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Program Name: “Teppanyaki Takedown”
Length: 13 Half-Hours
Genre: Food / Travel / Reality
Availability: Q1 2013
This ain’t your Daddy’s Benihana, baby...
This is in-your-face, Japanese-style flat iron teppanyaki cooking – people so close to the action they could lose a finger. Totally interactive, absolute theatre, awesome food. This is where beef, shrimp and noodles become dangerous flying objects, and dinner becomes chef-on-chef violence. Put your protective glasses on, folks – this is TEPPANYAKI TAKEDOWN.
Host Seattle-based Mike Monzon, known in the industry as “Tattoo Mike,” is perhaps the top teppanyaki master in North America. A former tattoo artist, this half-Asian/half-American self-taught chef has made a name for himself with a style all his own. Besides his remarkably creative choice of ingredients and presentation, Mike’s mesmerizing to watch. He’s considered one of the world’s fastest masters at slinging blades, and coming up with new tricks to delight his audience. And he’s developed quite a devoted following. But seeing Tattoo Mike outside the restaurant, draped in tats and waist-length hair, you might expect flashing lights to be following him, too. “You won’t see me rolling taki at no sushi bar, no way man,” he laughs. “I don’t have the schooling or the look for that. I’m from the streets, man. I’m your parents’ worst nightmare.”
TEPPANYAKI TAKEDOWN will be shot in 13 different cities – Seattle, New York, Chicago, Las Vegas, Vancouver, Toronto, Honolulu, Los Angeles, Miami, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Portland and Tokyo. Tattoo Mike challenges the top teppanyaki masters in each city, brandishing his unique Wu Tang style of flat-iron cooking against both old school and contemporary chefs. Sometimes Mike wins; other times he’s taken down.
Each chef will be given one half-hour to prepare, cook and present the dishes. A panel of judges will preside over the competition – one master chef, one celebrity – complemented by the metered response of those watching (and eating) in the restaurant, as well as the “likes,” Tweets and votes on those participating via social media. Performances will be judged on both the style of each master, as well as the final product. Much like “Iron Chef,” it’s not just about speed and theatrics – it’s also about the food.
Expert judges may include master chefs like Food Network icons like Anne Burrell of “Secrets of a Restaurant Chef” or Beau MacMillan of “Worst Cooks in America.”* The master chef will meticulously deconstruct each performance and presentation, breaking down the cooking as a television football analyst might review a play from scrimmage, using super slow-motion replays and telestrators, revealing to the audience the true craftsmanship – and flawed execution – often missed in the flame and fury of teppanyaki. No bad cuts will go unpunished. Celebrity judges will come from the world of sports, television and feature film, each uniquely associated with the competition city, all with a passion for food and the art of teppanyaki – and not necessarily unmoved by flame and fury. Scoring will be on a 1-10 scale, with the score of a 3rd judge – everyone else in the restaurant – registered on an applause meter. The 4th judge will be online. Each cooking segment will also be webcast live on the TEPPANYAKI TAKEDOWN website, with links to its Facebook page and Twitter account, giving an opportunity for people all over the world to rate the performances in real-time. They won’t be able to taste the food, but they may in fact prove to be the final, tie-breaking vote. They’ll also pepper the performances with their crawling comments, which will appear in the broadcast episode.
Like Dancing With the Stars, TEPPANYAKI TAKEDOWN will feature taped segments tracking Tattoo Mike and the local master as each prepares for the competition – Mike as he acquaints himself with the town and the teppanyaki scene there; his opponent as he prepares for Mike. Viewers will see what it takes for these masters to source the best meats, fish and vegetables in each city, to assemble and sharpen their weapons of choice, and to ready themselves both physically and mentally for the taming of the teppan.
TEPPANYAKI TAKEDOWN will be produced experientially, irreverently, kinetically – It’s part-cooking show, part-sporting event, part-WWF. The broadcast design will immerse viewers in an almost fantasy-like, pan-Pacific culinary clash of titans, each takedown powered by a driving bed of cross-culture hip-hop and dub-step music, wrapped in original Japanese anime – Tattoo Mike and his nemesis, pitted in an epic warrior battle straight out of Mortal Combat.
Whereas most food shows, as well as competition shows like “Dancing With the Stars” and even “American Idol,” are actually trending toward older audiences, TEPPANYAKI TAKEDOWN is expected to perform extremely well in the 18-34 demographic – much like “Rachael vs. Guy Celebrity Cook-Off,” the top-rated show on the Food Network in January 2012. Through its gamer/anime broadcast design, music bed and editing style, its unique use of social media and interactive web elements, youth-centric taped segments, and of course its street-smart, well-inked, trash-talking host pitted against equally brash young masters, TEPPANYAKI TAKEDOWN will break new ground in the genre. And the art of teppanyaki itself. Again, this ain’t your Daddy’s Benihana, baby…
The extraordinary show open will be created by one of the most celebrated broadcast design teams on the West Coast and will immediately engage and captivate viewers and introduce Tattoo Mike and the new wave of teppanyaki dining.
Mike is then seen in the destination city, walking the streets and setting up that evening’s takedown. In a partly-scripted, partly improvised segment, much like “Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations,” the series now takes on a travel show feel – an irreverent, unguarded fish-out-of-the-water foodie on the road. Like Bourdain, Mike immerses himself, explores, discovers and shares his experiences in his own inimitable way, learning about what makes teppanyaki different in every part of the world – the local foods used, the style of the masters, the expectations of the audience. He’s certain he’ll prevail over the hometown chef… but at the same time, he’s fully aware of what it’ll take for an outsider like him to parachute in with blades slinging and take a master down on his own flat-iron.
Taped segments then set up the local teppanyaki master, seeing him at work, at home, learning how he came to be at the top of his craft – and conveying his absolute, indefatigable assurance that no one – especially some tattooed punk from Seattle – is going to out-sling him. We’ll see Mike again, exploring the challenge city, checking out the local Japanese steakhouses, knocking back saki with young people and hearing what draws them to these places.
Now, for the Main Event… Each master takes to the teppan, demonstrating a searing display of their talents, providing a running commentary on what they’re preparing, how they’re doing it, detailing their nod to the tradition of Japanese flat-iron cooking, and their own take on the craft. The judges will also talk viewers through the performance. The hometown master goes first. Mike follows. The live-to-tape, half-hour cooking demonstrations will be edited down, making the world’s most kinetic style of cooking that much faster. In just two short segments, viewers looking for how-tos will find them every few seconds – not unlike “Iron Chef.” The pace will be captivating. And a bet is made… If the local master wins, he takes home $10,000 – and Mike washes the dishes. The verdict again rendered by the scores of the panel of judges, the audience meter at the restaurant, and lastly the votes cast by those at home watching the live webcast and logged into social media. A perfect score is 40. Returning Viewers Every episode builds toward the final TAKEDOWN – a challenge in the Home Country, Japan. Here, they look at teppanyaki cooking as a highly schooled sushi chef might look at a California roll – an American bastardization of a cherished national tradition. And yet, there are no shortages of masters plying the craft in Tokyo. And no better place for a season finale.
At the end of each episode, viewers will be encouraged to go to the TEPPANYAKI TAKEDOWN website, Twitter account and special Facebook pages created for each competing master, register their “likes” and add to a running tally of votes leading to a “Tokyo Takedown.” This season-long online balloting, together with the top judges scores from each of the 12 destination cities, will determine The Grandmaster, or Sōke 宗家, the season’s best chef. He (or she) will be bestowed the coveted menkyo kaiden, winning an additional $25,000 and an invitation to join Tattoo Mike on a trip to Tokyo, to take on the top master there in a three-way battle of teppanyaki titans.
TEPPANYAKI TAKEDOWN is produced by Baby Wild Films and Victory Studios, in association with S Crew. The series is produced, written, directed and edited by 11-time Emmy-winning filmmaker and ABC Contributing Producer Michael Harris. Executive Producers are Conrad Denke and Michael Harris. Co-Created by Victory Studios, Michael Harris and Sergelen “Segi” Vandandorj. Executive General Manager is Kimberly McGregor. Original music by seven-time ASCAP Award-winning composer Tim Truman and Wayne Walters. Hosted and narrated by Mike Monzon.
© 2012 Teppanyaki Takedown LLC