Iron Chef USA
|Iron Chef USA|
|Directed by||Bud Schaetzle
|Presented by||William Shatner
Anthony Dias Blue
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of episodes||2|
|Original release||December 16 – December 26, 2001|
Iron Chef USA was the first American adaptation of the Japanese television series Iron Chef. Iron Chef USA appeared on the UPN television network in 2001. Only two episodes were aired (both are considered pilots): "Las Vegas Showdown" and "Holiday Battle"; neither received critical acclaim. It would not be until 2004 when another adaptation of Iron Chef, titled Iron Chef America, would air.
Like the original Japanese series, the show featured an eccentric chairman, played by William Shatner, who creates his own Gourmet Academy with four elite chefs who take on challengers in a specially-constructed Kitchen Arena ("Kitchen Stadium" in the original). However, unlike the original and the later Iron Chef America adaptation, Kitchen Arena was set in MGM Grand Garden Arena (a venue often used for boxing) in Las Vegas and not on a sound stage.
Fans of the series, and critics at large, point to many aspects of the show for the reason why the series failed. Among the most notable reasons was the audience factor: the original Iron Chef (and Iron Chef America) had only minimal guest and VIP seating, while Iron Chef USA was shown in front of a larger audience. The audience also tended to be louder and rowdier, in sharp contrast to the relatively quiet audiences of Iron Chef. Another sharp point of criticism was directed at the commentators, who often showed their lack of knowledge of food (with lines such as "What? It's the sperm? We eat that?" in reference to sea urchin roe; "What's that tool called he's using to cut the ravioli?", "That would be a ravioli cutter"; and "it's a sauteed Ho Ho", "He's got a flour thing going" and "It looks like he enjoys cooking with booze."). However, critics saw Shatner's portrayal of the chairman in Iron Chef USA as a redeeming quality, as his performance paid homage to Takeshi Kaga and his antics on Iron Chef.
Like the original Iron Chef, chefs are given 60 minutes and a theme ingredient (called a "secret" ingredient) to create their culinary creations. Unlike the original, however, chefs brought in their own assistants, and were required to prepare five dishes. The dishes were judged by four celebrity judges (none of whom are food experts or food critics), and the chef with the higher rating was declared the winner. Curiously, the scoring system used was different from the one used on Iron Chef and later on Iron Chef America.
Chefs and crew
In addition to Shatner as the chairman of Gourmet Academy USA, Michael Burger and Anthony Dias Blue played the roles of play-by-play and color commentator, with Sissy Biggers serving as the floor reporter. The four Iron Chefs are, presented from left-to-right when they are first introduced:
- Iron Chef French Jean-Francois Meteigner, the "Battering Bon Vivant"
- Iron Chef Italian Alessandro Stratta, the "Italian Scallion"
- Iron Chef Asian Roy Yamaguchi, the "Samurai of Stir-Fry" (though his specialty is in fact Hawaiian fusion)
- Iron Chef American Todd English, "Patriot of the Pantry" (though his specialty is in fact Mediterranean cuisine)
Of the four Iron Chefs, only Stratta and English saw action on Iron Chef USA, both bringing victories to the Iron Chefs. Todd English, Kerry Simon and Marcus Samuelsson (both challengers) later competed on Iron Chef America (the latter also appeared as a contestant on The Next Iron Chef season 4 and was placed in 6th place), but there has been absolutely no mention made of their tenure on Iron Chef USA.
Larry A. Thompson was an executive producer.
Only two episodes of Iron Chef USA were produced.
Episode one, "Showdown in Las Vegas".
- Kerry Simon – Challenger – chef at Prime restaurant in the Bellagio Hotel
- Bruce Vilanch – Judge – comedian with regular appearances on the game show Hollywood Squares
- Elise Neal – Judge – actress, perhaps best known as Yvonne Hughley from the TV series The Hughleys
- Brande Roderick – Judge – 2001 Playboy Playmate of the Year
- Mark Famiglietti – Judge – actor, who played Scout Calhoun on the Dawson's Creek spin-off series Young Americans
Episode two, "Holiday Showdown" (a.k.a. "Holiday Battle")
- Marcus Samuelsson – Challenger – chef and co-owner of Restaurant Aquavit
- Ron Popeil – Judge – inventor of many products sold through infomercials
- Loretta Devine – Judge – actress best known as Marla Hendricks on the TV series Boston Public
- Kelly Hu – Judge – actress; notable roles as Deathstrike from the movie X2 or Rae Chang from the TV series Sunset Beach
- Steven Schirripa – Judge – actor, perhaps best known as Bobby "Bacala" Baccalieri from the TV series The Sopranos