Forget Masterchef, forget Final Table, forget every kitchen cook-off you’ve ever seen because the only cooking competition you should be watching has already aired, back in 1993, and there’s over 300 episodes.
We’re talking about the original Iron Chef, a Japanese cooking competition that invites guests chefs to challenge a list of iron chef masters as they prepare a meal in one hour focusing on a specific ingredient.
It’s fast, sweaty, hot and intense - really, really intense - but we realized recently that this is a cooking show by chefs, for chefs. The challenge can be as simple as ‘use egg in each of your dishes’ but the results are often unbelievable.
Just look how epic the ingredient introduction is:
At the end of the hour, the challenging chef and the iron chef master have their dishes tasted and a winner is announced: most fail to take down the iron chef but some technical challengers have.
As the different chefs - Iron Chef China, Iron Chef Japan, Iron Chef France - stand on their podiums in bright, shiny suits, one can’t held thinking of the Power Rangers, however, it’s at this point the real cooking begins.
The whole show is totally over the top but so is the technique on display, nobody plays it safe on Iron Chef, most prepare at least five courses, usually more, and there’s ice cream machines, pressure cookers, steamers and salamanders galore as the chef’s and their team of helpers frantically prepare a feast in under one hour.
One chef challenger even brought marble so he could make proper pasta.
Why do we love it? The cooking and techniques on display are immense, this is a show to learn about new flavor combinations, new approaches, new plating and a whole host of Asian ingredients you may have never encountered. Perhaps it’s the fact that the madness, the intensity, the passion and dedication are what you see displayed in real kitchens. Ok, it’s shiny and polished, it’s a produced TV show, but the finished results when the chefs serve up their final creations will have you questioning your own prep time.
The American's have made a version but it's like comparing Jiro's Sushi with Wagamamas.