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YMMV / Iron Chef

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  • Alternative Character Interpretation: Based on all the Wild Mass Guessing, Chairman Mark and Alton Brown are apparently two steps from murdering each other.
  • Broken Base: While not hated, the three Iron Chef Japanese in the original Japanese show qualify, both in-universe and reality. Michiba and Morimoto are disliked by the puritan Japanese culinary world for being too liberal with their ingredients and not sticking to the Japanese ways, which fans of Michiba and Morimoto like about them. On the contrary, people who like Nakamura and the same critics of Michiba and Morimoto tend to like that he's more grounded in tradition, but the people who disliked Nakamura criticized him for being too conservative.
  • Estrogen Brigade: Certainly among the later years of Iron Chef, between Sakai, Chen, Morimoto, Kobe, and Kaga, a lot of women watched the show. (People tend to forget this, but most of the Iron Chefs were actually quite young considering that they were supposed to be some of the best chefs in Japan: Sakai was 41 when he became an Iron Chef, Chen was 37, Morimoto was 44,note  and Kobe was 26. Even Nakamura was only middle-aged when he showed up at 48. The only truly old chef to be an Iron Chef on the original series was Michiba, who was 62 when he started in 1993.) Some even include Fukui.
    • Kaga's stage following probably bolstered the ratings in the earlier days, and with that voice, who can blame them?
    • Repeated in ICA, Morimoto, Flay, Symon, Alton, and Chairman Mark have their own fangirl followings, and for the older ladies, Jeffery would make you a fine meal, and being cranky cute all the way.
  • Fan Nickname: Bimbo du Jour (for the younger female guests), The East German Judge (Hosoki or Kishi - whoever's in the fourth seat that day and Jeffery Steingarten in that role in ICA)
    • Chairman Mark is also one, as ICA generally refers to him as just the Chairman, and the fanbase needs a way to differentiate between the two Chairmen.
    • A bit of an in-universe example, but some of the Iron Chefs have monikers of their own: Sakai is known as "Fish Sakai" or the "Delacroix of French cuisine", Kobe's the "Prince of Pasta", and Chen is the "Szechuan Sage".
  • Gateway Series: For both Cooking Shows, and Weird Japanese Things.
  • First Installment Wins: While Iron Chef America is fairly popular, more people remember and like the original Iron Chef Japan because of how much of a historical trendsetter it was for the cooking genre.
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  • Germans Love David Hasselhoff: While the show is considered a classic game show in Japan, in the west, especially in America, it was so popular that the phenomenon of cooking game shows that spawned from its airing on Food Network was called the Iron Chef effect. Americans also liked the show so much that they made their own spinoff because they couldn't air the other episodes to fill in the Iron Chef demand.
  • Growing the Beard: In the beginning of Iron Chef, five challengers competed in a preliminary battle for the right to fight an Iron Chef in an hour-and-a-half battle. By the second episode, the main battle was shortened to an hour; by the sixth episode, the preliminary battle was ditched altogether.
    • Another example is the judging panel, originally three in number, then expanded to four.
    • Ironically, Iron Chef Showdown revised the format by returning to a half-hour preliminary battle between two challengers for the right to fight the Iron Chef in a full-hour battle.
  • Harsher in Hindsight:
    • Nakamura's happiness tying with Alain Passard comes off harsher in hindsight where after fighting him, Nakamura suffered a massive breakdown where he ended up getting feeling so pressured by being an Iron Chef he ended up making dishes that were slammed by the judges, including the infamous potato dish, eventually leading to his retirement.
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    • All the comments about Masahiko Kobe being the youngest chef becomes a lot harsher since Kobe was the first Iron Chef to die from an accident.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • Okay, look at the picture on the main page. One of the things we remember Kaga for is his dramatic pepper chomp. Fast forward to 2006, where Takeshi Kaga played Soichiro Yagami in Death Note. Among other things, Soichiro's son Light was known for...shall we say, epic potato chip eating. Cue jokes about just where he got that from.
    • The fact that a (sadly undubbed) episode had bread as a theme. Kaga, your Valjean is showing. note 
  • Ho Yay: Surprisingly enough: In an ICA battle where the theme was snails, Jeffery Steingarten bemoaned the fact that there were no African snails, which he preferred. Alton then suggested he take the other male judge out for a dinner of that later. Appropriate music then played.
    Oh, Kevin, I love it when your eyes sparkle when you say that!
    • After Kevin asked one of the Carro twins (can't remember which) about a dish and Chef Carro told him what it was called, Kevin said he almost wanted to date him; the way he pronounced that made his heart melt.
    • The second match between Bobby Flay and Masaharu Morimoto in the 21st Century special was called (of all things) the Tango in Tokyo.
      • That was a play on various boxing matches, such as the Thrilla in Manila and the Rumble in the Jungle.
    • ICA Battle Octopus, between Michael Symon and Gavin Kaysen, both from Next Iron Chef.
    Kaysen: Hey Michael.
    Symon: Yes sir?
    Kaysen: Can I take some fennel?
    Symon: You need some?
    Kaysen: I just need one bulb.
    Symon: Go on, honey.
    Kaysen: Thank you.
    • And later Kaysen wipes Symon's head for him, which Symon returns with a friendly kiss on the cheek and a man hug.
  • Kayfabe: In-character, Masahiko Kobe spent his time apprenticing in Italy to prepare him for the show. In reality, it was simply part of his time as an apprentice chef. When he was called to appear on the show, he didn't know until it was time to get on his flight back to Japan that he was going to be an Iron Chef and not a challenger.
    • The storyline of the third Iron Chef Japanese, Masaharu Morimoto, is entirely this. In the late 20th century, Morimoto's "neo-Japanese" style of cooking and unorthodox methods as well as his experiences in the United States were considered "rebellious" by traditional Japanese chefs so the show worked with this in two ways: with Morimoto trying to gain the approval of the first Iron Chef Japanese, Rokusaburo Michiba, as well as making an enemy of the strictly traditional chef Tadamichi Ohta and his faction. While it's debatable just how kayfabe the Ohta Faction is in regards to their attitudes, Michiba (a bit of a cooking rebel in his own right) had long ago approved Morimoto taking up the title and they have a rather good relationship off camera.
  • Memetic Badass: Some of Alton's comments paint the Chairman in this sort of light.
    • Of course, Alton himself has fallen in this trope himself with regards to Good Eats.
  • Narm: See Department of Redundancy Department and Mundane Made Awesome above, amongst others. So much of the over-the-top style of Iron Chef is meant to be serious and dramatic, but comes out hilarious. I'm looking at you Dr. Yukio Hattori!
  • Never Live It Down: Neither fans nor the staff of Iron Chef America will let Bobby Flay forget the cocky attitude he had in his battles during the original show's run. For example, during the Wild Boar battle:
    Kevin Brauch: Well, I'm seeing a lot of flair, confidence, cockiness and talent being, uh, put forth by Iron Chef Bobby Flay and his two sous...
    Bobby Flay: *looks up, around, and scoffs*
    Kevin Brauch: Let's hope that Chef Bull and his two guys... It's true! Sometimes the truth hurts, Bobby! It's talent!
    Bobby Flay: I'm just cutting pineapples!
    • Surprisingly, the only person who is polite and modest enough not to remind him of his Jerkass attitude at IC Japan's New York Battle is Morimoto. Perhaps the guy just wanted to bury the hatchet with Flay and decided not to touch old scars (seeing as they became friendlier to each other during IC America's run), or Flay has already earned Morimoto's forgiveness now that he treats his cooking implements with respect.
      • Subverted in the second Next Iron Chef finale. Flay does (offhandedly) mention the feud, which earned him Morimoto's Death Glare.
    • Three Words: Trout. Ice. Cream.
      • Or four: Cod roe ice cream.
    • For Hiroyuki Sakai, the fact that he lost 3 lobster battles in a row. Sakai, in the third round, got very defensive about it and during the King of Iron Chefs Tournament against Chen, he even swore not to lose against Chen and finally win a lobster battle, which he won and became King of Iron Chefs.
    • For Chen Kenichi, it was when he lost to the first two female challengers. Nobody would ever let him live that down.
    • For Komei Nakamura, it's his failed Potato Battle because of how his foie gras and potato dumpling became one of Chairman Kaga's most hated dishes (he deemed it the second worst dish he'd ever had in his 2,000 Dish Special). Notably it is also the only battle where both sides were considered losers due to just how unpalatable the dishes were.
  • Periphery Demographic: Food Network initially targeted Iron Chef toward its usual demographic: housewives. They didn't see it being adopted by younger audiences at all.
  • Replacement Scrappy: In-Universe, Nakamura was initially seen as one, according to Chairman Kaga's commentary on his retirement episode, due to the fact that he had to deal with the massive legacy that Michiba had left behind while at the same time being his own chef, and he initially had a lot of confusion to his new role as an Iron chef, including at one point only having a 66% win-rate, which made him look weak. However, as Nakamura gained confidence (According to Kaga, during a saury battle), Nakamura ended up pulling himself out of the heap by learning how to make new dishes using his own creativity while sticking to his roots in Japanese cuisine.
  • Retroactive Recognition:
    • For a lot of non-Japanese—and even Japanese!—viewers of reruns and the like, the appearance as judges of Yukio Hatoyama—then a Member of the Lower House for the perpetually hapless Japanese Opposition—and his wife in 1998's Shanghai Cabbage battle can be quite surprising, as Hatoyama ended up Prime Minister for a short but highly consequential time in 2009-10.
    • Yoshiro Mori, who served as Prime Minister from 2000-01, also appeared on the show as a judge during his late-1990s period in the political wilderness (he had previously been a minister, but was on the wrong side of an intra-LDP factional dispute and was thus temporarily a backbencher when he appeared on the show).
  • Shocking Elimination: From The Next Iron Chef, Robert Irvine's early elimination was shocking to the other chefs and underscored just how serious the competition was.
  • Signature Scene: The opening to the original Japanese show, particularly Chairman Kaga's epic pepper bite.
    • Iron Chef Michiba's debut battle when he beat a French challenger using foie gras, a Non-Japanese ingredient.
    • Iron Chef Chen battling his mentor, Takashi Saito, in a Szechuan vs Szechuan prawn battle, with both of them serving a variation on chili prawns, Chen's father's trademark dish.
    • In America, the signature scene would be Morimoto's first fight with Bobby Flay in New York.
  • Squick: Some of the chefs' more outlandish ideas. (Seriously — cod roe ice cream?!)
    • especially on the Japanese original when their delicacies don't match up with American tastes.
    • And Hiroyuki Sakai proved that he hadn't learned his lesson from that disaster (which earned him a sound chastising from the entire tasting panel) by making trout ice cream during one of the ICA pilots. He's not the only guilty one, however: natto and Coca-Cola, Morimoto?!
      • Hey, that one actually worked for Morimoto, especially given that natto squicks even the Japanese. His reasoning for that is actually pretty sound: the carbonation of the soda helps to soften not only the beans but the rather pungent aroma of the natto along with extra sugar to work with the natural stickiness and give it a caramel like flavor and texture. Not only did it work for him but he got a win too.
    • Lampshaded in ICA; any time the ice cream machine is started up, both Alton and Kevin scream "THE ICE CREAM MACHINE IS RUNNING!" in mock-horror.
      • This occurs far less now.
      • But Kevin still goes 'yay!' when neither side runs the ice cream machine in an unusual theme battle (see: Avocado)
      • Perhaps a bit ironic: An episode of Good Eats featured Alton making an Avocado Ice Cream.
    • One of the bell pepper battles in ICJ is especially hilarious, as commentator Kenji Fukui squicks out every time the theme is mentioned. Yukio Hattori and the guest commentators absolutely loved to tease him during it.
    • And now in the second season of The Next Iron Chef, the combatants had to work with somewhat squicky ingredients, including duck tongue, grasshoppers, and unlaid eggs harvested from a killed hen. With fallopian tubes still attached to them.
    • The idea of Iron Chef Real-Person Fic is apparently a Squick of Alton Brown's.
  • Subbing vs. Dubbing: Most of the time, Chairman Kaga is not dubbed into English because he's just that badass in the original Japanese. They dubbed him over only when they realized they couldn't get international rights to some of the music they used and would have to create a new audio track. And even then it was only during the introduction of the challenger, all his lines in Kitchen Stadium remain intact.
    • There are a few episodes that dub his Kitchen Stadium lines, which also lack Fukui's voiceover in the video sequence before tasting. Most of these fully-dubbed Kaga episodes occurred early in the series; when the producers realised the show lost something without Kaga's deep baritone, they went with the original audio instead.
    • Iron Chef America has this in spades with Morimoto, who is ethnic Japanese and also an Iron Chef in the original. While it was justifiable to dub him over in IC Japan given that he speaks pure Japanese there, IC America invokes Viewers Are Morons by dubbing Morimoto who is speaking fluent English just because of his poor grammar and rough Japanese accent. (Having lived and trained extensively in the US, he is bound to learn to speak English at a conversational level.)
      • This is only done at the presentation and judging part, however, as his conversation with his sous-chefs (who are also mostly Japanese note ) is only subtitled.
  • Unintentional Period Piece: In the 1996 scallop battle between Iron Chef Sakai and Senji Osada, "vacuum cooking" is presented as a revolutionary cooking technique that few chefs are familiar with. Since then, sous vide cooking is so commonplace that machines can be found in the kitchens of many home cooks.
  • Values Dissonance: What looks perfectly fine to the Japanese panel is occasionally Squick to the American audience, and vice-versa. Not to mention some of the cultural differences on display. (Why does no one care that there's a drunk guy on the floor punching assistants?)answer 
    • Also, during the second Bobby Flay/Morimoto duel, held in America, the Japanese commentators acted clearly taken aback by the American crowd, which behaved much like an American crowd at any sporting event, with loud cheering, a handful of homemade signs, etc.
      • They were particularly freaked out when the Japanese crowd started a "MO-RI-MO-TO * CLAP! CLAP! CLAP CLAP CLAP!* " chant.
    • The ingredients highlighted by the show often fit this trope in their own right. Haute cuisine in general is no stranger to clashes with animal rights and environmental activists over widespread use of controversial foodstuffs such as foie gras and caviar from endangered sturgeon. Lavish use of such ingredients is one of Iron Chef's trademarks.
      • The original series also featured more exotic ingredients such as shark fins, provoking angry reactions from Westerners more concerned with environmental impact than with Asian culinary traditions. One guest judge, French actress Julie Dreyfus (who is best known to American audiences for playing Sofie Fatale in Kill Bill), gained notoriety for refusing to eat a dish that contained whale meat.
      • Because animal rights and conservation are much more Serious Business in the US, Iron Chef America has strived to avert this by offering local ingredients as much as possible, and showcasing chefs known for farm-to-table and sustainable practices-especially when it comes to seafood. Bluefin tuna was banned from Kitchen Stadium in 2008, and famed sustainable seafood chef Joe Isidori once battled in Kitchen Stadium. Another Season 11 episode showcased Sea Whistle Salmon, farmed in the North Atlantic off of Scotland and Ireland.
      • A Season 5 episode "Battle Farmer's Market", pitted challenger Alex Guarnaschelli (that's right) against Cat Cora. The secret ingredients were picked from the Union Square Greenmarket in New York City.
      • In Season 8, Batali and Emeril Lagasse went up against Flay and White House Executive Chef Cristeta Comerford. The secret ingredient was produce and honey from the White House garden and beehive (announced by Michelle Obama!) , and the Chairman's supplement of sustainable meats and seafood.
      • Japanese attitudes on animal cruelty towards some ingredients can be deeply unsettling. Battle Octopus was one of the most gut-churning episodes due to the chefs not killing the live octopi before using them.
      • It Makes Sense in Context: An old fisherman's trick is to cut a few legs from the Octopus and throw it back into the ocean. The Octopus will grow back the legs without too much harm.
      • In one of ICA's throwback episodes, it's specifically mentioned that several foods from the show's earliest episodes (2004 in this case) are no longer allowed in Kitchen Stadium, including bluefin tuna, shark fins, Russian sturgeon and its caviar, etc. As Alton points out, some of these are endangered to critically endangered species, which makes the obtaining and eating of them a felony in the United States. Serious Business, indeed.
    • Stretching the definition of 'values' a bit, but in one battle, Michael Noble, ICJ's sole Canadian challenger, made a potato and lamb casserole. This looks perfectly appetizing to American and Canadian audiences, but the methods he used baffled the commentators and judges, which may have cost him a few points (the potatoes were pan-fried to a golden brown, but the commentators — including Dr. Hattori — were worried he might have burned them). This general Japanese preference for lighter cooking has led to the commentators worrying about dishes being too burnt from other chefs, as well—including, on at least one occasion (the Jinhua Pork battle) from Sakai (who made a roast leg of pork with prunes and pineapple purée that to Western eyes was a wonderful dark golden-brown, but which Hattori and the rest thought might be burnt).
    • An in-universe example, on the original show everyone considered Iron Chef Morimoto very avant-garde, to the point where some accused him of straying too much from what was considered "Japanese cuisine" to deserve being Iron Chef Japanese. On Iron Chef America, he's seen as a traditionalist, both because what was new over a decade ago isn't much anymore. Moreover, Americans tend not to notice the American influences on Morimoto's cuisine, and also tend not to care about the supposed purity of Japanese cuisine (which seriously upset Kandagawa and the Ohta Faction, but Americans, whose cuisine is hardly "pure" anything to begin with, tend to think mixing of culinary ideas is almost always a good thing).
  • Values Resonance: When a challenger that specializes in a cuisine that Japanese people aren't as familiar with comes up to the stage, the judges and commentators are very respectful about a chef showing the appeals of the cuisine. It's especially noticeable when a Korean chef came up to show that Korean cuisine is just not just "barbeque joints" and that it's complex, given the relationship between Korea and Japan.
    • Iron Chef also tackled mental health very seriously, as when it was revealed that Komei Nakamura was too stressed and tired to continue his role as Iron Chef Japanese II and how the position and the stress was the main cause of it, everyone who worked on the show came on to give Nakamura the help that he needed so that Nakamura could retire without feeling bad. It's especially noticeable, given the stressful society of Japan AND doubly so in a job business where chefs, especially during the 50s-90s in which most contestants and even the Iron Chefs came from, were also later shown having to have a lot of mental health issues, leading to depression and suicide due to the very high competitiveness of the culinary world when in the 2000s this became a hot issue in the culinary world.
  • Vindicated by History: All three Iron Chef Japanese eventually shook off their Broken Base status and became legends in their own right. Morimoto and Michiba were criticized while the show was airing for being too liberal while Koumei conversely was criticized as being too conservative as well as his tenure as Iron Chef Japanese II. Nowadays, Morimoto and Michiba's controversial liberal aspects are seen as groundbreaking, such as the usage of mayo in Japanese cooking, while Nakamura's conservative attitude and his fights are looked back with less criticism and more understanding that Nakamura was undergoing depression while being an Iron Chef, and despite his record he still is a chef that represents the famous Nandaban restaurant.
  • The Woobie: Komei Nakamura. In his tenure as Iron Chef Japanese II, he initially had a struggle trying to live up to Michiba's massive reputation as a maverick of Japanese food and a symbol of Japanese culinary liberalism while also being his own man. He did get his confidence, but after the duel between Alain Passard, Nakamura felt the struggle of being a champion, which led him to make common Japanese foods of foreign ingredients, such as Ostritch Katsu and Lamb Sushi, which the judges slammed him for. Him being also known as the guy "who made that one potato dish Chaiman Kaga really hated" didn't help his reputation, and fighting very tough opponents, from Robuchon's Japanese branch head chef and Toshiro Kandagawa also stressed him out, with the latter fight having Nakamura so stressed out that right after the gong rang, he said out loud, to the shock of the commentators,"If I lose, I will step down as Iron Chef". When Kandagawa beat him, even he felt bad and shown up to his retirement to lend support for Komei.
    • What also didn't help is that he was sandwiched between two very dynamic chefs that were mavericks in the field of Japanese cooking. Michiba was fully willing to push the boundaries and do new techniques while still making mostly Japanese friendly dishes, Morimoto was a dynamo who bulldozed those boundaries by incorporating different cuisines to fit multiple palates, and Nakamura...took foreign ingredients and made common Japanese foods. It was like he seemed too scared to push further and backpedaled to making what he was comfortable with, which was not the purpose of Iron Chef (especially when you considered how many of these chefs managed to win with ingredients they weren't used to like Chen with yogurt, Sakai with lotus root, and Michiba with foie gras in his very first battle). The poor guy also looked like he really didn't want to be in the Stadium, especially since his expressions looked less like he meant business and more like he was ready to burst into tears when he was chosen.