Iron Chef: Food Poisoning

April 26, 2010 by  
Filed under - Home, Reviews

IRON CHEF: Monday 26th April, Channel 4, 5pm ALERT ME

Iron Chef terrifies me. Imagine any type of television programme in the hands of someone who wanted to make everything as exciting and tense as humanly possible. Add some violently inappropriate music, a suited blow-up mascot in the middle and any show could become what Iron Chef is to cooking.

First conceived in Japan nearly two decades ago and adopted by the U.S – Iron Chef has the seasoning of a mad man, hell bent on fraying your nerves and giving you a mild headache all at the same time. In its English format, we get a bizarre mix of Takeshi’s Castle and Masterchef.

More like Gladiators than cooking, everything is referred to in gargantuan terms. There’s a kitchen stadium – not a kitchen. Olly Smith, presenting, resembles Glen Beck in early 90s fake tan and he has the same amount of misguided, oafish passion for food that the American presenter does for right-wing politics. He plays the role of bellowing buffoon, and happens to be the worst kind of public school twit-turned-presenter imaginable. He shouts things like ‘beeftastic’. If the contestants or the Michelin starred chef thought they were in for a cooking programme, they are very much mistaken. I’m half expecting Wolf to come round the corner having caused a dispute with that Scottish ref.

True to the American format for short attention spans, there is constant music. Indeed, what with the persistently shaking camera, it makes for an exhausting viewing experience as you receive hit after hit of fake manufactured tension. After a series of this you’d be so utterly de-sensitised to any type of stress or pressure, life would seem a boring linear narrative, a mere airy comedown from series 14 of Iron Chef.

Amidst all the shouting and camera zooms, there’s a competition element. We have a Michelin star chef who must pit himself against the pooled efforts of 3 challengers. I’m almost positive a Michelin star chef wouldn’t agree to this humiliation, so I’m convinced he either isn’t one, or he’s been tricked. Everyone cooks as if their life depends on it in order to be scored by two judges who must, like everyone apart from Olly, wonder what the hell is going on. Olly chats to experts and prances around saying, ‘it’s like an Ox cutting up an Ox!’ He thinks he’s commenting on a Viking war. I bet he goes home and cries when the cameras are switched off.

I’m under no illusion that Iron Chef isn’t aware of its own ridiculousness, but that doesn’t make it ok. It’s pretty damn unwatchable. If the music doesn’t get you, then Olly’s nauseating braying will. Let’s hope this is a comical recognition of US telly, rather than a sign of what’s to come.