kandagawa "the don of the Kansai", floor reporter
Shinichiro "Fukui-San!" Ohta, color commentator Kenji
"Go, Ohta!" Fukui, and the resident Simon Cowell of IC,
culinary critic Asako Kishi.
This was the story of the show which ran in Japan from
its inception in 1993 to its conclusion in 1999. A few
specials, a new Chairman, and a poorly-translated
American version later, we arrive here, at Iron Chef
Premise hasn't changed much. Two chefs enter. An hour
later, one leaves with his head in his hands, eating the
dull raw pepper of failure. Okay, so it's a little bit
extreme. We'll get to details with the first battle, but
first, color commentator Alton Brown... yes, THAT Alton
Brown, leads us in an hour-long look at what it took to
bring the series to the US WITHOUT having it suck
As you know, Iron Chef premiered in October, 1993, on
Fuji TV in Japan, complete with Chairman Kaga, a
hardcore foodie who looks like he raided Liberace's
closet and has an unnatural craving for yellow bell
peppers. Originally a 30-minute show, the first battle
pitted a challenger against Ishinabe in Battle Salmon.
Later, it expanded into an hour and became available to
legions of fans like myself in anime trading circuits
(remember, not for sale or rent). Bruce Seidel (VP, Food
Network) cited that it created a culinary revolution in
Japan. Knowing a good thing when they saw it, Food
Network snatched broadcast rights to the original eps
dubbed (rather poorly, I must say) in English in 1999.
Keiichi Tanaka, who created the show for Fuji TV,
noticed that there were resemblances to boxing in each
battle, with each chef putting their pride and/or
careers on the line.
Captivated by the wizardry or the sheer foreignness, it
became one of Food Network's top draws. Which led Food
Network to create their own version with help from Fuji
TV. Because after all, they did own the format. Next
step, creating Kitchen Stadium America, with state of
the art appliances, tools, dishes, and ingredients.
After deciding on what the chefs would wear to do
combat. Nothing against silk robes, but that's just
Kitchen Stadium America is where... excuse me... "the
brightest stars in the culinary firmament will square
off and pitch bouts inspired by the legacy of their
gladiator forebearers to determine who will emerge
victorious in the great food wars of the 21st Century."
Alton's words. Very versed, that man. The stadium is
equipped with two identically-designed kitchens with
convection-ovens, a salamander (a broiler with a raising
top), a smoker with wooden disks, a fryolator, double
ovens, six 15,000 BTU burners, a 20,000 BTU griddle, a
20,000 BTU grill, and a 40,000 BTU burner with
convertible face. "Awe-inspiring" as Mario puts it.
"Very very nice, but too convenient" as Morimoto puts
it, citing the artistry of the creation of the dishes.
Very nice, but a long way to go to surpass the original
Kitchen Stadium, where six tons of rice, five tons of
eggs, and a ton each of chicken, beef, pork, foie gras,
and seafood were combined with two tons of tomatoes and
one ton of mushrooms, and topped off with ten pounds of
And all of that translated to a cult following of "the
celebrity chef" in both Japan and the US, as director
Tanaka noted. The five chefs are on pins and needles
until the battle begins. "And then I stop shaking,"
And then there are the secret theme ingredients,
anything from milk to octopus. Ingredients are paramount
to the entire premise, of course, and Jill Novatt
dispatches her army of food buyers to make sure that
they're ready for showtime. One of them, Andy
Sheen-Turner, heads to Little Tokyo to shop for
ingredients for Morimoto. His list includes nori
(seaweed), panko (bread crumbs), soba (buckwheat)
noodles, lotus root, and bonito flakes (and that's only
about 10 percent of the ingredients Morimoto needs!).
Jill also gathers Kyoto scallions, pine branches, shiso
sprouts, benitade, kyuzu juice, and giant radishes
brought from Japan.
As for other ingredients, they could've been as near as
the local supermarket, or as far as off the California
coast. But once all the ingredients are collected, Jill
serves another purpose: to be Alton's eyes and ears off
to the side. She relays the info to Alton's earpiece and
he dissects the info as it comes in. So he's like Fukui
and Dr. Hattori all in one. Clever.
And finally, an army of our own needed to be chosen to
do battle as America's first Iron Chefs. So to answer
your question, yes, ICUSA is OOC - out of continuity. Of
course, you could say that the star is the Chairman, but
he's just there to set the table for the main event and
deliver the verdict. The Iron Chefs are the ones who
would take the stage for the duration of the hour. And
as such, we'll meet the new Chairman later. But first,
the Iron Chefs...
First up, Iron Chef Bobby Flay, a southwestern-style New
York chef who is no stranger to Kitchen Stadium, having
battled Morimoto on two separate occasions. He began at
17 in Joel, before his boss gave him a check to go to a
French culinary school. But he would find that his true
forte lied in the Tex-Mex flavor of the southwest. First
time he saw "Iron Chef" was late at night. He couldn't
believe that Japanese warrior chefs even existed.
Next, Iron Chef Mario Batali, an Italian chef... also
from New York. He started out at Cordon Bleu in London
who started out as a sous-chef in Italy. His restaurants
are considered the finest Italian eateries in New York
City. He'll try to work in the Italian vernacular, being
most comfortable with that discipline. Mario thought IC
was "strange" at first.
Finally, Iron Chef Wolfgang Puck, who grew up in
Auschwitz and is credited with putting California on the
culinary map. He specializes in California French, with
touches of Californian and Asian cuisine to taste.
Chances are you've heard of his LA eatery Spago. If not,
then I suggest you read a People magazine or something.
His philosophy: "Buy the finest ingredients, no matter
what the price, and then don't screw them up." Wolfgang
thought it was exciting to see cooking presented as
Of course, each one knew that food made up the heart of
the show. And two of those crafters have come as
challengers from Japan to kick ass and take names.
First, Hiroyuki Sakai, Iron French II, who heads the
kitchen at La Rochelle, one of the best French eateries
in Tokyo. He was later crowned the King of Iron Chefs in
the original series' finale. His ideal theme ingredient?
Fish. "I've never lost a fish battle." Mario describes
Sakai as "the most 'zen master' of all the Iron Chefs".
The second challenger is Iron Japanese III, Masaharu
Morimoto, who trained as the head chef of Nobu New York
before opening up his own restaurant, Morimoto's, in
Philadelphia. He can't make simple sushi, so he makes it
with international ingredients. He's also the most
competitive of the Iron Chefs. "When I was a kid, I had
two dreams: I wanted to become a baseball player, play
professionally. And then I wanted to be a sushi chef."
"He comes to win, he comes to kill," Bobby notes. Yeah,
he knows that from first-hand experience.
Yep. You remember, right? The end of the battle? The
cutting board? Just one of the many injuries sustained
to one's ego at Kitchen Stadium. Not to discount the
monkfish bites, the knife mishandlings, and the squid
bites. The most stinging injury from a physical
standpoint came from a shock to Bobby Flay in New York
Battle Rock Crab. It came about when a water-main leaked
and the electric stove acted as a conductor. Even more
damaging ego-wise was what Bobby did after the final
Gong of Fate sounded. He got up onto his cutting board
and started hyping the crowd. The Iron Chefs did not
take too kind of that, even as Bobby meant no ill will.
Ironically, Morimoto went on to win that battle. And
they're still friends to this day.
Morimoto agreed to a rematch in Tokyo, thinking that
Flay was subject to controversy over sabotage and
theatrics. That played out in 21st Century Battle Part
2: Battle Lobster. Everything went as it was supposed
to, then at around the 15-second mark, tried his best
not to insult his hosts, chucking the cutting board and
standing atop the bare kitchen counter. Did he succeed?
You be the judge.
That battle went to Bobby Flay. So I guess you could say
that Flay and the Iron Chefs have some unfinished
business. That will have to wait until the first battle.
But first, we meet the new Chairman, who just happens to
be... the original Chairman's nephew with an unhealthy
obsession with apples. Of course, we know that Takeshi
Kaga is not really the uncle of one Mark Dacascos
(actor/martial artist best known for his roles in
"Brotherhood of the Wolf" and "Cradle 2 The Grave"), but
perhaps the story of Iron Chef is best left for him to
"Our ultimate competition is with ourselves. That is
what my uncle told me when I would visit him as a young
boy. Now I prepare myself for my most savory challenge.
My uncle, the man the world knows as Kaga the Chairman,
has decided that although America is a young country, we
now possess the proper palate to host our own Iron Chef
competition, an American celebration of the world's high
art of cuisine. Kaga honors me by asking that I serve as
Chairman of our own Gourmet Academy to preside over this
most glorious event. He has sent gifts that will help
pass the torch between our two worlds, and he has
dispatched two of his bravest champions. These heroic
figures, these Iron Chefs will compete on these shores
in our new Kitchen Stadium and reveal to us the
tantalizing lessons of taste, texture, and technique.
The Iron Chefs have traveled far, not only to do
honorable battle with America's finest chefs, but also
to carry a flame that burns within each and every one of
us. That undying thirst and internal hunger to be our
best. To be the best..."
Up next: Flay vs. Sakai. This promises to be quite