Saturday, July 22, 2006
Penguin and the Asian Iron Chef
Although our baby might have thought of him as just another sweaty Asian guy (who looks remarkably like one of my groomsmen who, incidentally, just told me he will be on the next "Amazing Race" as one of the Asian brothers, ) we were able to sneak a shot with the only true Iron Chef, Masaharu Morimoto, last week at a promotion at the mall in San Diego.
I'm not usually one to celebrity jock-sniff but as an Asian American, you've got to side with Morimoto. My first exposure to OG-Iron Chef (battle cooking) came from my college roommate Chuck who would tape them. In case you're not the Food Network whore, that my roommate and daddyinastrangeland made me, let me fill you in. On the original Japanese versions, Morimoto was the second or third Japanese specialist and he lived in frickin New York, how bad ass is that? He wore this silver, steel looking lunchlady chef hat and repeatedly served all comers with his extraordinary creativity and use of exotic ingredients (squid ink, etc.)
Of course, Food Network appropriated the whole darn thing for an "American version" down to the overly involved commentators, semi-celebrity/critic judges, and worst of all, the "chairman" so sad you have to laugh in the original but a compendium of Asian stereotypes in the American version (does kung-fu, is eccentric yet polite and is somehow "related" to the original Japanese chairman even though he looks pilipino.) Morimoto, now cooks at a restaurant bearing his name in Philadelphia, is the only returnee from the original series and the only Asian representative. On "Iron Chef America," Morimoto regularly takes it on the chin because the "judges" can't appreciate his Japanese, more experimental taste sensibilities and his record went from like 61-4 (Japanese) to like 66-8 (total).
Furthermore, he had to team with Bobby Flay, the arrogant jackass chef (almost entirely created by Food Network) who got his ass handed to him by Morimoto in a rare road Iron Chef in Flay's hometown of New York. In the quintessential "Ugly American" move, after finishing cooking, Flay hops onto his cutting board on top of the counter like its WWF to try to drum up support for his dishes which disgusts Morimoto who has a reverance for decorum. But Flay complained in the media, and demanded a rematch because supposedly, his equipment malfunctioned.
The accomodating Japanese producers granted him a rematch in Japan and even flies out the 10-year old caucasian boy who came to the original NY show dressed with silver chef hat to cheer Morimoto. So the second time, Flay who must have seen how disgusted Morimoto was the first time. This time, chucks the cutting board to the floor and again stands on the counter. Needless to say, even though Morimoto gets more praise from the judges, he loses battle lobster.
Because your plight mirrors that of so many Asian Americans, penguin and I are proud to salute you.