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Throwing an Iron Chef Theme Party

English Food, Iron Chef America

If you haven’t seen Iron Chef America on the Food Network yet, you are missing out on some fun The basic setup for this cooking game show of sorts, is this: two chefs go head to head, cooking five or more dishes with every dish needing to contain one constant food product, or secret ingredient. The secret ingredient can be nearly any type of food, carrots, steak, chicken, apples, squid, or basically anything else they can think of to put in a meal. The chefs have one hour to complete their food dishes, and then they have to feed three hungry judges and the Chairman, who holds the whole contest for his own pleasure.

The only thing more fun than watching this cooking madness, is to experience it in your own home, with an Iron Chef theme party. It is basically run the same as the show, except you are limited in what you can make with no super kitchen and without a ridiculous budget. This party will take a lot of planning, design, and care, but if done right, it can be the perfect new party idea.

First, you need a large enough group to execute every role. That means, two chefs, two sous chefs, three judges, and one chairman. That’s a total of eight people, and if you can do more, go ahead and have someone play the role of host, and if you want to maximize the fun, have someone operate a hand-held camera and film the whole thing, so you can watch it with friends. You have to pick your chefs and sous chefs right away, because they will be the ones who don’t know what the secret ingredient is. If you have more guests coming to the party, they will be glad to watch the activities, as long as they get to eat the food at the end.

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Now that you have got your party goers set, you need to pick up some food. You and your friends must decide on a food to be the secret ingredient. It is good to pick a food that is cheap and will go with a lot of other common foods, otherwise you will end up spending a fortune. If you don’t want to spring for all the ingredients yourself, your friends won’t mind chipping in for the food. We did this at our party, and the end cost per person was quite cheap. A good idea is to go to the farmers’ market the day of the party. The food is cheap and you can pick up all of the fruits and vegetables you need, and they will be fresh for the competition.

Now that you have the food, its time to think about costumes. If you want to go all out, you can pick up four chef outfits for pretty cheap at a Halloween store or kitchen supply store. Otherwise a button down shirt and an apron will do. For the Chairman, some kind of kingly garb, perhaps an old robe dressed up, will do. We used an old graduation gown and threw a bedazzled scarf over it.

The hardest part in executing this party idea, will be to utilize the very small kitchen that you have compared to the iron chefs. The ideal situation is hosting the party in two apartments or town homes that border each other, but that is rarely workable. If you have to make due with one kitchen, then the food will have to be prepared accordingly, you may have to share unsuitable oven temperatures, and fry something when it should be baked or broiled. This may not be the most healthy way to enjoy the food, but hey, it’s a party. Make sure to have friends bring any extra pots, pans, plates, utensils, and eating trays that they can spare.

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The Party
Now it is time to get going with cooking the food. The chefs will have one hour to complete their dishes. Give them constant updates as to the time, chances are they will be tossing food while playing the game in a frantic rush. Having a host is always great, because it gives everyone at the party a chance to interact while the food is being cooked. The host can talk to the chefs, interview the judges, and annoy the Chairman. And the more the Chairman plays up his role, the more fun it will be. The Chairman is supposed to quietly pace back and forth, overseeing the food preparation and cooking. We had a friend that took this role particularly seriously and he didn’t break character for a second. By the end we were all rolling with laughter at his commitment.

Once the food is made, it is served up to the panel of three judges. Playing a different role with each judge is recommended. Having a particularly snobbish and harsh English food critic is cliche, but still funny. After eating, each of the chefs’ five dishes, the judges will rate them in three categories: taste, presentation, and originality, with taste having double the weight of the second two determining factors. Now you just announce a winner and the game is done.

This party is also a great idea for Halloween, as everyone will have the opportunity to wear costumes. Just remember to be careful. It may not be a good idea to drink too heavily before the food preparation, as you will be dealing with knives and some bladed appliances.
Have fun and enjoy!