The American iteration of iron boss is back, this time on Netflix. Iron Chef: Quest for an Iron Legend takes the concept to a new level: not only do up-and-coming chefs compete in individual competitions with one of the five iron chefs – Curtis Stone, Marcus Samuelsson, Dominique Crenn, Gabriela Camara and Ming Tsai – but the Chef with the best scores at the end of the round robin phase will be able to face the five Iron Chefs: the winner is declared “Iron Legend”. Alton Brown hosts with Excellent chef champion Kristen Kish; Andrew Zimmern and Nilou Motamed are the regular judges, with a guest judge sitting in the third seat each episode.
Opening shot: A dark scene, with different lit versions of the iron boss knives logo. A spotlight shines on the president (Mark Dacascos). Alton Brown enters the frame throwing an apple. “So… are you hungry, my old friend?” Brown asks him. “Hungry… for battle!” yells the president.
The essential: In the first episode, chef Mason Hereford, a New Orleans restaurateur who focuses on high-end sandwiches and comfort food, confronts Stone. The challenge facing chefs and their teams: Create five street food-inspired dishes, using the secret ingredient: “LAAAAMB!”, as The Chairman proclaims.
Chefs and their teams have one hour to create all five courses, but the first course must be plated and in front of the judges within 30 minutes. And, because street food is usually cooked over the fire – or “FIIIIIRE!” — each dish must be partially cooked over a fire, and the fire must be part of the presentation of the final dish.
What shows will this remind you of? All Iron Chef America iteration, of course. And, of course, the show is a tribute to the Japanese original iron bosswhich we will discuss a little more below.
Our opinion : What we liked Iron Chef: Quest for an Iron Legend is that the show generally doesn’t try to reinvent itself with the move to Netflix. Brown is still the host. The president screams and kicks again. And it’s always a challenger against an Iron Chef in every episode. There is a bit of awkwardness and a lot of banter between the competing chefs and their teams, the judges and the hosts. But it’s not like someone goes off and curses a storm or something. Until the final episode, where the top challenger takes on all the Iron Chefs, the show is pretty much what people know.
As always with the American version of iron boss, we just wish he didn’t take himself so seriously. That’s an understatement, because compared to other cooking competitions, those of the Excellent chef variety, or whatever Gordon Ramsay hosts, or Chopped at iron boss former home of Food Network, iron boss is relatively irreverent.
It’s pompous and purposely exaggerated: they call the studio where it’s shot “Kitchen Stadium,” after all. But, as always, it feels like the sheer awkwardness of the Japanese original isn’t there. Maybe it’s because we’re in the era of chefs as celebrities, but it just seems like there’s an aura of smugness about this version that the original never had.
Plus, as likable as Stone is, aren’t we all a little tempted to see his smiling face? Ming Tsai has been on our television screens for almost 20 years, as has Marcus Samuelsson. We understand why they were chosen to be Iron Chefs in this round; they have name recognition. But we also know what they are capable of. Could have been fun to pull from the previous iron boss iterations, especially of the Japanese original or some of the international editions, to make up the list of Iron Chefs.
Sex and skin: Apart from food porn, there is none.
Farewell shot: The President grabs a soccer ball to preview the next episode, which will be tailgate-themed.
Sleeping Star: We’ve been fans of Kish since she became the first Last chance kitchen participant to return to the main Excellent chef show and actually win. We can’t believe that was ten years ago. But she’s likeable and gets on well with Brown and the judges.
The most pilot line: Here’s what we’ve always wondered: how do chefs keep their dishes warm while the judges eat each dish? If Stone really did drop to second, as he was filmed, his dishes might have sat around for a while. Is there a way to keep dishes warm without altering their taste or texture? These are the things we think about while watching cooking shows. Yes, we are strange.
Our call: SPREAD IT. Whereas Iron Chef: Quest for an Iron Legend take it iron boss formula and makes it gradually bigger, it basically stays iron boss. If you’re a fan, you’ll find this new season to be comfort food on TV.
Joel Keller (@joelkeller) writes about food, entertainment, parenting and technology, but he’s not fooling himself: he’s a TV junkie. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Slate, Salon, RollingStone.com, VanityFair.comFast Company and elsewhere.