First broadcast in Japan in 1993, Iron Chef has become a global success – though a UK series failed to make much of an impression on Channel 4 in 2010.
Now a new US iteration is with us, via Netflix. The cumbersomely titled Iron Chef: Quest for an Iron Legend (available now) opens with dramatic music and promises of “exciting cooking combat”.
The conceit sees chefs come to the “kitchen stadium” (a kitchen) to prove themselves. Episode one sees “chairman” Mark Dacascos – who sometimes shouts things like “lamb!” and “fire!” while doing kung fu moves, for some reason – introduce challenger Mason, whose laid-back demeanour and goofy get-up (he rocks glasses, a moustache, a baseball cap and a mullet) rather undercuts the Game of Thrones in Japan vibe.
His ‘iron’ adversary is macho Aussie Curtis Stone. The lamb/fire battle sees their teams make five street food courses, using fancy gadgets to sear meat and distribute smoke.
Fast edits make it borderline impossible to follow: even hosts Alton Brown and Kirsten Kish, plus a panel of judges (the show seems unconcerned about the ‘too many cooks’ adage) are reduced to speculation about what’s cooking, as if the chefs won’t tell them.
Judgement time proves more revealing. Both teams turn up mouthwatering fare, making efficient use of their lambs, and coming up with flavours and recipes including berbere spice from Ethiopia, South American arepa and Greek gyro.
So, IC:QFAIL (as no one is likely to call it) has something tasty to offer. But viewers need an iron will to look past the tenuous concept and exhausting production.