Knives are out
Iron Chef enters cooking show wars
‘IHAVE never been under so much pressure in my life,’’ says sweaty chef Dan Hong as he wipes a stainless steel bench ready to display the four dishes he’s prepared in the past 60 minutes.
Not that he is unaccustomed to hard work. The 25-year-old dishes up hundreds of dinners every week at his Sydney restaurant, Lotus, but it is not every day that he has no idea what the main ingredient is beforehand, has never set foot in the kitchen before, is facing an opponent with twice as much experience and then has his dishes judged by critics— all under the glare of television studio lights and half a dozen cameras. Welcome to Iron Chef Aus
tralia, the local take on the hit Japanese cooking program — repeats of which still air across the globe, despite the series ending in its country of origin more than 10 years ago.
‘‘ We walked through the kitchen for about half an hour beforehand,’’ says Hong as he high-fives his two sous chefs after they complete their chal- lenge with seconds to spare. Hosted by Grant Denyer, with running commentary by food writer Richard Cornish, the nine-part series was filmed in a vast Melbourne studio.
Hong went knife to knife against Guillaume Brahimi — one of the world-class chefs who, along with other ‘‘ Iron Chefs’’ Neil Perry and Guy Grossi, star in the show. Other young guns to take up the mystery ingredient challenge unveiled by ‘‘ The Chairman’’ (US actor and Iron Chef Amer
ica host Mark Dacascos) include Sacha Meier, Herb Faust, Matt Stone, Judyta Slupnicki and former
MasterChef contestants and now couple Chris Badenoch and Julia Jenkins.
The Iron Chef and challenger’s completed dishes are then presented to food critics Leo Schofield, Larissa Dubecki and Daily Telegraph restaurant reviewer Simon Thomsen.
‘‘ At Iron Chef they are at the top of their tree and we are served superb food night after night,’’ Thomsen says during an on-set break.
‘‘ Then we’ve challengers who have amazing imagination and are producing food that surprises and delights and does some extraordinary stuff.
‘‘ They are just pushing themselves higher and higher and higher. But the danger is there that you are going to land on your a---and you are not going to be able to get up.’’
Thomsen says the time limit sets the ultimate deadline.
‘‘ You can’t send a waiter out to say, ‘ Sorry sir, your dish will be another 20 minutes’. You have to have four dishes ready at the end of 60 minutes or it’s all over.
‘‘ Those guys were going hammer and tongs.’’
Iron Chef is the first in a flurry of new projects for MasterChef’s Badenoch, 42. His eatery, Josie Bones, opens in Melbourne at the end of this month and he also has a cookbook, The Entire
Beast, coming out. ‘‘ People think I went quiet after Ma
sterChef but that wasn’t the case at all,’’ he says.
‘‘ I (just) wasn’t putting my head on every ad offer I got.’’
Badenoch and Jenkins made headlines when they began dating shortly after the first series of MasterChef.
Badenoch found himself in hot water when accused of being involved in a love triangle.
Badenoch and Jenkins are now business, as well as romantic, partners. Josie Bones will be a beer bar with matching food.
‘‘ All the doubters have been proven wrong,’’ Badenoch says. ‘‘ We’re doing the restaurant together and it will be a combination of our ideas.’’ Additional reporting by
Colin Vickery Iron Chef, Channel 7, Tuesday, 7.30pm.