What Were They Thinking?

July 17, 1999

The pickin's being pretty slim on the old tuber roober last night, Chuck and I were watching what else was on TV. That is until I cruised to channel 71, one of my favorite channels. Channel 71 is the home of TVFN.

Maybe I should amend that and say it used to be one of my favorite channels. I've already lamented my disappointment with the new format of Cooking Live, or as it is now called, Cooking Live Primetime.

They've added a few new shows that may have potential but I miss the tried and true.

Anyway, there we were sitting, cruising through the channels, the despair getting deeper when I happened upon something truly incredible:


Beth, what is an IRON CHEF? I hear you all wondering. Is it a product? A service. Does it cook? Or, does it do those pesky laundry chores?

This is the deal: two chefs, a panel which, in the episode we watched, consisted of a Host, the Commissioner of Baseball, a Vapid Movie Star, a Food Critic, and Someone Else, commentate for an hour while two chefs, the IRON CHEF, and a CHALLENGER, prepare as many dishes as humanly possible, with a variety of ingredients, but using the special "mystery ingredient" in all the dishes, from appetizer to dessert, in one hour. Did I point out that this show is Japanese and that all the dialogue is dubbed into English? Oh, and the "mystery ingredient" was broccoli.

The commentation, which sounded more like a sporting event then a cooking show went something like this (this is pretty close to what they actually said, it is really this insipid):

CHALLENGER'S beautiful wife is in the audience tonight. I hope he is not too distracted to cook well.

Hmmm, that looks delicious.

Excuse me, look, he's wrapping his veal in fat.

Yes, he is, thank you Other Guy.

Haji-san, Haji-san, look, he's putting something in the bowl.

Yes, he is, thank you Other Guy

Well, you know, veal does not have much fat on its own. (Then excitedly) Oh, it seems that the IRON CHEF's oven is not working. What will he do?

(giggling) Oh, this is too bad.

Well, there is another oven in the back of the set. But IRON CHEF will lose a lot of time if he has to use that one.

Oh, CHALLENGER is letting IRON CHEF use his oven. That is very nice.


Now, the Vapid Movie Star's dubbed voice sounds exactly as you'd expect. Sort of airy and fluttery. The Other Guy sounds kind of doofy. Baseball Commissioner sounds like, well, what a Japanese baseball commissioner might. The Host sounds like your run of the mill host. The Food Critic took no part in these exchanges.

OK, so florets are flying, and things are getting really hot.

There's broccoli wrapped in cabbage (in case you're running low on gas), veal wrapped around broccoli, broccoli terrine, squid ink pasta with broccoli and pancetta, some sort of layered thing with fish and broccoli, lobster and broccoli ravioli, broccoli in arabiata (sp?) sauce served on baked broccoli pasta, broccoli ice cream, and broccoli stewed in honey and served with fruit. There were a few other broccoli creations I can't even recall.

OK, these two chefs, always referred to as IRON CHEF and CHALLENGER are cooking their fingers to the bone. Apparently not only does taste count, but presentation as well.

The hour of cooking has passed now and we're on to the judging portion of the event.

The Host, the Vapid Movie Star, the Baseball Commissioner, and the Food Critic all sit down and are served the five dishes. (I was briefly wondering where the Other Guy went but the excitement was at such a fevered pitch I forgot all about him.)

First the CHALLENGER. When he served the layered thing with fish and broccoli the comments went something like this:

Interesting odor.

(giggling) I'm not sure about this one.

Well, this dish would appeal to someone who likes the smell of fish and broccoli.

When IRON CHEF presented his broccoli terrine the Vapid Movie Star said she thought it needed more gelatin.

During commercials we continued to cruise the other channels but much to my surprise, Chuck wanted to go back to the IRON CHEF. Especially as it got closer to the time to announce the winner.

OK, all the dishes are tasted, idiotic comments are flying furiously from the panel, and then they vote.

The envelope, or actually notebook in this case, is handed to yet another Host. They remind us of the credentials of our chefs, and then, when the tension is so thick you could cut it with a knife they announce the winner.

Of course the IRON CHEF won. CHALLENGER was gracious but obviously disappointed. One of our expert panel commented on how excited IRON CHEF looked. Then cut to a shot of the IRON CHEF. He looked about as excited as a, well, I don't know what. His face was a complete blank. He looked more, well, inscrutable, then the winner of the IRON CHEF COMPETITION.

Then, like a boxing match they put up the scores from the various judges. IRON CHEF took three out of four of the judges.

Chuck and I agreed that there could have only been one outcome to this spectacular cooking event. IRON CHEF had to win. If he didn't win would he have still been the IRON CHEF?

Until next time. . .