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Iron Chef is Coming Up Next

posted by B on 3/15/01

"Fukui-san?"
"Yes, Ota?"
"The Iron Chef has, indeed, created quite possibly the most illogically entertaining show in television history! And he's using dead baby pig."

After long deliberation I've decided it is completely impossible to understand the joy that Japan's (and, subsequently, Food Network's) "Iron Chef" brings to those who happen upon it. My first experience came on my first day of "expanded cable," a sin almost as grandiose as central air. After a hearty day of watching Steve Irwin almost getting his testicles ripped off by a pissed off alligator, my tastes in entertainment had reached a sort of enlightenment...I needed something deeper than an Uncle Joey quip to make me laugh. The last time I felt like this is when I found out that the next door neighbor on "Growing Pains" was named "Boner."

I pushed "Ch. Up" on my remote control and, like a freight train emerging from a darkened tunnel to end my life, played witness to Chairman Kaga's incomparable "Kitchen Stadium." I'll get back to how funny that is in a minute.

If you haven't seen the show, Iron Chef is a Japanese variety/cooking show of sorts, much like a cooking "American Gladiators," only the chef's are not confined to phallic cage balls. Known in Japan as "Ryori no Tetsujin" (Cooking Iron Man Super Fire Endless Beautiful Dream R), it is produced by Fuji International TV. For the uninitiated, Fuji TV gets up on the ring apron and throws salt in the eyes of other networks when it's show is doing badly. It started airing in 1993 as a half hour show. After 10 shows were aired, FujiTV Japan knew it had a winner and expanded it to a one hour format. The show stopped airing weekly in 1999, and was replaced by a cartoon where a group of shy yet sexually uninhibited young female police officers take time between group sex marathons to battle crime in giant robot suits. Subsequently, that show was in turn replaced by several hundred other shows exactly like it.

The concept of the show is that a flamboyant gourmand, portrayed by Kaga "Quina" Takeshi, lives in his giant Japanese super fire castle with his "Iron Chefs," guys who cook kooky things in kooky outfits. These Iron Chefs are the top chefs in the culinary fields of Japanese, Chinese, French, Burmese, Pacific Islander, Moon, and White-Knuckle Tiger-style cooking.

As they are introduced, they rise from the floor on giant pedestals. It would be cooler if they were vampires and rose up from the floor from a ring of fire, but I digress.

Each week, Kaga (dressed in a sassy sequin outfit) will choose a challenger chef (from anywhere on the planet, like Tuscaloosa Alabama) to "do battle" against his Iron Chefs. In the American version, Chairman Kaga is the only person on the show who isn't wildly dubbed, so he's got his own set of subtitles, usually beginning with "if memory serves me right." Kaga's memory serves him all the time, because it was his illicit "dream" that lead to the construction of Kitchen Stadium.

I keep getting the feeling that Ash is gonna bounce in and bitch about doing battle with Richie whenever this show is on. Maybe Albert Belle should play in "Kitchen Stadium." Maybe if he's playing against a Chef he could get a fucking hit every once in a while.

Kaga will present a theme ingredient and each chef will then be charged with preparing a multi-course meal that utilizes the theme ingredient in each course. I've seen dead baby pig, live squid, and seaweed as theme ingredients.


Fern couldn't take her eyes off the tiny pig. "Oh," she whispered. "Oh, look at him! He's absolutely perfect."

I can't wait until the day's ingredient is "dog."

The chefs have one hour to cook, with roving sideline reporter "Ota" using his psychic abilities to find out exactly what they're cooking, where they got it from, how much it cost, and how many vagabond samurai they had to slay to get it. Seriously, the guy's got way too much information, and he's wrong a lot.

"Fukui-san?" (He always has to ask permission to speak)
"Yes, Ota?"
"Iron Chef Morimoto just informed me that the weed of evil bears bitter fruit, and that he's using a bit of garlic to reflect the taste of his native land in this piece of pie."

Then the announcers all go "AAAAH!!!!" as if they've just FINALLY grasped the Pythagorean Theorem after all these years. Ota could tell Fukui-san that Iron Chef is using the blood of children in his soup and Fukui would think it was the most innovative and bloody interesting thing he's ever heard.

Ota's a big fan favorite around the world, and he's done voice work for Sailor Moon and Dragonball GT. On Sailor Moon he was that one bad guy who completely lacked personality and character development, and on Dragonball he was the guy who floats and screams all the time.

Chairman Kaga and four judges (often local movie stars, or singers) taste the food and pronounce winner. Maybe they've all got the culinary vocab list down, but it sounds like they're talking outta their ass. Let's say "Iron Chef Chinese" had "rice" as his theme ingredient for the day. Instead of putting a bunch of rice in a bowl, he pulls down his yellow Sabu pants and takes a big festering dump in a pot, and then sprinkles rice all over it.

Judge 1: "Chin Kenichi's use of rice in this dish is magnificent."
Judge 2: "Yes, I was thinking that this would taste a lot like crap...but the aroma of the rice compliments the festering dump very well...outstanding."
Judge 3 (usually the stupid bimbo judge): "I'm a singer! So I love this dish! Tee hee!"

There's always a stupid bimbo judge. I'm surprised they didn't sit Richard Dawson next to her. Sorry, Match Game joke. Moving on...

Sometimes there are ties and a 30 minute cook-off battle, with its own theme ingredient, will need to be held. Every now and again, there will be shows with no theme ingredient or tag team chefs cooking. On special occasions, Chairman Kaga lowers the steel cage of doom and the first Iron Chef to get out wins. Then they play POWERBALL!

The great appeal of the show is its meld of sports commentary with a cooking show. There are two announcers, Fukui Kenjiro, who provides most of the announcements and Hattori Yukio, who is the "color" man and fills in the viewers with tidbits of culinary knowledge. Both of these guys get REALLY excited during voice-overs and introductions, so they either love food more than anything in the world or the Yakuza's gonna cut their children's' fingers off if they mispronounce and ingredient.

Example:

(Cue soundtrack from "Backdraft")

Iron Chef Venice Beach is a master of the culinary arts MASTERED on the hard to master beaches of California. Using a mixture of ancestral worship and the big atomic leg drop, Iron Chef Venice Beach uses his political stance as the most recognizable Iron Chef to keep the others down.

"Brother, I accept your magnificent challenge!"

His restaurant, "Hogan and Beefcake's BurgerTime Bonanza," is world renown for cooking taste delights that are always that strange, strange color somewhere between brown and orange. Iron Chef Venice Beach has vowed NEVER to lose a battle in Kitchen Stadium, even if it is obvious to even retarded children that he should whip out a blade and stab himself in the stomach to avoid the embarrassment that self-centered delusion and old age bring about.

"Let me tell you something, Chairman Kaga, I'm going to say my prayers, take my vitamins, drink my milk, and then kick your ass! And then kick your ass! Kick your ass! Drink vitamins and kick your ass! Kick your ass!"

After the 20 or so minute introduction about how great the Iron Chef is, we get hit with a video montage of the challenger, usually some schmuck who has quit his high-paying job to challenge someone in kitchen stadium. The challenger is usually the "master" of something (never something as big as "The Universe," usually something a lot more base, like "jumbo mushrooms"). Y'see, the big thing on "Iron Chef" is that even if you BEAT the Iron Chef in the cook-off, your big prize is the "ovation and admiration of the crowd." I can't think of a more suitable reason to quit your job and spend about ten grand on a fancy ass chef outfit than to travel to Japan and cook proudly in front of fifteen or twenty B-level Japanese celebrities.

"Fukui-san?"
"Yes, Ota?"
"I just found out that the challenger has hostages at the top of Kitchen Stadium, and only Iron Chef Die Hard can save them! Also, he is using what appears to be CURRY in this dish...how interesting!"

Oh, and just in case you were wondering, Kaga's not REALLY a flamboyant gourmand. He's an actor...and to go ahead and answer THAT question....

1. Kaga Takeshi was in Les Miserables in Concert (1995) with Alun Armstrong
2. Alun Armstrong was in The Saint (1997) with Elisabeth Shue
3. Elisabeth Shue was in The Hollow Man (2000) with Kevin Bacon

"Fukui-san?"
"Yes, Ota, what is it?"
"Iron Chef airs on 'Food Network' Fridays and Saturdays at 10:00 p.m. and 1:00 a.m. and Sundays at 7:00 p.m. All times ET."

"Fukui-san?"
"Leave me the fuck alone Ota."

b
swan@whatever-dude.com

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