‘Iron Chef, Legendary Challenges’: ‘kung-food’ competition on Netflix menu

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From left to right: Chefs Ming Tsai, Gabriela Camara and Dominique Crenn in episode 108 of the cooking show “Iron Chef, Legendary Challenges”. ADAM ROSE/NETFLIX NETFLIX – ON DEMAND – SHOW France is already used to reality television cooking competitions, whether in the field of pastry and bakery (“Who will be the next great pastry chef?”, on France 2, “The Meilleur Boulangerie de France?” ”, on M6) or in the kitchen sector with “Top Chef”, also on M6, or “Masterchef”, on TF1 from 2010 to 2015, which France 2 announces will be relaunched at the beginning of the year . These last two programs are adaptations of Anglo-Saxon originals that have brought a sense of the spectacular in this framework. But this is nothing compared to the drama of “Iron Chef”, a program of Japanese origin that, like “Strictly Come Dancing” (“Dancing with the stars” on TF1) or “RuPaul’s Drag Race” (“Drag Race France”, on France.tv Slash and France 2), has seen several versions abroad. Starting in the United States where the original Japanese “Iron Chef”, created in 1993, broadcast on a few local stations, then, starting in 1999, on the cable channel Food Network, quickly became a cult show. There are many reasons for the public’s enthusiasm: a kitschy ceremony; the appearance and clothing of its permanent presenter, the “President”, half Liberace, half Dracula; the huge budget for decoration and ingredients; the vibrant realization and permanent overheating of the protagonists. Substantial budget The latest incarnation of the franchise, which has had many variations on Food Network, is “Iron Chef: Quest for an Iron Legend”, offered by Netflix, with a much larger budget consequent that of the Food Network and a dramaturgy and tests with imposed ingredients that do not stray from the original matrix. Since 2005, the vociferous Japanese vampire has been favored by Hawaiian-American actor and kung-fu and karate champion Mark Dacascos. Dressed more soberly, he would be a kind of cross between Yul Brynner and a Ninja Turtle, tasked with opposing “challengers” to confirmed “Iron chefs”, including the French Dominique Crenn. Based in San Francisco, the Breton is the first woman to receive three stars in the Michelin guide in the United States. And we see that the one whose documentary series had portrayed “Chef’s Table”, on Netflix, is playing the game of “Iron Chef”: here he is dancing and doing “Tope là!” » as he enters this gigantic “kung-food” arena, if we dare say it, which surrounds the audience and where the jury is, two presenters (including Kristen Kish, a difficult name to wear on a French “Iron Chef” .”), in addition to “the president.” Purists, fans of the Japanese show, many excerpts of which can be found on YouTube (notably a compilation of “The President’s” best moments when the wasabi went up his nose) lamented that, by declining even, “Iron Chef” had lost its original flavor, made of extravagance and kitsch. As for the French, they risk being discouraged by a hardcore cuisine that is no longer called ” fusion” but “global” (more politically correct), where the backbone of a sturgeon is simmered with cocoa and Korean kimchi accompanied by oysters… Fortunately, everything is saved with the “French touch” of Dominique Crenn. Iron Chef, legend challenges, cooking show (EU, 2022, 8 × 46-50 min). On Netflix. Renaud Macart
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