Food Network’s hit show Iron Chef is back … kind of.
After a three-year hiatus, the show came sizzling back this past Sunday with a brand new name — Iron Chef Gauntlet — and brand new rules of the game.
Unlike any other previous Iron Chef series, which played up the kitschy competition factor, author and showman extraordinaire, Alton Brown wanted to cook up a show that would be more about the food and the folks who cook it.
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, there’s plenty of theatricality, too — this is a reality cooking competition after all.
To accommodate Alton, the channel’s new spin on the show feels more modern than the classic, simple show viewers are used to. Instead of two top-rated chefs going head-to-head in a culinary secret ingredient showdown each episode, now seven chefs will compete in a series of elimination-style episodes that culminate in a chance for the survivor to face three Iron Chefs and either join their ranks or be defeated entirely.
If the initial episode tells us anything, we will get to learn a great deal about each chef and what inspires their food. For fans who followed the show to learn cooking techniques, you won’t be disappointed, as there still seems to be a a huge portion devoted to style, plating and tricks of the trade.
The show keeps the essence of the old Iron Chef by using the secret ingredients, but feels more like a mash-up of Hell’s Kitchen and Top Chef.
The most promising part of the show seems to be the competitors’ stories themselves — there’s tons of talent to watch. Three of the contestants — Nyesha Arrington, Stephanie Izard, and Sarah Grueneberg — may look familiar to you from their stints on Top Chef, and Jonathan Sawyer competed on cooking show Chopped. But three other competitors, Jason Dady, Michael Gulotta, and Shota Nakajima, are fresh faces to TV cooking competitions and can use their underdog status to win the unofficial award of fan favorite and maybe even the title of Iron Chef.
Whatever plays out, it’s great to see an old favorite back in the Food Network line-up, and die-hard fans can’t wait to eat it up every Sunday at 9 p.m.