Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Day 12: Victory! Defeat! Honor! Squid!

The lights dim...
Spotlight on...It's time for the chef to meet his true competitor in...KITCHEN STADIUM! Yes, I am talking about one of the best cooking shows to ever exist. These gods of cooking make Julia Child look like Paula Deen and turn small time chefs into whimpering children. Sure this might be an exaggeration, but that is the basic concept. I have to say that this show was basically one of the only shows that I watched as a child. The action, the suspense, the horrible voice overs, and the final outcome of chefs cooking was nothing less than spectacular. For those of you that don't know the magic that is Iron Chef, let me sum it up for you.

The show revolves around popular chefs from Japan and elsewhere who come to Kitchen Stadium to challenge the the invincible men of culinary skills, the Iron Chefs . From the inventive mind of Chairman Kaga (Takeshi Kaga) Kitchen Stadium was born after having "realized his dream as never seen before". A place where chefs would truly be challenged to use the extent of their cultural cuisine styles. They would be given the theme ingredient, some of the best and weirdest (to western culture at least) foods. With different mediums to work with, the chefs would find unique ways to take an ingredient that is most likely foreign to their cuisine and put a twist on what would be a normal dish (ex. Foie Gras and Flatfish with Citrus Sauce). 

The introduction of the theme ingredient is by far one of my favorite Chairman Kaga moments. After addressing the chefs, he goes on to introduce the theme ingrdient in which he enthusiastically announces, "We unveil the ingredient!". Chairman Kaga dramatically throws the sheet off the table in front of him as the middle section of a table rises to reveal the main ingredient. Overall though, the introduction to the show itself is one of the best I have ever seen, cooking show or not. It starts off with a quote from Brillat-Savarin, "Tell me what you eat, and I'll tell you what you are." From there the camera pans onto the Kitchen Stadium where an announcer explains the history of kitchen and Chairman Kaga. While the history is explained there are introductions to the Iron Chefs as well as amazingly cheesy shots of Kaga eating, drinking, and profoundly thinking, but the most popular scene being Kaga taking a bite of a yellow pepper. The contestant is introduced and their culinary background is told over shots of him/her preparing different foods.What really holds the introduction together the whole time is the English voice over with his exuberant telling of kitchen stadium and the chefs history. 

After theme ingredient introduction, the culinary battle starts at the sound of the gong and the chefs run off to start their cooking. The chefs are given two assistants from the Hattori Nutritional College and have an hours time to create the best articulate dishes to win the competition. Typically there are four dishes made which resemble a full course meal. Typically while the chefs are cooking, there is commentary being made by the various judges. There is the announcer, Kenji Fukui, the commentator, Yukio Hattori, the floor reporter, Shinichiro Ohta, and one or two guest judges. The judges discuss the chefs different approaches to the theme ingredient and how they tie it into their specific cuisine style, all the while making witty jokes followed by strange dubbed over laughing. 

After the intense hour of cooking, the chefs must stop with only the dishes they have finished and are put before the judges. Each chef is given up to 20 points by each judge; up to ten for taste, up to five for presentation, and up to five for originality. While the judges are tasting the various dishes, Chairman Kaga is along side them giving input as well as seeking input from the judges. Various commentary is made, along with some outlandish commentary from judges who are obviously not so well rounded in the culinary world. After the points are compiled, a winner is announced and either an Iron Chef is victorious again or a challenger wins "and he or she gain the people ovation and fame forever".

Watch it. It's amazing.

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