In the season premiere of The Next Iron Chef, ten chefs arrive in Los Angeles to compete in a series of globally-inspired cooking challenges that will test their abilities to master culinary styles from around the world. The chefs are greeted by host Alton Brown (Iron Chef America, Good Eats), who gives them their first two tests: Memory and Fearlessness. For Memory, the chefs are asked to use an ingredient that has played a significant role in their lives to create a dish that expresses their culinary style and heritage. Next, the chefs are assigned exotic ingredients from around the world that test their iron wills and stomachs. They must showcase their fearless nature through their approach in using these ingredients as the centerpiece of two dishes. The first chef is then eliminated.
Host Alton Brown gives the nine remaining chefs their next two challenges: Simplicity and Interpretation. In the first challenge, the chefs are asked to use a variety of one-pot cooking devices from around the world to make a family-style dish. The chefs judge one another and reveal who cooked both the most successful and the least successful creations using the ethnic cooking vessels. Next, the chefs are asked to reinvent classic "international" dishes to see who can create an Iron Chef-worthy interpretation of some of the best-known dishes in the world. The next chef is eliminated.
Host Alton Brown explains that Innovation is one of the most important traits of an Iron Chef and both challenges in this episode must embody that trait. First, the chefs disperse to four of the best Asian eateries in Los Angeles where they quickly taste and then attempt to recreate the house specialty from each restaurant. The chefs are armed only with their discerning palates to figure out how the dish is made. Next, the chefs are tasked with innovating and creating a new dish that is a hybrid of Asian flavors and American culinary sensibilities. The next chef is eliminated.
An Iron Chef must adapt to a secret ingredient that is revealed just moments before cooking. For their next test, host Alton Brown asks the remaining seven chefs endure a tough test of Adaptability. The chefs have 90 minutes to prepare a savory and sweet duo of Mexican-inspired dishes and a creative beverage that successfully utilizes a secret ingredient flown in from Mexico on American Airlines. At the iconic Grand Central Market, the chefs shop for additional indigenous ingredients to effectively capture the heart and soul of Mexican cooking. They are judged on how well they adapt the secret ingredient to their culinary creations. One chef is eliminated.
The six remaining competitors meet acclaimed Indian chef, Suvir Saran, and begin their next test: Pressure. First, the chefs have 30 minutes to capture the essence and balance of Indian fare in just one bite. Then, the chefs attend a Bollywood-style gala to gain a true understanding of the traditional foods and culture of India. With this knowledge, they then have two hours to prepare a five-course Indian feast judged for the authenticity, flavor, drama, and theatrical presentation of the food. Two chefs are eliminated, and the remaining chefs learn they will head to the airport and travel on American Airlines to one of the great culinary hotspots in the world – Tokyo, Japan.
The four remaining chefs board an American Airlines flight and travel to Tokyo, Japan. The chefs begin a culinary adventure into the world of umami (a Japanese term for 'delicious' that is used to describe the fifth taste). First the chefs arrive at a traditional Japanese yakitori grill restaurant where they are asked to use Kikkoman soy sauce to infuse umami into their dishes and enhance the flavor profiles of a variety of ingredients. Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto arrives as a surprise judge for this test. Then the chefs travel through Tokyo to the most renowned culinary academy in the city where they meet Dr. Yukio Hattori, the original Iron Chef Japanese culinary commentator. Dr. Hattori opens the doors to his academy where the chefs are challenged to use different cooking styles in a test that highlights the five tastes: sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and umami. The next chef is eliminated.
The final three chefs undergo a test of Integrity, and how they can honor both personal integrity and integrity of ingredients. At the most famous fish market in the world, Tokyo's Tsukiji fish market, the chefs race to gather ingredients to prepare their version of the most revered and traditional Japanese meal known as kaiseki. This kaiseki meal is filtered through each chef’s unique culinary personality. This traditional Japanese cooking style consists of an elaborately choreographed tasting menu with extreme attention focused on the beauty of each plate and the seasonality of the ingredients. One chef is eliminated, and the last two standing prepare for the final battle in Kitchen Stadium.
The remaining two chefs walk into the hallowed halls of Kitchen Stadium to complete their final test: Imagination. With the Chairman looking on and host Alton Brown (Iron Chef America) commentating from the side, the two finalists compete in a head-to-head battle. Using everything they have learned, they must take the secret ingredient and create a five course meal that reflects the melting pot that is the American culinary experience. One of the chefs will then be selected as the winner and become the new Iron Chef!