From Kitchen Stadium to the Gauntlet: Alton Brown Returns to the World of Iron Chef

Hear from Alton Brown, the host of Iron Chef Gauntlet, about what's to come on this epic new series on Food Network.

Let’s get one thing straight: No one knows food quite like Alton Brown. Whether he’s dishing on the internal organ structure of snails or explaining the etymology of soy lecithin, his ability to school us on all matters culinary is simply uncanny, and it’s for largely that reason he made a top-notch host of Iron Chef America for the 12-season run of the series.

But now, for the first time since 2013, Alton is returning to the world of Iron Chef, this time as the host of Iron Chef Gauntlet, the all-new elite competition in which seven challengers are set to compete against not only each other but also a gauntlet of Iron Chefs for the chance to join their ranks.

We checked in with Alton as he prepared for this much-anticipated premiere, and he gave us the inside scoop on what’s to come on Iron Chef Gauntlet, plus his take on how to succeed in this unique beast of a contest. Read on below for an exclusive interview, with Alton, then look back on some of the best culinary fun facts he’s ever shared on Iron Chef America.

In many ways Iron Chef Gauntlet will be similar to The Next Iron Chef, but the idea of a three-tiered gauntlet in the finale is new. What are you most excited to see from these six episodes?

Alton Brown: Straightforward cooking at its highest level.

What do you think fans at home might not realize about what it takes to cook at that very high level?

AB: That in this situation, you’re cooking against yourself, you’re cooking against the clock and you’re cooking against everybody else.

We’ve seen you host Iron Chef America countless times before, but your role here will be a bit different. What can we expect?

AB: Well, my job is certainly different than it has been in the past, because I’m actually judging the first round in each show and deciding who’s going to be going on to the second round.

And with that comes tasting, right?

AB: Yes. I will be tasting all of the first-round food, all of the Chairman’s Challenges. I’ll be tasting and deciding.

Are there certain technical elements or flavors that you absolutely must see in what the challengers offer you?

AB: No, but if a technique is offered, it must be done correctly. What I’m looking for, and what we’re always looking for in Iron Chef food, is that that Secret Ingredient has to be the focus of the dish. But if you tell me it’s a saute, then it better be sauteed. If you tell me it’s a braise, it better be braised. But that’s all very often up to the description by the chef.

Is there anything for which you will simply not forgive them?

AB: Sloppy technique, most certainly. Sloppy knife work. One of the first things that falls off to the side when the clock is running is knife work, is consistent knife cuts, and I won’t put up with that.

Why is this title of Iron Chef such a big deal? What does it mean to stand in these ranks?

AB: I think it’s because on Iron Chef, and on Iron Chef America, the food has always mattered most. It’s not a gameshow where people are running through kiddie tubes and climbing walls and swinging on ropes. They’re cooking, and we look for the people who do that better than anybody else does.

On Iron Chef America, you saw the good, the bad and the ugly go down in countless episodes, so you know what it takes to do well in battle. What kinds of demands will the challengers face when they begin this competition?

AB: The biggest demand is to not fall into a mind trap. When you’re cooking against the clock, all chefs know how to hurry. They do it every night during service. So you can’t really think about that too much. You can’t think about what the judge is going want, what I’m going want. You’ve got to cook your food. And so you have to create kind of a little dome of protection for yourself to just do what it is you do without letting all of those other circumstances encroach on your little fortress of solitude.

Tune in to the premiere of Iron Chef Gauntlet on Sunday, April 16 at 9|8c.

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