The Secret Ingredient

I love Iron Chef. Haven’t always liked it, though, I have to admit. The camp of the Japanese version (which was all we had back when I was in college [which was around 5 years ago, by the way. Look, a side comment in a side comment]) was too much at first. But it didn’t take too long after that to become really hooked.

At the time ETC (slight ugh) aired an episode every Friday at 8pm, and I remember missing out or being late in a gathering or two. Why? I was too busy being dazzled by the moves and ideas of two combatants in a unique arena: a chef with absolute and established, truly strong-as-iron mastery in a certain cultural style of cooking, battling a male (and sometimes female) challenger with a japanese-media-sensationalized past and a determination to win for a host of reasons. It was the sheer creativity and culinary skill both entities demonstrated that kept me hooked. Right now I can think of other reasons why I liked the show, but I’ll hold them in.

I read somewhere that the first Iron Chef episode aired October 1993. I imagine it was around ten years later when Fuji TV had to close the doors of the original Kitchen Stadium. The attention this show got at the Emmy’s inspired someone to start the franchise in the States, and then we were all introduced to the failure known as Iron Chef USA (With William Shatner as the chairman. Yes, Captain Kirk likes some wasabi gratings on his escargot carpaccio [And yes, I said escargot carpaccio. Look, another side comment in a side comment]).

So all the Iron Chef Japan episodes I’ve been watching were reruns, I thought. Then I heard of Iron Chef America being in the works. I was delighted to hear that the Lifestyle Network was going to be showing episodes of this show, so I braced myself as I tuned in to that channel one Saturday at around 7pm. I was eager to see how it went…

…And call it biased, but I was just a bit disappointed. I think a lot of us Iron-Chef-Japan hippies were. I stopped watching Iron Chef America, as I was very content by the Iron Chef Japan collection I established, downloaded from, then in ironcheffans, and the torrents.

We saw a whole lot of ‘cooking-fighting’ shows come up all over the place after that, and needless to say, most of them were all over the place. I was quite adamant that nothing compared to Iron Chef Japan.

Fast forward to today. I’ve had a lot of life to live, a lot of life to experience, and now I find that I have the time to just sit down and write a bit, with the Daystar channel on TV in the background. I also have the time to watch a bit more TV than I’ve shyed away from (but this is probably due to the fact that we had no TV in Metrodorm – yeah, that’s probably it), and so before my mom watched The Biggest Loser, I was watching Top Chef. I remember thinking, that food dude from Queer Eye has gone a long way.

As I got home just a while back, an episode of The Next Iron Chef was starting. I decided to check it out while having a good plate of ginataang hilaw na papaya with tuna on hot (well, warm) rice. The cooking challenges were very entertaining, but after finishing the whole show, I kind of figured out why I think Iron Chef Japan is still significantly superior.

I found myself being able to identify with the most judges of Iron Chef Japan.

Their comments were very easy to understand, and I believe they made very good sense. You didn’t need to be the sous chef over at La Tour D’Argent to understand how a judge explained why he was frustrated that one challenger placed the lid over his bowls of hot fried rice too early. It’s simple – water drops would form under the lid and you’d have soggy rice.
Their comments were not selfish – they made us all understand why a dish was not good, and how the right amount of something amplified and accentuated the flavor of something else.
Their comments were also respectful – they were mentioned with all due respect to the fact that the chef can kick their royal derriere in Kitchen Stadium, while still delivering the easily understandable point. Asako Kishi may have been known as the East German Judge, but I would rather listen to her compared to most judges in Iron Chef America.

This is my point. In Iron Chef Japan, a chef can listen to a judge’s comment without giving him a Corkscrew Batista Bomb while screaming “WHY DON’T YOU COOK!? HUH!?” I believe the respect people give to each other in that show made it the legendary hit that it is.

This is what I learned from thinking about all of this. If you think God has gifted you with a certain skill, and if you are able to demonstrate this skill by inspiring others to do it, then I would be happy to affirm it.

I still love Iron Chef. When can we see Chairman Kaga bite the Yellow Pepper again, I wonder?

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