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The Iron Chefs are the in-house team of experts pitted against competitors on the popular cooking show Iron Chef America. Each Iron Chef has a different area of cuisine specialization, although the competition may force them to cook in many different styles. The Iron Chefs have impressive records both on and off the television show, and are widely considered to be some of the toughest and most creative chefs in America.
In Iron Chef America, top competitors are pitted against the in-house chefs in a one hour cooking battle. Given a secret ingredient that is not divulged until just before the battle begins, the chefs must create 4-6 dishes to be rated by a distinguished panel of judges. The show is based on the Japanese original, and is one of the most popular shows in the Food Network roster. In order to keep the competition on their toes, the in-house chefs, called Iron Chefs, are well-known culinary wizards with highly-regarded reputations and a history of success.
Mario Batali, the show’s Italian cuisine master, is a jovial man who is never opposed to playing a joke or two or taunting the other team during competition. In his successful career, this Iron Chef has opened several prominent restaurants, including the critically acclaimed Babbo Ristorante e Enoteca, which was awarded a Michelin Star rating. Batali has won of the best winning records on the show, with 19 wins in 23 battles.
Iron Chef Bobby Flay is a Food Network wunderkind, producing and starring in several shows for the station. A master of the grill and specialist in southwestern food, Flay is known as a top competitor. His own restaurants, including several Mesa Grills, Bar Americain in Manhattan, and most recently Bobby’s Burger Place in Smithtown, New York, are extremely successful and highly rated. Flay has appeared in eight shows for the Food Network, including his long stint on Iron Chef America.
The American show is based on the original Japanese program Iron Chef, on which Matsuhiro Morimoto served as one of the original Iron Chefs. Transferring over to the American version, Chef Morimoto boasts the best winning percentage, with 72 wins out of 85 battles. Morimoto is a Japanese cuisine specialist with international acclaim, boasting restaurants in New York and Mumbai, India.
The only female Iron Chef, Cat Cora bases her cooking style on Greek and Aegean cuisine. Known as a tough competitor, Cora nonetheless shares a quick shot of the Ouzo, a Greek liqueur, with her sous chefs at the end of each battle, often inviting the other team to join her. Cora has the lowest win percentage of the Iron Chefs, but continues to prove her superiority in battles. In 2007, a special competition pitted Cat Cora and celebrity chef Paula Dean against Food Network hosts Tyler Florence and Robert Irvine in a dessert battle. The battle ended with Cora proving her dominance and winning in a landslide.
The newest of the Iron Chefs, Michael Symon, won his place on the show through a reality competition The Next Iron Chef. In his outside career, Symon runs two successful restaurants, Lola and Lolita, and specializes in Mediterranean cuisine. Though relatively new to the show, Symon shows impressive talent, winning 2 of his first three battles, proving himself clearly worthy of joining his fellow Iron Chefs.
I like the original Japanese Iron Chef show better than the American version. I started watching the original series with the English subtitles and I thought it was very campy but fun to watch. The judges could have been politicians or fortune tellers or young actresses, and the translated comments were often hilarious. I also liked the individual Iron Chefs on the Japanese version more than their American counterparts.
The Iron Chef America chefs and host are clearly talented, but I think the show lacks the light-hearted tone of the Japanese version. I always looked forward to the Chairman's over-the-top pontifications about the secret ingredient, for one thing.
I've seen a few Iron Chefs lose to their challengers from time to time, but it's usually only by a few points. I think sometimes the Iron Chef tries to get too clever for his or her own good and the judges start deducting points for taste. I've only seen a few episodes where the challenger beat the Iron Chef by a significant margin.
Sometimes I think the show is rigged in favor of the Iron Chefs, but then I read an article about the making of the show, and they said both the Iron Chef and the challenger are told ahead of time what the secret ingredient MIGHT be, and they both have time to think about menus based on those ingredients. The Iron Chefs just have the advantage of knowing what the regular judges usually like to see.