Iron Chef is a show I recommend. It's a cooking competition, in which
a challenger chooses their opponent (from the roll of Iron Chefs). Then,
Chairman Kaga (pictured right) reveals the "secret ingredient" around which
the competitors must structure their dishes. They have an hour to create as
many dishes as they want (typically it's three to five).
Before the competition begins, the Chairman explains why he created Iron Chef.
Kitchen Stadium - which he built to host the show - is introduced. Then Kaga does a
preamble about why he chose tonight's challenger. (The challengers come by Kaga's invitation, since he - of
course - is the Chairman.)
My favourite part of the show is the introduction. Kaga always mentions how he was
drawn to the guest chef by reputation: "I had to find out for myself...." Next, you
see the Chairman eating in the guest chef's restaurant (always by himself), savouring
the cuisine. The meal was so good, Kaga has invited the chef to Kitchen Stadium.
Now, the scene switches to Kitchen Stadium, standing empty, but ready to receive the
dueling chefs. You see Kaga's shoe emerge from behind a pillar. He's alone, relishing
the anticipation of the "battle" that's soon to begin.
Next, Kitchen Stadium is alive with spectators. The challenger walks in, rather like a
fighter to a boxing ring. When he reaches Kaga, Kaga summons the Iron Chefs with
a sweeping gesture. They rise into view, standing like statues, showing no emotion.
The challenger has to pick.
Now, the Chairman reveals the "secret ingredient". I'd say that from his point of view, this is the most
important introduction. He motions to a cloth-covered table, then quickly removes the cover.
The secret ingredient can be anything. It's often something I've only heard of or only eaten
once, but sometimes it's as mundane as green pepper. However, nothing is mundane in Kitchen
Kaga calls the battle to begin, then disappears. You don't see him again until the end. Commentators lead you
through the "battle", telling you what each
chef is doing and what they might be preparing. Most of the time, the Iron Chef wins.
I love Chairman Kaga for two reasons. The first is his enigmatic role on the show. He's an amazing host -
that much is obvious. His flamboyance is very entertaining, but actually he says very little. To my mind, he's
definitely the star of the show, though he's only in evidence for about ten percent of it.
What's more, why would a flamboyant person be so often shown alone?
I think Kaga showcases a sophistication of Oriental culture that westerners haven't yet achieved.
To him, food and taste are so serious, he's built an entire reality surrounding them. But that's just the
level of commitment that seems to come so naturally to Asians, but we in the West have a hard time managing.
Whether it's manufacturing cars, or practicing martial arts, or cooking...an Asian lives it.
The North American just does it for a job, or for a hobby, whichever case it might be.
One further comment: note the importance Asians place on the title "Chairman". It's not a title
we tend to focus on as much here. Did Chairman Mao influence that, or was he responding to it?
I hope you enjoyed Chairman Kaga - this entry's secret ingredient.
Wikipedia was a source for this article.