Delicious food, engaging celebrities and a competition happening in the heart of Japan. These might sound like the makings of the classic Japanese cooking show Iron Chef, but it’s actually a slightly more modern rendition.
Last week, more than 20,000 viewers tuned into Cooked, the first Twitch-streamed cooking competition of its kind to happen in Tokyo. Produced, directed and hosted by Josh of JoshinJapan, the four-hour-long show pitted four teams, each featuring two streamers, against one another tasked to create three courses of food all revolving around a specific theme.
Prizes for the night included ¥100,000 in cold hard cash, a custom-made hand-crafted chef’s knife and, of course, the all-important, bragging rights.
“There’s been no large-scale events for streamers, particularly in Japan and I was inspired by large streamers producing shows of their own,” says Josh.
The Australian-born variety streamer (who sometimes goes by JIJ) is known for his Twitch channel where he entertains through a myriad of content such as Mario 64 speed runs, baking in his kitchen and cycling tours around Japan. Having recently made Twitch Partner (a tier of top-performing Twitch creators that make up 1.4 percent of total active broadcasters on the platform), a large-scale content event seemed like the right move for his channel.
“The cooking aspect of the show was just something I love doing on stream and I thought it would be entertaining to get a lot of creators in the same room together and show that these events were possible outside of the US,” he says.
The first challenge of the night was to cook a typical Japanese breakfast, including tamagoyaki, grilled fish, fluffy white rice and miso soup. Josh’s stream maintained the overall view of the contest while every contestant also had their stream ongoing, allowing viewers to get a first-person perspective.
The expansive industrial kitchen soon descended into good-natured chaos as Josh together with the judges, Meilyne of Gourmetmei, Emma of Tokidokitraveller and Pete of Premiertwo took turns going around to observe the contestants’ progress.
“It’s fascinating, I was just walking around and watching the teams struggling,” said Meilyne. “Food poisoning is a concern,” joked Pete, “but I think they’re getting better.”
This consisted of two items, sweet corn and eggplant, which the teams could use in any way they fancied to produce a dish. All remaining pantry ingredients would also be provided ‘death match’ style, meaning it was a free-for-all for contestants to secure what they needed for their dish.
While the judging criteria was not made public, Emma mentioned that this round would be slightly different from the first and would now include appearance and taste as well as creativity and execution of the mystery ingredients.
Much of the excitement of the stream took place during these pressure-cooker moments of preparation, but it was the inside jokes and quiet moments shared amongst those attending that made the stream so special. As the teams cleaned up their stations between rounds, one could see the banter that was had between Emma and Team 3’s Canniny and Prizzaa who had both taken up post at the judge’s table. These candid and unscripted parts are just some of the reasons why many have taken to watching live streams online over regular television.
For the final challenge, teams were asked to put their skills in the kitchen and ability to follow instructions to the test by recreating a Peaceful Cuisine recipe: kuzukiri, a traditional Japanese dessert consisting of starch-based noodles and kuromitsu. All of the teams seemed to have found their groove by this round, each producing kuzukiri that looked exactly like something out of a wagashi kitchen.
By all usual social media metrics, Cooked was a resounding success. The production quality, level of entertainment and professionalism showcased by all involved is something few media companies could achieve.
“I think with any produced event, especially streamed events, it brings challenges,” says Josh. “I do think every challenge I’ve had to face with this show brought equal opportunity. With so much to prepare for this event; the guests, the pantry prep, the venue and the money, I struggled the most with making sure each guest was able to come at a specific date and time.”
Josh also cited additional challenges such as availability changes and the amount of time, money and effort he had put into organizing the show. Cooked was sponsored by ByFood but the bulk of the investment came from his day job.
“I love that this show was such a success,” he says. “Cooking and baking will always be part of my content online. With events I’ve done in the past, like my 1,500-kilometer charity cycle to Fukuoka, or my Mario Kart tournament, I have always jumped from my different interests, and I intend to continue that.”
No solid plans are laid out just yet for Josh’s next big event, but he has confirmed that he will be doing another live charity cycle to the top of Hokkaido in June 2023. He is confident that more avenues will open up after Cooked and certainly doesn’t intend to slow down.
Photos by Lisa Knight