Rarely has there been a better excuse to use the phrase “blow the lid off” than in this week’s Village Voice “exposé” of the Iron Chef franchise. Restaurant critic Robert Sietsema confirms that—gasp—this reality show is not so abundant with reality. “Iron Chef America is more bogus than even I had imagined,” Sietsema announces.
It is clear at the taping that the Iron Chef to be challenged had been chosen beforehand—in fact, the other chefs aren’t even there, and are represented by impersonators—and that the participants had at least some knowledge of what the ingredients were going to be. While the televised version gives an air of crazed urgency, Sietsema reports that it is taped at a leisurely pace. Most shocking of all, since the judging takes about two hours to tape, the chefs must cook all new versions of the dishes that had been prepared.
“If the actual dishes produced during the contest weren’t being tasted, the competitive validity of the whole show was further undermined,” Sietsema writes. “What was the point of the race if the dishes were casually recooked for judging an hour later?” His cri de coeur: “We’d been promised moments of brilliant creativity, but what we saw were drones going about their appointed tasks with well-tested recipes. … This was no contest—it was a culinary fait accompli.”
Adam Roberts, the Amateur Gourmet, pretty much wrote this exact same piece back in 2006. His feeling was that “the experience of watching Iron Chef live is a bit like the experience of a child who believes with all his heart in tooth fairies catching his mother put[ting] money under the pillow. The whole thing’s a sham!”