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.