Kristen Kish On Iron Chef: Quest For An Iron Legend And Her New Role - Exclusive Interview

While the new reboot of "Iron Chef: Quest for an Iron Legend" evokes an air of nostalgia with the return of host Alton Brown and chairman Mark Dacascos, the show features an exciting and talented new cast of characters. That includes five new Iron Chefs, and a new co-host, Kristen Kish. You may remember Kish from her win on "Top Chef," or her numerous TV appearances since then (via IMDb). Now, Kish joins Brown on the sidelines of Kitchen Stadium, enlightening "Iron Chef" fans with her culinary knowledge and competitive experience. It's a priceless opportunity to witness one of the most iconic culinary challenges in TV history — and Kish shared all the details with Mashed.

In an exclusive interview, Kish described what it was like to step up beside Alton Brown and into the world of "Iron Chef," revealing some of her favorite moments from the show, and the ultimate Kitchen Stadium showdown she'd like to see (or even be part of).

Kristen Kish dishes on her experience co-hosting Iron Chef: Quest for an Iron Legend

What was your experience like hosting a competition as prestigious as "Iron Chef"?

Overall, my experience was incredibly memorable, out of body at times, because as a fan of "Iron Chef," and as a fan of many of the people I was watching — the chefs, Alton [Brown], Mark [Dacascos], everybody — I had to pinch myself a little bit at times because I almost couldn't believe it. It was an incredible experience, one that is life changing in a lot of ways. It was definitely full circle for my career.

As a former cooking show competitor, you've got experience being the one on the floor, cooking under those high stakes. How did that experience sort of influence your approach as a host, overlooking it all and helping us at home understand what's going on?

First off, I was completely relieved not to be doing that. I was already in a great mood showing up every day. I was like, "This is great." I remember I competed on ["Top Chef"] and ... I know what it felt like. It is the most nerve-wracking experience and everybody is probably saying the exact same thing — that the time flies. I had the great fortune of seeing a lot of my friends come in as challengers. We talked a little bit and I was like, "You have to remember to actually enjoy the moment and the process without completely forgetting that you're in it, because when it's all said and done and you look back on that 60 minutes, you wish you could do it again."

Kish talks cohosting with Alton Brown and her favorite moments on the show

What was it like co-hosting with Alton Brown? How would you describe the dynamic that the two of you brought to the competition?

Neither of us knew what to expect going into it. I knew of him a great deal from watching him for years. He was very polite and he was like, "Oh, I know of you, too," but that's probably not true. Regardless of our relationship beforehand, when we got there together, we had conversations about what he could do to help me and what I could do to aid him, and it was a really nice open relationship right from the get go. We found our footing, and different challenges brought different parts of us out, so that was really fun to experiment with. Ultimately, I get to hang out with a really great guy and have awesome conversations. If that's my job, then it's pretty awesome.

Were there any standout moments from the show that you can share?

Everyone's going to have moments where they're surprised and delighted and all the good stuff, because we all register different cooking competition shows, and how we watch television, very differently. Everyone will have several moments of those, but honestly, it was standing in Kitchen Stadium with the lights and the noise and watching everything come together. I still get goosebumps thinking about it. One of my favorite parts, though, one of my favorite standouts, is being able to watch my friends compete.

A lot of creativity is captured on Quest for an Iron Legend

What was the most interesting dish that you saw on "Iron Chef?"

Oh my gosh. There was one ... chef Curtis Duffy from Chicago, he has the restaurant Ever. He was making a charcoal beeswax serving vessel, which I'm still in shock [about]. I am in awe of the level of talent and creativity that chefs have ... It's completely my job and it's my life to explore these things, and I do it out of pure pleasure, but every now and again, you see something and you're like, "Wait a second. What's going on and how is it happening?" You'll never forget it, and then it makes you want to try it yourself.

Filming in an environment like Kitchen Stadium has got to be one of the most intense experiences ever. Was there anything that happened during filming or during the competition that didn't make it on camera?

There's so much that doesn't make it on camera. For the cooking portion, those 60 minutes, the goal for viewers to see is simply as much cooking and creativity and storytelling of the chefs as much as possible. That's why I'm even there, as a vehicle to help tell those stories. Outside of that, the stuff that you don't see is really the normal TV stuff that takes time — getting the lighting right and all that stuff. Honestly, for the most part, I'm watching [the show] as a viewer now, and from my perspective ... I still feel that within the 45 minutes of each episode, it captures exactly what I thought I was feeling at the time.

The key to success and beating the clock on Iron Chef, according to Kristen Kish

What do you think makes a chef most successful in a competition like this, based on your own experience and also what you saw while hosting this season?

My competition experience was very different. Other cooking shows, they throw these challenges at you ... quick-fires and things like that. From that perspective to "Iron Chef," and having competed on both, is that "Iron Chef" requires practice and it requires rehearsal in your own kitchen with your team, because once you get into Kitchen Stadium, your kitchen is completely different.

Practicing [is the main thing to be successful], and you've really got to dial it in with the two sous chefs that you choose to bring or whomever you're choosing to bring to help you, because as much preparation as possible is really the key.

The competing chefs are making five to six different plates of each different course, so that's 30 different dishes that they're trying to make in that 60 minutes, but it seems like they always end up getting it done and getting it in front of the judges. How many times do you have moments where you are legit worried that they're not going to finish in time?

There are certainly a few that were right up at the buzzer, even presenting some of those first course dishes that you have to get up in the first 20 or 30 minutes. Here's the thing: I rarely doubt people's and chef's abilities to actually get the food on the plate. It might come to the last millisecond, but if you choose to do this and you go on, there's a 10th gear that you never knew existed and it always happens. You get it done. It's one of those things, if you've never done it before, it's hard to explain, but you know what you have to do in the allotted time.

Kristen Kish says this would be the ultimate Iron Chef match

I'm going to put you on the spot. If there was any Iron Chef" matchup that you would want to see, or someone that you'd want to compete against, who would it be?

None of them. No way. I'm good. I hung that competition hat up a while ago, but I will say — and I'm going to put it out into the universe and it would be a great deal of fun — I do like to competitively cook still, but not with the amount of pressure. If there was a fun charity thing, I would love to team up with Alton and go against our judges, or some fun matchup like that.

Oh, I love that. Let's definitely put that out in the universe.

Iron Chef: Quest for an Iron Legend is now available to stream on Netflix.