After “Iron Chef America” ruled the Food Network for more than a dozen seasons, the famed cooking competition is back on Netflix.
“Iron Chef: Quest for an Iron Legend” is now streaming an 8-episode first season, shot in a new Los Angeles Kitchen Stadium with familiar basics – the show’s elite Iron Chefs take on deadline cooking challenges against rival chefs with meals involving a secret ingredient announced by The Chairman (with actor Mark Dacascos reprising the role).
But there are noticeable “Iron Legend” changes that are “quite significant and crucial,” says returning host Alton Brown. “But the show’s DNA remains intact. This is evolution, not mutation.”
Here are the top five differences.
Meet the new Iron Chefs: Who’ll take on challenges in Kitchen Stadium
Newcomer Kristen Kish brings competition pedigree
“Top Chef” Season 10 winner Kristen Kish joins Brown as “Iron Legend” co-host, showing competition battle experience and interviewing the chefs on camera during the frenzied preparation. “Kristen can go down on the floor and ask great questions and really get inside people’s heads,” says Brown. “Then she comes back up and we can talk about it.”
In another host twist, Brown and Kish join the show’s judges – Nilou Motamed, Andrew Zimmern and one celebrity – at the judging table. “There we can continue the conversation, maybe even steer it,” Brown says.
The hosts still do not have competition votes.
MORE:Alton Brown knows you hate his slow cooker lasagna, so he made a better recipe: ‘I have atoned’
Iron Chefs are international Avengers protecting the trophy
The Iron Chef culinary caliber is high, loaded with global stars including Dominique Crenn, the first female US chef to earn three Michelin stars. The five-member team is also notably international with Mexican-born Gabriela Cámara (one of Time’s magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in 2020), Ethiopian-born Marcus Samuelsson and Australian-born “Top Chef” franchise chef Curtis Stone.
“East Meets West” star chef Ming Tsai is the only American-born Iron Chef.
“It represents a global style and approach,” Brown says. “It’s fresh. I’m seeing stuff I’ve never seen. That’s saying something.”
The Iron Chefs are chosen to battle challenging chefs in individual competitions. But a new wrinkle brings the series’ highest-scoring challenger into a battle royale against all five chefs – who join forces Avengers-style. If the combined Iron Chef team is defeated in the finale, The Chairman gives up the new golden trophy to the victorious challenger.
MORE: José Andrés ‘cannot try to fix every problem,’ but he can try to feed every person who needs hope
“It’s the ultimate trophy. It’s something only a man of extreme wealth could create,” says Dacascos who calls the first-ever Iron Chef team battle “monumental.”
“If one lone challenger takes them down, shame, SHAME!” says Dacascos. “But if the challenger can pull it off, then respect. Until a challenger chef wins the trophy, it shall stand.”
Brown says the Iron Chefs team cooks its own palpable tension.
“As much as they want to act like a team, they’re extremely competitive individuals,” Brown says. “It’s a messy, big bowl of ego going on there.”
The Los Angeles Kitchen Stadium is huge
Moving from the tight New York City former quarters to Los Angeles has opened up the battle, now big enough to allow an audience. The size gives room for new cameras, more angles and requires more chef running room in the Kitchen Stadium.
There’s also room for significantly more food piled for the chefs to grab as the clock starts after The Chairman introduces the secret ingredient – which now has its own secret chamber.
“We have many more ingredients on the altar which is now like the ingredient garage,” Brown says. “It allows larger thematic events and we can bring more food.”
No commercials, more ‘Iron Chef
Netflix streaming means there’s more “Iron Chef,” without commercials. The 46-minute shows are all cooking action and more discussion.
“We don’t have to sign off, go to the commercial and then recap,” Brown says. “We go without interruption.”
There’s even time for filling out the story of the mysterious Chairman, who gets tearful over a spice in one episode. “The show is wider and deeper, just like the tree, with deeper roots,” says Dacascos.
The bald Chairman has turned it to 11
Martial arts star Dascascos’s Chairman originally started in the same stern, bombastic vein as the Chairman Karga (Takeshi Kaga) from the Japanese “Iron Chef” (which ran from 1993 to 2002).
“In the old days Mark was very serious,” says Brown. “But he’s managed to bring an absolutely lovable zaniness to The Chairman. And someone at Netflix told him to turn it to 11 now.”
The eyes are wider, the martial arts moves more on display, his shouts quirkier. And the head is awesomely bald since Dascascos starred as the Keanu Reeves-fighting assassin Zero in “John Wick: Chapter 3- Parabellum.”
“I shaved it for ‘John Wick’ and didn’t grow it back for ‘Iron Chef’ to be like Yul Brenner or Telly Savalas,” says Dacascos. “It’s growing back now. If we get another season we’ll see how The Chairman looks then.”