Saturday, January 07, 2006
There's a really great TV show on SBS, and it's a Japanese cooking game show called Iron Chef.
Eccentric, wealthy, food-loving Takeshi Kaga (in the show he is called Chairman Kaga) loves cooking so much and has such an obsessive fascination for the mechanics and artistry of it that he has built Kitchen Stadium and recruited some of the best Japanese chefs (each specialising in a different country's cuisine) which he calls Iron Chefs. Then he finds other great chefs to challenge his Iron Chefs in cooking battles.
Chairman Kaga wears very baroque, flamboyant clothes and at the beginning of every show makes a big dramatic eloquent speech introducing the Iron Chefs and the Challenger. Then, with a flourish, he reveals the food item that will serve as the theme ingredient for the battle. Every dish must include this ingredient. In tonight's episode it was the pumpkin, so an icon appeared at the bottom right of the screen saying 'Pumpkin Battle'. Another episode had the mushroom as the secret theme ingredient, so that was the 'Mushroom Battle'.
The actual *Battle* has a one-hour time limit (edited to fit the 45-minute length of the show) and there are three commentators - two men and a woman. (You can hear the Japanese voices but all translations are by Americans who sound like sports commentators.) There is also a guy who runs around between the chefs asking questions and reporting back to the three commentators, for example he might say, "Kuzon! [I don't know what that means - maybe "Excuse me!" in Japanese?] I asked Challenger Suzuki what he thinks of the pumpkin theme and he said 'I hate pumpkins and so does my wife! Why did I have to be here when they chose the pumpkin?'"
The cooking action is frantic and very exciting, and the commentary is always amusing. They are always trying to guess what some ingredient is and making jokes, like when one of the chefs gets a horrified expression when the announcement booms out that there is only ten minutes to go.
The final stage is the judging. There are three judges, different ones for each episode. There may be a young TV actress, a politician and a novelist. This part is actually the most boring because you will hear stuff like, "Yes, it was very nice!" or "Those flavours were harmonious!" or "I liked how you did that!"
But what is not boring is finding out who won - the Iron Chef or the Challenger!
Iron Chef is super excellent wonderful fantastic and great!
P.S. - Does anybody know where I can get a big poster of Chairman Kaga?
P.S. - For more Iron Chef information, trivia and statistics, this Wikipedia page has a lot of cool stuff.
P.S. - Thanks to Brent McKee for clearing up the "Kuzon!" mystery:
"I believe that when the floor, Sinichiro Ohta, interrupts he's actually saying Fukui-san, that is he's addressing his comments to announcer Kenji Fukui."