I’ve watched Emeril kick it up. And I watched Two Fat Ladies until one of them sang. But as an armchair (read: lazy) cook, I am drawn to only one show time after time: Iron Chef, a delirious hybrid of What’s Up, Tiger Lily?, American Gladiators, and The Galloping Gourmet. Here’s why:
1. It’s the only cooking show that’s not afraid of the truly repellent. This was evident from one episode which featured a dish called fermented fish sushi. ”The guts turn into something like cheese!” Hattori explained.
2. The dubbing. It’s hard to explain the incredible savvy of the unaccented yet somehow deeply foreign voice-overs. Each line is delivered with unfailing sincerity and enthusiasm. ”This is interesting!” the female voice used to dub the revolving door of tittering ingenue judges once exclaimed (while tasting…I don’t know, something with eel). ”It’s unusual! It’s disgusting, in a way!”
3. Ota — the very excited guy who works the floor, then shouts for the host’s attention, usually to report something like ”Fukui-san! I just saw the challenger dipping mung balls in lard oil — a specialty of his native province!”
4. Tasting time. The moment when the judges sample 12 courses built around one ingredient. Their expressions while braving their way through a dessert based on pork belly is worth the whole hour.