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Thursday, 2 August, 2001, 13:20 GMT 14:20 UK
Boldly going to the kitchen
Wiliam Shatner
Shatner appeared recently in Miss Congeniality
By the BBC's Peter Bowes in Los Angeles

Sci-fi icon William Shatner is to take his TV career in a new direction as the host of cookery show.

The former Captain Kirk has been chosen to host Iron Chef USA: Showdown in Las Vegas - a culinary game show based on a hugely successful programme from Japan.

A life-changing view of taking your time and not only smelling the flowers, but smelling the garlic

William Shatner

Shatner describes the show as "exciting" and adds that he experienced a "whole exploration of and journey with cooking and taste".

Enthusiastically, he says Iron Chef encapsulates "the act of eating and the sense of enjoyment and a life-changing view of taking your time and not only smelling the flowers, but smelling the garlic".

The show's contest is staged in an arena that would appear more suitable for a sporting event.

The audience is seated on the set for what the show's executive producer, Larry Thompson, describes as a Gladiator experience.

On each show a challenger chef goes into battle with four Iron Chefs from around the world.

There is a secret ingredient and they have one hour to complete, with four celebrity judges.

Mr Thompson secured the rights to the Japanese Show after watching it on America's Food Network late at night.

It is just the most imaginative, creative, exciting cooking - it's a lesson in explosions in your mouth

William Shatner

"They did six years of this series," he said.

"It was so bizarre that people in Japan were running around Tokyo dressed like Iron Chefs. They sold cook books, they sold pots, they sold pans.

"It became enormous. It's as big to Fuji TV as Star Trek is to Paramount," he added.

The original Japanese show was based on a video game featuring samurai video warriors doing mortal combat.

"That's how the idea came up, from a fantasy world. These Iron Chefs came from a virtual reality world," explained Mr Thompson.

"They chose their weapons, but instead of swords of knives or guns, it's food."

Unlike conventional cookery shows - and others based on a quiz format - viewers will be unable to recreate the recipes at home.

"In essence, you're seeing a spectacle," said Shatner.

"By extension, you're enjoying the taste. It will be very difficult for you to make these dishes."

You'll laugh, hopefully, through the show and at the same time you'll see great artists at work

William Shatner

Shatner admits that he has difficulty in describing the show's format.

"This is a new category. The is World Wrestling Federation meets Wendy's," he jokes.

"It is just the most imaginative, creative, exciting cooking. It's a lesson in explosions in your mouth."

The subtitled Japanese show has developed a cult following on the Food Network.

The Shatner version will be screened on the UPN network.

Initially, two one-hour specials will air although it is hoped the format will become a weekly show.

Reality programming

There are also plans to bring the contest to Europe, including the UK, if it proves to be a ratings success in the US.

Shatner says he hopes the contest will enlighten Americans about the art of eating.

"The eating experience, especially in America, is passed over very quickly and we don't, not only for our health, take our time to eat our meal, but for our mental enjoyment to think about what went into the food," he explains.

Iron Chef is American TV's latest contribution to so-called reality programming.

"What we are doing is we are converging reality with what we believe is a trend," said Mr Thompson.

After years of Americans relying on TV dinners and fast food, he believes there is now an appetite for more in-depth knowledge about food and fine dining.

"We are merging that with the popularity of reality."

Shatner added: "It's also entertaining. You'll laugh, hopefully, through the show and at the same time you'll see great artists at work."

William Shantner
"You can't categorise the show"
Larry Thompson
"We're converging reality with a trend"
See also:

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14 Dec 98 | Entertainment
Star Trek's bold debut
20 Jul 00 | UK
Queue long and prosper
24 Oct 00 | Entertainment
Spock's ears up for auction
28 Oct 99 | Entertainment
Shatner call broadcast condemned
12 Aug 99 | Entertainment
Shatners planned to divorce
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