Iron Chef America: An Overcooked Mess

March 26, 2010 by  
Filed under - Home, Reviews

IRON CHEF AMERICA: Saturday 27th March, Food Network, 9pm

The number of cooking shows on TV must exploit some kind of quirk of the space-time continuum previously unknown to modern physics. How exactly do this many shows get made without there being another dimension somewhere whose sole purpose is to produce them?

This episode of Iron Chef America features Michelle Obama. Well, I say features; she just turns up for five minutes and tells the chefs to use the contents of the White House garden. I suppose she’s got better things to do then chat about remoulade.

It runs like any other competitive show. Four top chefs in teams of two: Emerille Lagasse and Mario Batali, Bobby Flay and Cristeta Comerford square off against each other in a timed challenge to be judged by a panel afterwards.

And the panel’s rather a strange one: Nigella Lawson seems like a good call – at least she’s a food professional, but the other two are actress Jane Seymour and Olympic medallist Natalie Coughlin – peculiar choices to say the least.

I’ve mentioned this before, but it really is a constant trend in American TV programming, and that’s the way everything’s filmed. The camera is unable to keep still for more than a nanosecond, as if the director’s afraid that a clear shot of something will immediately send the audience into a coma.

As a result we get 25 rapid snapshots of vegetables in the garden cut to a bombastic soundtrack, coupled with a faux-Mission Impossible style introduction. Presenter Alton Brown is given a brown envelope by a government official, told to open it later and then driven in an unmarked car to the White House. Why all this drama? Couldn’t he just go to the studio?

“You might be wondering what Alton Brown is doing in Washington DC? he intones. Actually, I was wondering if I had any medication strong enough to deal with the headache I’d just got from the opening five seconds.

Every segment is bookended with a two minute preview of what’s coming up after the break followed by a two minute recap when the show returns. Consequently footage is repeated so often it’s like being in a culinary version of Groundhog Day. At it’s an hour and a half long, which means when it’s over, you feel like you’ve actually watched it nine times.

There’s nothing here that’s going to ignite your passion for food – a quick-fire commentary on the cooking process doesn’t really work and the way it’s shot is like a hyperactive child jumping on your bed while you’re trying to concentrate. It’s not clever and it needs a smack.