Earlier this month, Food Network premiered the fifth iteration of one of its most successful franchises, “The Next Iron Chef: Redemption.”
The eight-episode series (the finals air on Sunday, Dec. 23), with host Alton Brown (“Good Eats”), features a roster of acclaimed culinary masters vying for a second chance to join the exclusive “Iron Chef” club. Along with veterans of the competition, the show added a few newcomers, along with a 10th cast member decided in Web-exclusive battles at FoodNetwork.com.
Asked about this fresh twist on the concept, Brown — calling in between flights from the cockpit of his private plane — tells Zap2it, “You always have to look at the story arc. It’s a good story. It’s not just a matter of piling another bunch of people to fight with one another.
“We look at the people who had come very, very close in the past, then, for some reason, didn’t make it. We thought, ‘Wow, it would be great to give these people a second chance.’ A couple of them, not having even been on ‘Iron Chef,’ having been on other chef-centric competition shows — and we thought, ‘We’ll put them all together and let them see if they can redeem themselves.’
“And it comes to an interesting conclusion.”
Brown also emphasizes that, unlike many other competitive reality shows, “Iron Chef“ prefers to keep the dramatic heat in the kitchen.
“One of the things that we’re always really conscious of on the ‘Next Iron Chef’ franchise,” he says, “is there’s never any backstabbing, bickering, personality battles going on. We tend to only want to get people to respect one another and treat each other respectfully.
“We think that the tension and drama should come from the challenges, not from some kind of faux interpersonal issues. We don’t traffic in that. We don’t like that kind of thing. It’s beneath the audience and also beneath the competitors.
“We try to keep things a little more honorable and make it about the food and what these people are capable of doing.”
After all, fans aren’t tuning in to see people argue with one another in a mansion; they want to see cooking at a very high level.
“It’s really remarkable,” Brown says, “if you’re a culinary fan, if you’re a foodie, to see the things that are done, the way the creative minds work, the way creative minds work under pressure, because that’s when you see the real skill come out.”
And while there’s plenty of honor and accolades for the ultimate winner of “The Next Iron Chef: Redemption,” Brown emphasizes that these folks are already stars in their own world.
“These people are already in a club,” he says, “because they’re in that upper-echelon chef club, which is most assuredly a club. They all know each other. They respect each other.”