The first episode of Iron Chef Japan debuted this year in late October after having originally aired in Japan for six years from 1993 to 1999.
The first show aired as a two-hour special, but successive shows will only run one hour, airing on Friday evenings in Japan.
The cooking competition was a hit domestically under the name “Ryori no Tetsujin,” and dubbed versions in English were released in Western countries as “Iron Chef,” earning the show a cult following overseas that has persisted long after its original Japanese run.
In 2004, Food Network announced that they would show an Iron Chef special, called “Iron Chef America: Battle of the Masters”, featuring Sakai and Morimoto dueling with American Iron Chefs Bobby Flay, Mario Batali, and Wolfgang Puck.
The show received high ratings and in October 2004, Food Network began taping weekly episodes that premiered starting in January 2005.
As the Wall Street Journal’s Adam Liaw notes:
“Competitive cooking has become its own reality TV genre, with shows like ‘Top Chef’ and ‘MasterChef’ attracting huge followings world-wide. But these shows would arguably not exist but for the influence of the original ‘Iron Chef,’ which aired in Japan….”
Fuji Television resurrected the show in Japan with new chefs, new judges and a new chairman, popular Japanese actor Hiroshi Tamaki.
Fuji TV commentator Mizuki Sano will host the program, and the reporters will be Yurika Mita and Daisuke Miyagawa. Dr. Yukio Hattori will return from the original Iron Chef series to provide commentary.
The new Iron Chefs are Yosuke Suga (Iron Chef French) a former executive chef of Joel Robuchon’s empire in Japan, Yuji Wakiya (Iron Chef Chinese) a well-known chef and author and a former winner from the original series, and Jun Kurogi (Iron Chef Japanese) a talented chef whose Tokyo restaurant is booked out more than six months in advance.
Alton Brown’s reaction to Iron Chef Japan:
“They’ve always been very hands-off with us, so I think that it’s interesting that the revitalization is coming from us — it’s Iron Chef America that’s making that possible, not the other way around,” Brown said.
Brown added: “It’s not like Godzilla’s been asleep in the ocean and all of the sudden it came out. We kept the brand alive and anew.”
Adam Liaw says that when it comes to judging, “Iron Chef” throws out the modern TV cooking rulebook.
“Instead of the usual celebrity chefs and food experts, the responsibility falls to an ever-changing panel of enthusiastic amateurs – actresses, composers, CEOs and champion sumo wrestlers.”
Liaw adds: The result is an honest and unpretentious discussion of food between the chefs and the amateurs that translates seamlessly to the screen, almost as if the chef was explaining the dishes to the viewer directly.