TNB Night Owl–Iron Chef

Wheel of cheese cut and stacked in front of a stone wall. Photo by Alexander Maasch.

This week’s Friday Night Movie isn’t a movie, but a series playlist. Cooking competitions have become the bread and butter of reality television. Shows like CHOPPED or TOP CHEF give audiences a chance to experiment with mystery ingredients, just as IRON CHEF AMERICA once did. None of those shows would exist if it weren’t for the original Japanese IRON CHEF (1993) show.

For the uninitiated, IRON CHEF was based around a mythology that a wealthy gourmand, Chairman Kaga (played by Japanese musical theater star Takeshi Kaga) invested his fortune into creating Kitchen Stadium where Japan’s best chefs would compete for fame and adoration against the best chefs the world had to offer. He staffed Kitchen Stadium with the best chefs of specific types of cuisines–French, Chinese, and Japanese (with Italian added later on): his Iron Chefs. One by one, anyone from Michelin-starred chefs to world famous cooking school professors would come and challenge one of the Iron Chefs. The Chairman would then announce the theme–a specific ingredient that was to be used in every dish in one way or another. Usually that ingredient was something luxurious, from lobster to Wagu beef, to Iberico pork. Over the course of the series, almost eight million dollars was spent on the ingredients, $40,000 alone for Battle Swallow’s Nest.

The master chefs would then craft amazing dishes to be judged by a panel of celebrities and dignitaries, anywhere from film directors to best selling authors and baseball stars, and even four Japanese Prime Ministers. They would get to taste things from indulgent truffles and foie gras to oddities like cod roe ice cream. Finally the judges would confer and the winner was announced. The champion wasn’t chasing a cash award, but the fame and pride knowing that they were the best…at least for that day.

Some kind person has made a playlist of all the episodes onto YouTube. And if you’re curious about fish flavored dessert, here you go:

Question of the night: what’s the strangest flavor ice cream you’ve ever tried?

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