IRON CHEF AMERICA / THE NEXT IRON CHEF – Craig Marks


Original Review by Alan Rogers

Iron Chef America and The Next Iron Chef are US-based game shows produced by the Food Network and are based on a Japanese cooking show. In Iron Chef America, a challenging chef competes against one of the resident “Iron Chefs” in a specially constructed cooking arena called “Kitchen Stadium”. Fronted by over-the-top martial arts actor Mark Dacascos and being introduced with dramatic clips of chopping, frying, flames and with furious clip editing (with animated steel knife slashes), this is “cooking in your face”. And composer Craig Marks has composed for the show appropriately “in your face” music. He has also composed music in the same vein for the subsequent spin-off The Next Iron Chef (a competition to chose new Iron Chefs to take part in Iron Chef America).

Describing Marks’ music for the show in the press as “sabre-rattling gladiator music”, Marks’ moonlighting at Media Ventures whilst studying Music Composition at UCLA can be heard frequently in the scores. Using predominantly synths, the music is full of bold, brash fanfares, powerful synth strings and percussion, and each cue could easily be taken from any Media Venture-scored Hollywood blockbuster. The themes for both Iron Chef America and The Next Iron Chef are full-on heroic themes (think something like any Jerry Bruckheimer-produced effort and you wouldn’t be far off the mark in terms of style), with tracks such as “Shiitake Showdown”, “Nine Chefs Enter”, “White House Garden / A National Challenge” and “Flamenco Flambé” continuing to pour on the drama and testosterone. A cookery show can’t be this exciting can it? 

It’s not all pounding drama though. There is some relief with quieter interludes that feature, for example, a prominent guitar/dulcimer line (“Sorbet For The Soul”), synth harp (“Portobello Mellow (Quite Ripe)”) and keyboards (“Gastronomial Equation”) as their main elements. Several cues also add variety by having a slightly ethnic feel to them. “Exploring The Subcontinent” with it’s Japanese-style woodwinds gives a sense of the Far East and “Tabla Tandoor” has influences you would expect to hear from music from the Indian subcontinent (but the inclusion of Taiko-style percussion does confuse matters slightly in terms of defining a regional influence).

The music from both Iron Chef America and The Next Iron Chef is clearly designed to add drama to a game show that is essentially just about people cooking but it fits in with the whole idea of the “Kitchen Stadium” and the shows’ apparent over-the-top Hollywood production values. At the end of the day, if you like the whole Media Ventures/Remote Control sound then you’ll know what to expect here and you will likely love it. I enjoy the music for what it is – a piece of fun that doesn’t try to be subtle. Available at the usual digital store outlets it’s one to pick up to spice up any slow-moving dinner party.

Audio samples can be found HERE and then click on arrow next to running time for samples of entire album or individual tracks.

Rating: ***

  1. Theme (from Iron Chef America) (3:31)
  2. Shiitake Showdown (4:09)
  3. Marmalade Skies (1:52)
  4. Exotic Infusion (2:59)
  5. Exploring The Subcontnent (1:24)
  6. Theme (from The Next Iron Chef) (2:03)
  7. Nine Chefs Enter (2:53)
  8. Sorbet For The Soul (1:23)
  9. White House Garden / A National Challenge (5:14)
  10. Four Course Tour de Force (2:06)
  11. Test of Wills (4:25)
  12. Chairman Rising (2:01)
  13. Flamenco Flambé (1:37)
  14. Portobello Mellow (Quite Ripe) (2:07)
  15. Tabla Tandoor (1:38)
  16. Gastronomial Equation (2:10)
  17. Allez Cuisine! (3:08)
  18. Next Iron Chef (TV Edit) (0:35)

Running Time: 45:23

CMStudios Media (2010)

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