Review: Netflix’s ‘Iron Chef’ Reboot The Food Network Looks Familiar

Ask anyone who enjoys TV cooking contests what their favorite show is, and they’ll likely have a different answer: they could be a fan, section And the top chef; New school broadcast shows like Is it a cake? And the Baker’s Dozen; Or, of course, a sensation The great british bakes. But the mother of all cooking shows was and always will be Iron Chef. Launched in 1993 in Japan, and hosted by royal chief Kaga, the original version was so serious about its broad pursuit of culinary excellence that the situation was turned on its head with the hilarious dubbing and campfire that followed when the Food Network began broadcasting it in the United States in 1999.

Iron ChefIn all its splendor, both esteemed Iron Chefs and aspiring competitors cast a large arena – the “Kitchen Playground” – a spectacle unlike any other on TV. The show pioneered cooking as a sport, challenging two chefs to cook the best meal using a common theme ingredient, and crowned the chefs as champions. In transforming cooking into professional wrestling-like stories, the original Iron Chef The idea that chefs are authors or cooks was reinforced as venerable icons. The opening monologue called the Iron Chefs “the indomitable men of culinary skill,” reinforcing the idea that “if any challenger wins over the Iron Chef, he will gain the people’s applause and fame forever.”

But as accounts within the restaurant industry have removed some long-held respect for chefs, it has been rebooted. Iron Chef: The Quest for an Iron Legend, which premiered on Netflix, raises the question of why we continue to care about raising chefs to such a level of admiration. (Food Network long-running release, Iron Chef Americawhich ran from 2004 to 2018, now looks like a relic of an earlier era, with the now infamous Mario Batali one of the early iron chefs.) The quest for an iron legend Addresses “Why care?” A question very similar to the original: by selling us who these competitors are, and why their stories should matter to us. The show’s dramatic music, fast zoom, and slow-motion victory make you feel cramped compared to the more sober Japanese vision, but overall, the formula continues to work.

The Netflix reboot brings back Food Network’s original duo Alton Brown as host with actor Mark Dacascos as Kaga’s chief “nephew.” But with an entirely new cast of judges, challengers, and ironclad chefs, the show doesn’t have time to develop the names of its inner champions, so they instead come with years or even decades of success and recognition for previous cooks: think Curtis Stone, Marcus Samuelson, Ming Tsai, Dominic Crane and Gabriella Camara. There are also a variety of competitors: Mason Hereford of New Orleans’ Turkey and the Wolf, Esther Choi of New York City Mokbar, Curtis Duffy of Chicago’s Ever, Claudette Zepeda of San Diego’s Vaga, Yia Vang of Minneapolis’ Union Hmong Kitchen, Mei Lin of LA’s Daybird, and Gregory Gourdet of Portland’s Kann. There is no shortage of cooking ability here, and these chefs garner as much acclaim as the Iron Chefs, despite their certainly few years of experience.

(there are spoilers from this point on)

Chef Esther Choi watches NFL star Vernon Davis in action on an episode of Iron Chef: The Quest for an Iron Legend.
Patrick Wymore/Netflix

Japanese origin Iron Chef It was a dramatic, highly stylized duel of culinary cleverness, pitting the older male chefs against the Iron Chefs in Chief Kaya’s stable (Masahru Morimoto, a Japanese iron chef and longtime Iron Chef in the American version, the Chief Judge makes his appearance in the Netflix reboot). Iron Chef America A similar dynamic emerged from stiff competition, but with hosts who provided strength. The Netflix version carries the most tone and approach Iron Chef America. In the new Kitchen Stadium, human audiences were replaced by CGI graphics and took a pipe clapping, adding a cheesy feature, “Don’t take this very Seriously “. top chef Blame Kristen Kish is now the side reporter alongside Brown, who continues his line of facts while Kish adds her extensive culinary knowledge to the commentary.

Regardless of the cosmetic changes, the show argues that the chef’s overall goal remains the same: the possibility of achieving glory, or winning for simple pride in the work. in the new iron legendThere is an overlapping objective that is supposed to motivate the rivals: the contender with the highest score and who finishes his first fight eventually competes against all five Iron Chefs. If the opponent wins, they will be awarded the title of Iron Legend, receive the golden plastic chef’s knife as a commemorative trophy, and of course some indescribable recognition as a next-level master. With pride and glory as the primary motivators, the show will have us believe chefs coveted the knife-shaped cup. It feels compelling because of the true simulation of the frenetic exposition and high stakes on TV of the often intense pressure cooker environments of professional kitchens. in all Iron Chef The formats, and the level of cooking on display — minus the inclusion of two unequipped former NFL players in the current series — have always seemed to be a tougher cut than other competitions.

Of course, the public will never get a chance to try any of this food. But the show translates taste and flavor into the backstory and perspective of each chef, which in turn gives viewers a sense of what the judges are eating without the live post-record interview typical of other reality shows. This often works because competitors often rely on their heritage and identity to lump the flavors together.

For example, Choi says her grandmother deserves all the credit for her love of food, but she makes a menu that weaves into traditional home cooking like King Crab Bibimbap into something more polished, like kimchi-butter lobster ramen you might serve her. Brooklyn Restaurant. Fighting back tears, Choi tells the judges, “Every dish we put out there has to do with our culture and who I am.” Heritage banking is certainly not new to Iron Chefbut with the first chapters mainly expressions of classic European or East Asian cuisine, and beyond Iron Chef America The menus include a more international approach, and it’s refreshing to see young chefs not only unafraid to flaunt their cultures, but amplify it without being held to the perceived standards of French, Italian, Japanese or Chinese cuisine. And screen time to spotlight previously lesser-known fare, like Gourdet’s Haitian, Vang’s Hmong, or Zepeda’s Baja California border flavours, feels like a smart move in 2022.

Cooking contests are excellent TV shows, but they’re also ridiculous. Rooting competitors or iron-on chefs iron legend The rooting for the superheroes of our time is like Marvel and DC: there is a sense of futility. On screen, it’s hard to feel a tangible conflict between the rivals, and there’s enough long hugs and hugs to make you wonder if the chefs attended the show feeling there was a lot at stake.

But I kept coming back to the personal stories that resonate in food and cooking. Remembering black and white slow motion was a regular part of the Japanese Iron Chef, either the nostalgia of the chairman of the board or the rival chef. Those were the moments iron legend I felt more interested in who was competing and why, such as when Choi remembered her Korean grandmother or when Fang talked about the flavors of Hmong he learned after immigrating to the United States.

Choi, who was one of only two contenders to beat Chef Iron, gets the highest score and thus a chance to cook for the Iron Legend in a grand season finale that pits her and her brave chef Elji Cheung and Jin Jang against all. Five iron cooks. Choi leads the judges throughout her culinary career, backed by her Korean heritage. In the end, it falls short of her cast by one point, a result that seems suspicious of helping push the show into another season. But seeing Choi, with whom she recorded a video at a restaurant named after her grandmother, and someone I see as a shining future in the modern Korean food scene, felt like someone worth rooting for.

Perhaps that’s why references to real culinary influences—mothers, fathers, grandmothers—convinced me that honoring chefs for their culinary skills is a worthy endeavor. Perhaps the search for an iron legend is not about desire for glory, but about understanding; that familial and cultural roots, nostalgia, and memory are stronger flavors of technique or ingenuity; And in the end, that the battlefield itself is meaningless without knowing why food is so important on the plate. At the beginning of each episode, the original Iron Chef featured Jean Anthem Brillat Savarin’s quote, “Tell me what you eat, and I’ll tell you what you are.” Maybe the new Netflix version should say, “Show me how you cook, and you tell me who you are.”

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