Genre Cooking show
First episode date 10 October 1993
Program creator Fuji Television
Country of origin Japan
Narrated by Shinichiro Ohta
|Directed by Keiichi TanakaTakeshi UmakoshiAkio Ichijima|
Presented by Takeshi KagaKenji FukuiYukio Hattori
Theme music composer Hans Zimmer from Backdraft
Composer(s) David ArnoldBruce BroughtonAaron CoplandRandy EdelmanCliff EidelmanJerry GoldsmithJames HornerYoko KannoDennis McCarthyJoel McNeelyGraeme RevellToshihiko SahashiAndrew Lloyd WebberShōji YamashiroHans Zimmer
Theme songs Iron Chef Theme Song #1, Iron Chef Theme Song #2
Adaptations Iron Chef America (2005), Iron Chef Thailand (2012)
Similar Iron Chef America, The Next Iron Chef, Iron Chef USA, Beat Bobby Flay, Chopped
Iron Chef (料理の鉄人, Ryōri no Tetsujin, literally "Ironmen of Cooking") is a Japanese television cooking show produced by Fuji Television. The series, which premiered on October 10, 1993, is 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.
- Iron Chefs
- Show staff
- Original format
- Theme ingredients
- Assistant chefs
- Commentary and judging
- Broadcast history
- Final Episode and Specials
- United States Reception
- International Syndication
- Notable challengers
- Notable judges
- Notable dishes
- Revival in 2012
- Iron Chef USA
- Iron Chef America
- Krav Sakinim
- Iron Chef UK
- Iron Chef Australia
- Iron Chef Thailand
- Iron Chef Vietnam
- Iron Chef Indonesia Allez Cuisine
The host of the show is the flamboyant Takeshi Kaga, known on the show as Chairman Kaga (鹿賀主宰, Kaga Shusai). He begins 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 summons the Iron Chefs to cook with the phrase "Allez cuisine!" ("Go cook!"). The show has two regular commentators, Kenji Fukui who narrates the action on the floor, and Dr. Yukio Hattori, a food scholar and founder of the Hattori Nutrition College. A floor reporter, Shinichiro Ohta, reports to Fukui on what the challengers and Iron Chefs are preparing, their strategy, and their comments. One or two guest commentators (who also serve as judges) also make frequent appearances. The commentary covers ingredients, history of contenders, and other background information to give viewers context for what is happening in the kitchen.
The supposed "story" behind Iron Chef is recounted at the beginning of every episode. A title card, with a quote from famed French food author Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin first appears: "Tell me what you eat, and I'll tell you what you are." Then, it is 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 is 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, there were three Iron Chefs: 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 would return for two more battles during Season 3. At the beginning of Season 4 in 1996, Michiba announced his retirement and debuted Koumei Nakamura as the new Iron Chef Japanese. Michiba would return 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 would battle sparingly throughout the rest of the show, ascending to the stage separately from the three main Iron Chefs. In 1998, Nakamura also decides to retire and passes the title of Iron Chef Japanese to Masaharu Morimoto.
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 multi-course 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 Masaharu Morimoto.
Initially, a minimum of three dishes were 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 ten 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 that 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, 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 that of most other cooking shows. Some statistics: 893 portions of foie gras, 54 sea breams, 827 Ise shrimp, 964 matsutake mushrooms, 4,593 eggs, 1,489 truffles, 4,651 grams 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" (notable because 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."
There were two reunion specials 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. 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".
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 (except for Chairman Kaga). 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, as well as 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.
(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].)
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 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].)
During the 2,000th Dish Battle, Chairman Kaga selected the five best and three worst dishes from the history of the show.
Revival in 2012
In 2012, Fuji Television announced that it was recording brand 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 USA
The U.S. UPN network presented two one-hour episodes of Iron Chef USA hosted by William Shatner around Christmas 2001. These shows were neither a critical nor popular success, perhaps because the show focused little on cooking—a major part of the Japanese programme. 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 they would show 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, 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, 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 for his win in The Next Iron Chef. In 2009, Chef Jose Garces became the sixth Iron Chef following his victory in the second season of The Next Iron Chef. In 2010, Chef Marc Forgione won the third season of The Next Iron Chef, becoming the seventh Iron Chef on Iron Chef America. Chef Geoffrey Zakarian won The Next Iron Chef's fourth season in 2011, making him the eighth Iron Chef. In 2012, Chef Alexandra Guarnaschelli became the ninth and most recent Iron Chef after winning the fifth season of The Next Iron Chef.
In 2007, Krav Sakinim (Hebrew: קרב סכינים, Knives 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 Sawatwimol. In this version of Iron Chef, there are four Iron Chefs: Chumpol Chaengprai (Thai cuisine); Boontham Pakpo (Japanese cuisine); Pongtawat "Ian" Chareomkittichai (Western cuisine); and Chaitep "Mr. Lee" Pattarapornpaisarn (Chinese cuisine). The program is hosted by Chakrit Yamnarn 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 3 episode.
On February 22, 2012 the format of Iron Chef Thailand has been 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 want 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 4 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.
On May 9, 2012 Chaitep Pattarapornpaisarn resigned from Iron Chef Chinese cuisine and was replaced by Hing Chung Lai (Peter Lai).
On June 27, 2012 "Signature Dish with a Special Ingredient" became Signature Dish with Special Tests Challenger by variety choice
On December 5, 2012 Three new Iron Chefs have been appointed. They are: Thanarak "Pom" Chuto (Contemporary Chinese); Thanunya "Gai" Wilkinson (Dessert) and Thanintorn "Noom" Chanthawan (Modern Cuisine: Italian Twist).
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 (Allez Cuisine)
The Indonesian adaptation of Iron Chef is called Allez Cuisine, and aired on Indosiar from 1 March 2003 until 12 August 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 Master Chefs or Iron Chefs. Episodes were 1 hour long.