Iron Chef

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Allez cuisine!

Imagine Julia Child joining the WWF and moving to Asia...
—Matt Riggsby describes Iron Chef in Pyramid Magazine, 2/23/2001
Victory! Defeat! Honor! Squid!
—Fine Living Network promo for Iron Chef Japan

You wish to know the Backstory? Well, if my memory serves me correctly...

A rich gourmand from a long line of Japanese nobles once came to the offices of Fuji TV with an idea for a program: a Cooking Show with a competitive edge. He would pay for the set and all the food purchased -- and proposed to pick three top chefs, each the master of a different style of cuisine, and call in chefs from around Japan (and the world) to challenge them.

Hence the basic concept for Ryouri no Tetsujin, better known as Iron Chef. The classic format is this: The presenters of the program offer a theme ingredient; the challenger and the Iron Chef he has chosen to oppose are given one hour to create a full meal -- between three and five courses, usually, all of which have to use the theme ingredient in some way. A panel of tasters judges and rates the dishes served, and the points they give are tallied up at the end to decide "whose cuisine reigns supreme."

It ran for six years on Fuji TV; after being popularized by a few Japanese-language stations in the United States, it was picked up by the Food Network and broadcast across America. It proved so popular that two spinoff series were made: an abortive series of specials on UPN, hosted by William Shatner, and the Food Network's own, far more successful Iron Chef America, hosted by Mark Dacascos and commentator Alton Brown. That itself has a spin-off: The Next Iron Chef, a competition a la Top Chef where the prize is ascending to a position as an Iron Chef. The original Iron Chef is now[when?] running on Food Network's sibling channel, The Cooking Channel (formerly the Fine Living Network).

There are other spinoffs, an Israeli version (Krav Sakinim, literally, "Knife Fight"), a UK version (Iron Chef UK), an Australian version (Iron Chef Australia)[1], Iron Chef Thailand, and most recently, Iron Chef Vietnam.

Tropes used in Iron Chef include:

Tropes specific to IC Japan

  • Affably Evil: Well, as evil as you can be on a cooking show. Toshiro Kandagawa, probably the closest thing Iron Chef had to a villain, was equally as devoted to its success as the Iron Chefs.
    • In the Morimoto episodes, Kandagawa is portrayed as someone who seeks to take down Morimoto to defend traditional Japanese cooking. In the Michiba eps, he comes across as a Smug Snake who wants to take down all the Iron Chefs - Michiba in particular - just to stroke his own ego.
  • All There in the Manual: the official book, with background information of the conception and creation of Iron Chef, the thoughts and opinions of the Iron Chefs and various crew members, and the complete list of challengers, ingredients, and judges up to the Sakai/Passard battle.
  • Alter Ego Acting: wealthy aristocrat Chairman Kaga, played by renowned stage actor Takeshi Kaga
  • Anticlimax: Pretty much any battle that ends in a tie, but especially so in the 1997 World Cup cause it happened in the final, and Chen vs. Dominique Corby, where they tied in the overtime battle. (In both cases, Kaga declared both of them winners.)
    • The 2000th/2001st dish battle, Team French vs. Team Chinese, ended in a tie. Kaga was allowed to cast the deciding vote.
    • Chen is able to tie a French chef in fois gras while making Chinese food out of it. Both chefs got the highest possible scores they could while tying (each got two 20s and two 19s). Then the OT battle has them do at all again, causing judges to break down in tears over how good the food was, saying it was the best food they'd ever tasted. After again tying (2 points from maximum) they are declared both winners. There is nothing about this that is not awesome.
      • Simply getting the French Chef to OT with such an unfavorable theme was considered a miraculous achievement by all concerned. Of course, this aired before Chen had to deal with yogurt....
    • Actually, it was rare that an OT battle wasn't awesome, as due to the shorter time period the editing was less apparent and as a result the cooking was clearer. Other great OT battles include Morimoto supposedly saving his job vs. the Ohta faction's fifth chef by squeaking out an OT win, and one of the Liang brothers managing to conceive four gourmet dishes in thirty minutes using an unusual ingredient.
  • Apron Matron: Katsuyo Kobayashi, a challenger in the early days. More akin to Julia Child than Escoffier, she nevertheless defeated Chen Kenichi (becoming the second woman to defeat an Iron Chef) and was the first one to make the record eight dishes.
    • Amusingly, she once wandered over to Chen's side to warn him about letting a pot boil over. Chen gently admonished her that she wasn't supposed to be on his side.
  • Big Eater: Once or twice Akebono, a sumo wrestler, would be one of the judges. On some dishes he was given a bigger portion.
    • Former baseball player and sports commentator Kazushige Nagashima also would receive bigger portions when he judged. He was teased about it every time.
    • Quite a number of judges have tasted a LOT of dishes. Shinichiro Kurimoto was shocked to find out just how much he's had. According to Kaga, over the course of the series run he consumed 2,389,995 calories, and had to undertake a strict exercise regimen.
  • Big Freaking Sword: well, about as close as a kitchen knife can get to becoming one anyway. Wielded by Takashi Mera in Battle Tuna against Iron Chef Michiba. The blade was long enough to be comparable to a samurai's short sword...naturally lampshaded throughout the entire battle.
  • Celebrity Endorsement: Chairman Kaga (the character) was in some commercials for various Nissan cars. Granted, Nissan was Iron Chef's main sponsor, but still.
  • Chef of Iron: Occasionally, chefs that have had some martial arts training come in. A notable example would be Lin Kunbi (Note: subject to Spell My Name with an "S"), who was a six-degree black belt in karate, and challenged both Michiba (initiating the first overtime battle) and Nakamura.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: Sometimes the nature of the translation from Japanese to English imposes this on the result. For example:

"It will be sweet, right? With the pineapples?"
"With the pineapples, yeah. Sweet and sour."
"Yeah, both sweet and sour at the same time."
"Just like sweet and sour pork with pineapples."

  • Determinator: Kumiko Kobayashi, who challenged Sakai in Battle Mishima Beef. Within the first five minutes of the battle she badly cut her hand, but just wrapped it up (with what looks like... tape?) and kept battling.
  • The Ditz: Most of the younger female panelists, known to American fans as "Bimbos du Jour". Their often giggly and overenthusiastic portrayal in the dub doesn't help.
  • Does Not Like Spam: Fukui hates bell peppers. And Kaga does not like udon, which was a source of amusement in one udon battle.
  • The Dragon: Yasuhiko Yoshida, the Dual-Wielding switch cutting right hand man to Kandagawa, seen here
  • Eagle Land: When Bobby Flay went on the show, his action of rudely flaunting his victory by stepping on his cutting board on the counter was a staged evil American moment.
    • Morimoto was still "angry" at him in the rematch, because he flung his cutting board across the stage before standing on the counter it was under. Flay had promised he "wouldn't stand on the cutting board," this time and Morimoto said what he did was "essentially the same thing."
  • Epigraph: "Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are." - a quote from Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin that preceeds almost every episode.
  • Going Home Again: Sakai, on the eve of a milestone battle, went back to his hometown to get some perspective on his life. He ended up reconnecting with old classmates and his high school teacher, cooking for them all, and receiving a letter from another classmate, who offered to challenge him in Kitchen Stadium.
  • Gratuitous English: Occasionally pops up in the original, namely Chairman Kaga saying 'merry Christmas' at the beginning of one Christmas battle.
  • Hong Kong Dub: Fuji TV went with accurate translation over Lip Lock; they figured that since the commentators were offscreen most of the time, it wouldn't matter.
  • Impossibly Cool Clothes: Chairman Kaga's entire wardrobe.
  • In the Blood: Chen is a second-generation chef: his father, Chen Kenmin, was the one to introduce authentic Szechuan cuisine to Japan. In the King of Iron Chefs tournament, we find out Chen's two sons are also becoming chefs.
  • Joke Character: On occasion in the original, people would challenge an Iron Chef that might have had some education as a chef, but chose other fields instead, usually acting. One example is Tatsuo Umemiya, an actor who challenged Michiba (and later judged in the King of Iron Chefs final and the Sakai/Passard battle)
    • Lethal Joke Character: Then there's Shinya Tasaki, at the time the world's top sommelier, who challenged Kobe in Battle Fatty Tuna... and won.
      • "Mad" Koji Kobayashi, an Italian chef who hadn't cooked professionally for years and who worked as a grocery truck driver, only cooking on rare occasions for his wife and child.
  • Leitmotif: Kobe's introduction music, of course, but all the Iron Chefs (and Alain Passard) gained one during the King of Iron Chefs tournament. (Sakai's, funnily enough, was from Wing Commander.)
  • Long Runner: Chen. He's the only one of all the Iron Chefs to serve from beginning to end, and earned the nickname "Dean of Iron Chefs" because of it.
  • Missing Episode: Due to a combination of Food Network not licensing all the episodes and no official DVD or archive of the episodes, many episodes are considered missing, including, tragically enough, a few of the specials, such as Beijing. There is a website dedicated to finding as many of the missing episodes as possible from old VCR recordings, but per the Keep Circulating the Tapes rules, it can't be linked.
  • No Koreans in Japan: One of the few exceptions in Japanese media: Korean chef Lee Myong Suk challenged Chen in Battle Liver.
  • One Steve Limit: Played straight for the most part, but during Ohta Faction battles, they have to affirm that leader Tadamichi Ohta is in no way related to floor reporter Shinichiro Ohta.
    • Possibly deliberately averted at one point. Iron Chef had two or three challengers with the surname Sakai. Oddly enough, all of them challenged Kobe.
  • Power Walk: The penultimate episode saw all seven Iron Chefs walk off the stage together.
  • Purple Prose: How they tended to dub Shigesato Itoi whenever he appeared as a judge. Dear god, it was an impossible achievement in the art of Purple Prose.
  • Reset Button: In one of Nakamura's potato battles, both his and the challenger's dishes were so bad that Kaga declared the battle not good enough to judge and demanded a redo.
  • Retired Badass: Michiba
  • The Rival: Toshiro Kandagawa's the most notable example.
    • Others - Club des Trentes for Sakai, Serie A for Kobe (which was amusingly re-named 'The Big Leaguers' for the American dub... which confused Canadians, as Italian soccer has aired here for decades and everyone knows full well what Serie A is.)
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: Happens when you realize that a lot of the show's music is from the soundtrack to Backdraft.
    • A more depressing case: by the time the show started airing in reruns on Fine Living, the right to use the borrowed Backdraft soundtracks had apparently expired. They replaced it with cheesy synth music, robbing much of the awesome factor from it. (ICA has its own soundtrack but that at least has decent production values.)
    • More of a Dubbing Dissonance: Dr. Yukio Hattori was recently a guest judge on The Next Iron Chef. For long time viewers of the original show, hearing Doc Hattori dubbed in a much deeper voice can cause one to physically wince.
      • This also happened on the Battle of the Masters DVD, namely the episode of the history of Iron Chef: Kaga's dubbed over with someone else. Supposedly, Food Network did that to get around a clause in Takeshi Kaga's original contract that would give him a share of the royalties if his likeness was used in any way related to Iron Chef. (Note any appearance of his was edited out from the original broadcast.)
      • Also happened to Australian fans in 2010 when Sakai appeared on the Australian version of MasterChef (before Iron Chef Australia started). His English is... passable, but it was odd to hear his natural voice rather than his dubbed voice.
  • Spell My Name with an "S": Usually happens to the Chinese chefs, especially between how the Japanese render it, how the original subtitlers of the West Coast broadcasts spell it, how the Food Network dubbers spell it, and how the translator of the book spells it. Even Chen was subject to this: Sometimes his last name was rendered as 'Chin'.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: The Ohta faction, whose mission was "to preserve traditional Japanese cuisine," are somewhere between this and Knights Templar.
  • What Do You Mean It's Not Awesome?: Dramatic orchestral music cues, radical camera angles, and breathless commentary.
    • And Chairman Kaga biting on a yellow bell pepper so epically.
      • NGAP
    • Not to mention the dramatic WHOOSH sounds every time The Chairman moves a body part. Eyes move? WHOOSH! Head turn? WHOOSH!
      • Overdramatic flipping of the cape over his shoulder so he can move his arm? WHOOSH!
    • Don't forget the orchestra playing dramatic music ascending into Kitchen Stadium with Masahiko Kobe in every battle he's in.
    • Kaga rode in on an EFFING HORSE in the finale!
  • Worthy Opponent: Kandagawa and the Ohta Faction for Morimoto, Hei Chin Rou for Chen, Club Mistral for Ishinabe and Sakai and Serie A/"The Big Leaguers" for Kobe. Notable in that each declared the Iron Chefs Worthy Opponents to them.
    • Kandagawa to all the Iron Chefs in general, really, particularly Michiba. He's battled Iron Chefs a total of five times, and numerous apprentices of his did the same before the Ohta. His final tally was three wins, two losses.

Tropes specific to IC America

  • Aloha Hawaii: Essentially averted in Military Grill Battle: the do go to Hawaii, but the part of Hawaii they go to is a utilitarian Marine base.
  • Ascended Extra: Michael Symon started out as a challenger, then won the Next Iron Chef competition to become an Iron Chef.
    • Jose Garces, who defeated Bobby Flay in Battle Melon, won the second season of The Next Iron Chef.
    • In a non-challenger example, Anne Burrell started off as Mario Batali's sous chef, has since gone on to develop quite a reputation in competitions and host multiple shows, and was a contestant in the 2011 season of The Next Iron Chef.
    • Alex Guarnaschelli, a contestant on the "Super Chefs" season, didn't win, but winner Geoffrey Zakarian chose her as his sous chef. (Perhaps coincidentally, they had both been judges on Chopped.)
  • Auction: In the "Super Chefs" season, the "reverse auction" was used. Five ingredients were auctioned off, with the person who needed the least time to cook a dish with that ingredient winning the right to use it in his dish. Whoever didn't win an item had to cook using the last ingredient with a penalty of working with five less minutes of cooking time than the lowest winning bid (or bids if tied for least needed).
  • Badass Arm-Fold: The American Iron Chefs and Chairman Mark.
  • Brick Joke: Battle Cherries. Alton was working on a new song for Kitchen Stadium in his opening spiel and came up with the following line, but was having problems finishing it.

"And don't forget the Chairman's looks, he gets them out of comic books."

    • It wasn't until the battle was over that the Chairman himself gave Alton a hand with the song:

"And don't forget the Chairman's charms, I hope he doesn't come and break my arms."

  • The Cameo: Dr. Yukio Hattori, commentator for Iron Chef, lent the use of his nutrition college and was a guest judge in two episodes of The Next Iron Chef.
  • Captain Obvious: Alton in Battle Sausage: "The Iron Chef is working with the secret ingredient, which will surely be for one of the five dishes required today.
  • Character as Himself: This is how the Chairman in Iron Chef UK is credited.
  • Gentle Giant: Michael Smith, one of Food Network Canada's chefs, who was very friendly and towered over everyone, even the Chairman.
  • Gratuitous Japanese: Kevin Brauch likes to greet the audience with a 'konbanwa' before introducing the judges.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Poor Anne Burrell in season 4 of The Next Iron Chef. She used her advantage from winning the last challenge to rate Chef Zakarian's dish lowest so he'd be in the bottom 2, but unfortunately she also ended up there, and wound up losing to him in a cookoff. Alex Guarnaschelli even lampshaded this trope by saying that it was very Shakespearean.

"Chef Burrell drew her sword, and then she fell on it."

  • Identical Stranger: Michael Psilakis, who bears a very similar resemblance to Michael Symon, and teamed up with him against Nicola & Fabrizio Carro, twin brothers (much to Alton and Kevin's confusion).
  • Interservice Rivalry/Yanks With Tanks: Invoked in the Military Grill Battle, with each of three Iron Chef assigned a sous-chef from a different branch: Morimoto and a Marine, Symon and an Army cook, and Cora and a Navy Culinary Specialist[2] The ingredient is 'ahi tuna, which is fitting given that it takes place at a Marine base in Hawaii.
  • It's Personal/Rule of Three/Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Duff Goldman's reasons for wanting to face Iron Chef Michael Symon:
    • "He stole my laugh, he stole my haircut, and he stole my love of bacon!"
  • Lampshade Hanging: In 8x02, Alton "bemoans" the fact that he's "forced" to eat world-class food with beautiful women. (Nigella Lawson, Jane Seymour, and Natalie Coughlin.
  • The Lancer: The sous chefs to their respective chefs. More of an ICA thing, as they actually get screen time and most have already worked for/with the chef (whereas ICJ's sous chefs were all students at Hattori's college).
    • Mario's sous chefs (Anne Burrell and Mark Ladner) were a veritable dream team, and both have made significant appearances on other FN shows, making them more Ascended Extras at this point.
    • Flay apparently has a rule that any sous chef that works for him has to take a turn doing ICA with him, as if it's part of their education, compared to, say, Mario's, who stayed constant throughout.
    • Cat Cora's sous chefs' have also stayed fairly constant throughout.
  • Lost in Imitation: Iron Chef UK clearly takes ICA's presentation nearly wholesale - from the graphics, the set, the Chairman Mark look-alike and his script- and made changes from there. Granted, ICJ's not been produced for years (did it ever even air in Britain?) but their Chairman even refers to "his uncle" without even apparent explanation of who said uncle is. (The idea of Chairman Mark being Kaga's nephew was introduced in Battle Of the Masters and for the first few episodes he did actually say "Uncle Kaga" in the introduction. There being two nephews doesn't contradict existing backstory, but still...)
  • Mad Libs Catchphrase: Almost Once an Episode by Alton Brown: "If you can't stand the heat [something about backing away from the TV]
    • One subversion: " better get out of the kitchen. Oh wait, you're not in the kitchen. You're in the living room. Or the bedroom."
  • Magic Countdown: Parodied in Battle Chocolate, Alton and Kevin pause the clock with 6 seconds remaining to finish their beverages.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Robert Irvine in Battle Sugar takes off his jacket to show his well-built physique.
  • Mystery Box: Done in Season 3 and the "Super Chefs" season of The Next Iron Chef. The chefs are shown unknown items (safes with mystery ingredients in Season 3, postcards with New York locales in "Super Chefs"), and everyone but the chef who won the previous challenge gets to pick an unknown item. The last chef then has the advantage of taking whatever one of the other chefs has chosen and leaving that chef with the last unknown item, or taking that last unknown item if none of the now-known items is appealing enough to work with.
  • No Name Given: Iron Chef America's chairman is only referred to as 'The Chairman'.
    • So is the UK Chairman, who is played by such an unknown actor that neither IMDB nor Wikipedia have the actor who plays the Chairman listed.
      • The website mentioned under Missing Episode gives us an answer: he's played by Eizo Tomita.
  • Real Men Wear Pink: Jehangir Mehta, one of the Next Iron Chef competitors, specializes in pastry and has absolutely no problems reaching for flowers to decorate plates with.
  • Reality Show: The Next Iron Chef, mainly, of the talent search type. The shows proper could technically qualify as well; the only 'fictional' part of the show is the two Chairmen.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: In Battle Lemon, which featured twins, Iron Chef Michael Symon was paired with lookalike Michael Psilakis, both chefs who specialize in Mediterranean cuisine. However, while Chef Symon was his usual affable self and joked with both Alton and the judges, Chef Psilakis was much more serious, rarely smiling and keeping his demeanor very cool compared to his counterpart.
  • Shocking Elimination: From The Next Iron Chef, Robert Irvine's early elimination was shocking to the other chefs and underscored just how serious the competition was.
  • Shout-Out: Brown does this all the time. After the judging in 8x02, he turned to the camera and informed the audience that when they returned, there would be a wafer thin portion... of verdict.
    • "Both chefs are trying to hold on to their Deadliest Catch in battle King Crab."
    • He described Bobby Flay's seasoning of meat in Battle Breakfast as "bam-age", Emeril Lagasse's Catch Phrase whenever he added seasoning.
  • Side Bet:
    • Bobby Flay and Gabriele Hamilton had a side bet going in their battle: whomever lost had to clean the winner's home. Hamilton won.
    • When battling against the host of Ace of Cakes, Duff Goldman, Symon bet his lucky red clogs against Duff's hat. Symon won.
    • When Robert Irvine and Tyler Florence took on Paula Deen and Cat Cora, there was a bet as to how long it would take before Robert would take off his shirt. About twenty minutes.
  • Silver Fox: Iron Chef Geoffrey Zakarian.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: Sometimes that distinctive descending-trill sound (that's popular on some other reality cooking shows, especially Food Network ones) is used in concert with a judge having a very critical comment for a dish. Then other times it will just pop up seemingly at random, even in the midst of a judge saying positive or just simple things.
  • Special Guest: ICA likes bringing fellow Food Network chefs for special battles.
  • Technician Versus Performer: The season four finale of Next Iron Chef came down to Geoffrey Zakarian (the technician) and Elizabeth Faulkner (the performer).
  • Twin Telepathy: In the twin-themed episode, judges Tia and Tamera Mowry noted that the challengers, identical twin chefs Nicola & Fabrizio Carro, were a lot quieter than everyone else and communicated more with slight glances and motions. The girls said they did the same thing. Alton found it creepy.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Chef Zakarian and his sous chef Alex Guarnaschelli absolutely hit this. Usually, a sous chef is there to take the Iron Chef's direction, but as Guarnaschelli is a highly-accomplished chef in her own right (serving as a fellow judge with Zakarian in Chopped), she argues back at him and will tell him off.

Tropes common to all versions

  • Bilingual Bonus:
    • Kaga's use of Gratuitous English will occasionally give away the secret ingredient to American/English-speaking viewers.
    • Another example, combined with Viewers Are Geniuses, is Alton beginning most battles by calling the theme by its scientific name.
  • Bragging Rights Reward: In the words of Kenji Fukui, "if ever a challenger wins over the Iron Chef, he or she will gain the people's ovation and fame forever."
  • Canon Discontinuity: Iron Chef USA and the Japan Cup in the original is universally accepted to have never happened. Many diehard Iron Chef fans refuse to acknowledge Iron Chef America. Some refuse to acknowledge either Bobby Flay or Mario Batali as Iron Chefs.
    • And Food Network would love to pretend that Ishinabe and Nakamura don't exist. Only a handful of Nakamura's battles were dubbed, and only two of Ishinabe's were (the only one he lost, and the 2000 Dish special where he teamed up with Sakai and Etsuo Jo).
    • People are already calling this on Iron Chef UK.
    • The move to Fine Living consigned Michiba to Canon Discontinuity status, as for some reason they would only show a handful of Morimoto-era episodes. This was very quickly reversed when Fine Living became the Cooking Channel.
  • Carried by the Host: None of the English-speaking Chairmen really live up to Kaga, though Chairman Mark does at least okay. The tag team between Fukui, Hattori and Ohta and that between Alton Brown and Kevin Brauch isn't really a 1:1 comparison because the producers of ICA didn't try to imitate them directly, but Alton already has credibility as a presenter and food geek and holds the fort well (Brauch hosted a wine show on Fine Living Network but is no Ohta). Compare to Iron Chef USA where the commentators acted and sounded like idiots and the show bombed. This is one of the complaints about Iron Chef UK too though its fate remains to be seen. Gordon Elliott acting as Chairman for the ICJ New York Battle went over about as well as the trout ice cream.
  • Catch Phrase: In addition to "Allez cuisine!" used to start every battle, the original had Chairman Kaga introduce the challenger's background with "If memory serves me correctly..." and the dub announcer had "Whose cuisine reigns supreme?", the latter phrase being carried over in the current American production and usually said by Alton Brown, who delivers it with pure awesome.
    • The dub commentator also has a habit of ending battles with "That's it, the cooking's done, the (such and such) battle is ovah!" and tends to make up really bad rhymes going into the commercial break before the decision is announced.
      • Don't forget "Bang a gong, we are on!"
      • And whenever something surprising or exciting happens, listen for him to go "Man alive!"
    • Alton's battle-ending "Put it down, walk away!"
      • "As the competition reaches a boiling point at Kitchen Stadium."
      • "I'm Alton Brown, and on behalf of everyone here at Kitchen Stadium, I bid you good eating."
      • And there's his catchphrase in The Next Iron Chef, "you survive to live another day", to the point that it gets annoying.
      • "You will not be the next Iron Chef."
    • "May the better chef prevail."
    • "Excellent choice." -- After the challenger selects an Iron Chef.
    • The dub of original had "Fukui-san!" "Yes, go ahead Ohta."
      • "Fukui-san! Fukui-san!" "Goooo, big guy/fella."
    • "Kyo no tema wa .... Kore Desu!" (Today's theme is ... this!) used by Chairman Kaga before the reveal of the secret ingredient
      • In the English dub, the subtitles say, "We unveil the ingredient!"
    • After the guests are introduced: Prof. Hattori: "Always a pleasure." (audience claps)
  • Cast Speciation: The original show strictly speciated its cast, always maintaining chefs that specialized in French, Japanese, and Chinese cuisine (later adding one for Italian). The American version isn't quite as strict, having both Cat Cora and Michael Symon representing Mediterranean cuisine, but even then, their own personalities and approaches are very different.
    • The Thai version also has strict speciation, with one chef each for Thai, Japanese, Chinese, and "Western" cuisine.
  • Combat Commentator: a really unusual take on the trope, featuring two Fuji TV announcers (Shin'ichiro Ohta and former baseball commentator Kenji Fukui) and a culinary expert (Prof. Yukio Hattori) - the American version naturally has Alton Brown taking the role of combat commentator/culinary expert, and will demonstrate some of the food properties or techniques being used by the cooks.
  • Continuity Nod: The pilot episode of Iron Chef America, aptly called "Battle of the Masters", pitted two Iron Chefs from IC Japan (Sakai and Morimoto) against two Iron Chefs from IC America (Flay and Batali). This event gave credibility to IC America as a legitimate successor to IC Japan (unlike IC USA) and paved the way for it's success. Chen was also supposed to come, but scheduling conflicts prevented him from guesting in IC America.
    • A literal Continuity Nod happens in the opening: Chairman Mark nods in respect to a yellow bell pepper, Kaga's symbol, before pulling out and chomping into an apple.
    • There are references to Iron Chef Japanese Morimoto acting as an Iron Chef for Chairman Kaga, Chairman Mark always references his uncle before calling the chefs to battle, and recently in The Next Iron Chef, Dr. Yukio Hattori was a guest judge.
    • Bobby Flay and Masaharu Morimoto act as Crossover characters between the two shows, the two being Iron Chef and Challenger in the Japanese original and fellow Iron Chefs in the American spinoff.
    • A small nod occurs at the King of Iron Chefs final. The sommelier present at the table was Shinya Tasaki.
  • Cooking Show
  • Costume Porn: Kaga's clothes. Luckily, Chairman Mark and the UK Chairman are more sedate.
  • Demoted to Extra: Ishinabe, Michiba, and Nakamura once they retired.
    • Mario Batali, once he left the Food Network over a contract dispute. He showed up for the Super Chef Battle to form the Food Network classic dream team with Emeril - finally making an appearance on the show - but he's officially retired now, replaced by Iron Chef Garces.
  • Eccentric Millionaire: One could make a good argument that Kaga qualifies as this. For perspective, the final count for how much he spent on ingredients came to ¥843,354,407 (around $8 million at the time). (Yes, Fuji really paid for it, but I'm talking Kaga the character.)
    • Chairman Mark is outright portrayed as this, to a deliberately hilarious degree. He is not only credited with having built Kitchen Stadium (or rather, several Kitchen Stadiums, one of which is in space) and paid for all the ingredients, but on Next Iron Chef Alton explains that the reason the Chairman puts him in charge of so much is because being a globe-trotting millionaire doesn't leave him enough time to do everything himself.
  • Food Porn: Especially when the ingredients list includes items that cost thousands of dollars (abalone, mountains of truffles, pricey fish caught hours before the show's taping, kobe beef...) or use luxuriously rich ingredients. Your Mileage May Vary depending on the Selective Squick factor of the dish.
    • In one episode, the challenger baked asparagus (the theme ingredient) and a bunch of lobster in a dish. But upon serving, he threw away all the lobster so that only the asparagus was left on the plate. Apparently the meal costs $1000 per serving.
      • This happens every so often when an Iron Chef or challenger is making a broth or wanting to imbue one ingredient with the taste/scent of another, and is almost always accompanied by the guest commentators sulking about them not serving what is thrown away.
    • Another example was an Abalone battle, where Chairman Kaga explains that buying the abalone cost him a total of $5000 US. In addition, the abalone was divided into many smaller abalone, and several larger abalone, the latter which had cost Chairman Kaga $400 US EACH. Of course, the challenger then proceeded to ignore the larger abalone, saying that the larger abalone definitely could not have tasted good.
    • The theme ingredient on one Japanese episode was swallow's nest. It's exactly what it sounds like, and is extremely costly to harvest. The only food ingredient on the planet that costs more per ounce than this stuff is saffron.
  • Friendly Enemy: Kandagawa toward Michiba. He even sent Michiba flowers when the Iron Chef had been hospitalized for exhaustion.
    • Arguably, whenever a battle is Iron Chef vs. Iron Chef, this trope is invoked. It certainly was for the second Sakai vs. Chen battle.
    • And has been on display in the yearly ICA battles that pair off the ICs. Teaming up even appears to have thawed the Morimoto / Flay hostility.
  • Gratuitous French: "Allez Cuisine!"
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: The dub commentator loves these. One particularly painful example was a mention of Sakai being caught "between a wok and a hard place".
    • The puns sometimes gave away that the English dub was not trying to be faithful to the original Japanese. "Looks like he ducked the duck!", for example, is a joke that only works in English.
    • English dub over a challenger who specialized in garlic: "The challenger has made his presence smelt!"
      • One that worked in the original Japanese but not in English: During Battle Octopus, Fukui-san mentioned that one of the chefs might make an "octopus taco." In the original Japanese, this would have been "tako tako."
    • Kevin Brauch, when introducing a judge in Battle Butter: "Ya butter believe!"
      • In the American Battle Octopus, Alton Brown tells viewers the Stadium is "pre-octupied" with Battle Octopus.
  • Jerkass: Many of the challengers on both shows (particularly anyone associated with the Ohta Faction)
    • Bobby Flay started out as a jerkass on Iron Chef and the early days of Iron Chef America, but has mellowed out a bit over the years.
    • Contrast that to Alton Brown, who's becoming more of a jerkass.
    • And then one of the "East German" judges, Kazuko Hosoki. Fukui even noted that Hosoki was known for her tart tongue. Jeffery Steingarten is her American counterpart.
  • Large Ham: Both Takeshi Kaga and Mark Dacascos. Dacascos has really laid the ham thick in recent years.
    • When he fills in for Dacascos as "Vice Chairman," Alton too has moments trying to do this like Dacascos:
      • "Chef Duff, you have been known as the Ace of Cakes. So...will you have the winning hand today...or be forced to bluff with marshmallow fluff, Duff?!?" When he verifies that "The Cake Man cometh for revenge" (Duff said, "There's one guy...he stole my laugh, he stole my haircut, and he stole my love of bacon" when he called out Michael Symon) Alton caps it with "Very well. Go forward, and face your fate!" We later see him unsuccessfully trying to calm the rowdy Charm City group backing Duff. (from "Symon vs Goldman: Battle Chocolate and Chiles")
      • "Which of my culinary conquistadors do you care to crush?" he asks Julietta Ballasteros, then when told she wants to keep it "ladies only" and challenges Cat Cora, Alton says with smug smile: "Ladies' it." Adding in Southeastern US Urban, "Go do your thing, Sister!" (from "Ballasteros vs Cora: Battle Ricotta")
  • Mr. Exposition: Kenji Fukui, Alton Brown. Sometimes (particularly for specials and ties), Kaga fills this role as well.
  • Neat Freak: All chefs to a varying degree, due to necessity on the job, but Garces gets a special mention for having all the ingredients for his dishes in little plastic containers, on trays.
  • Nephewism: Mark's relationship to Kaga. Depending on if you count it as canon, the Chairman from the Japan Cup and the UK Chairman as well.
  • Opening Narration
  • The Points Mean Nothing: Half played straight, half averted. In Iron Chef, the winner was first decided on votes. If there was a tie, then the points were taken into consideration. Iron Chef America averts it altogether.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot:
    • The reason the boycott subplot was written in Battle Piglet was because Kaga (the actor) was also in a stage production at the time, and there was a scheduling conflict with taping of the battle and one rehearsal that could not be resolved.
    • And, of course, Michiba's hospitalization.
    • In ICA, Chairman Mark was missing from several episodes in the most recent season, only showing up in pre-taped video to announce the theme ingredient. In each of the episodes they gave a different excuse. In reality, the actor playing him was on Dancing With the Stars at the time.
  • Retcon: The Japan Cup in 2002 claimed that Chairman Kaga died of fugu poisoning. Iron Chef America retconned that to say it was he that commissioned his nephew to start a Kitchen Stadium in America.
    • Possibly justified: the Japan Cup episode was never shown in America.
      • It was also kind of Retconned in Japan, as the replacement Iron Chefs proposed in that episode basically resigned two seconds after filming was completed. Basically, everyone on both sides of the Pacific pretends it never happened.
      • ... much like the Shatner-hosted episodes, which have never been acknowledged on Food Network, even where challengers such as Kerry Symon or Todd English, with prior Iron Chef USA experience, show up on ICA.
  • Running Gag: After the first two female challengers beat Chen in the Japanese edition, almost every time a female challenger appeared, she chose to challenge him.
    • In the American edition, Alton Brown often grumpily remarks that he doesn't get to taste the food.
      • Subverted in Battle Turkey. Alton criticizes the Challenger's decision to use the ice cream machine and, aware of the gag, she tells Alton, "wait till you taste this." Alton runs over and grabs a spoonful.
      • He does this again in Battle Radish, also with a mixture editing the ice cream machine.
      • Bobby Flay agrees to give Alton a smoked shrimp at the end of Battle Deep Freeze after Alton pesters him with his skepticism of Flay's cooking technique.
    • Alton talking about how great the aroma of the food is in Kitchen Stadium, then realizing the viewer can't smell it from home.
  • Schmuck Bait: The ice cream machine (in meat or fish based battles) in both versions. Good things rarely happen when the ice cream machine is used. Three notable examples were trout ice cream, squid ink ice cream, and cod roe ice cream.
    • On the other hand, Sakai won both the squid and cod battles. The squid ink and ginger ice cream was widely praised by the Japanese panel, and even American judges didn't really pan his trout ice cream[3]. Even the widely panned cod roe ice cream didn't cost him the match.
  • Serious Business: It's easy to get caught up in the dramatic lighting, editing, and sound effects. And then you remember you're watching a cooking show.
  • Short Runners: The Australian version - just six episodes in 2010 with the advertising attention given to the show slowly decreasing throughout, then the show was quietly swept under the Seven Network's rug of Short Runners and never heard from again.
  • Supreme Chef: The point of this show.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Hiroyuki Sakai is the second Iron Chef French and Masaharu Morimoto is the third Iron Chef Japanese.
    • In fact, Morimoto's fulfilled this trope twice: stepping in for Wolfgang Puck in ICA's early days.
    • Interestingly enough, the Sakai/Chen highlight episode produced for the American audience claims that Sakai is the first Iron Chef French. None of Iron Chef Ishinabe's battles were broadcast on Food Network/Fine Living, either (except for the 2000/2001th dish battle, where he was a member of Sakai's team).
      • Eventually, they showed one episode. And it happened to be the only one Ishinabe lost.
  • Timed Mission: The chefs had only 60 minutes to complete all their dishes.
  • Trans Pacific Equivalent: Justified Trope in Food Network's case -- they did air the original in the US, and only produced their own version after running out of episodes of the original.
    • Nevertheless, any YouTube video of the original Iron Chef (or comments in a blog review of Iron Chef America) will be full of diehard fans proclaiming that ICA is the worst thing ever, that True Art Is Foreign, and that Americans Americanize everything and never make anything good.
      • And there's more than one petition out there calling for Food Network to cancel Iron Chef America and re-air the original series.
    • And now it really is Trans-Atlantic Equivalent since the United Kingdom started their own version, particularly since it's based more off Iron Chef America than the original.
    • And now it's Trans Pacific yet again with Iron Chef Australia.
  • Up to Eleven: The Super Chef Battle. Batali and Emeril Lagasse team up against Flay and White House chef Cristeta Comerford. Their ingredients come from the White House garden. The special guest? None other than Michelle Obama.
    • Also, some of the specials from both series. The most notable ones, and the ones that brought Iron Chef to the public eye in America, were the New York Battle and the 21st Century special.
  • Widget Series
  • X Meets Y: Something like the ethos of professional wrestling meets cooking.
    • Especially true since Ohta, the fast-talking sideline reporter, was initially known to hardcore wrestling fans as the fast-talking commentator of Michinoku Pro Wrestling, and accounted for wrestling fans being one of the first North American groups to get on board the IC bandwagon.
  1. It even flew in Mark Dacasos to chair! Which makes it easier to add to the greater Kayfabe of Iron Chef America
  2. For the reason he's called a "culinary specialist", see Yanks With Tanks.
  3. though they weren't nearly as enthused by it as they were with his other dishes