The XS Iron Chef



Competition day breaks foggy and gray… almost as if Mother Nature itself is reluctant to show her face.  The combatant rises from a restless sleep, butterflies mixing in the pit of his stomach.  Today, he thinks.   Today is the day my hours of exhaustive training will pay off or pay out.  Today is the day I either rise to the top of the scrabbling heap of humanity, or fall to the depths of plebian treachery.  Today.

He carefully assembles the tools of his trade.  The spatulas, knives and slotted spoons.  He pockets his lucky gold plated lemon zester, a gift from the great Houdini of chefs, Xebonia Clawfoot, his mentor and hero.   If only Xebonia could see him now; how proud she’d be.  Her loss still smarted like lemon juice on a hangnail.  If only she had unplugged the mixer before she leaned in… if only she had followed the posted safety guidelines… if only.  Xebonia, though, was never one to follow the rules, and the combatant can only aspire to her level of ingenuity and fearlessness.

Locked and loaded, he begins his arduous journey to the hallowed halls of the arena.  This is the place where it will all go down; the place where things will be decided, once and for all; the place where he will defend his title as XS Iron Chef.

The combatant sports a newly purchased skinny tie today, one of bright blues and reds – colors of victory and confidence.  He tucks it down as it flaps in the early morning breeze.  It, too, wishes to fly. His spatula glints in the weak morning sun.  His knives strive to break free of their leather binds.  They yearn to begin their furious cutting, slicing and mincing.  His very being hums with the anticipation of victory.

Upon arrival, he immediately senses the expectation heavy in the air.  The collective intake of breath.  The competition ring is silent but deadly. As usual, he is the first to arrive, a result of years of early morning mixing drills.  Mix, scrape, wipe, mix!  Again!  Mix, scrape, wipe, mix!  You call that dough, solider?!? That’s concrete with flour!  AGAIN, you limp dough ball!  AGAIN!  The shrill cries against the rasp of his own labored breathing still sharp in his mind.  Sometimes, late at night, the regretful biscuits of his labors return to haunt him.  Sometimes.

He stands at his station, his ladle at the ready.  He is ready for this.  Activity begins to pick up around him.  People come and go, but no challenger appears.  He waits.  He wonders.  He worries.

As the hours pass, it becomes apparent that there is no one willing to challenge him.  His reputation has preceded him.  No one believes they have what it takes to beat the combatant.  Hundreds flow by, admiring his Irish Lamb Stew of execution.  Yearning to be him.  Wishing they had what it took to be the next XS Iron Chef.  Not a single person steps up.  Not a single person has the fortitude to challenge the reigning champion of vittles and veal.  Not a single person cares to be defeated in such a public setting.  They are afraid of his prowess.  They tremble before the protégé of the great Xebonia Clawfoot – the Iron Chef of Iron Chefs.

The deadline passes, and in typical magnanimous fashion, he begins to distribute his creation.  The people scrabble for a morsel of his delicious victory stew, claiming to his face that it is the best stew they have ever eaten, while condemning the shocking lack of Rosemary when his back is turned.  He doesn’t mind, though.  They’re all just jealous of his gift.  Heavy lies the head… He stands proud before the maddening crowd, basking in the admiration of his subjects.  He can barely contain his joy as his title is presented to him for his third consecutive win.  The tears well, and threaten to flow.  He tidies up as the people wander back to their hum drum lives; still talking about the miracle they have just witness.  How they will have such a story to tell their children, and their children’s children.

He walked into the arena a mere combatant, and has emerged a champion.  He has won.  By default, yes, but a victory is still a victory.  Better to have won unopposed than to lose to another…  He again stands victorious as the reigning Count of Cuisine, Duke of Deliciousness, Prince of Pabulum, Emperor of Edibles.  Kyle Humphrey is the XS IRON CHEF!