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.


The Newbie Dad said...

I LOVE Iron Chef! I do enjoy the American version, though definitely not as much as the original. The Chairman, Mark Dacascos is actually Japanese, Filipino and Irish. He’s also married to a Caucasian women and they have a 5 year-old son. Interestingly enough, he played a Native American in the French foreign film “Le Pacte des loups” aka “Brotherhood of the Wolf”. Not withstanding his performance on Iron Chef and his B-Movie credentials, I’m actually a big fan of his. While he’s no Brandon Lee, I thought he did a great job on the TV version of “The Crow”.

peachboy said...

I agree with you:
- Morimoto kicks much ass.
- The American version, even post-William Shatner, is an unworthy replica of the original.
- The new chairman role is racistly corny and inauthentic in a way that the campy Japanese Kaga could never be. Dacascos must cry himself to sleep (after he cashes the check).
- Flay is a punk.
The Food Network did us a disfavor by dubbing horrible American voices over the Japanese commentary, rather than going with the NHK subtitles.
Me and the wife have chowed at Morimoto in Philly, and we were lucky enough to have him stop by our table -- but no killer photo like yours. He's got a recently-opened joint in Manhattan.
I am most excited by your news of Asian brothas on the best show ever, The Amazing Race.

weigooksaram said...

We used to watch the original Iron Chef with subtitles on Japanese TV in San Francisco. I didn't like it when they dubbed it on the Food Network, and the American version? Ugh. Some things just don't translate well.

DMB said...

I hate that stupid Booby Flay and his dirty shoes on the counter. Morimoto rules.

papa2hapa said...

I Love Iron Chef and I hate Bobby Flay for that arrogant stupid cutting board incident. What brash American attitude that was to throw a hissy fit and demand a rematch.

When I watched that episode I wanted to kill him with my samurai sword. Thankfully, my sword doesn't exist.