One of Japan’s greatest TV shows of all time is Iron Chef, the competitive head-to-head cooking show that elevating cooking television to an artform.
But Iron Chef has been gone for over a decade on Japanese TV, and all we’ve been left has been spin-offs and imitators. Fortunately, late last year FujiTV revived the Iron Chef franchise and began airing new episodes.
I’ve had the chance to watch some of the new episodes and judge for myself how the new Iron Chef holds up to the classic.
The very first scene in the first episode of the new Iron Chef is a shot of the new Chairman at the grave of Chairman Kaga, paying his respects.
Not only does that take a lot of chutzpah to start a show with the death of its most beloved character, it also makes a bold statement that the old series is no more. There are a lot of things that set the new Iron Chef apart from the old series.
The name of the new show is technically different from the old show. Both shows are called “Iron Chef,” but the Japanese is different; the original show used the kanji 料理の鉄人, while the new show uses the phoenetic アイアンシェフ.
Most people see the new name as a recognition of the series’ international success. The original was a cult hit for years and years, and practically every country in the world has its own version of the show.
While nobody can ever really replace the original show’s host, Chairman Kaga, the new Chairman does an admirable job.
The new chariman, played by Hiroshi Tamaki, may be a young whippersnapper, but he’s got all the basics down: the drama, the showmanship, the gloves and, most importantly, the fabulous outfits.
And while the new chairman doesn’t yet have the same sort of mystique that Kaga was able to so masterfully cultivate, he’s on a promising path.
New Iron Chefs
For better or worse, none of the original Iron Chefs made it into the new series. Morimoto, Kenichi, and Sakai have all hung up their brightly-colored Iron Chef uniforms and retreated back into the kitchens of the real world.
Taking their place is a slew of young guns, new chefs who have made a mark on the culinary world and have come to Kitchen Stadium. There are Iron Chefs who specialize in Japanese, Chinese, and French cuisine, and a yet-to-be-announced fourth Iron Chef.
What’s the Same?
Even though it’s been more than ten years since new episodes of Iron Chef were on the air, the new show has a lot more in common with the old show than you might expect.
The format of the new Iron Chef is still very much the same as the old one. A challenger and an Iron Chef are given a special ingredient and an hour to create the most gourmet, delicious dishes they can.
Kitchen Stadium looks better than ever.
I’m glad that the format of the show is the same, since it’s so simple and has really stood the test of time. If it worked for the old show and the myriad spin-offs and copycats, then why change a successful formula?
While Iron Chef has undergone a lot of personnel changes in the decade since the last iteration, there are still a lot of old timers left.
Rokusaburo Michiba: one classy man.
Original Iron Chef Japan Rokusaburo Michiba makes several appearances in the new show as a judge and consultant and in the first episode, the old Iron Chef Chinese, Chen Kenichi, makes a special appearance to present the challenger.
Even if the new Iron Chef replicated every minute detail of the old show, there’s a certain charm to the show that’s hard to recapture.
Are you a bad enough dude to wear geta in Kitchen Stadium?
Fortunately, the new Iron Chef does an admirable job at cultivating the same sort of drama and charm of the original series. Kitchen Stadium is as grand as ever, the challengers have dramatic backstories, and the Iron Chefs are larger than life.
Is The New Iron Chef Worth Watching?
In short: yes.
If you loved the old Iron Chef, then the new one shouldn’t disappoint. While a lot of people were apprehensive if the new Iron Chef could hold a candle to the old series, I have no hesitation recommending the new series.
The only problem is that it’s only showing in Japan at the moment. If you don’t understand Japanese and/or don’t get FujiTV, then the only way you have to see the new Iron Chef is through fansubs.
But in any case, you should hurry. Iron Chef is expensive to produce and has garnered low ratings, leading to rumors that the show will be cancelled soon. If you want to recapture some of the glory of Iron Chef, you may have a limited time to do so.