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Is Iron Chef for real?

I am new to the chowhound boards so please excuse me, but I would like to know as lovers of the food and dining realm, what are we actually learning from a show like 'Iron Chef.' How is it possible for the chefs involved not to know what the 'secret ingredient' is in advance. We don't ever see them running down a quick menu with their staffs. (I don't believe it for a second.) How is it possible to maintain such an extraordinary 'mise en place', just about every thing in the food chain and equipment arsenal is available to the participating chefs. And to make a long blog short, why do the chefs involved feel compeled to prepare a dessert dish out of any secret ingredient involved...fish foam brulee, anyone? And some of the judges...please! What happened to those second rate Asian actresses?
I do, however, find the show fine as a form of entertainment, only after the host is finished with his opening bite bit. What is the true mission statement here?

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  1. I don't think I learn much from it - it's pretty much pure entertainment for me, though occasionally some dishes inspire me to try a particular flavor combination.

    1. The original comment has been removed
      1. Welcome to the boards!

        I watched the old iron chef (from 8-9 years ago) the one that had English subtitles, and in the spirit of most things Japanese (I was born there) they do things so insanely over the top for people's enjoyment. Check out some of their crazy game shows!

        Anyway, I think in the continuation of that spirit, it is for viewer's enjoyment, and for the spirit of crazed competition between chefs.

        One of the critics of TV Guide actually thought the Chairman (the original guy) was a real person and went on and on in his column about the insanity of a man rich enough to fund a "kitchen stadium" and why, etc., etc. when there were so many other causes in the world worth helping. What a dingbat.

        My jaw dropped. I couldn't believe this yahoo actually believed it was real. Obviously the chefs are the real deal, but anyone who was a true fan of the show knew that the whole "chairman" thing was just for show, and indeed, the actor that played the chairman was Japan's Jean Valjean of Les Miserables' fame.

        So the old Iron Chef thing was retired, because Chairman was getting older and tired and they didn't realize it would be such a hit in the U.S. So Iron Chef America was born.

        Sorry to digress. I totally agree with MMRuth. Fun to watch with occasional educational bits.

        Chow!

        7 Replies
        1. re: shelleykelly

          That's hilarious - I hadn't heard that before about the TV Guide critic. TV Guide actually published this with no research or confirmation? Why am I not surprised...

          1. re: shelleykelly

            The Japanese version was GREAT with subtitles (Channel 26 in San Francisco), but went downhill when they dubbed the voices. Great entertainment, and in a much different vein than Iron Chef America . . . which I find entertaining, to be sure, but I don't laugh nearly as much.

            1. re: zin1953

              I always found it wildly amusing, though, how they'd give a heavily accented German voiceover, for example, if they had a German chef on the show. Totally tacky and silly, which I guess goes perfectly with the whole idea of Iron Chef.

              I never found that the show taught me much, but it did spark my creativity. I'd find myself pausing each episode five or six times to scribble down ideas I suddenly had for my own dishes at home.

              1. re: vorpal

                In the Japanese version, the young, pretty female judges would always be dubbed a la Marilyn Monroe (soft & breathy) while the older female judges often sounded like Marge Simpson's sisters.

                1. re: gloriousfood

                  And the permanent know it all, the cooking school owner is always the very patient older male voice of reason.

                  I always like the pretty female judges, there always seem to be some kind of double entendre going on due to their giggling and carrying on while there really isn't, at least in the dubbed version.

                  1. re: gloriousfood

                    ...and at the time of reckoning, the young, mini-skirted female judges always stood beside the desk/podium/whatever, while the male and older female judges' "limbs" were hidden from the cameras.

                    1. re: ClaireWalter

                      During the judging, they generally showed a lot of shots of the young-actress-babe judge putting food in her mouth. Other than that, they rarely showed the judges eating, except in the background of a wide shot.

            2. I heard once that the chefs -- at least in the Japanese version -- are given a list of possible ingredients that the "secret ingredient" will be drawn from. Considering what we see in the "quickfire" challenges on Top Chef, I'm not too surprised that an experienced chef with some good helpers and top of the line equipment can turn out a meal like that in an hour.

              The true mission statement is to entertain. Is there some reason to think it is something else?

              1. I've actually spoken w/a chef who was on an episode of Iron Chef America and he said they were given 3 possible choices for the secret ingredient but were not told until they got there which one it was. It makes sense b/c not only do they have to figure out the menu based around the ingredient they also have to make sure everything is done w/in an hour.

                15 Replies
                1. re: gyp7318

                  gyp, per the post below, did the chef you talked to get to choose with whom he was to "battle"?

                  1. re: alkapal

                    I'm trying to remember, but I think he wasn't able to choose his opponent. Although, he said that he had worked w/Iron Chef Morimoto before on something else and said he was a real ass, so if he was able to choose it definitely wouldn't have been him. :)

                    1. re: gyp7318

                      remember the tv show about morimoto planning to open "morimoto" resto? he seemed "difficult"...(and so incredibly incapable of speaking english?!?!)

                      1. re: alkapal

                        I think the lack of English skills exacerbates the "difficult" image.

                        1. re: Phaedrus

                          actually, Morimoto's English skills are decent. He can communicate with staff and customers in his restaurants pretty well.
                          he has a place in Philadelphia called Morimoto. I believe he has opened a second in NYC, though it may still be in the works

                          1. re: nc213

                            his nyc restaurant has been open since early 2006.

                            1. re: nc213

                              I met Morimot when his NYC restaurant opened. I thought he was incredibly nice. His English is fine. I think they dub over his voice because for some people, any accent makes the person difficult to understand. I've even encountered Americans that have trouble understanding Brits!

                              1. re: SweetPea914

                                the show was about the lead-up to his opening a philly resto.....in that, his english was very bad. maybe he studied or practiced since then....

                                1. re: SweetPea914

                                  Yeah....I'm willing to bet some parts of the US were surprised they didn't give subtitles for Jamie Oliver ;)

                            2. re: alkapal

                              I don't think he was difficult, I think it was more a culture gap then a language gap. The investors didn't seem to understand the significance of the giant sushi roll or the sake ceremony, and seemed more worried about the opening itself. Once the restaurant opened they were rolling along just fine.

                            3. re: gyp7318

                              I'd be really surprised if the chefs got to choose their opponents. I imagine the Iron Chefs' schedules are pretty full and have to be given plenty of notice to prepare and fly to NYC if they don't already live there.

                              1. re: ajs228

                                They do get to choose, it's just much in advance of the actual show. You should read one of the articles below that explains how it works.

                                1. re: SweetPea914

                                  I did, but I must have missed that part. I still think it's a bit odd. You'd think a TV network wouldn't like giving up that much control over their content. On the other hand, it probably keeps them from throwing Bobby Flay at us every other episode.

                          2. re: gyp7318

                            I've spoken with a chef who appeared on the original (Japanese) Iron Chef. He said he knew the secret ingredient several days before the taping.