Iron Chef America Review (not so good)

I saw the Iron Chef America miniseries a couple months ago and was totally psyched about it. I even wrote a gushing post here on my blog… but then I deleted the gush because… well… something didn’t feel right. I had to watch a few more episodes before I was sure what was up.

I know what’s up now. Iron Chef America isn’t a good program. It wasn’t transposed to the U.S. well. Actually, the only elements that they really brought over were that it’s a cooking competition with a secret ingredient with running commentary. Any other similarity to any show, current or canned is purely coincidental.

I’ll get it out the way and say that I enjoy Alton Brown’s commentary quite a bit.

Here’s what they’re missing:

A host with charisma… cult of personality style. Everyone knows that nearly a decade ago, a man’s fantasy became reality in a form never seen before, Kitchen Stadium, a giant cooking arena. The motivation for spending his fortune to create kitchen stadium was to encounter new, original cuisine, which could be called true, artistic creations. On the flip side, the backstory behind Kaga’s nephew is that “he came to America”. Feh. (BTW, just to break everyone’s heart: Kaga’s backstory isn’t real and his nephew… isn’t)

The Challenger doesn’t get to pick who he’ll fight. Why not? Everyone is standing there… why did the other Iron Chefs show up if they already knew who was fighting?

The American Kitchen Stadium isn’t as well supplied. I’ve noticed a couple times how chefs were having trouble finding ingredients or appropriate utensils.

5 dishes in 1 hour? Come on! I know that Americans appreciate busyness, but this is crazy. It changes the show from a culinary competition to a track and field meet, literally. I suppose that it forces the chefs to make better use of their sous chefs, making their management style important. Also, it is a different (and not necessarily bad) thing to see chefs barking orders and discussing things. But it seems a bit impersonal that some components of each dish aren’t even touched by the chef.

It’s obvious that the chefs know what the secret ingredient is before it’s revealed. That breaks my heart.

Alton has to do the final countdown himself instead of the cool voiced, Star Trek computer-like timer lady. That, and a lack of, say a big clock on the wall gives me the subtle impression that the timer might not actually be exactly 60 minutes.

The Iron Chefs specialities aren’t named. I realize that specialities are more of a moving target with the American chefs, but you’ve got to say SOMETHING else besides their name!

The Challenger’s introduction is too short. You could conceivably shorten it from what the original Iron Chef did… a full Olympic-hopeful style 3 minute biography, but to say, “And here is our challenger, Chef Blahblah. He owns a really nice restaurant!” Is…. distasteful.

The interstitial graphics look way too much like Robot Wars.

Why, oh why, oh WHY does our NC (Nephew Chairman) keep saying, “This is your first appearance in Kitchen Stadium.” They’ve put like 5 episodes in the can. Of COURSE this is their first appearance!

There’s a lot more I could say about this… a lot more. I thought about doing a careful analysis of what was wrong with the show and how it might be fixed, but that wouldn’t be seen as a QA effort but a crazy fandom streak in me. I’ll settle with this nice little rant.

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