After a four-year hiatus, Iron Chef — the American version, at least— is back.
Premiering on June 15 on Netflix, the high-octane cooking competition is a fresh take on the franchise with a big name line-up. Aptly titled Iron Chef: Quest for an Iron Legend, the show pitches five iconic chefs against a roster of talented rising stars on the culinary scene.
The five Iron Chefs are Marcus Samuelsson, Dominique Crenn, Ming Tsai, Curtis Stone and Gabriela Cámara — an all-star cast who have made their mark, from winning James Beard Foundation awards for their work in food to Michelin stars for their restaurants.
Alton Brown, commentator on the Food Network’s version of Iron Chef since 2004, returns with new co-host Kristen Kish, the season 10 winner of Bravo’s Top Chef.
The format of the show remains roughly the same, with challengers facing one of the Iron Chefs in the Kitchen Stadium in each episode.
The challenger with the highest score at the end of the season will have the enormous task of facing all five Iron Chefs to win not just the title of the first ever Iron Legend, but the coveted “golden knife”.
This season, the challengers are a serious line-up of diverse talent, from chefs who run Michelin-star restaurants already to one who was born in a Thai refugee camp.
The latter is Yia Vang, a chef who now runs Union Hmong Kitchen in Minneapolis in the US state of Minnesota to share the flavours of his Hmong culture in America.
The format of a typical Iron Chef challenge centres around a secret ingredient the contestants must use in their dishes, and Vang is adamant that he will create Hmong dishes no matter what they throw at him. “It’s a great way to showcase Hmong food on an international level,” he says.
As for the stars? Curtis Duffy — whose tragic yet compelling story was chronicled in the 2016 documentary For Grace – of two-Michelin-star Ever restaurant in Chicago is stepping up for the first time.
He sits on the advisory board of the US-based Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts and has been inducted into the Disciples Escoffier International, the non-profit association dedicated to upholding the principles of classic French cuisine.
Duffy, whose now-closed restaurant Grace once held three Michelin stars, could well be an Iron Chef himself, so it will be fascinating to watch him take them on.
The show also features Esther Choi of the Mokbar restaurants in Brooklyn and Manhattan, New York. She has appeared before on Food Network shows such as Chopped and Beat Bobby Flay .
A young Korean-American chef who opened her first restaurant at 28, her food is largely inspired by the flavours she experienced while growing up with her grandmother in New Jersey — at her restaurant, one of the most popular dishes is her halmoni (grandmother in Korean) dumplings.
This April, the chef launched a CBD-infused sesame oil called Sessy.
In a strange coincidence, three challengers come from Bravo’s Top Chef franchise.
Claudette Zepeda previously competed on season two of Top Chef Mexico and opened her restaurant El Jardin in San Diego, California, in 2018; in 2021, she launched Vaga at the Alila Marea Beach Resort Encinitas, which combined her Mexican heritage with flavours and ingredients that represent her lifetime of living in San Diego.
Then there’s Mei Lin, a Los Angeles-based Chinese-American chef and winner of the 12th season. Born in China and raised in Michigan, Mei Lin worked at her parents’ Chinese restaurant before launching her own, Nightshade, in 2019, in LA’s Arts District.
The restaurant struck a chord with diners and was awarded best new restaurant in Food & Wine magazine, GQ Magazine and Eater National.
Gregory Gourdet, who competed alongside her, also joins the cast of Iron Chef this season. Gourdet, who is of Haitian descent, has made his name in Portland, Oregon. He has been planning to open his own restaurant since 2019, but was thwarted by the pandemic; it is now expected to open by July this year.
Kann — “cane” in Creole — is billed as a live fire restaurant specialising in “Haitian cuisine meets Pacific northwest bounty”. Should Gourdet go far in Iron Chef with his soulful cooking, viewers in Portland should try to get their reservations for the opening in sooner than later.