Iron Chef vs. Chopped

Well, not really one versus the other… but something I’ve always wondered about both shows.

For Iron Chef, no matter how good these chefs are, I’m amazed how once they see the ‘secret’ ingredient they know immediately the 6 or 7 dishes they are going to prepare. In fact everyone on their team knows exactly what they are going to do. Perhaps they edit out the 30 minutes of discussion that must happen so that everyone knows what they are supposed to do, but they certainly don’t imply that there is any planning that happens in real time. So do the chefs know the secret ingredient in advance or do they really have the ability to make it all up on the fly?

For Chopped, again, some of the chefs seems to have a good idea what is coming and can immediately jump into cooking an amazingly complex dish. How could they have a ready-made recipe in their mind for Rams Testicles and Hearts of Palm without having some idea that these may be basket ingredients? So are they given hints in advance or are they really that good?

I’ve heard that in Iron Chef, they’re given a list of possible mystery ingredients a few days beforehand, so they have time to plan out possible menus.

Chopped claims that they don’t give their contestants any prior info, but that every basket is tested in-house and has to have several possible directions that a chef could go in when presented with the items.

Iron Chef America is deceptive in several ways. First, the guest chef doesn’t choose the Iron Chef on the day of the competition. They choose which Iron Chef they will compete against well in advance. The opening scenes with all the Iron Chef standing on platforms are taken from stock footage and scenes filmed that day with stand-ins for the other Iron Chefs. Second, the guest chef and the Iron Chef are told in advance three possible secret ingredients, one of which will be the one that will be revealed at the competition, and thus have time to think about their possible dishes. Third, the competition doesn’t start immediately after the secret ingredient is revealed. They are given a little while to get all the ingredients together before they start the clock for cooking. Fourth, after they finish cooking and plating the dishes within the time allotted, they throw out that food. They then re-prepare the dishes, first one of the chefs and then the other. One chef prepares the food and shows it to the judges, and then the other chef prepares the food and shows it to the judges.

The last part is deceptive… Wouldn’t recooking completely alter the taste and possible recipe of what just happened?

It wouldn’t surprise me if in Chopped, they’re told of the ingredients just before showing the basket, or if there is a general theme, let the contestants know. Some of the chefs come up with weird recipes that they wouldn’t or shouldn’t do if they knew about some ingredients, which suggests they may be given enough time to plan dishes but not to research if said dishes will be edible.

With Chopped a chef can see the ingredients and recognize that they can make a well known dish and just modify it with the given ingredients. As weird as the ingredients may be they will still have some similarity to known ingredients.

As mentioned above, Iron Chef knows possible items and the chefs will send in required ingredients ahead of time so the kitchen can be stocked with the things they need. If I recall from something I read a while back the chefs have about 30 minutes to get water boiling and get some things laid out so they can hit the ground running when the competition actually starts.

Well, I guess you’d have to trust the chefs not to alter their meal prep… but consider how unfair it would be to be the chef that has to go second in the tasting round while your dishes go cold from all the time between plating and tasting. Many dishes are really at their best when they’re hot off the grill (or steamer or convection oven or what have you).

The “you get to know some possible mystery ingredients” for Iron Chef has been an open secret for many years.

The way Chopped gets around this is that there’s the basket reveal, and then the chefs have 15-30 minutes of planning times that isn’t shown before they start cooking. This is so they can get water boiling and sometimes to make sure that a critical spice is in the spice cabinet. So it’s not “WTF is a jordan almond? Oh crap, cooking now!” - It’s more “WTF is a Jordan almond? Hmm, time to think about how to work that into a dish… Alright, I have some ideas, cooking now!”.

I can believe that Chopped happens more or less as shown. If you listen to what the chefs are saying, they’ll say things like “Well, how different can alligator meat be from chicken?” or “These dried fish eggs are salty, so I’ll use them instead of soy sauce.” Sometimes they make an incorrect evaluation this way and the judges bash them for something like treating bitter melon like it’s a cucumber.

Many contestants talk about practicing for Chopped and coming in with a list of recipes they want to try. Sometimes the judges criticize contestants for shoehorning ingredients into what’s clearly a preconceived recipe.

I definitely think Chopped does some convenient editing so that what you see on the clock and what chefs are actually doing may not have any relation. Every once in a while, you can see something at the edge of a shot that shows you how something is out of sequence.

As for Iron Chef… pure fiction. The only way to make it more fake would be to have CGI animated chefs.

I miss the Japanese version of Iron Chef. It had some memorable moments:

[li]The time that one of the judges’ comments, spoken with a smile, were translated as “This is… how can I put this… I hate this.”[/li]
[li]Battle Asparagus, when one of the chefs steamed a layer of asparagus between two layers of lobsters to give it lobster flavor, then threw away the lobsters. One judge yelled, “Hey, I want to eat one of the guys that you just threw out!”[/li]
Battle Kobe Beef, when the judges were amazed when Chef Morimoto served the expensive beef with potatoes. They wanted to know where he got such an inspired idea, and he, equally astounded, said, “I live in New York! Meat and potatoes always go together in America!” (Or words to that effect.)[/ul]

I know they have water boiling and ovens preheated and get a tour of the pantry and kitchen beforehand, but cite for the 15 minutes of planning time after the ingredient reveal?

I read an interview with Rick Bayless, I believe in the Chicago Reader, several years ago after he was a contestant on IC. He said that they were given a list of five potential secret ingredients and they had to plan a menu for each item. They gave their recipe list to the producers who then made sure they had all needed ingredients on hand for whichever ingredient was chosen.

Both are entertaining shows nonetheless. I’ve really gotten into Chopped lately. I’m also enjoying Cutthroat Kitchen

Hmm, I could have sworn I read that somewhere, but on a search I cannot find a cite. So, in the spirit of knowledge over hearsay, I will retract that statement.

I have no trouble believing Chopped; that’s a show I’d be comfortable competing on, if I didn’t hate competing (not saying I’d win, but I wouldn’t embarrass myself). Give me some random ingredients and a well-stocked pantry, and I can make a good meal out if it. I rarely cook from recipes at home, and rarely plan what I’m going to cook more than a few minutes in advance. Iron Chef is a whole different level of cooking, I’d be screwed.

They might not get 15 minutes to plan, but as I posted above - Rick Bayless said that they do spend time planning out all of their recipes for a variety of potential secret ingredients.

I don’t know about explicit planning time, but I recall reading that in ICA, they re-shoot the “reveal” section several times from several angles, so there’s probably a good 10-15 minutes to think about it regardless.

You guys are talking about different shows and getting the responses confused, I think.

The 15 minutes (which may or may not be accurate) was in reference to Chopped.We know for sure that they get pre-heated ovens and boiling water, with a tour of the kitchen, but we’re not sure if they get any prep/planning time after the reveal of the ingredients.

Iron Chef is the one you’re talking about, which allows chefs to pre-plan for potential secret ingredients.

Right, that’s Iron Chef America. They get a list of a couple of “secret” ingredients before and have time to prepare and plan beforehand. This is why the chef and their assistants instantly start preparing the dishes. Any planning done “on camera” is purely for effect.

Chopped is different, what would be the point of letting the contestants know the secret ingredients? That would be like giving Jeopardy contestants the questions in advance.

Another point about Iron Chef America is that sometimes the guest chef doesn’t get all five dishes that they’re preparing plated in time. If that happens, they throw out the tape and don’t bother with the re-cooking and judging of the dishes. Sometimes they invite the guest chef back on another day to try again.

I also enjoy both shows. On a recent Chopped, though, one of the contestants stated that he knew the make/model of the ice cream machine before hand and was able to download and study the manual. Of course that isn’t the same as knowing the ingredients but does imply some preknowledge of the kitchen equipment.

I had assumed that staffs on both shows were the ones which heated the ovens, started the water boiling, etc., so that it was ready for the contestants.

I am kinda enjoying Chopped, Canada, also, except that Ted Allen isn’t on it and the judges seem to be a bit strange.