Courtesy of First We Feast, I’m super happy to see that the show that literally inspired me to cook is coming back. Well, kind of. . .Iron Chef (Japan) was the actual show, but this is the lineage, and the Iron Chef America (ICA) version was very loyal to the original, and even carried forward Chef Morimoto and the concepts of Kitchen Stadium and The Chairman.
How did it all start for me? My parents are inherently NOT foodies, and in fact did not even really cook or eat ‘good’ food while I was growing up. Mrs. Gooch’s, Trader Joe’s and anything NON-fat and NON-flavor was my entire food life. I ate ‘healthy’ (read: chemically substituted flavor, eg margarine, Snackwells, no-dairy cheese) and didn’t know any better. I did not cook AT ALL throughout college.
So I moved to Seattle (smell the rain) and started watching Iron Chef Japan. Don’t know if it was the greenery or what, but I loved it – a competitive cooking show. It was specifically non-sequitur considering I was not passionate about food (except Dick’s burgers, Jack-in-the-Box, steak, or chicken wings), but I loved it – they were using these ‘weird’ ingredients and producing literal art, and the judges LOVED it. It just gripped me.
Fast forward to 2009, when I weighed 214 and needed to get in shape urgently. I called my former college roommate and great friend Joe (Doctor, Emory University) and he told me that every Sunday he’d make a huge egg scramble and include ‘various veggies depending on what’s fresh’ and that he’d mix it up every week. I did it. I did it again. I started losing weight – and the best part is I wasn’t cheating myself. Actually, the best part was it was delicious and I didn’t need to make the same dish every week/day.
This is where Iron Chef started to find its way into my kitchen. “Well, maybe I can use mushrooms instead of bell peppers. Oohh, what about if I try squash?” Not super advanced, but it was the show that inspired me to learn and create something different every time.
I realized that cooking is creativity, and an outlet. . .and that you can literally, in your own kitchen, create something new/unique while having fun and getting the instant gratification of eating the results. Egg scrambles turned to new ‘techniques’ with the eggs, which evolved into utilizing differing seasonings, at which point I began attending farmers’ markets and trying ‘real’ ‘fresh’ ingredients and putting it all together. The fun part of cooking is you can fail and still succeed (I get to eat!).
All the while, I was watching Iron Chef (now America) and saying, you know what? I need to try the real deal. I went to Gordon Ramsay’s London tasting menu (wildly expensive) and had the first dish – Uni Custard served in an eggshell. It was love at first bite, truly. Each course was more mind-blowing than the last, and the flavors were (obviously) far beyond what I’d cooked up in my kitchen, and the experience was honestly magical. And it was the first dish that I’d tried that ‘felt’ like a real Iron Chef judge.
Obviously we do not eat like that often, and the movement toward small plates (in lieu of tasting menus; which essentially mean ‘make your own tasting menu) is awesome because it allows the eater to try three-to-five uniquely created items at your own pace. . .