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Where Are the Original Iron Chefs Now?

That scraping sound you hear? That’s the sound of chefs around the world sharpening their knives in hopes of a trip to Kitchen Stadium. Yes, Iron Chef is coming back to TV, with Netflix rebooting the culinary competition as Iron Chef: Quest for an Iron Legend.

“The legendary Iron Chef series is reborn with a supersized approach to the ground-breaking culinary competition that started it all,” Netflix says in a press release. “It’s been called the toughest culinary challenge a chef will ever experience. This is where world-class cuisine meets high-octane sports. Five new trailblazing Iron Chefs will welcome brave Challenger Chefs to the reimagined Kitchen Stadium, where they’ll face off and be pushed to the limits of endurance and creativity as they cook up extraordinary culinary creations. The competition’s most successful Challenger will return to battle in a grand finale for the chance to be named the first ever ‘Iron Legend.’”

The news comes nearly three decades after TV viewers first saw the original Iron Chef, which debuted in Japan on Fuji Television in 1993 (arriving in dubbed form on Food Network six years later) and wrapped up in 2002.

So what have the original Iron Chefs been up to these last 20 years? Those culinary masters don’t make headlines news here in the States as often as their Iron Chef America counterparts—Bobby Flay, Stephanie Izard, Jose Garces, et al.—but here’s what we’ve discovered.

Chen Kenichi (Iron Chef Chinese)

Chen Kenichi, nicknamed the “The Szechuan Sage,” expanded his family restaurant group across Japan, with 14 locations in the cities of Fukuoka, Matsuyama, Nagoya, Takamatsu, Tokyo, and Yokohama, according to the company’s website. These days, it’s his son, Chen Kentaro, who’s running the business.

The elder Chen is also the author of the cookbooks Ironman Kenichi Chen’s Chinese Cooking, Today’s Main Dish, My Honest Cooking, Iron Pot Rules, and Carrying on My Father’s Work—Creating My Own Flavors.

Yutaka Ishinabe (Iron Chef French)

Yutaka Ishinabe is the chef behind the Queen Alice chain of restaurants in Japan. The location at the Chubu Centrair International Airport near Nagoya closed in 2019, but there’s still a location open at the Yokohama Bay Hotel Tokyu south of Tokyo, where you can “delight your taste buds” in a restaurant styled like a “whimsical French garden.”

Hiroyuki Sakai (Iron Chef French)

Iron Chef’s second French master is the chef and owner of La Rochelle, a French restaurant chain with locations in the Japanese cities of Tokyo and Fukuoka. “We are in constant pursuit of great divine dishes and the happiness of our guests,” Hiroyuki Sakai says on his restaurant’s website. In recognition of his culinary prowess, the chef received the Chevalier de l’Ordre du Mérite agricole from the French government in 2005.

Masahiko Kobe (Iron Chef Italian)

This “Prince of Pasta” was the chef behind the restaurant Massa, located in the Ebisu district of Tokyo. He died in 2019 at age 49 after a fall in the kitchen, according to Nikkan Sports. On Facebook, Toshihiko Yoroizuka, a pastry chef who had befriended Masahiko Kobe, recalled memories of the late chef “standing with a pot in both hands with a big smile” at Massa.

Rokusaburo Michiba (Iron Chef Japanese)

Rokusaburo Michiba is the Iron Chef alum whose Tokyo restaurant Rokusantei has long impressed diners and reviewers. Travel & Leisure hails its “excellent, innovative kaiseki featuring artfully presented, seasonal ingredients (think: a broth-filled teapot with prawn, eel, and matsutake).”

Kaishoku Michiba, another restaurant of his in Tokyo, focuses on the “joy of partaking each season’s culinary delights in the kaiseki style,” according to its website.

Koumei Nakamura (Iron Chef Japanese)

Until recently, Iron Chef’s second Japanese master had a self-named restaurant in Tokyo’s Ariake neighborhood, but that restaurant is now closed. However, the chef’s name popped up in the media just last month after he endorsed an innovative meal-bowl vending machine called Nommi, per dot.LA.

Masaharu Morimoto (Iron Chef Japanese)

Masaharu Morimoto is perhaps the most recognizable Iron Chef alum stateside, thanks to his self-named restaurants in New York City, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Las Vegas, and elsewhere in the United States and around the world. In fact, Morimoto opened four restaurants in 2021, bringing his worldwide tally of properties to 19, according to his official bio.

And as if that weren’t enough, Morimoto partnered with Grgich Hills Estate last year to release the cabernet sauvignon label Morimoto Dream, billed as “a collaboration of vision and passion between a vineyard rich in history and cultivation and a chef famed for blending Japanese and Western cuisine.”


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