After a three-year hiatus, Iron Chef comes roaring back to life this Sunday, April 16 at 9 p.m. The formula for this Food Network hit recently got a few tweaks and upgrades, and now it’s officially called Iron Chef Gauntlet. Here’s everything you need to know about the changes inside Kitchen Stadium:
1) The Format Is New for Iron Chef
Iron Chef Gauntlet is basically a mini-season of Next Iron Chef spliced onto a mini-season of regular old Iron Chef: America. Seven chefs will compete against each other in the first portion. Each episode will have a Secret Ingredient Challenge and a Chairman’s Challenge. The winner from this first round will then go on to face three Iron Chefs in a menacing “gauntlet” round.
2) Alton Brown is the Supreme Ruler of Iron Chef Gauntlet
The author/showman extraordinaire is not only the host of the show, but also the Chairman, and he will judge one challenge per episode. In the past, Brown has been a commentator and the host of Next Iron Chef, but never the Chairman character, who introduces the ingredients. It’s his world, and the contestants are just cooking in it.
3) Alton Is Shifting the Focus to Food, Food, Food
Unlike previous iterations of Iron Chef, which played up the kitschy nature of the competition, Alton wants this version to be more about the food and the people who cook it. Brown tells Fast Company:
I always wanted to find new Iron Chefs, and we did the show The Next Iron Chef, but it was like a big-arc reality show. I wanted to tear that down and make it a lot more straightforward... I wanted to finally be able to take the series into a place that I thought it ought to go, which is that it’s all about the food, and it’s all about finding the absolute best chefs that do the absolute best work.
Of course, theatricality is part of Iron Chef’s DNA, so don’t expect an austere Chef’s Table-esque look at how these competitors create their dishes. Brown tells Mashable: “Iron Chef fans like seeing the ingredients, they like learning about the food, they like learning the techniques ... there’s still plenty of personal drama but ... what we’re after is the food drama.”
4) The Cast Is a Mix of Familiar Faces and TV Newcomers
Three of the contestants — Nyesha Arrington, Stephanie Izard, and Sarah Grueneberg — were on previous seasons of Top Chef, and Jonathan Sawyer competed on Chopped. But the other competitors — Jason Dady, Michael Gulotta, and Shota Nakajima — are all newcomers to the world of TV cooking competitions.
If you’re looking for an underdog to root for, pay attention to Shota Nakajima, a young chef from the Seattle area who is, by all accounts, a talented up-and-comer. He recently closed and reopened his restaurant, Naka, to make it more affordable and accessible. It’s now called Adana.
5) The Series Might Not Produce a New Iron Chef
During the “gauntlet” round of the show, the winner of round one will cook against three, legit O.G. Iron Chefs: Masaharu Morimoto, Michael Symon, and Bobby Flay. To claim the Iron Chef title, the new challenger will have to smoke all three of them. Alton is well aware of the fact that this might not happen, and he’s absolutely fine with that outcome. The Chairman explains:
The big dice that we had to roll was saying that in order to do this right, you have to risk not giving America a new champion... I told Food Network my involvement in this project is completely dependent upon accepting that potential outcome because nothing else is authentic–and they went for it.
At 8 p.m. this Sunday, an hour before the Iron Chef Gauntlet premiere, the Food Network will air a special about the history of the show called The Legend of Iron Chef. Stay tuned for more updates on Iron Chef: Gauntlet in the coming weeks.
• Alton Brown Finally Gets the ‘Iron Chef’ He’s Always Dreamed Of [Fast Company]
• Alton Brown Becomes the Chairman in New Iron Chef Reboot [Mashable]
• Kaboom: ‘Iron Chef America’ Returns This Spring [E]
• Alton Brown Is the All-Powerful Overlord of ‘Iron Chef Gauntlet’ [E]
• All Coverage of Food TV [E]