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|Iron Chef (料理の鉄人)|
|Created by||Fuji Creative Corporation|
|Directed by||Keiichi Tanaka|
|Presented by||Takeshi Kaga|
|Narrated by||Toshiyuki Makihara|
|Theme music composer||Hans Zimmer|
|Opening theme||"Show Me Your Firetruck"|
(score from Backdraft)
Andrew Lloyd Webber
|Country of origin||Japan|
|No. of seasons||7|
|No. of episodes||295 (list of episodes)|
|Running time||30 minutes|
|Original network||Fuji Television|
|Original release||October 10, 1993 –|
September 24, 1999
|Iron Chef (アイアンシェフ)|
|Presented by||Hiroshi Tamaki|
|Theme music composer||Akira Senju|
|Country of origin||Japan|
|No. of seasons||2|
|No. of episodes||14 (list of episodes)|
|Original network||Fuji Television (Japan)|
|Original release||October 26, 2012 –|
March 22, 2013 + specials July 4, 2013
|Iron Chef - Fuji Television|
Iron Chef (料理の鉄人, Ryōri no Tetsujin, literally "Ironmen of Cooking") was a Japanese television cooking show produced by Fuji Television. The series, which premiered on October 10, 1993, was a stylized cook-off featuring guest chefs challenging one of the show's resident "Iron Chefs" in a timed cooking battle built around a specific theme ingredient. The series ended on September 24, 1999, although occasional specials were produced until 2002. The series aired 309 episodes. Repeats are regularly aired on the Food Network in Canada, the Cooking Channel in the United States, and on Special Broadcasting Service in Australia. Fuji TV aired a new version of the show, titled Iron Chef (アイアンシェフ, Aian Shefu), starting on October 26, 2012.
The host of the show was the flamboyant Takeshi Kaga, known on the show as Chairman Kaga (鹿賀主宰, Kaga Shusai). He began most episodes with his signature words, taken from Arthur Rimbaud, "If memory serves me right...「私の記憶が確かならば…」"(Jadis) si je me souviens bien..." and started the cooking time with the phrase "Allez Cuisine!". The show had two regular commentators, Kenji Fukui, who narrated the action on the floor, and Yukio Hattori, a food scholar and founder of the Hattori Nutrition College. A floor reporter, Shinichiro Ohta, reported to Fukui on what the challengers and Iron Chefs were preparing, their strategy, and their comments, breaking Fukui's train of commentary with a polite "Fukui-san?". One or two guest commentators (who also served as judges) also made frequent appearances. The commentary covered ingredients, history of contenders, and other background information to give viewers context for what was happening in the kitchen.
The supposed "story" behind Iron Chef was recounted at the beginning of every episode. A title card, with a quote from famed French food author Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin first appeared: "Tell me what you eat, and I'll tell you what you are." Then, it was said that Kaga "realized his dream in a form never seen before" and specially constructed a cooking arena called "Kitchen Stadium" in his castle. There, visiting chefs from "around the world" would compete against his Gourmet Academy, led by his three (later four) Iron Chefs. Chairman Kaga himself was a showpiece, dressed in outlandish examples of men's formal attire. The English name Iron Chef comes from the show itself: Kaga would use this translation of the Japanese title when summoning his chefs at the beginning of the "battle".
From the beginning of the show in 1993, the three Iron Chefs were: Iron Chef Japanese Rokusaburo Michiba, Iron Chef Chinese Chen Kenichi, and Iron Chef French Yutaka Ishinabe. After the first season, Ishinabe decided to step down and become an 'honorary Iron Chef', thus passing the mantle of Iron Chef French to Hiroyuki Sakai in 1994. Ishinabe returned for two more battles during season three. At the beginning of season four in 1996, Michiba announced his retirement and debuted Koumei Nakamura as the new Iron Chef Japanese. Michiba returned on rare occasions for special Kitchen Stadium battles. In 1997, Chairman Kaga announced a new, additional Iron Chef to the group: Iron Chef Italian Masahiko Kobe. He was the youngest of the Iron Chefs and battled sparingly throughout the rest of the show, ascending to the stage separately from the three main Iron Chefs, and surrounded by a chamber string ensemble. In 1998, Nakamura also decided to retire and passed the title of Iron Chef Japanese to Masaharu Morimoto.
Iron Chef statistics
|Iron Chef||Title||Wins||Losses||Draws||No Contests||Total||Win %|
|Chen Kenichi (陳 建一, Chin Ken'ichi)||Iron Chef Chinese||66||24||3||0||93||72.6%|
|Yutaka Ishinabe (石鍋 裕, Ishinabe Yutaka)||Iron Chef French (I)||7||1||0||0||8||87.5%|
|Hiroyuki Sakai (坂井 宏行, Sakai Hiroyuki)||Iron Chef French (II)||70||15||1||0||86||82.4%|
|Masahiko Kobe (神戸 勝彦, Kobe Masahiko)||Iron Chef Italian||16||7||1||0||24||68.8%|
|Rokusaburo Michiba (道場 六三郎, Michiba Rokusaburō)||Iron Chef Japanese (I)||33||5||1||0||39||85.9%|
|Koumei Nakamura (中村 孝明, Nakamura Kōmei)||Iron Chef Japanese (II)||22||11||1||1||35||66.2%|
|Masaharu Morimoto (森本 正治, Morimoto Masaharu)||Iron Chef Japanese (III)||17||8||1||0||26||67.3%|
- Kenji Fukui, Announcer/Commentator (English voice: Bill Bickard)
- Yukio Hattori, Commentator (English voice: Scott Morris)
- Takeshi Kaga (as Chairman Kaga), Host (English voice: Duncan Hamilton, Kent Frick)
- Shinichiro Ohta, Kitchen Reporter (English voice: Jeff Manning)
- Kyoichi Tanaka, Director
- Masahiro Ito, Screenwriter
- Kundō Koyama, Screenwriter
- Setsuko Yuuki, Food Coordinator
- Dave Spector served as translator and commentator for "New York Special".
Originally, challengers vied with each other in preliminary "battles" to earn the right to face an Iron Chef in a 90-minute competition, and should a challenger win twice against Iron Chefs, the challenger would be given the title of "Honorary Iron Chef". However, this format proved unpopular, the preliminary round was scrapped and the main contest was reduced to the now familiar 60 minutes. The awarding of honorary Iron Chef titles to challengers was also discontinued (although this was largely a moot point as few challengers ever defeated two Iron Chefs in separate contests), but was given as an emeritus title for a retiring Iron Chef. Once honorary titles were no longer issued, challengers who beat an Iron Chef had to settle for, according to the English version's introduction, "the people's ovation and fame forever".
In each episode, chefs have one hour to cook and improvise a multicourse meal around a theme ingredient that must be present in each dish. Before the actual taping, the chefs are given a short list of possible themes, allowing the producers of the show to get any ingredients that may be needed. Judges' primary goal was said to be determining which chef was able to "best express the unique qualities of the theme ingredient". In rare cases, the format changed—angler fish battles were typically 75 minutes in length, and noodle battles had the Iron Chef stop after 50 minutes of cooking, only to resume after the challenger's dishes were tasted so that the noodles could be served right after cooking.
Featured ingredients tend toward the exotic and expensive. Many theme ingredients reflect the Japanese origin of the show—river eel, tofu, udon—though ingredients more familiar in the West, such as bell peppers, summer corn, and peaches, are spotlighted, as well. In one episode devoted to asparagus, the challenger boasted that he used over $1,000 worth of lobster (which he then discarded) simply to flavor his asparagus in this battle against Iron Chef Morimoto.
Initially, a minimum of three dishes was to be prepared, although some challengers have finished only a single dish; four is the typical number. The record for highest number of dishes prepared for a battle was eight, first set by challenger Kenji Kaji against Iron Chef Michiba in "Battle Umeboshi". Five (later six) servings of each dish are prepared, one each for the chairman and judges, and one for photography and presentation.
Each chef is also given two assistants, who are supposedly students of Kaga's "Gourmet Academy" (in reality, they are students of Hattori Nutrition College). If the challenger does not speak Japanese, students who can speak in the challenger's native language are sometimes provided. In a notable exception, San Francisco chef Ron Siegel struggled with his assistants, who did not speak English. One assistant, Kenichi Miyanaga, became a challenger himself, taking on Iron Chef Morimoto in a sweetfish battle.
Commentary and judging
Throughout the cook-off, running commentary is made in a booth near the cooking area by an announcer, Kenji Fukui; a commentator, Yukio Hattori, and one or two of the guest judges, with one floor reporter (sometimes two; normally Shinichiro Ohta) providing details of the action on each side. The commentators and judges discuss the style of cooking, culinary traditions and unusual food preparation. At the end of the hour, after end-of-battle interviews with both competitors, each dish is presented to the camera, with a description of its properties (written by the show's screenwriters based on the chef's explanation) read by the announcer. Then, a panel of three (later expanded to four, and later still, five) judges, of which typically one is a professional critic, tastes the dishes and judges them based on taste, presentation, and originality. Each chef may be awarded up to 20 points by each judge, with 10 given for taste and five each for presentation and originality. The chef with the greatest score wins the competition. (In earlier four-judge episodes, the win went to the chef who won three of the four judges, or, failing that, the chef who makes the highest points total.)
Chairman Kaga tastes the dishes along with the judges. While he occasionally makes comments and seeks input from judges during tasting, he generally does not participate in scoring; he did do so, however, during the 2000th Dish Battle. During this episode, a team of French cuisine chefs—captain Hiroyuki Sakai, the original Iron Chef French Yutaka Ishinabe, and former challenger and Etsuo Joh—battled a team of Chinese cuisine chefs composed of captain Chen Kenichi, former challenger Sozo Myamoto, and former challenger Yuji Wakiya (who would later be Iron Chef Chinese on the 2012 revival). To break the tie, Chairman Kaga asked them to allow him this one instance of selfishness, and he cast his vote for the French team.
In the case of a deadlock (as was possible during the era of the four-judge panel), first place is awarded to the chef with the greater number of points. On the rare occasions that the scores were also tied, an immediate "overtime battle" was held to determine the winner. In overtime, the chefs are given 30 minutes to prepare dishes with a different key ingredient, having to make do with what remains of their pantry or with items that were previously prepared for the main battle. The overtime battles are aired as a separate episode. On one occasion, the overtime battle itself resulted in a tie, prompting Chairman Kaga to declare both the Iron Chef and challenger winners.
The stage setting for the show, "Kitchen Stadium" (キッチンスタジアム, Kitchin Sutajiamu), 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 those of most other cooking shows. Some statistics: 893 portions of foie gras, 54 sea bream, 827 Ise shrimp, 964 matsutake mushrooms, 4,593 eggs, 1,489 truffles, 4,651 g of caviar, and 84 pieces of shark fin were used during the show, bringing the total grocery bill to ¥843,354,407 (or about $7,115,520). One of the most expensive battles was Battle Swallow's Nest, which ran over $40,000 solely for that ingredient, not counting large quantities of shark's fin; for the battle, the producers were permitted to return any unused portions to Hattori Nutrition College.
Final episode and specials
For the show's grand finale, aired from September 10, 1999, to September 24, 1999, the Iron Chefs faced off against each other in a three-part battle, with the winner to face French chef Alain Passard, owner of Michelin three-star restaurant L’Arpege, with the winner dubbed the "King of Iron Chefs".
In the first round, Iron Chef Chinese Chen defeated Iron Chef Italian Kobe in Battle Pork (Tokyo X). In the second round, Iron Chef French Sakai defeated Iron Chef Japanese Morimoto in Battle Bell Pepper. In the final match, Sakai defeated Chen in Battle Homard Lobster and was dubbed "King of Iron Chefs". Prior to that episode, Sakai had never won a lobster battle.
In the final bonus match in Kitchen Stadium, with all of the current and previous Iron Chefs looking on, Iron Chef French Sakai defeated Alain Passard in Battle Long-Gang Chicken. Thus, Hiroyuki Sakai was dubbed as both "King of Iron Chefs" and "The No. 1 in the World."
Two reunion specials were produced in 2000. The first was "The Millennium Special"; the second was "New York Special", staged in a makeshift Kitchen Stadium at Webster Hall in New York City, and was the first appearance of Bobby Flay. The New York special also included Michiba and Morimoto on Gordon Elliott's Door Knock Dinners (with footage aired on both shows) surprising a family in Rye by preparing dinner for them with just leftovers and other items in the family's refrigerator. 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".
Sakai, Chen, Kobe and Michiba, along with celebrity chefs including Chen's son Chen Kentaro and Singaporean patissier Janice Wong, also participated in an Iron Chef All Stars charity dinner at the Sydney Opera House in August 2017 that raised $26,500 (AUD) for Opportunity International Australia and was eventually Kobe's last Iron Chef event before his death.
United States reception
While always a success in Japan, Iron Chef became a surprise cult favorite in the United States when it was picked up by the Food Network in 1999 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, eventually leading to a spoof on Saturday Night Live.
The show was presented in the United States and Canada on the Food Network, dubbed and/or subtitled into English. It is also actively broadcast on SBS TV in Australia. In the case of SBS, this is unusual as the network has a policy favouring in-house subtitling. It may be felt that the tone given to the show by its American dub is essential to its charms, heightened perhaps by the fact that in most episodes, the flamboyant Chairman is subtitled instead of dubbed. However, episodes aired since February 2009 have seen the Chairman's voice dubbed rather than subtitled as was the case in previous airings, except when he sends the chefs into battle.
The show was broadcast on the Finnish channel SubTV, and the Swedish channel TV400 (TV4). Iron Chef was also broadcast on Challenge in the UK in 2003 and 2004, as part of its "Japanese Christmas Cracker" and "Japanorama" strands.
The show had again aired in the U.S. on the Fine Living Network from May 5, 2008, until the channel went off the air on May 30, 2010; however, the music from earlier broadcasts, taken from the film Backdraft, had been replaced due to music-licensing issues with NBC Universal. The Cooking Channel picked up the series on June 1, 2010, when it replaced Fine Living. The stations that have carried the series, Fine Living, Cooking Channel, and Food Network, are all owned by Scripps Networks Interactive.
Certain challengers have made repeat appearances, or have been particularly memorable (including if they were the lone chefs specializing in their particular cuisines in the show's history).
(Japanese names are not in the traditional Japanese style [i.e. family name first] but have been written in standard European style [i.e. family name last].)
- Jacques Borie: An MOF winner. He is the only challenger who beat iron chef Yutaka Ishinabe.
- La Tour d'Argent (Two wins and one draw in four battles) – A historic French restaurant in Paris (dating itself back to 1582) that has a Tokyo branch at the Hotel New Otani open since 1984.
- Tadaaki Shimazu: a chef who worked at the Tokyo branch, he bested Sakai with homard lobster as the theme.
- Bernard Leprince (One win in two battles) : a chef at the main Paris branch who faced Nakamura twice, with the chefs winning one each. Leprince won their initial battle during the French Special with salmon as the theme, while Nakamura won the rematch in Tokyo with duck as the theme.
- Dominique Corby: a chef at the Tokyo branch, he was the 300th challenger and fought Chen to a draw first with foie gras as the regulation theme and then with asparagus as the overtime theme. He is the only competitor to have tied an Iron Chef twice — once initially and again in the overtime battle. He and Chen were subsequently declared joint winners.
- Arpège (Two wins and one draw in four battles) – a French restaurant in Paris that earned its first Michelin Guide star in its first year after its founding in 1986, its second soon thereafter and a third in 1996, which it has maintained since. It was also ranked 8th in The World's 50 Best Restaurants in 2018.
- Alain Passard (One win and one draw in three battles): Arpège's owner and head chef. He represented France in the 1997 Iron Chef World Cup in Kyoto and beat American Patrick Clark with homard lobster as the theme before tying Nakamura in the final with foie gras as the theme. L'Arpege had received its third Michelin star and Passard was recognized as the top chef in the world by the time he was invited to Kitchen Stadium to be the final challenger, and Sakai bested him with Long Gang chicken as the theme.
- Tetsuya Shimada: A Japanese French chef who worked at Arpège from 1987 until his return to Japan in 1992, his skills were recognized by Passard, who made him a seafood specialist while at Arpège. Also a member of Club Mistral (see below), Sakai also beat him with black truffles as the theme.
- Cheng Kazuhiko: A Chinese chef and the first challenger to win in Kitchen Stadium after he bested Chen in the sixth episode with octopus as the theme
- Tadamichi Ōta: defeated Iron Chef Sakai in an octopus battle, in which Sakai was particularly squeamish about handling the live creatures. Later became the leader of the "Ōta Faction" (大田軍団) of traditional Japanese chefs. The Ōta Faction regularly challenged Iron Chef Morimoto and his neo-Japanese style, winning one out of five battles. Ōta Faction was the name used in the translated version shown on Food Network. In the original Japanese version (shown in the U.S. and transcribed by the Iron Chef Reporter in southern California) the group is called Ōta’s Party of Heaven and Earth (OPHE; 大田天地の会). Every time he appeared, Fukui would point out that he was not related to Shinichiro Ohta, the show's floor reporter.
- Kyoko Kagata (One win in two battles): A French chef, the first female chef to appear on the show and the youngest chef to be victorious after beating Chen with scallops as the theme. Four years later, after experiencing a midlife crisis, she challenged Chen again. This time, with veal as the theme, Chen won by 19-17 on Kishi's scorecard and 20-19 on the others.
- An interesting side note is that the second female challenger, cooking show host Katsuyo Kobayashi, also faced Chen. Kobayashi indirectly picked Chen because she allowed Kaga to pick for her. Chen lost both battles, and purportedly caught some flak from chef-friends of his. Chen fought another two female challengers in separate battles and won.
- Cho Chiyo: An okonomiyaki turned Cantonese chef from Kobe who helped feed those suffering hardship after the city was devastated by the Great Hanshin Earthquake. Kaga invited her to battle in recognition of her bravery and so that she could cook to her heart's content, and she challenged Chen, who prevailed with tofu as the theme.
- Toshiro Kandagawa (three wins out of six battles): Regular challenger who aligned himself with the Ōta Faction, a group of hardline traditionalists in Japanese cuisine, and often led his army of fellow chefs and protegés into Kitchen Stadium during challenges. Kandagawa has taken part in several battles wherein he supported apprentices to battle an Iron Chef (only one out of the ten won). Kandagawa also participated in several "battle special" episodes, including the 21st Century Battle. Rokusaburo Michiba was his main rival until Michiba's retirement as Iron Chef Japanese; he has recorded victories over Chen, Nakamura and Sakai.
- Pierre Gagnaire: The owner and head chef of the eponymous Michelin 3-star Pierre Gagnaire in Paris, Gagnaire represented France in the 1995 Iron Chef World Cup at Ariake Coliseum but lost to eventual runner-up Gianfranco Vissani with tuna as the theme ingredient. He was later under financial pressure as the French economic downturn threatened to close the restaurant, and Kaga was moved to organize the France Battle Special to rekindle Gagnaire's spirit. He then proceeded to defeat Sakai with lobster as the theme. Gagnaire has since opened another restaurant bearing his name in Tokyo as part of his ventures, operating since 2005.
- Rory Kennedy: The head chef of Rules in Covent Garden, London and the lone British challenger on the show. He and Sakai battled to a draw with rabbit as the theme, with Sakai prevailing in overtime with pigeon as the theme.
- Bobby Flay: Flay entered into a bit of a rivalry with Iron Chef Japanese Morimoto during the show's special New York Battle. Flay complained that his side of the kitchen was poorly laid out (it was noted in an Iron Chef America "Behind the Scenes" episode that the kitchen was hastily set up in the provided forum). At one point Flay received an electric shock, transmitted by a wet floor and faulty wiring, when he grabbed a metal pan on the range. When Flay stood on his cutting board at the end of the battle, Morimoto declared that Flay was "not a chef" for disregarding the cleanliness of one's cutting board. Morimoto won, but Flay was offered a rematch. He accepted, and got his revenge, in the 21st Century Battle in Japan, where, at battle's end, he tossed the cutting board off the counter before climbing on it, so as not to offend Morimoto again. Flay then became an Iron Chef alongside Morimoto on Iron Chef America. This rivalry was revisited for a third time with Morimoto defeating Flay during the Holiday Ice Battle (Iron Chef America, November 2009)
- Ron Siegel: A French/California cuisine chef who was head chef of Charles Nob Hill in San Francisco when he bested Sakai with lobster as the theme to become the first American challenger to win in Kitchen Stadium. Mayor Willie Brown had personally recommended Siegel to be on the show.
- Michael Noble: The lone Canadian challenger and an award winner in the Bocuse d'Or, who was head chef at the Metropolitan Hotel in Vancouver when he challenged Morimoto in Battle Potato in 1999 with Morimoto winning 3-1.
- Wayne Nish: A Japanese-American chef (his grandfather is from Yamaguchi Prefecture), New York native and the head chef at March, a highly-rated restaurant on Manhattan's Upper East Side. Sakai bested him with apples as the theme, with the battle also being notable because it was the only one that regular color commentator Yukio Hattori judged.
- Serie A (セリエＡ, also known as the "Big Leaguers"): A group of Italian chefs working in Japan who took their name from the top flight of Italian football and frequently challenged Iron Chef Italian Kobe: Mario Frittoli, Constantino Gemmoli, and Franco Canzoniere. No group member ever defeated Kobe, although one member did defeat Morimoto.
- Marco Paolo Molinari: A member of Serie A and a world pasta champion who prevailed over Morimoto with porcini mushrooms as the theme, making him ultimately the only Italian challenger to beat an Iron Chef. Utilized a block of marble that was first heated using alcohol spray and a torch and then cooled with dry ice while creating and kneading his dough, which bewildered Morimoto.
- Joël Bruant (One win in two battles): A Tokyo-based French chef considered a French culinary ambassador to Japan, he was vice chairman of the Acaedemie Culinaire de France and a top apprentice to Paul Bocuse. He and Marashi Furutaka beat Michiba and Chen in a doubles match with sea bass as the theme, but Sakai beat him with salmon as the theme.
- Club Mistral (クラブミストラル): A group of young specialists in French cuisine. They mainly targeted Iron Chef French Sakai as a member of Club des Trentes – one of their competing groups composed of more established French chefs that included Sakai, Ishinabe and challenger Etsuo Jō – in a similar fashion, although they took on Iron Chef Chinese Chen and Iron Chef French Ishinabe once each as well. Only one of them managed a win (Kazutaka Okabe versus Sakai, in a lamb battle) despite several attempts.
- Tatsuo Umemiya: An actor, tarento (including on restaurant variety shows) and businessman. He lost to Michiba with horse mackerel as the theme but was invited back as a judge for some subsequent battles including the King of Iron Chefs series finale.
- Heichinrou (One win out of three battles): The oldest restaurant in Yokohama Chinatown sent three challengers to challenge Chen in 1998 and 1999 after deeming him worthy of their challenge. Chen beat cooking coach Hisao Yaginuma with bok choy as the theme and Mitsuo Suganuma (the first Japanese chef to head a Heichinrou branch) with shark fin as the theme before Xie Huaxian, the restaurant's grand chef, won with spiny lobster as the theme.
- Dr. Yukio Hattori: A gentlemen's agreement went on between the Chairman of Gourmet Academy (Kaga) and the President of Culinary Academy (Hattori) where the Doctor agreed to battle an Iron Chef. If he won, he would be given a spot alongside the Iron Chefs and if he lost he would keep working for Kaga. As he remained a commentator until the end of the series, one can easily deduce the outcomes of his two battles. Joël Robuchon was invited as a guest judge for the event, and Honorary Iron Chef Ishinabe served in a commentary role in Hattori's place for the battle. Hattori also battled Nakamura in his final battle with tuna as the theme owing to the longstanding Hattori-Nadaban rivalry, with Nakamura prevailing with tuna as the theme.
- Takashi Saitō (not to be confused with the baseball player): The top apprentice of Chen's father Chen Kenmin who also coached Kenichi after Kenmin passed away and then challenged him with prawns at the theme. Both chefs recreated one of Kenmin's signatures, prawns in chili sauce – Saito recreated Kenmin's original recipe, while Kenichi recreated his father's modern version of the dish (with ketchup, which he then served Canapé Style) and went on to win. In the 2000th Dish Special, Kaga said that Chen's prawns were his favorite dish to that point, and Chen himself also said it was the battle he remembered most including because it was the one battle that his mother Yoko watched in person.
- Isao Makio: A French chef who was a classmate of Sakai's at Izumi Municipal Junior High School in Kagoshima Prefecture, the two sat next to each other but barely talked, though the two were also on the same train to seek jobs and got off at different stations. After Sakai returned to Kagoshima to visit his parents' grave and unexpectedly reunited with his class and teacher, the class relayed his wish to meet Sakai and challenge him, which would be the first time they had met in 40 years. Sakai prevailed with Kagoshima black pig as the theme and the class in attendance.
- Lin Kunbi (no wins in two battles): A celebrity Fuchien Chinese chef who battled Michiba to a draw with potatoes as the theme, leading to the very first overtime in show history where Michiba prevailed with sweet potatoes as the theme. He later also faced Nakamura, who won with bell peppers as the theme.
- Kenichi Miyanaga: A graduate of Hattori Nutrition College who was also an assistant for several Kitchen Stadium Battles and eventually hired by Michiba after Michiba retired as an active Iron Chef and after Miyanaga graduated. Michiba chose him to face Morimoto in a battle to also push Morimoto, and Morimoto won with sweetfish as the theme.
- Yūji Wakiya (one win in three battles): A master of "neo-Chinese" cuisine, Wakiya lost to Iron Chef Sakai in Battle Sea Urchin but defeated Iron Chef Chen with papayas. He later became part of Chen's All-Chinese team alongside Sozo Miyamoto for the 2000th Dish Special. He was also named the second Iron Chef Chinese in the Millennium Cup and was supposed to take over Chen's place, but he never actually battled under the new title until the first episode of the 2012 revival.
- Etsuo Jō (two wins in three battles): A French chef famous for his sauces. Michiba defeated him with broccoli as the theme, but he then bested Sakai with wine as the theme. He was also chosen to be the third member of Sakai's All-French team for the 2000th Dish Special alongside Ishinabe.
- Sozo Miyamoto (no wins in two battles): A Shanghai cuisine chef and a rival of Chen's who, like him, won a silver award representing Japan in the World Chinese Cooking Championship in 1992. Chen won with carp as the theme, but Miyamoto was also invited to join him on the All-Chinese team for the 2000th Dish Special alongside Wakiya.
- Li Jinlun: A Cantonese chef working in Tokyo after being been the head chef at Fook Lam Moon, a famous Cantonese restaurant in Hong Kong. Chen bested him with swallow's nest ($24,000 worth) as the theme.
- Kazunari Takeda: the first challenger defeat Iron Chef Masahiko Kobe in 30 minutes overtime battle with the theme ingredient Pink Prawn. He first tied with Masahiko Kobe during the battle of Cod Soft Roe and finally he made way to the 30 minutes overtime battle and won.
- Liang Shuqing: Liang Shueng's younger brother became the second challenger to defeat Iron Chef Chen Kenichi in 30 minutes overtime battle with the theme ingredient Konnyaku. He first tied with Chen Kenichi during the battle of Pork belly and finally he made way to the 30 minutes overtime battle and won.
- Masahiko Hagiwara (One win in two battles): An Italian chef and pasta specialist. Chen beat him with scampi as the theme, but he bested Kobe with short pasta as the theme in Kobe's debut, making him the only challenger to win against a debuting Iron Chef.
- Kentaro: Katsuyo Kobayashi's son who wants to defeat Iron Chef Chen Kenichi like his mother did before. He first appeared in his mother's cook show at the age of 5 and at age 25 he further his skills in art, music and cooking. During the battle with Iron Chef Chen Kenichi he refused to use the same recipes like his mother. Chen beat Kentaro in the new potatoes battle.
- Shinya Tasaki: The winner of the Association de la Sommellerie Internationale's Meilleur Sommelier du Monde (World's Best Sommelier) in Tokyo in 1995, the first (and as of 2020, still only) Asian national to win the competition. Also president of the Association as of 2013[update]. Tasaki is also the only non-professional chef to have won in Kitchen Stadium after defeating Kobe with fatty tuna as the theme. Though it was not a stipulation of the battle, by virtue of his being a sommelier, both he and Kobe chose wines to pair with their dishes. Also invited to perform sommelier duties during the series finale.
- Sotetsu Fujii: The high priest of the Fushikian Temple in Kamakura and a Shojin vegetarian chef, who Sakai bested with yams as the theme.
- Hiroshi Furusho: A French chef (including a specialty in Cajun cuisine) and a favorite of the Tokyo Yakult Swallows, including manager Katsuya Nomura, a recurring judge who recommended him for the show. Nomura and a number of players attended his appearance, where Michiba prevailed with turkey as the theme.
- Jun'ichi Itō: The first challenger not classified as a chef specializing in any specific cuisine, he started French cooking at age 18 and left for France at age 28. He left for Italy three years later and joined Enoteca Pinchiorri, where Kobe had also trained. When he was 35, he opened his restaurant Herle Quin in Tokyo. Food critic Asako Kishi, the show's most frequent judge by dishes tasted, recommended him as a challenger before Chen won with yogurt as the theme.
- Kensuke Sakai: An Italian chef, but most notable because his restaurant "Nigiro" was (at time of taping in 1998) really a food stand that he brings in by hand to a monastery's yard each night – he had been cited 30 times by Tokyo police before coming to the arrangement with the monastery. At his introduction, Sakai brought the food cart into Kitchen Stadium. Kobe bested him with pumpkin as the theme.
- Chihiro Otsuki: One of just two Spanish cuisine challengers in the show's history, who had won awards for her cooking in Spain. Chen won by just a single point with tomatoes as the theme.
- Yosei Watanabe: The lone Mexican cuisine chef to be a challenger on the show and the chef who opened the first authentic Mexican restaurant in Tokyo, who Kobe bested with mangoes as the theme.
- Senji Osada: A sous vide specialist, who Sakai bested with scallops as a theme. A vacuum machine was stalled on either side of Kitchen Stadium for the battle, and Osada used it for all of his dishes while Sakai also used it for two of his.
- Lee Myong-suk: A Royal Korean cuisine chef and the lone Korean challenger on the show, she went on to become an executive chef at the Culinary Institute of California. Chen was victorious in their battle with liver as the theme.
- Hironobu Tsujiguchi: A patissier who became the youngest champion of the World Cup of Desserts, he was the first and only challenger to win a dessert battle out of seven after he prevailed over Kobe with chocolate and bananas as the themes.
- Tetsutoshi Shimazu: An Italian chef and the first challenger specializing in pizza. Chen bested him with squid as the theme but worried during the battle as Shimazu was making his pizza that he himself might not have a dish that would beat it.
- Gillian Hirst: A chef from Brisbane who was the lone Australian challenger in the show's history. Nakamura bested her with ostrich as the theme by a single point.
- Takashi Mera (No wins in two battles): A chef who used the longest knife in the country, almost twice the 8-inch average length used by other Japanese chefs. He lost to Michiba with tuna as the theme but was invited back for a rematch, though Nakamura bested him with wakame seaweed as the theme.
- Kiyotaka Ikegawa: A sumo rikishi known as Fuyoho who turned chef after an injury cut his sumo career short. Chen bested him with horsehair crab as the theme.
- Other female challengers include Fuyuko Kondō, Kandagawa protégée Yoshie Urabe, Yoshiko Takemasa, Katsuko Nanao, Kumiko Kobayashi, Miyoko Sakai and Chinese Cui Yufen Among the women listed above, only Cui won in her battle (coincidentally against Chen).
The result of a battle may be influenced by the lineup of judges, which changes from show to show. A list of some of the more notable judges, some of which were previous Iron Chefs or challengers, includes:
- These names are not in the traditional East Asian style [i.e. family name first] but have been written in standard western style [i.e. family name last], as they appeared on the English dub of the show.
- Akebono, Yokozuna
- Asako Kishi, a.k.a. the "East German Judge", a food critic and nutritionist. She tasted the most dishes after Kaga, according to the 2000th Plate special episode.
- Chua Lam, Hong Kong gourmet and VP of Golden Harvest
- Jackie Chan, actor and martial artist
- Joël Robuchon, a French chef who was called "Chef of the Century" by the guide Gault Millau; he also trained the 200th challenger, Maurice Guillouët
- Julie Dreyfus, French actress, she refused to taste one dish prepared by Toshiro Kandagawa because it contained whale meat.
- Katsuya Nomura, Nippon Professional Baseball catcher and manager
- Kazuhiro Sasaki, Yokohama BayStars (and later Seattle Mariners) closer
- Kazuko Hosoki, popular fortune teller and holder of the world record for most best-selling books
- Kazushige Nagashima, a.k.a. "Junior," former pro baseball player and sports commentator
- Kenji Fukui, the show's regular announcer and play-by-play commentator, who was also a judge for the 2000th Dish Special
- KORN (born as Nobuaki Kondo), a Japanese rap artist
- Masaaki Hirano, Rosanjin scholar
- Mayuko Takata, actress
- Mitsuko Ishii, newscaster
- Nagisa Oshima, film director
- Pierre Troisgros, a legendary French chef who judged the France Battle special; he also trained one challenger, Ryozo Azao
- Rokusaburo Michiba, Iron Chef Japanese I and Iron Chef Emeritus, who returned as a judge during King of Iron Chefs
- Ryuichi Sakamoto, musician, composer, producer and actor
- Ryutaro Hashimoto, former Prime Minister of Japan, judge for the final battle
- Shigesato Itoi, famous director, writer, producer and video game designer, creator of the Mother series
- Shinichiro Kurimoto, member of the Japanese House of Representatives
- Takehiko Bessho, Nippon Professional Baseball pitcher, manager and commentator
- Tamio Kageyama, novelist
- Tatsuo Umemiya, actor, tarento and challenger
- Tenmei Kanoh, photographer
- Tim and Nina Zagat, the founders of the Zagat Survey, who also helped organize and judge the New York Battle
- Toshiki Kaifu, former Prime Minister of Japan
- Ukyo Katayama, former Formula One driver
- Yasushi Akimoto, lyricist and music producer
- Yoko Akino, actress and cookbook author, who also featured in a TV Tokyo special featuring Sakai, Chen and Michiba visiting and cooking in Shanghai, Seoul and Ho Chi Minh City
- Yoshirō Mori, Lower House member
- Yoshiko Ishii, chanson singer
- Yukio Hatoyama, Leader of the Opposition
- Dr. Yukio Hattori, Hattori Nutrition College president, challenger and the show's regular color commentator
- Yutaka Ishinabe, Iron Chef French I, who returned as a judge during King of Iron Chefs
During the 2,000th Dish Battle, Chairman Kaga selected the five best and three worst dishes from the history of the show.
- Five best dishes
- Prawns in Chili Sauce, Canapé Style (Iron Chef Chen Kenichi)
- Foie Gras and Flatfish with Citrus Sauce (Iron Chef Rokusaburo Michiba)
- Foie Gras and Scallops in Cabbage (Challenger Hiromi Yamada)
- Sea Eel Royale with Truffle Sauce (Iron Chef Hiroyuki Sakai)
- Scallop Salad with Vinaigrette Sauce (Challenger Maurice Guillouet)
- Three worst dishes
- Smoked Asparagus Stick Salad (Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto), the asparagus was so strongly smoked that all judges commented negatively.
- Potato Dumpling Soup (Iron Chef Komei Nakamura), the smell of foie gras killed the aroma of the potatoes and nobody was able to finish it. Both chefs in that match reached a no-decision, therefore the match was restarted.
- Soft Roe in Sake with Truffles (Challenger and commentator Yukio Hattori), gave Joël Robuchon the wrong impression of Japanese sake.
Revival in 2012
In 2012, Fuji Television announced that it was recording new episodes of Iron Chef. The first episode debuted on October 26, 2012 as a two-hour special, thereafter reverting to a one-hour show airing on Friday evenings at 19:57 Japan time. Unlike the original Ryōri no Tetsujin, the new show was titled Iron Chef (アイアンシェフ) in katakana characters. The Chairman's role was assumed by Japanese actor Hiroshi Tamaki. Fuji TV commentator Mizuki Sano hosted the program, and the reporters were Yurika Mita and Daisuke Miyagawa. Dr. Yukio Hattori returned from the original Iron Chef series to provide commentary. Three new Iron Chefs were chosen; Jun Kurogi as Iron Chef Japanese, Yūji Wakiya as Iron Chef Chinese, and Yōsuke Suga as Iron Chef French.
The first battle in the new show was a two-hour special with two battles. The first challenger was former Kitchen Stadium challenger Kenichi Miyanaga, recommended by Iron Chef Rokusaburo Michiba. Miyanaga is Michiba's top apprentice and battled Iron Chef Suga. The challenger in the second battle was Kentaro Chen, recommended by his father Iron Chef Chen Kenichi, who battled Iron Chef Wakiya.
It was announced, after airing thirteen episodes, that the new run of Iron Chef would be discontinued after the last episode on March 22, 2013. Mr. Tatematsu, General Manager of Editing, explained, "Iron Chef is a high quality show and we can say it is FujiTV's treasure. Currently we are struggling for the ratings. We think we have a time slot problem, too, so we would like to consider about a way to make it as special program and forward it into the next stage." On July 3, 2013 the Iron Chefs reunited for an American Chef Special with beef as the secret ingredient. All three Iron Chefs were paired with an American challenger, and then for a fourth round, all six competed. Currently, there are no plans for any more Iron Chef specials.
Iron Chef 2012 statistics
|Iron Chef||Title||Wins||Losses||Draws||No Contests||Total||Win %|
|(黒木純, Kurogi Jun)Jun Kurogi||Iron Chef Japanese||4||2||0||0||6||66.7%|
|Yūji Wakiya (脇屋 友詞, Wakiya Yūji)||Iron Chef Chinese||5||2||0||0||7||71.4%|
|(須賀 洋介, Suga Yōsuke)Yōsuke Suga||Iron Chef French||5||2||0||0||7||71.4%|
Iron Chef America
Iron Chef USA
Around Christmas 2001, the U.S. UPN network presented two one-hour episodes of Iron Chef USA hosted by William Shatner as "The Chairman of the American Culinary Academy." Competition took place inside "Kitchen Arena" (built in Garden Arena in the Las Vegas MGM Grand Hotel). Commentary was provided by Michael Burger and Anthony Dias Blue, with floor reporting by Sissy Biggers. The show featured four Iron Chefs: Iron Chef American Todd English (whose specialty is actually Mediterranean food), Iron Chef French Jean Francois Meteigner, Iron Chef Italian Alessandro Stratta, and Iron Chef Asian Roy Yamaguchi. In the show's only two battles, English defeated Kerry Simon in a dungeness crab battle, and Stratta defeated Marcus Samuelsson in a turkey battle.
These shows were neither a critical nor popular success, perhaps because the show focused little on cooking—a major part of the Japanese program. The show had a small audience section with bleachers, and the audience yelled relentlessly during the show (sounding much like a sports audience). Shatner walked around the kitchen sampling the more expensive items, the chefs refused to say what they were doing, and the cameras rarely showed the food preparation.
Iron Chef America
In 2004, Food Network announced that it would air an Iron Chef special, called "Iron Chef America: Battle of the Masters", featuring Sakai and Morimoto dueling with American Iron Chefs Bobby Flay, Mario Batali, and Wolfgang Puck, all Food Network personalities and renowned American celebrity chefs. (Morimoto and Flay battled in two previous Iron Chef specials that were made after the original series aired.) The specials featured Alton Brown as the announcer and Mark Dacascos playing the role of The Chairman (in the storyline, this Chairman is the nephew of Takeshi Kaga).
The show received high ratings and rave reviews and in October 2004, and Food Network began taping weekly episodes that premiered starting in January 2005. Some changes were made to the show, most notably replacing Puck with Morimoto as an Iron Chef (a fourth Iron Chef, Cat Cora, was added later), and the location was moved from Los Angeles to New York City. The fifth Iron Chef, Michael Symon, was added after his win in The Next Iron Chef. In 2009, Chef Jose Garces became the sixth Iron Chef following his own victory in the second season of that show. In 2010, Chef Marc Forgione won its third season, becoming the seventh Iron Chef on Iron Chef America. Chef Geoffrey Zakarian won that show's fourth season in 2011, making him the eighth Iron Chef. In 2012, Chef Alexandra Guarnaschelli, who had served as Sous Chef on Iron Chef episodes, became the ninth and final Iron Chef after winning the fifth season of The Next Iron Chef.
Iron Chef Gauntlet
Iron Chef Gauntlet is a Spring 2017 revival series of The Next Iron Chef on Food Network.
Iron Chef Showdown
Iron Chef Showdown is a Fall 2017 revival series of Iron Chef on Food Network.
Iron Chef Israel
In 2007, Krav Sakinim (Hebrew: קרב סכינים, Knife Fight), a show based on Iron Chef, began airing on Israel's Channel 10. Each episode features a different prominent Israeli chef, who competes against one of the show's featured foreign chefs. All Israeli winners compete against one another in the finals and the winner competes against a foreign chef for the title of season champion. Season 1 featured only French chef Stéphane Froidevaux, who won the season's finale, while season 2 saw the inclusion of Italian chef Alfredo Russo, meaning both Michelin star holders would have to compete against each other for a spot in the final bout. The show is actively hosted by actor Oded Menashe and the regular commentators are chef Yaron Kastenboim and catering company owner Ran Shmueli. While in season 1, the panel of judges was made up mostly of celebrities from the entertainment industry, season 2 features renowned persons from the culinary industry, such as restaurant critics and chefs. The competitors prepare a three-course meal, with each dish given a score of up to 10 points by each member of the panel and commentators, accumulating up to 150 points per chef (compared to 90 points in season 1, where the commentators had relatively more points to give).
Iron Chef UK
In 2010, UK public television network Channel 4 debuted Iron Chef UK, based on Iron Chef. The show airs five days a week, and is hosted by Olly Smith and Nick Nairn. The four Iron Chefs are Tom Aikens, Martin Blunos, Sanjay Dwivedi and Judy Joo. Like the original Iron Chef, the competitions are held in Kitchen Stadium and presided over by The Chairman. Judging occurs in two rounds, with the first round being appetizers, and the second being the main courses. Two challengers prepare the appetizer, producing one appetizer each, while the Iron Chef prepares two. These are judged, and the standing for the team versus the Iron Chef are announced. Then the second half begins: the challenging team and the Iron Chef return to the kitchen to prepare the main course. The two challengers each prepare one dish, while the Iron Chef prepares two. Judging resumes, and the results are announced. Either the Challenging team wins, or the Iron Chef wins in overall score, and the best dish from the challenging team is also announced. The challengers with the best dish returns on Friday to compete against the best Iron Chef of the week.
Iron Chef Australia
The Australian Iron Chefs were Neil Perry, Guy Grossi and Guillaume Brahimi, while the show features a static judging panel composed of food critics Larissa Dubecki, Simon Thomsen and Leo Schofield. Mark Dacascos reprises his role as The Chairman from Iron Chef America, and the program is hosted by Grant Denyer, with additional commentary provided by Richard Cornish.
Iron Chef Australia began airing on October 19, 2010, attracting an audience of 1.13 million viewers for its first episode. It was cancelled at the end of its first season.
Iron Chef Thailand
On January 25, 2012, the first episode of Iron Chef Thailand broadcast on BBTV channel 7. The chairman is Mr. Santi Svetavimala. In this version of Iron Chef, there are four Iron Chefs: Chumpol Chaengprai (Thai cuisine); Boontham Pakpo (Japanese cuisine); Pongtawat "Ian" Chalermkittichai (Western cuisine); and Chaitep "Mr. Lee" Pattarapornpaisarn (Chinese cuisine). The program is hosted by Shahkrit Yamnam and the field reporter is DJ Pong (Nattapong Taengkasem). The format is different, in that in the first half of the program, there are three challengers who compete with each other to find out who is the best chef. The winner will compete against the Iron Chef on the second half of the program. This format was used for only three episodes.
On February 22, 2012 the format of Iron Chef Thailand was changed to: the first 30 minutes of the program is where the Challenger Chef will present his/her "Signature Dish with a Special Ingredient" to the guests. Then followed by the actual "Iron Chef Battle", similar to Iron Chef Japan where the host will ask the Challenger Chef to select the Iron Chef he/she wants to challenge. After the Challenger Chef has selected the Iron Chef the Chairman will reveal the "Secret Ingredient" and once the Chairman says "Allez Cuisine" the battle begins. The battle time is 60 minutes where they will need to complete at least four dishes. The order in which Chefs present to the Judges will be determined by a coin toss conducted by the Host. The last 30 minutes of the program is "Cooking with Iron Chef". Guests learn how to cook from the Iron Chef and win the "Best Student" at the end of the program.
Iron Chef Vietnam
The Vietnamese version was set to air from June 6, 2012 on VTV3. In this version there are only three Iron Chefs: David Thái, Long Chef and Yu Zhi Da. The ultimate winner would be a 2013 Iron Chef.
Iron Chef Indonesia
There have been two adaptations of Iron Chef for Indonesian television.
The first Indonesian adaptation of Iron Chef series, also known as Allez Cuisine, which came from Chairman Kaga's catchphrase in the original series, was aired on Indosiar from March 1, 2003 until August 12, 2006. The Kitchen Stadium owner role was played by Derry Drajat, and the main commentator was Gunardjo, an Indonesian food expert. The show featured three Super Chefs or Iron Chefs. Episodes were 1 hour long. The show also featured a mini-game segment with 6 competitors featuring the main ingredient of the episode. The mini game segment usually lasts for 2 minutes. After the main cooking segment was finished, the Super Chef will give verdict on the results of the mini-game and declare the mini-game winner.
Iron Chef Indonesia
The second Iron Chef series or known as Iron Chef Indonesia was aired on RCTI from April 22, 2017 until November 19, 2017. Just like the first series, the concept of this show was still a battle between one of the three Super Chefs or Iron Chefs that has been selected by a Challenger Chef to served the three or four dishes with a predetermined main ingredients. The winner will be announced by the chairman based on the scores that have been given by the guest judges. The chairman role will be played by Edward Akbar, the field reporter by Yuda Bustara, the commentator by Kevindra Prianto Soemantri and the randomly guest judges which consists of chefs, celebrities, businesspersons and executives every week.
Iron Chef Canada
The Chairman in this version is Jai West (in the storyline, the Chairman is the grandnephew of Takeshi Kaga). It is hosted by Gail Simmons, with play-by-play done by floor reporter Chris Nuttall-Smith. The Iron Chefs in this version include Hugh Acheson, Amanda Cohen, Lynn Crawford, Rob Feenie, Susur Lee, and Anna Olson.
The competition is similar to Iron Chef America, with two key differences:
1) Both the Iron Chef and the challenger must serve their first dish to the panel of judges within the first 20 minutes of competition (the Chairman does not taste these dishes). This dish is scored separately from the remainder of the dishes.
2) With 30 minutes remaining in the competition, the Chairman introduces a "culinary curve ball," a kitchen device or an additional ingredient which the chefs must use for at least one of their remaining dishes.
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- Based on weighted average (.5 victory for a draw).
- This occurred during a challenge between Iron Chef Chen Kenichi and French challenger Dominique Corby of the Tour d'Argent in episode #IC1C16, where the main theme was foie gras, and in episode #IC1C17 (overtime), where the theme was asparagus.
- Foreword by Takeshi Kaga, "Iron Chef:The Official Book" (Kaoru Hoketsu, translator) (Berkley Books, 2001)
- Iron Chef All Stars - The Epic Final Showdown at Sydney Opera House YouTube
- Iron Chef All Stars – Menu
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