Mark Dacascos Talks Iron Chef: Quest For An Iron Legend, Martial Arts, And More - Exclusive Interview

The return of "Iron Chef" wouldn't feel complete without the beloved chairman we know and love. Thankfully, fans tuning in to the reboot, "Iron Chef: Quest for an Iron Legend," will be welcomed once again by Mark Dacascos and the words of his uncle. The actor and martial artist is back, ready to kick off every challenge with his iconic line: "Allez cuisine."

The new season of "Iron Chef," now available to stream on Netflix, will feature a whole new set of Iron Chefs, ready to put their best to the test against a slate of challengers fighting to become the first Iron Legend. The stakes are high and the glory of victory unmatched — according to Dacascos, it's the biggest battle to ever take place in Kitchen Stadium. Mashed got inside details from the chairman himself.

In an exclusive interview, Dacascos dished on what it's like to be back in the Iron Chef kitchen and what he loves about being the chairman. He also explained how competing on "Iron Chef" is similar to mastering martial arts.

The chairman dishes on returning to Kitchen Stadium

It's been several years since "Iron Chef America." How does it feel to be back in the kitchen stadium?

Oh, my goodness. It feels great. I was excited and emotional and nervous when I got the call because, well ... ["Iron Chef"] started 20 years ago. It's become a huge part of my life. I'm obviously connected with our cast and crew, and now we have new family members, so to speak. We wanted to go bigger and deeper, so all of those pressures come on you, and it's exciting and it feels so great.

You've called "Quest for an Iron Legend" the biggest battle that Iron Chef kitchen has ever seen. What sets this competition apart from the rest?

One of the main things is that it has a long history, starting in Japan and then having all the different iterations here in America. Iron Chef Morimoto, for example, was in Japan, then he came here, and now we have him as a guest on this 3.0 version.

The spirit of Iron Chef has been here for a long time, and that has — fortunately — apparently permeated into a lot of people's essence and their spirit as well. I think that is because it's such a big show, and now, we're really going global. With the Japanese version, yes ... and then the American version, but with Netflix, all of my friends in other countries who had heard about the show or seen bits and pieces on YouTube get to see it for real, from beginning to end, on their own on the television.

Then, in addition to having some of the best chefs from all over the world compete, what also makes it stand out is that, for one hour during that battle, I am happy and proud to say, we have not stopped the time. That is for real. I don't know how the other shows are, but it's intense. I don't compete, and I get nervous. You feel the energy of the chefs. You feel the energy of all the camera people who have to run around; they don't know what's going to happen. It's a big improvisation for 60 minutes. Alton [Brown] and Kristen [Kish] have to lock in and go with whatever's happening. All of that energy translates on screen. Folks that are watching it pick up on it, and I think that's one of the big allures.

The stakes and the skills are heightened on Quest for an Iron Legend

What is your favorite part about being the chairman?

That I get to learn so much every time I go to work. Now we have Alton Brown and Kristen Kish, and then these amazing chefs, both Iron Chefs and challengers ... They are talking about what they do in their food, and the cultures and customs and history. I learned from all of them, and then to see them put it in practice right in front of me, it's amazing.

Were there any standout dishes you saw this season that you would love to dig into if you got the chance?

Yes, and I can't pick any one out because they all looked amazing. The chairman now, we don't know where he is, but he's not at the table. But I've got to say, listening to [the chefs] talk about it and watching them cook, and then smelling it in Kitchen Stadium — it's off the charts. Yes, I would like to have had, or tried, all of them.

You've studied a number of different martial arts throughout your life. Do you recognize any of those disciplines in the kitchen on Iron Chef?

All of them. For example, the African-Brazilian martial art Capoeira, with lots of dance and acrobatics. No real stance. Everything is a movement, transitioning from one to another. You can apply that to some of the chefs, which [have] more of a free flow.

Then some of the other arts go from stance to stance and are very specific [about] where the fingers are and the wrists. That's more [like] a chef that's more classical, for example. You have all these different versions of cooking, just like all the different versions of martial arts. 

A great martial artist can take his or her style and then free flow once they have it so well in their bodies. These chefs do the same thing. I can see them, and they'll talk about something, but then they'll ... You have to know the rules — or you should know the rules — before you break them. These chefs know the rules very well, and they break them all the time and it works.

Mark Dacascos shares his Iron Chef fantasy

You've been a part of many internationally recognized series – "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.," "John Wick," and many more. If you could choose one actor you've shared a set with, who would you most like to see compete on Iron Chef? Who do you think could hold their own in the Iron Chef kitchen?

That's a big one. I don't know. I don't know who could hold their own, but Keanu Reeves could probably charm them all.

I was betting you were going to say that. That would be fun to see him competing.

That would be, yes — except you've got to keep the knives and all those things out of his hands.

Exactly. Spoons only.

Yeah, spoons!

"Iron Chef: Quest for an Iron Legend" is available to stream on Netflix starting June 15.

This interview was edited for clarity.