After taking a few years off, “Iron Chef” is back on TV — and the competitors might be even more excited than the fans.
Netflix is rebooting the long-running American version of the franchise, which originally aired on Food Network from 2005 to 2018 as “Iron Chef America,” with a new series called “Iron Chef: Quest for an Iron Legend.”
In every episode, one of the five iron chefs — Marcus Samuelsson, Dominique Crenn, Ming Tsai, Curtis Stone and Gabriela Cámara — compete against a rising star in the culinary world. At the end of the eight-episode series, the challenger who earned the highest score will battle against all five iron chefs to try to win the golden knife and the title of “Iron Legend.”
Along with host Alton Brown, the lively Mark Dacascos — and his famous facial expressions — has also returned to the iconic cooking competition as The Chairman. “Top Chef” season 10 winner Kristen Kish joins Brown as a co-host while Andrew Zimmern, Nilou Motamed, and a rotating group of celebrity guests serve as the judges.
Ahead of the show’s premiere on June 15, the five Iron Chefs gathered at the London West Hollywood hotel on Wednesday to prepare a private five-course dinner and discuss what it means to them to be a part of the “Iron Chef” revival.
Samuelsson, who owns Red Rooster in Harlem, New York, presented the first dish and explained why joining “Iron Chef: Quest for an Iron Legend” after the COVID-19 pandemic hit was especially meaningful for him.
“This has been a long ride and I’ve said that before,” he began. “I feel like the two and a half past years have been very, very difficult for all of us, including for hospitality.”
Samuelsson said that being on the show was an incredible experience because all of the chefs were able to cook while celebrating their food and the restaurant industry.
He added that they also enjoyed representing the show and their teams who have worked with them.
Every Iron Chef — as well as the challengers — brought two sous chefs with them to help create, prepare and present all of the dishes on the show.
The “Top Chef Masters” winner recalled his sous chefs being thrilled when they were selected to compete with him.
“I can’t say enough what a privilege and honor it is to be part of the show and we had a lot of fun. I don’t think I’ve sweated that much on TV for a long time,” he joked.
Part of Samuelsson’s strategy was to not cook items that could be found on the menus in his restaurants. The flavors he paired together on the show influenced his cooking after filming wrapped.
“I’m opening a restaurant in Chelsea in September and those dishes (in the episodes) can be part of that,” he shared. “So, it wasn’t my restaurant dishes that got on TV. It was really ‘Iron Chef’ that pushed the restaurant’s foundation.”
He also applauded the show for allowing him to showcase his Ethiopian and Swedish roots.
“You don’t hear about what (their food) tastes like,” he said. “It’s fun for me to represent them.”
Stone, who presented the fourth course, echoed Samuelsson’s admiration for the Netflix reboot following the shuttering of about 90,000 restaurants due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Stone said the pandemic “brought chefs and restaurants to our knees,” so he appreciates the camaraderie between the chefs that is featured in the series.
All five of the world-renowned chefs are friends and Stone shared that being able to compete against and with them was a “dream.”
“It’s also bloody nerve-racking, because they’re all super talented,” he laughed. “And you know the kind of competition you’re up against.”
During each episode, the Iron Chefs and the challengers have just 60 minutes to finish either four or five dishes.
When Stone was asked about time constraints, he revealed that the chefs have to present a sixth “beauty” plate in addition to making five plates for the judges and hosts.
Although the limited time, the amount of courses and the pressure of cooking in Kitchen Stadium make the competition intense, Stone said he enjoyed being on the show.
Speaking about how competing on “Iron Chef: Quest for an Iron Legend” adds to his long list of achievements, Stone explained, “I think I probably speak on behalf of all the chefs here that none of them really have anything to prove within their careers. They’re all super accomplished. I feel at least that way that myself. I don’t need to prove how I can cook but it was just a lot of fun.”
Stone continued, “I remember getting a call (and saying) ‘Man, yes, that sounds awesome.’ Because you get to test yourself.”
While Stone, Samuelsson, Tsai and Crenn have all previously competed on different iterations of “Iron Chef,” the reboot was the first time Cámara had ever been in a culinary competition.
Cámara, the Mexican chef who is the owner of Contramar in Mexico City, Mexico, said that when she was growing up cooking shows were viewed as a predominantly American and Japanese format. “Iron Chef” originally began in 1993 on the Japanese network Fuji Television and ran until 2002.
Now, she said there are plenty of cooking shows that air in Mexico and Latin America.
“I knew that that was never something that I wanted to do,” she revealed. “But I have loved being on ‘Iron Chef.’”
She quipped, “Of course, it’s great to come as an Iron Chef, right?”