Unfortunately that rancid stench that is causing my eyes to water happens to be 7TV’s all-new series Iron Chef Australia.
Why can’t programmers leave a good thing be and just bring back the original Iron Chef (Ryōri no Tetsujin, 料理の鉄人)? That was a great show, especially with the Canadian voice actors who provided the English translation that originally made it onto the Food Network. I actually watched some of the original episodes in Japanese during trips back to Taiwan in the 90s and still refer back to the episodes when I am planning dinner menus.
Talented chefs, talented challengers, a seemingly unlimited budget, some truly inspired cooking, guest appearance by Joël Robuchon. What more could you want? Technique? Rokusaburo Michiba demo’d sous-vide cooking. Toshiro Kandagawa used the katsuramuki technique laterally on a piece of lotus root. Extravagance? At one point it seemed like every episode featured Périgord black truffles and foie gras.
Iron Chef of course wound down after 300 episodes and four special episodes, and FujiTV even ran a funeral for Chairman Kaga (the lead-up to the fourth and final special).
Unfortunately, no-talents managed to license the concept from Fuji.
UPN created a true horror known as “Iron Chef USA”. It was mercifully a one-off which featured Bill Shatner as the purple-robed Chairman with four chefs (Jean-Francois Meteigner, Alessandro Stratta, Roy Yamaguchi and Todd English). “The Italian Scallion”, the “Samurai of Stir-Fry” and “Captain America”. Watch me with the dry heaves.
Food Network at least tried to follow the format of the original with Iron Chef America, and they chose Mark Dacascos (who I knew as the guy who played a Buddhist monk in the CSI episode “Felonious Monk” [that would be S02E17 for followers]) to be Kaga’s Americanized nephew. The series started off with Hiroyuki Sakai and Masamoru Morimoto essentially throwing all of their battles in the multi-episode “Battle of the Masters” pilot sequence so that ICA could use the ties with the original Iron Chef to launch.
Most of the ICA episodes stink (especially at judging) though I didn’t mind some of the challengers: Tim Love doing mezcal shooters with his team, Susur Lee blowtorching pancetta (something I started doing), and Ming Tsai using a compressor pump to inflate ducks.
Rob Feenie was the first Canadian chef to compete and the only Canadian winner to date, presenting dishes which included a duo of crab maki. Unfortunately Rob’s interpretation on ICA was superior to what he eventually put on his menu at his (now closed) bistro Feenie’s.
So now we get to Iron Chef Australia which for some reason decided to retain Dacascos and altered the format even further by pitting young up and coming chefs coming to do battle against the established chefs. The series kicked off with Neil Perry doing Battle Coconut in the inaugural episode and all I can say is: Worst. Episode. Ever. I feel bad for Perry: it’s only been one episode, but it’s already captured the crown. This series may eventually get better but Australia is really food obsessed and it doesn’t do any good when everyone’s calling the series launch a “fizzle”.
Putrid as ICAustralia might be, it actually isn’t the worst of the bastard children. You’d think that Bill’s Iron Chef USA would have taken it hands down, but in all honesty, that honor has managed to fall to Channel 4’s Iron Chef UK.
Eizo Tomita is cringe-worthy as the UK iteration’s Chairman but it’s really Ollie Smith’s greetings that has you running for the hills.