Country of origin United States
First episode date 16 January 2005
Predecessor Iron Chef
Composer(s) Craig Marks
Original language(s) English
Program creator Alton Brown
|Also known as 'Iron Chef America: The Series'|
Genre Reality televisionCooking show
Starring Mario Batali (retired)Bobby FlayWolfgang Puck (retired)Masaharu MorimotoCat Cora (retired)Michael SymonJose GarcesMarc ForgioneGeoffrey ZakarianAlex Guarnaschelli
Theme song Iron Chef America Theme Song
Presented by Alton Brown, Kevin Brauch, Mark Dacascos
Similar Iron Chef, The Next Iron Chef, Food Network Star
Iron Chef America: The Series is an American cooking show based on Fuji Television's Iron Chef, and is the second American adaptation of the series, following the failed Iron Chef USA. The show is produced by Food Network, which also carried a dubbed version of the original Iron Chef. Like the original Japanese program, the program is a culinary game show. In each episode, a new challenger chef competes against one of the resident "Iron Chefs" in a one-hour cooking competition based on a secret ingredient or ingredients, and sometimes theme.
- The Iron Chefs
- Iron Chef statistics
- Special battles
- Greatest moments
- Kitchen Stadium
- Subtitles and dubbing
- The Next Iron Chef
- Video game
The show is presented as a successor to the original Iron Chef, as opposed to being a remake. The Chairman is portrayed by actor and martial artist Mark Dacascos, who is introduced as the nephew of the original Japanese chairman Takeshi Kaga. The commentary is provided solely by Alton Brown, & Kevin Brauch is the floor reporter. The music is written by composer Craig Marks, who released the soundtrack titled "Iron Chef America & The Next Iron Chef" by the end of 2010. In addition, regular ICA judge and Chopped host Ted Allen provided additional floor commentary for two special battles: Battle First Thanksgiving (Symon/Flay v. Cora/Morimoto) and Battle White House Produce (Batali/Lagasse v. Flay/Comerford).
Per the introduction fiction from the Battle of the Masters miniseries (and ignoring story elements from the 2002 Iron Chef Japan Cup Special), Chairman Kaga (the character) has ordered his nephew to continue the tradition of Kitchen Stadium, initially in Los Angeles, where the Battle of the Masters took place, before establishing a permanent Kitchen Stadium in New York's Chelsea Market. For the Battle of the Masters, the elder Chairman dispatched two Iron Chefs: Hiroyuki Sakai and Masaharu Morimoto. In Season 11, the show's fiction expanded to include international Iron Chefs, spread by the Chairman "like Johnny Appleseed". In the first episode of that season Iron Chef UK chef Judy Joo competed on the US show against Iron Chef Guarnaschelli as an Iron Chef.
Unlike the original Iron Chef or Iron Chef USA, Alton Brown, rather than the Chairman, is credited as the show's host.
The Iron Chefs
On this version of Iron Chef, the Iron Chefs have either been previous Food Network personalities, are current personalities, were part of the original Iron Chef, or earned their position on The Next Iron Chef.
Iron Chef statistics
The win/loss data is based solely on the performance of the participant as an Iron Chef in Iron Chef America: The Series and the Battle of the Masters.
Each Iron Chef wears a specially designed chef's jacket, a simplified version of the more stylized attire worn by the Japanese Iron Chefs, along with an apron and trousers of their choice for each battle. Through the Battle of the Masters and the show's first six seasons, the Iron Chefs wore contemporary denim chef's jackets with individualized solid-colored patches and trim: Batali's jacket trim was red, Cora's pink, Flay's blue, Morimoto's white, Puck's green and Symon's black. On the left shoulder of each jacket was a flag representing the Chef's country of origin.
During the show's sixth season, designer and Iron Chef America judge Marc Ecko designed new jackets for the Iron Chefs, which were first worn on the 2008 "Thanksgiving Showdown" episode. The jackets are individualized for each chef and include features such as short sleeves for Symon's jacket that make it resemble the black shirts he wears at his restaurant, Lola, or men's kimono styling and colors for Morimoto's jacket that suggest the costume he wore on the original Iron Chef. With the exception of Symon and Garces (whose long sleeves were shortened for his second season on ICA), the jackets have long, turn-back sleeves. Colors differ by chef: charcoal grey (Flay), black (Symon), light blue (Cora), silver with a red undershirt (Morimoto), white with light brown trim (Batali), white with green trim (Lagasse, for Battle White House produce), brown with wide red edging (Garces), grey with white trim (Forgione), grey with black trim (Zakarian), and black with white trim (Guarnaschelli). "Iron Chef" with the chef's last name underneath is embroidered in the font from the show's logo on the left front side of the jacket, in the manner of a traditional chef's coat. The jackets also include a large embroidered Iron Chef patch on the right arm also bearing the chef's name, and an American flag on the left sleeve.
Iron Chef America first aired as a special titled Iron Chef America: Battle of the Masters. Unlike Iron Chef USA, Iron Chef America quickly earned legitimacy with the appearance of Iron Chefs Hiroyuki Sakai and Masaharu Morimoto. (Chen Kenichi was also originally slated to appear, but he was absent due to a scheduling conflict.) The first Battle of the Masters involved Sakai and Flay, with the theme of trout. There, Sakai had made two dishes of note: one was gift-wrapped to commemorate the opening of Kitchen Stadium America, while the other was trout ice cream, a dish that would be repeatedly recalled and referred to later on when anyone used the ice cream maker. Other battles in Battle of the Masters were Morimoto taking on Batali, Morimoto taking on Wolfgang Puck, and a tag team battle where Morimoto and Flay teamed up against Sakai and Batali. Battle of the Masters was largely successful and a regular series was commissioned.
The regular series is taped in New York, while Battle of the Masters took place in Los Angeles at Los Angeles Center Studios. Because of his other interests, Puck was forced to decline to appear in the regular series, and Morimoto took his place. Later that season, Cat Cora debuted as an Iron Chef during "Battle Potato", becoming the first female chef to hold the rank.
The second season of Iron Chef America began airing in July 2005. This season saw its first and second ties on the American show: the first aired on July 31, 2005, with both challenger and Iron Chef receiving 45 points. In this case, unlike Iron Chef, there is no overtime, although a rematch was suggested by Alton Brown. The third such tied result occurred in Season Three, when Susur Lee challenged Bobby Flay in Battle Bacon.
Starting November 2006, Australia's SBS, the domestic rights holder to the original Iron Chef program, started airing Iron Chef America: The Battle Of The Masters, replacing the original Japanese incarnation of the program. On December 9, Season 1 of Iron Chef America began airing. The show was scheduled to run until February 17, 2007, but due to viewer feedback, SBS ended broadcast of Iron Chef America three weeks early and resumed showing the original Iron Chef on February 3, 2007.
Starting in Season 8, Mario Batali was dropped from the show's opening sequence, though he continues to appear in on-air promos for the show. Despite his appearance during the special battle in which he was teamed up with Emeril Lagasse against Flay and White House Chef Cristeta Comerford, it is not clear whether or not he will return to compete in Iron Chef America on a regular basis. In a July 2010 interview with Slashfood's Allen Salkin, Batali explained that his absence from the series was due to travel conflicts with the show's summer shooting schedule and expressed a desire to appear in 2-3 battles for Season 9. However, in a May 2012 interview with The Atlantic, Batali later explained that he resented the decision to move away from serious food critics to "skinny little actresses" and other personalities he felt weren't credible enough to judge his cuisine.
After the active Iron Chefs are introduced by Alton Brown, the challenger chef is introduced. The Iron Chef introduction sequence is sometimes skipped in the holiday shows and other specials. In the first two seasons, the Chairman announced the challenger's Iron Chef opponent. Starting with Season 3, the show returned to the format of its predecessor, where the challenger chef selects the Iron Chef they will battle. In reality, the match-ups are determined well in advance in all three incarnations of the show, which is not to say that the challengers have no influence on the selection of their opponent.
An ingredient or group of ingredients (referred to as the "secret ingredient(s)") is revealed, and the cooking begins. On occasion, the ingredients are actually a 'theme meal;' for example, eggs, bacon, potatoes, etc. are revealed and thus the "secret ingredient" is breakfast. Just as with the original Iron Chef, the "secret" ingredient is not truly secret. Both the competitor and the Iron Chef are given a list of three to five ingredients before the battle, of which one will be the secret ingredient.
Unlike Iron Chef, where chefs had roughly 5 minutes to discuss their strategy before the battle begins, the revelation of the theme ingredient occurs 45 minutes before the start of the battle. However, this segment is not shown on television, and it is a common assumption that the battle starts immediately after the secret ingredient is revealed. This practice was described on an episode of Unwrapped.
The Chairman announces the start of each battle with:"So now America, with an open heart and an empty stomach, I say unto you in the words of my uncle: 'Allez cuisine!'
"Allez cuisine!" (loosely translated as "Go cook!" or "Start cooking!") is the phrase that started battles in the original Japanese series (hence the reference to his uncle, Chairman Kaga).
On Iron Chef America, both the challenger and the Iron Chef have 60 minutes to prepare a minimum of five dishes based on a theme ingredient. Starting with Season 11 (2012–13), the first course is due to the judges 20 minutes after the start. After that point, a "culinary curveball" is announced by the chairman. It can be an ingredient, piece of equipment or plating device. Each chef is required to integrate the item into at least one of their remaining dishes, and receives scoring from the judges based on their use.
After the first commercial break, Brown typically asks Kevin Brauch to introduce the judges. Generally, Kevin pays homage to the program's origins by adding, Konban Wa (Japanese for "Good evening") to his introduction. Unlike the original series, none of the judges participate in the running commentary, although Brown or Brauch visit with them roughly mid-battle for their comments on the ongoing action and the secret ingredient. Over the course of the cooking hour, Brown may also provide further information on the theme ingredient, using visual aids as required.
The dishes are tasted by the chairman and a panel of three judges, two of whom are professional food critics (a contrast to the original Iron Chef, which typically had one professional food critic as a judge). Like the original Iron Chef, each chef can be awarded up to 20 points by each judge; consisting of 10 points for taste, 5 for plating (the appearance or presentation of the dishes), and 5 for originality. The rules are explained by Kevin Brauch before judging. The chef with the higher score is declared the winner. If there is a tie, it remains as the final result, unlike Iron Chef, where an overtime battle was immediately called with a new theme ingredient; however, if the overtime battle also resulted in a tie, that would be the final result. (Also in contrast with the original, the final scores are subdivided by category, rather than by individual judge.) Starting with Season 11 (2012–13), an additional 10 points per judge is also available: up to 5 points for the first dish presentation, and up to 5 points for the use of the "culinary curveball". The scoring for the first dish is revealed shortly after the dishes are presented to and tasted by the judges, and the total score (including the "culinary curveball" points) is reserved for the judgment and revelation of the winner.
Iron Chef America is not affiliated with any culinary institution, unlike Iron Chef, which was associated with Hattori Nutrition College. Chefs also bring in their own sous-chefs. Like Iron Chef, each chef is allowed two sous-chefs. In tag-team or two-on-one battles, both chefs on one side each bring one sous-chef. On the original Iron Chef, early episodes had two chefs without sous-chefs, while later episodes had two chefs and one sous-chef per side. The sous-chefs employed by the Iron Chefs are as follows:
All of the sous-chefs for both the Iron Chef and challenger are informally introduced at some point in the contest, unlike the original Iron Chef. Sous-chefs have occasionally entered into battle against Iron Chefs, including the Iron Chef under whom they worked.
The rules in Iron Chef America are thought to favor the Iron Chef less than the original program, however, some challengers have noted favoritism in the selection of theme ingredients. On Iron Chef the Iron Chef's food was always tasted second, while on Iron Chef America, the chef whose food is tasted first is determined by toss of coin before the show.
As the tasting and judgment take upwards of 45 minutes to complete (although it is edited down in post-production), the chef serving second is allowed to reheat his or her dishes, which was allowed on Iron Chef.
Several of the secrets to how the show is taped were revealed in an episode of Unwrapped entitled "Food Network Unwrapped 2." It was stated that the chefs find out what the secret ingredient is about 15 minutes before the battle begins because the opening sequence is recorded many times. It is only the final taping of this sequence where the words "Allez cuisine!" are said and the battle begins. Moreover, at the end of the one-hour battle, the chefs must still prepare 4 plates of each of their 5 dishes for the judges and the Chairman. This is done during a 45-minute period after the battle ends and before tasting begins. They consider this to be part of the competition, and it is timed, but it is not recorded or shown to the viewers. The plates which the audience sees prepared during the one-hour battle are the plates used to obtain close-up footage of the dish for use in the final episode. Usually, on taping days, two different battles will be taped, one beginning at about 10 a.m. and the second at about 4 p.m. A Food Network crew has about 90 minutes between each show to clean the set and prepare for the second show.
Chefs provide the producers with shopping lists for each of the possible secret ingredients. Consequently, they can surmise what the secret ingredient will be just before it is officially revealed, based on which of their items were purchased.
ICA will occasionally stage special themed battles, generally during the holiday period. The first of these was held on November 12, 2006. A special 90-minute episode of Iron Chef America pitted two guest Food Network personalities, Giada De Laurentiis and Rachael Ray, the latter of whom does not consider herself a chef due to lack of formal training, against each other after they each received tips and training from Iron Chefs Bobby Flay and Mario Batali, respectively. While the early part of the episode made it appear as though it would be a head-to-head battle, the Chairman announced just prior to the secret ingredient reveal that it would in fact be a tag-team battle, with each of the women joined by the Iron Chef who trained her. The secret ingredient for the special was cranberries. The expanded timeframe allowed for longer cuts of the competition hour and the tasting segments to be presented, and the show as a whole had a more laid-back feel than regular ICA episodes. Plenty of joking and good-natured ribbing took place on both sides of the kitchen, such as Batali's effort to "bribe" the judges with cranberry bellini cocktails. The battle was won by Iron Chef Batali and guest chef Ray.
A second special holiday episode premiered on Sunday, November 25, 2007. This special, titled Iron Chef America: All Star Holiday Dessert Battle, paired Iron Chef Cat Cora and popular Food Network personality Paula Deen against fellow Food Network chefs Tyler Florence and Robert Irvine, with sugar as the secret ingredient. While this special was the usual 60-minutes in length, the tone was similar to the previous ICA special, with lots of "smack talking" and teasing among the four chefs. Iron Chef Cora and guest chef Deen's team emerged victorious.
On October 26, 2008, a Halloween battle took place between Iron Chef Michael Symon and former Next Iron Chef competitor Chris Cosentino. The theme ingredient was offal (organ meats, pig trotters, coxcombs, etc.), an ingredient with which each of the chefs is known to cook routinely. Igor and the Monster from the Broadway production of Young Frankenstein also made a special appearance, assisting with the presentation of the secret ingredient. The victory went to Iron Chef Symon.
A 90-minute "Thanksgiving Showdown" premiered on November 16, 2008. The secret ingredients were foods that might have been used at the first Thanksgiving feast: duck, lobster, heritage turkey, venison, leeks and walnuts. This battle marked the first time in ICA history that the American Iron Chefs competed against each other, with the team of Bobby Flay and Michael Symon battling against Cat Cora and Masaharu Morimoto. There were two floor reporters for this special: regular floor reporter Kevin Brauch covered Flay and Symon while ICA judge Ted Allen covered Cora and Morimoto. In addition, Mark Ecko appeared early in the episode to present the new Iron Chef jackets and describe the design process. Iron Chefs Flay and Symon defeated Iron Chefs Cora and Morimoto by one point.
First Lady Michelle Obama's White House Kitchen Garden was featured in a new special episode on January 3, 2010. The episode, called "The Super Chef Battle", featured Iron Chef Mario Batali and Super Chef Emeril Lagasse against Iron Chef Bobby Flay and White House Executive Chef Cristeta Comerford in a battle that required the chefs to create an American meal, with the produce from the White House garden as the secret ingredient. First Lady Michelle Obama made a special appearance, welcoming the chefs to the White House, and announcing the secret ingredient. This battle was also notable as the first for which the Chairman was not present in Kitchen Stadium. Although the Chairman appeared on video, and presented a supplemental range of sustainable foods to be used in the battle, it fell to announcer Alton Brown to start the battle with the traditional "Allez cuisine!" This battle was also the first that carried a prize: $25,000 was donated to City Meals, a New York charity similar to Meals on Wheels in the names of the winning team. Iron Chef Flay and Chef Comerford defeated Iron Chefs Batali and Lagasse.
On January 2, 2011, "Battle Deep Freeze" aired. The show featured Iron Chef Michael Symon and Chef Anne Burrell facing off against Iron Chef Cat Cora and Chef Robert Irvine. There was no formal secret ingredient, just the theme "deep freeze." The chefs had to prepare 5 dishes, each with a frozen component, on the following five themes: Fruits and Vegetables, Meat, Aromatics, Seafood, and Alcohol. The dishes were either served in or accented by ice carvings.
On November 16, 2008, the Food Network preceded its "Thanksgiving Showdown" ICA special with a half-hour retrospective of the 10 best ICA moments. In the program, the Chairman presents each moment, followed by a female voice-over narration describing the challenge the Iron Chefs face, including live fish, big ingredients, time, the ice cream machine and unorthodox cooking methods. The introduction is followed by a clip of each moment interspersed with comments by the Iron Chefs and ICA judges.
Located at the Chelsea Market in New York City, Iron Chef America's version of Kitchen Stadium has a more modern appearance than the one from Iron Chef. Much of the equipment in the kitchen is top-of-the line; appliances include six burner stove tops, an infrared grill, blast chillers, convection ovens, deep fryers, cutting boards, a plethora of small electrical appliances like blenders and food processors, as well as pantry stations. Both kitchens in Kitchen Stadium are set up with the same appliances, and each pantry station has the same food items including expensive items like saffron. Challengers may also sometimes bring their own equipment to their sections; most notably, postmodern chef Homaro Cantu brought a Class 4 Laser, liquid nitrogen, and an inkjet printer with edible inks and paper for his signature dishes. One of the most infamous appliances in the kitchen is the ice cream machine (dubbed by the commentators as the Ice Cream Machine of Doom), which is often used to create unusual and abstract flavors of ice cream when chefs attempt to make a dessert course with the theme ingredient.
The commentator's station has Alton Brown standing in front of two large monitors feeding him camera angles from both sides of Kitchen Stadium. To stay informed, he also keeps his laptop open to reference an extensive food database and, in later seasons, an iPad to look up ingredients on the fly. An earbud allows him to be fed information from the culinary producer, who in turn is fed information from two culinary spotters on the floor. The station is much closer to and on the same level as the cooking stations, allowing Alton Brown to converse with the competitors and ask brief questions. Alton Brown has made frequent comments about Kitchen Stadium being "an orbiting space station" or "an underwater facility." Brown has also called Kitchen Stadium "Kitchen Stadium Number One, Two, and so on until number seven as of Battle Eggs.
There is a small section in the back of the stadium reserved for the studio audience, which is mostly composed of guests of the chefs. During the first two seasons, the audience is almost never mentioned or shown on camera unless there is a special guest in the audience. Starting with season 3, the show again takes a cue from its predecessor and gives a little more attention to the audience, particularly when someone close to the challenger or special guests are present. The audience is also now sometimes heard applauding the chefs, although they are ignored by cameras.
Despite Kitchen Stadium America's state-of-the-art appearance, problems arose during the first season. In her battle against Mario Batali, Chef Anita Lo had trouble getting her burners hot enough to cook her food. At one point, one of Lo's assistants took a pot over to Mario Batali's side of the kitchen to use his stove, to which Batali happily agreed. In several battles contestants have experienced technical problems with the ice cream machine. Though there have not been serious injuries in Kitchen Stadium America, several contestants have suffered minor cuts from knife slips.
In the Behind the Scenes: Iron Chef America special, Iron Chef Hiroyuki Sakai voices his distaste for the modern look of the American Kitchen Stadium. Sakai referred to the kitchen as "cold."
Subtitles and dubbing
Morimoto speaks English with a thick Japanese accent, and he sometimes speaks in Japanese when describing his dishes. Consequently, his voice is at times dubbed by Joe Cipriano. Cipriano, a veteran TV announcer and Los Angeles radio personality, also provided the voice for Hiroyuki Sakai in Battle of the Masters. When his voice is not dubbed, subtitles may be provided to help viewers understand what Morimoto is saying. In the episode Battle Eggs, Takashi Yagihashi had subtitles when the screen showed whom he challenged (Michael Symon).
Iron Chef America Countdown premiered in 2012. Each half-hour episode features a countdown of five moments on a theme from the television series. The show uses clips from Iron Chef America, as well as commentary from people who participated in the featured moments.
The Next Iron Chef
In 2007, a competition was held to determine who among eight chefs would become the next Iron Chef. The show ran for six episodes, and followed the contestants through a series of eight culinary challenges taking place in the United States, France, and Germany. Contestants were eliminated by a panel of judges at the end of each episode, until the final two chefs returned to the United States to compete in Kitchen Stadium. The final battle featured swordfish as the secret ingredient, and was judged by Iron Chefs Flay, Cora, and Morimoto. Chef Michael Symon was declared the winner of the competition and subsequently joined Iron Chef America.
A second season of The Next Iron Chef pitted ten chefs against one another for the title of Iron Chef beginning in October 2009. This season ran for eight episodes, during which the contestants competed in culinary challenges held in the United States and Japan. Contestants were eliminated by a panel of judges at the end of each episode until the finale, in which chefs Jehangir Mehta and Jose Garces returned to the United States to compete in Kitchen Stadium. The final battle featured various racks and ribs (pork, buffalo, and beef) as the secret ingredient, and was judged by the panel along with Iron Chefs Flay, Morimoto, and Symon. Chef Jose Garces was declared the winner of the competition, and joined Iron Chef America as its newest Iron Chef. Garces made his debut as an Iron Chef on January 17, 2010 against Seattle chefs Rachel Yang and Seif Chirchi in Battle Hawaiian Moi, with Iron Chef Garces emerging victorious. Jose Garces went on to receive the first perfect score ever in Season 9 (see List of Episodes).
Food Network launched its third season of The Next Iron Chef in October 2010. Competition took place in Los Angeles, before moving to Las Vegas. The final battle took place in Kitchen Stadium between Chefs Marco Canora and Marc Forgione, with traditional Thanksgiving proteins, such as turkey, lobster and venison as the secret ingredient. Chef Marc Forgione was declared the winner of the third season of "The Next Iron Chef" on November 21, 2010. His first battle took place on November 28, 2010, against Washington, D.C.-based Chef RJ Cooper.
In October 2011, a fourth season of The Next Iron Chef premiered featuring super chefs like Alex Guarnaschelli, Anne Burrell, Robert Irvine, among others. The December 18 battle in Kitchen Stadium featured Geoffrey Zakarian and Elizabeth Falkner. Zakarian prevailed and was named the winner. His first battle aired on December 25, 2011 during which he emerged victorious, being the second chef ever to receive a perfect overall score of 60 on Iron Chef America.
The fifth season of The Next Iron Chef in November 2012 featured 8 chefs who had previously competed on the show, plus 2 newcomers. In the final battle, Alex Guarnaschelli defeated Amanda Freitag, becoming the second female Iron Chef, as well as the first female to win the competition. She made her debut as an Iron Chef on December 30, 2012 against Judy Joo from Iron Chef UK. Iron Chef Joo previously judged season 4 of The Next Iron Chef, in which Guarnaschelli had competed in and lost. Iron Chef Guarnaschelli was ultimately declared the winner.
An Iron Chef America video game, titled Iron Chef America: Supreme Cuisine, was developed for the Wii and Nintendo DS by Black Lantern Studios and published by Destineer. Both versions were released on November 6, 2008, having been delayed from the original release date of September 23, 2008.
The game features "a series of fast-paced and intense culinary challenges" and includes the voice acting and likeness of The Chairman (Mark Dacascos), commentator Alton Brown and Iron Chefs Mario Batali, Masaharu Morimoto and Cat Cora, who players can either play or compete against. The Wii version of the game has received mediocre to slightly unfavorable reviews, with an average score of 42% determined by critical score aggregator Metacritic. The DS version of the game has received overall better scores, with median review score of 62%.