George and I watch very little television. We watched much more before we had children, but over the years, network television in particular has somewhat faded from our lives. NatGeo, Discovery, Animal Planet, History Channel, and PBS tend to be our default channels. I love me some Antiques Roadshow. We did watch LOST…okay, I admit we were addicted to it. But nothing has come up to replace it in the “freaky smoke-monster drama” category, so our new favorite television show is the Food Network’s The Next Iron Chef.
Oh, how we love this show.
The Iron Chef America series pits two chefs—a challenger and one of the six Iron Chefs—against each other. The two chefs have one hour to create five different dishes using a secret ingredient, such as avocados, corn, almonds, or sea urchins. A panel of judges decides whether the challenger or Iron Chef reigns supreme in Kitchen Stadium.
The Next Iron Chef is an elimination show that pits a bunch of professional chefs against each other to, well, decide who will be the next Iron Chef. In general, elimination-tournament shows don’t interest me. Furthermore, I despise shows where nastiness masquerades as entertainment. I’d rather see everyone play nicely and NO ONE be sent home.
But that’s just me and certainly would not make for good television.
So why does The Next Iron Chef appeal to me so deeply? First, it’s about food. I love food. Good food nourishes body and soul. Who doesn’t love food?
Second, chefs are trained to make great food quickly. Taking top-notch chefs and putting them in odd situations (on a beach cooking on a grill, at a State Fair cooking only with ingredients they can find in the booths for gyros and funnel cakes and corn dogs) leads to some fascinating food.
Third, I am in awe of the chefs’ creativity. Three Sundays ago, the competitors in The Next Iron Chef had to make four dishes in 90 minutes: one dish from each of the four regions of the United States (north, south, east, and west). This meant they had to decide what to cook, find the ingredients, adapt if the ingredients were taken by another chef, cook, and plate four dishes. One of the chefs rarely cooks American cuisine, so he was particularly challenged.
Great chefs all have bad days, which is at the heart of what The Next Iron Chef is really about: who has the fewest bad days.
This season, there aren’t any truly annoying chefs. Last season, there were two jerks whose downfalls caused me great happiness. One was a liar (admitted it himself to the world on television), and the other was just arrogant and played mean. This season, I pretty much like them all and have been sad every week. Chef Tsai is a bit snotty, and Chef Canora is a bit of a whiner, so I'd prefer one of the other chefs to win.
But it’s not up to me. I watch helplessly as chefs I really admire get sent home, like two Sundays ago when Chef Caswell had a mediocre day. I like him a lot. He’s cute, which doesn’t hurt, but really, he just seems like a nice guy, the sort of dude George and I would like to have to dinner. It was just so sad.
Next Sunday is the final challenge. Chef Tsai was sent home last Sunday, but sadly, so was Chef Tio. I liked her fresh and gutsy attitude. The final two Iron Chef candidates are Chef Forgione (my favorite) and Chef Canora (the whiner). I can’t wait to see how the final challenge plays out.
George likes to enact his own Iron Chef challenges on the weekends. I take on the roll of the Chairman on Iron Chef America and create artificial constraints (only use what we have in the pantry or make something with a secret ingredient such as sweet potato or a Boston butt). George makes stuff up and almost always scores a hit. It’s a great way for him to exercise his creative itch to cook without taking on the brutal lifestyle of a professional chef. I also think it’s kind of cool that an odd-ball television show can influence and enhance a real-life hobby.
That’s television programming I can get into.
What shows grab your imagination? Why? Has a show ever influenced something you’ve done in real life?