'Iron Chef': Adam J. Rockmore

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Japan's "Iron Chef" arrived at Food Network in 1999, but it was the June 2000 match-up of Japan's Masaharu Morimoto and American restaurateur Bobby Flay in New York that transformed this trippy Japanese import from object of cult adoration into U.S. mainstream hit.

Fans tuned into this kitschy culinary carnival when it was a lowly cable access show, and Food Network had the foresight to see breakout potential in its kooky premise: Two chefs compete, whipping up multicourse meals with exotic ingredients (fish heads, anyone?) in an extravagant "Kitchen Stadium." Overseeing all is a long-haired, sequin-bedecked dandy, who opens with a bang on the "Gong of Fate" and the French phrase "Allez cuisine!" (rough translation: Here's the food). Oh, and it's dubbed into English in a mode reminiscent of low-budget Japanese action flicks.

Food Network VP-Marketing Adam J. Rockmore, 37, a brand management veteran of General Mills and Godiva Chocolatier, leads the team that's used guerrilla marketing techniques to great effect. To wit: Iron Chef look-alikes appeared at Grand Central Station and other crossroads around the nation, generating pre-show buzz for the Morimoto-Flay rematch on June 3, 2001. The show spawned Web sites and inspired legions of would-be culinary masters to stage "Iron Chef"-style cook-offs at home. "Iron Chef" is now Food Network's second-highest-rated show behind "Emeril Live!" "Allez cuisine!" indeed.

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