Iron Chef's Secret Ingredient Was...Pokémon!

Iron Chef, a Japanese cooking show that began in 1992, has quite the cult following in certain Western countries thanks to years of dubbed episodes and re-runs.

It wound up in 1999, however, leaving talismanic host Takeshi Kaga needing a new gig. And he found one in Pokémon.

If you've never seen it, Iron Chef was an amazing show, in which invited (and highly talented) chefs from around the world faced off in a cooking battle against the program's resident "Iron Chefs".

What made the show interesting was the fact the Iron Chefs each specialised in a certain type of food (eg Chinese or Italian), and that in every episode, every dish created (including dessert!) had to be made using a themed ingredient, which could be anything from potatoes to live eels.

The cooking was frantic, the dishes looked delicious and the celebrity judges (which sometimes included Mother creator Shigesato Itoi) were often insightful and/or hilarious. But what really made the show was its host, Takeshi Kaga.

A noted TV, film and stage actor in Japan, Kaga didn't simply host the show, he played the role of Chairman Kaga, a stern, eccentric man who would begin each episode by...eating raw capsicum/bell pepper. As the show's credits tell us, Kaga spent his fortune building Kitchen Stadium, an arena where he could "encounter new original cuisines".

His flamboyance made him the icon of the program, and when Iron Chef aired its final episode in September 1999, the TV world was poorer for Kaga's absence.

Well-known for his work prior to Iron Chef, however, Kaga was never going to be out of work long. Indeed, in the same year Iron Chef ended, Kaga began a new career as a voice-over artist, appearing in a Pokémon film and lending his talents to a number of video games.

In Pokémon: The Movie 2000, Kaga not only played the role of Jirarudan (Lawrence III in the Western version), the film's villain, but also sang Ware wa Collector, a song from the movie which you can check out in the clip to the left.

Kaga has also worked with Square Enix on two handheld Final Fantasy titles, playing Golbez in both the 2007 re-release of Final Fantasy IV on the Nintendo DS and Dissidia: Final Fantasy on the PlayStation Portable.

In addition to this game-related work, in recent years he's also appeared in the live-action adaptations of popular manga Death Note, hosted a quiz show and, most awesomely, turned up in the 2007 film version of Saiyūki, which Westerners know better as Monkey.

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