Competition heats up on Iron Chef spin-offs


Senior Reporter

Cooking competition shows have blended food with game shows and a bit of reality television since “Iron Chef” was translated into English and began to gain a following in America. Now, “Iron Chef” knockoffs and spin-offs are all over television, and not just on the Food Network. Many of them are currently showing new episodes, including “Iron Chef America,” “Throwdown with Bobby Flay,” “Top Chef” and “The Next Food Network Star.”

“Iron Chef America” is the successor to the flamboyant Japanese cooking show that started it all. “Iron Chef America” stays very close in its setup to the original “Iron Chef”: A challenger and an Iron Chef, which is a culinary artist of great renown that defend their titles by competing in cooking battles in Kitchen Stadium, have one hour to make a meal using a theme ingredient which is then sampled and scored by a panel of judges.

Both shows have commentators that explain things, like what is the difference between diced and julienne carrots, and both have melodramatic chairmen that announce the theme ingredient. Both end with judges trying desserts like trout-flavored ice cream.

However, the American variation takes the overly-dramatic editing of the original and cranks it up to ridiculous. The chairman makes Power Rangers-esque swoosh noises whenever he flails his arms around, the challengers enter Kitchen Stadium accompanied by laser lights and screen wipes are covered by flying knives.

The show still manages to keep a lot more dignity than “Iron Chef USA,” the failed 2001 “Iron Chef” spin-off where William Shatner was the chairman.

One of the Iron Chefs, Bobby Flay, has another gig on a Food Network competition show,

“Throwdown with Bobby Flay.” Here, Flay goes to meet chefs who have no idea they are going to be in a competition and he challenges them to food duels. The atmosphere is much more relaxed; there are no time limits, and the show has none of the exaggerated flair that “Iron Chef” has.

The omnipresent Bobby Flay appears again on “The Next Food Network Star,” this time as a judge. The show takes the food competition and combines it with the standard reality show format, gradually eliminating a ten chefs with the promise of giving the winner their own Food Network series. In “Real World” fashion, the contestants live together and compete in other activities like food scavenger hunts in addition to cooking. The fourth season began this month.

Check out all of the upcoming television shows at