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Kaga and company

A look at the hosts and commentators on ”Iron Chef”

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Meant, according to Fuji TV, to suggest ”a rich medieval lord,” the Chairman is actor Takeshi Kaga, 49, who starred in the Japanese stage productions of Les Miserables and West Side Story. Kaga Halloween costumes (complete with the pepper he chomps in the opening credits) are all the rage in Japan — as is his catchphrase (as subtitled), ”If my memory serves me right,” spoken before he profiles that week’s challenger.

The show’s color commentator is a doctor of nutrition who runs Japan’s Hattori Nutrition College. He has actually competed on the show, in the farewell battle for retiring Iron Chef Japanese Nakamura. According to Iron Chef‘s unofficial website (http://www.ironchef.com), one or his students, Notal Kenji, appeared as a challenger in the great Battle Udon (don’t ask); during that episode, Hattori absented himself from commentating.

The tuxedoed ”sideline” reporter provides specifics on ingredients, technique, and mishaps from the kitchen floor, often in response to questions from Hattori or Kukui. Fans have come to love his polite way of butting in: ”Fukui-san! I’ve confirmed the ingredients the Iron Chef has put into the earthen pot!” His breathless, rapid-fire delivery was honed by his years as a sportscaster, and keeps the show’s relentless pace from curdling.

The play-by-play man is a former baseball announcer for Japanese TV, which explains his even-keeled, occasionally stentorian delivery. Like Dr. Hattori, he’s not often seen on screen, but the two are the ones you hear talking over the action in Kitchen Stadium: ”He’s brought out some crab — what suspense!” Fukui also introduces the Iron Chefs, the guest judges, and asks the final question — ”Who will win this battle?”