A two-hour special
, the latest show in the Japanese Iron Chef
series, shot in January 2001
TV has actually stopped producing Iron Chef weekly episode
s, both because production cost
s were high (the show requires the network
's largest studio
and because the show was at the height of its popularity
a show at this point is common in Japan
to keep interest for special presentation
If you haven't seen the show, imagine two chefs dueling it out, gladiator-style, in a kitchen stadium, to see who can create the best dishes and win the favor of Chairman Kaga. You gotta see this show--it's on the Food Network.
As the episode opens, we hear the voice of Chairman Kaga telling us that, while the world around us is changing rapidly, man still must eat every day. Therefore, he has sought for and found two challengers who, though their culinary excellence, may help force mankind into a new food century. As it turns out, these two are Toshiro Kandagawa, a legendary Japanese chef and the force behind the creation of the diabolical Ota Faction), and America's own Bobby Flay.
We then see Chairman Kaga being led into Kitchen Stadium on a palfrey, accoutered (as usual) in flamboyant style: a long, flowing, besequined (I can't imagine it's bejeweled) cape and a rather substantial ruffle about the neck. A brass quintet dressed as disco-style American colonialists plays a stirring entrance theme.
Kandagawa soon makes his entrance, wearing a blue tunic and strange hat. Kaga inquires about the hat and Lo!, it is whipped off and reveals Kandagawa's shaved head! It seems that the chef, in order to make a break with the past (and in the spirit of the 21st Century Battle) has opted for a fresh-pated start. We now begin to realize that this will be no ordinary battle.
Kandagawa selects his opponent from the range of Iron Chefs past and present. He chooses Iron Chef French, Hiroyuki Sakai,recently crowned The King of Iron Chefs! Kandagawa, it seems, would not match skills with a lesser opponent. So much the better. And then the hour's battle begins. The theme ingredient is...RED SNAPPER! The audience gasps in delight. Sakai, as it turns out, is undefeated in fish battles. How can Kandagawa hope to succeed, especially since he was defeated by Sakai himself in 1995's Lotus Root Battle?
The showdown itself is brutal. Kandagawa enthralls the crowd with his masterful knife work, even brandishing a new knife purchased for the occasion. Sakai, not to be outdone by the motives of his opponent, announces that, as we have entered a new century, he will no longer use his trademark ring mold. Astonishment! But all the commentators are buzzing about just one thing: Kandagawa's choice to back away from traditional Japanese soup broth (incorporating bonito shavings and kelp), instead preparing his new "Global Broth."
And this is the taste that, in the end, wins the hearts of the judges...Kandagawa takes it! His cuisine reigns supreme!
But this is just the undercard...what everyone is waiting for is the long-overdue rematch between Bobby Flay and Iron Chef Japanese Masaharu Morimoto. These two had met about one year before in new York City; and in an accident-plagued Rock Crab Battle, Flay found himself overmatched. Perhaps part of his defeat can be blamed on the crowd, which leaned strongly toward Morimoto. Included in the crowd was a young boy, Tommy Mothershead, whose parents had flown him in all the way fro Arizona to see his hero, Morimoto, defeat the cocky American. And Flay was cocky, guaranteeing victory and even, at the conclusion of the battle, standing on his cutting board and raising a cheer from the crowd. This act, considered a sacrilege by Morimoto, is still puzzled over by the Japanese. Flay later blamed his defeat on defects in his kitchen setup, but the most galling part must have been the score of 14 (out of 20) he received from one of the judges.
But the past, as they say, is prologue. Now Flay is in Japan looking for a fair fight, but has lost the hometown advantage. Chairman Kaga interviews him...and Flay bows politely! Flay now says his loss was the result of poor preparation...but he has spent the last several days in Japan sampling local ingredients, and thus he will not be caught unawares a second time. Kaga, in a magnanimous gesture (or is it overconfidence?) has seated not one but TWO Americans on the tasting panel...some embassy bureacrat and Akebono, the Hawaiian-born Yokozuna sumo wrestler. We shall see if this is enough to swing the results Bobby's way.
But wait! The theme ingredient is announced...it is Japanese Lobster from the Bay of Ise! Surely, this tastes different from the lobster that Bobby tends to cook with...will be be able to adjust? But it seems that Morimoto will do most of the adjusting--he has sworn off the use of soy sauce for this battle! Gaping astonishment!] The battle proceeds at a furious pace, and at one point the burner goes out under one of Flay's pots...is this more trickery? Soon the problem is corrected and we move on. All eyes are on Bobby as the conclusion draws near...will he or won't he jump on his cutting board? The question is soon answered. Behold! Bobby throws the cutting board to the floor and jumps on the countertop! Morimoto is not pleased with this and again chalks it up to the American's disrespect for the nobility of the chef.
And now to the tasting. Whose cuisine will reign supreme? Bobby Flay wins the votes of four of five judges and takes the crown! And...could it be retribution?...the embassy official gives Morimoto's dishes a score of 13!!
Chairman Kaga scowls mightily--he is none too pleased that his top chefs have lost the first two battles of the 21st century. What lies ahead for the Iron Chefs? Oblivion, or resurgence? Only the future knows....