Monday, October 27, 2003

Sometimes you accidentally stumble across a piece of television the leaves you gob smacked. Astounded. Amazed. These moments are rare, and when achieved should be applauded and celebrated. Happily, one of these moments came our way on the weekend, when snuggled up on the couch on Saturday night (I tell you – we live an outrageous existence) we tuned in to ”IRON CHEF” on SBS.

This is a sort of Japanese game show that involves a cook-off between two master chefs, set in a stadium like television set. They are given a key ingredient, and the have one hour to come up with a meal involving several courses that use the ingredient.

There is a bizarre sort of ringmaster – Chairman Kaga, who theatrically reveals the challenge ingredient in a puff of smoke and sets the chefs to work (this week was truffles). But that happens after he grins and bites into some sort of capsicum to get the show started, as you do.

But if that wasn’t enough to turn this into television mastery, it was the American voices dubbed over the original Japanese commentary had me rolling on the floor.

“Well Bob, I’m not sure how truffles will work with blow fish, is that a common combination?”

“Hank, that is unusual but will work wonderfully together, you can see Iron chef Morimoto San is using his expert knowledge of the way that truffles enhance flavour to really place the pressure on his challenger today”

“That’s right Bob, challenger Sasaki San is really feeling the pressure of such a tight time limit, and what is that he is doing? He is running to the fridge Bob! He is placing the truffle and Madeira sauce he has just made into the fridge! Well there is a surprise! Could he have what it takes to outclass our Iron chef?”

And on it goes. There is even a man on the floor that runs from one chef to the other and interjects the commentary with snippets of how each chef is feeling and coping with the time limit. The American voice for him sort of mimics the urgency that the Japanese voice must have – which of course is hilarious in English. As the SBS link quotes “He’s going for the fermented bean curd!”

To decide the winner there is a panel of judges, one of whom this week was French and described as a “French Cooking God”. At the end of the hour (which is counted down in a booming voice over) the judges taste the dishes of each chef and then declare the winner.

So - I tell you that this show could not be better. Watch it. Tape it. It’s Bizarre and yet strangely engrossing and addictive. After a bit of surfing it looks like there is an American rip off (including a special with William Shatner – this gets stranger and stranger) that has been made but strangely did not really take off. And that the original Japanese version is no longer in production. Ah – what is happening to our quality television?

PS – Some further surfing has unearthed an international Iron Chef meet up day in only 17 days (albeit with 7 members world wide). There is even a Melbourne meet up. The internet never ceases to amaze me!


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