Iron chef ethnographic

Iron Chef is a Japanese cooking competition where guest chefs battle one of the three Iron Chefs in a timed cooking battle which is built around one specific ingredient. The series premiered on October 10, 1993 and ended on September 24, 1999. Iron Chef is regularly broadcasted on SBS.The host of the show is the flamboyant Takeshi Kaga. The Japanese version of Iron Chef has a back story, which is recounted at the beginning of every episode.

  • A title card, with a quote from famed French food author Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin first appears: “Tell me what you eat, and I’ll tell you what you are.” Then, it is said that Kaga “realized his dream in a form never seen before” and specially constructed a cooking arena called “Kitchen Stadium” in his castle. There, visiting chefs from “around the world” would compete against his Gourmet Academy, led by his three (later four) Iron Chefs.

Chairman Kaga himself is a showpiece, always dressed in outlandish examples of men’s formal attire. This brings me to my first point. The costume details in the Japanese Iron Chef is something I have never witnessed or experienced before. For a typical cooking show, the hosts are often dressed conservatively. However, the Japanese have dramatic costuming which can be seen as crazy for people who have never experienced it before. Comparing this to italian cooking shows which I watched growing up, they are more similar to Australian shows costume-wise. So, watching this show was a shock to me.

Moving onto the actual ingredients which Iron Chef uses, they were crazy and nothing that I had experienced before. Ingredients like whale and river eel are common on the Japanese version, something that I never plan to eat in my whole life.  But these foods are common and not unusual for people from the Japanese culture, which is the same concept for Australian cooking shows. We tend to use basic proteins like chicken, beef and pork and incorporate vegetables which are considered unusual. This is the basis of each challenge.

Iron chef has a lack of dramatisation through music, and utilises the ambient sounds well. This makes the show more enjoyable because the dramatic sound effects constantly playing over in the show can be annoying over time. I really enjoyed how you could hear what the chefs were doing, particularly when they were cutting things and you could actually hear it without some obnoxious squelching sound interrupting it. This is a major difference to the Australian and American shows. The sound effects are used to build unnecessary drama and create tense moments when they aren’t even needed.

Overall, Iron Chef has provided a large comparison to western television shows, which showcases the rare aspects which we aren’t commonly exposed to. For example, the crazy key ingredients are something i’ve never thought about eating, yet this is a common practice in the Japanese culture. The costumes are outlandish in the show, as well as the unrelated backstory, and is an interesting way to provide something interesting. However, this is considered to be something ‘normal’ and sometimes traditional. The differences between the shows and from what i’m used to is vast, however i’m excited to continue exploring the Japanese culture, whether it be through television, food or music.

 

 

 

3 comments

  1. Awesome post! I remember watching Iron Chef when it came on TV as a kid and how strange but hilarious it seemed. I wonder, if it hasn’t already, if making an Australian version of iron chef would have the same quirky nature to it?

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  2. I love this topic! Iron Chef is a show I grew up with. I loved watching the different versions of them. I really like your exploration of the show’s lack of dramatization through music. It’s interesting because if you think about it, it isn’t really necessary to have over exaggerated music like we are used to in Australian television shows. For example- The Bachelor- their use of music is so over the top it’s crazy. There is actually a segment on the game show ‘Have You Been Paying Attention’ that asks contestants whether a music sample is from The Bachelor or a Hollywood film. It’s very entertaining and worth checking out if you have a spare minute.

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  3. Man I used to love Iron chef as a kid, it was truly one of those weird unique SBS things that I really got into. it is interesting that that sentiment is shared by a few of the other commenters on this post and I would like to imagine that it was part of early-mid 2000s Australian culture in as much as I could probably reference it to any number of my friends and they have recalled watching it. It would be interesting to see what the cult appeal of a show like this is and how over the top it is presented.

    great read maybe could use some more visuals and maybe some video 🙂

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