Behind the scenes at Iron Chef

ironchef.jpgAlways amazed that the Iron Chefs and the competitors could cook a gourmet meal in under an hour? Is it rigged or a testament to their acumen? What’s up with the secret ingredient? So many questions and too few answers until now.

The Village Voice’s Robert Sietsema attended a taping about a year ago and the episode finally aired. Now he’s breaking his silence on one of television’s most griping one-hour dramas. And what does he think?

Iron Chef America is more bogus than even I had imagined.

Okay, there’s nothing new there. Most skeptics would insist there is no way the chefs can do what they do in under an hour.

The televised hour is filled with much rushing back and forth against a backdrop of learned discourse and puckish observation from commentators as the dishes are cooked and assembled. Each chef has a pair of sous chefs working under him; we are led to believe that these teams invent their recipes on the spot in an amazing display of culinary creativity. At the end of the hour-long contest, the dishes are rushed to a panel of three judges, who taste them, make studied quips, and then score the collection for taste (10 points), appearance (5 points), and originality in use of the secret ingredient (5 points). Each judge is thus responsible for 20 points of the score. Whoever scores the most points out of 60 is the winner.

But what about that secret ingredient. Do the contestants know beforehand?

Saying in the past that the contestants are given a short list of possible secret ingredients ahead of time so the reveal isn’t a total surprise. But I wonder if that list is really longer than one or two items. It became obvious that, knowing the main ingredient all along, the chefs had developed a series of recipes the way chefs normally do?through ideation and experimentation, trying and discarding recipes before settling on the collection they intended to make during the show. Hence the self-assurance and lack of mistakes that we saw unfolding before us.

Wow. And also, the Iron Chefs don’t even show up on the days they’re not cooking. I’m never watching this show again.

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