Apron Of Love

Blog covering both the new and old episodes of the Asahi Television show 'Ai no Apron' or 'Apron of Love'

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

I'm Back

I know, it's been ages since I've updated and there probably aren't many visitors coming here anymore.

Unfortunately, after my last post things got pretty nutty with work, a move, and tons of other things going on in real life. It's not that I didn't want to post, I just didn't have the time. One thing led to another, and I kept putting it off and putting it off. My interest also waned a bit for the show after the World Cup challenge, so I've been letting episodes pile up as of late.

Now that I have time again, I want to start updating, and I'm picking up with the year end special for 2006. I will go back and update the second half of last year, including part two of the world cup. I was going to start with that, but I'm on the road and that episode is back on a DVD somewhere at home.

I'm hoping for semi-weekly updates from this point out, and hopefully I can keep at it for some time to come.

Thanks for your patience...

Idol Chef

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Ai Epu vs TV Announcers - Part One

Air Date: 12/13/2006

Ai Epu: Captain: Aoki Sayaka (青木さやか), Macha Macha (まちゃまちゃ), Hoshino Aki (ほしのあき), Sugita Kaoru (杉田かおる), Aota Noriko (青田典子)

Announcers:Captain: Takeuchi Emi (武内絵美), Maeda Yuki (前田有紀), Dou Mariko (堂真理子), Marukawa Tamayo (丸川珠代), Shimohira Sayaka (下平さやか)

Guest Judges: Antonio Inoki (アントニオ猪木), Umezawa Tomio (梅沢富美男), Hamaguchi Masaru (濱口優)

Theme Ingredient/Recipes:
A Team: Pasta / Lasagna

B Team: Shrimp / Seafood Yakisoba

Recap: The episode opens with the introduction of the two teams, it's Ai Epu vs the women announcers and it's an all-star lineup/grudge match. The Ai Epu team is lead by Aoki Sayaka and features some top competitors and stars, including Macha Macha (known to be a good cook) and Hoshino Aki (kawaii). The announcer team was lead by none other than Takeuchi Emi, with other notables including Dou Mariko from Music Station. Obviously, all the sniping that was going back and forth this entire year has finally resulted in the expect battle.

Which started anew before the cooking even began, as the announcers all appeared in Santa outfits, much to the disdain of the Ai Epus. A quick recap to show how long the Sayaka/Emi battle has been brewing, then a sneak peek at the tears to come. (If you have seen earlier episodes where Emi-chan was a contestant, you know that both ended with her in tears.) Then it was down to business.

The format was the typical team battle challenge. First round, the captains pick which team members will be assigned to one of two dishes. They will compete one on one against each other, with individual dishes being scored on a scale of 1 - 20 by the judges. The points will be tallied, and then the captains will compete against each other in a free-style cooking challenge. Pride is on the line, as the teams are fighting the teams and the captains the captains. The teams went to work while the captains looked on.

The format has really changed since I last watched the show, with all the cooking time recap coming during tasting time. Tasting time starts immediately, with flashbacks to the cooking when the cook is introduced. All the announcers also had little taped comments from their on-screen partners.

The lasagna dishes were judged first, with Macha Macha facing off against Maeda Yuki. Macha Macha did a good job on the meat and white sauce for the lasagna, but mixed up the cheese. It took a bit for the judges to pin down the use of mozzarella, which made it taste more like pizza than lasagna. Maeda did not fare as well, with her dish being too salty and crunchy. Antonio is a famous wrestler/martial artist, so it appeared there would be some sort of punishment. Hamaguchi, the other judge, volunteered to take it. He received a pretty hard slap, but Maeda still needed to be punished. Antonio wound up and gave her a big bear hug. Which caused hilarity later as Umezawa kept joking about wanting to hug the contestants (especially Hoshino).

Dish One Points: Ai Epu - 68 / Ann. - 25

Next was the heavyweights, Hoshino Aki versus Dou Mariko. Aki-chan might be cute but she can't cook, it was pretty bad and undercooked. It was also very hot, which resulted in some laughs as Aki-chan blew on the food to cool it off before feeding it to Antonio. Compared to Dou's dish, she needed every point she could get, as it was perfect. There was some really amusing commentary from Tamori (her co-host), but I couldn't make heads or tails of it.

Dish Two Points: Ai Epu - 48 / Ann. - 70

The B Team was up next with their seafood yakisoba. Sugita and Tamayo went first, with expected results for Sugita. After all this time, you would think she could cook one dish to perfection. Unfortunately, she ended up with the worst score for the Ai Epu team, and causing them to drop out of the lead. The announcers were now up by one point after Tamayo's decent attempt at the dish.

Dish Three Points: Ai Epu - 34 / Ann. - 56

The last two were Aota and Shimohara. Both dishes were very good, getting rave reviews from all the judges. Shimohara gave the edge to the Announcer team, by just three points.

Dish Three Points: Ai Epu - 85 / Ann. - 88

At this point, the announcers were up by 4 points. Aoki was grumbling, having to deal with both Aki-chan and Kaoru. Emi-chan was having none of it, and she was now ready to beat Aoki in their one on one match.

Next post: Part Two: The battle to end all battles!

Ranking - Part One:
Ai Epu: 235 Points
Announcers: 239 Points

Monday, July 03, 2006

Yuuko Posts Are Coming

Just a brief note... since these will be buried in the archive.

The Ogura Yuuko episodes are being posted (the few that I have). I will link them all here as I put them up, in preparation for the recap of the June 14th episode. Which I have finally gotten around to watching and it is probably one of the best episodes yet. Hopefully it should be up by the end of the week.

Ogura Yuuko - Queen of Choco!

You Got Grapefruit In My Chocolate

Chocolate Croquette - Best Episode Ever

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Massive Updates

Decided to spend most of this weekend catching up on posting, and 4 new episodes from this year are now up for your enjoyment. Next on my plate is the return of Ogura Yuuko, one of my personal favorites. However, although this is the next episode in the airing order, I do want to go back and review some of her finer moments. So before moving forward, I'm going to take the time to move back and add her earlier episodes to the site.

I also spent a lot of time sorting through which episodes I actually have. I went back as far as I could on the official sites, to determine which ones are missing. I'm going to post a list here, just in case anyone has access to these missing episodes. If anyone has a lead on anything from 2001 and earlier, I have nothing from those years. I also have major gaps from 2002 - mid-2003, but I want to get actual dates for what I'm missing. If you have any of these, drop an e-mail.

As always, comments are appreciated and I hope everyone is enjoying the site.

Missing Episodes

07/12, 07/23, 08/30, 10/18, 11/29

01/17, 02/21, 03/13, 05/15, 05/29, 06/12, 07/24, 07/31, 08/07, 08/28, 12/08

01/12, 02/16, 03/16, 04/20, 04/27, 05/25

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Apron of Love Cup - Part One

Air Date:

A Team: Sugita Kaoru (杉田かおる), Matsuzaki Shigeru (松崎しげる), Sugimoto Aya (杉本彩), Kaai Gamon (河相我聞), Matsubara Nobue (松原のぶえ)

B Team: Mie (未唯), Aoki Sayaka (青木さやか), Yinling (インリン), Umezawa Tomio (梅沢富美男), Takahashi Keiko (高橋恵子)

Guest Judges: Yumi Kaoru (由美かおる), Nakao Akira (中尾彬), Higashino Kouji (東野幸治)

Theme Ingredient/Recipes:
A Team: Beef / Croquette and Ground Beef Cutlet

B Team: Squid / Seafood Fried Rice

Recap: In honor of the World Cup, the Ai no Apron staff decided to host an Ai no Apron Cup. Bringing together some of the best and worst Ai-Epu chefs in first an elimination match, then a final cooking battle. It was a bit confusing at first for me to figure out how this was going to work, but it ended up being very simple.

There are 10 chefs, who by random selection were put into two teams of five. Each team (A Team and B Team - I'm using that rather than Block which is used on the show, as I did with the earlier special like this), would have different theme ingredients and dishes to cook. From the 10 chefs, four would be chosen to fight it out in the final battle. The four chefs would be decided upon by points awarded by the four judges (three special judges and Kentaro), with each judge being able to award up to 25 points for each dish. So a perfect score would be 100. They had four spots set aside in the studio, where the current top four scorers would sit. Then, as the judging continued, chefs would be 'eliminated'.

Yes, it's confusing. The easiest way to view it is the same as the regular ranking board. The four with the highest ranking (or highest score) out of the ten, will be in the final battle.

They setup a light board that would randomly choose the teams, and Joushima quickly got things under way. It was interested that aside from Yinling, the B team had the strongest line-up. The battle was also to be extremely short, only 30 minutes allowed for cooking.

Cooking Time was a bit of a jumble, as they had 10 chefs to keep track of during the battle. In fact, many responses were very brief as everyone seemed to feel the time crunch. Yinling's rice looked a bit odd, as she had mixed egg in with her rice before frying it. But what was really odd is that was the correct thing to do. Meanwhile Umezawa was doing everything with a big flourish, being the highest ranked Apron Boy and known as the 'King of the Apron'. They barely checked in with most of them and Cooking Time was as short as usual (and with 10 chefs, that was way too short).

A Team was up first for judging, and started with Kaoru. She gave it her all, and hoped that it would be enough. Her dish looked very odd with a lot of garnish, she also used pieces of whole white bread when making her cutlet. Yumi had problems determining what was up with her croquette. The cutlet had huge chunks of bread and egg still in it. Things aren't going to go well if you can't tell the croquette apart from the cutlet. After judging, she only scored 23 out of 100 possible points. But it was still enough to put her in the lead (since she was the first one judged). It was amusing because made a big deal of her being in the top spot.

Next up was Kaai Gamon, who is a singer/actor and I think may own a ramen restaurant. Either that or he was in a drama that featured one. They kept calling him a Pro, so I presume he probably owns one. But can he do fried foods? Obviously not, as neither dish really lived up to expectations. He scored 28 points out of 100, taking over the lead.

Matsubara was up next, and to be honest, I'm really sick and tired of her constant crying while being judged. Her dish wasn't perfect, but she started bawling which started Yumi cry, which started others crying. I don't think I've seen anyone cry so much on this show, whether she is being critiqued or complimented. Which is what happened here, with her croquette not being good but her cutlet being fine. But we wasted over five minutes with the crocodile tears. She scored 40 out of 100, moving into first.

Matsuzaki did well with both of his dishes, though he could have done a bit better. Overall they were good, which gave him a score of 68 out of 100. So far, everyone judged was moving into first knocking Kaoru further and further down. She was on the verge of being eliminated, and if the next person scored 24 points, Kaoru would be eliminated.

Which pretty much was a given, seeing that Sugimoto Aya was the last person on the A Team to be judged. Her croquette was perfect, and the sauce that she made to go with it was fantastic. Her cutlet could use a little work. It also appears that there may be a bit of rivalry between her and Mie. They really wanted Kaoru to understand how good it was, so they had her try it. Then, with a score of 86, Kaoru was eliminated. She was not happy about giving up the chair.

Then, with the A Team having been scored, it was time for the B Team. First up, Yinling. Who they referred to as the Typhoon of Ai Epu.

Before even revealing her dish, they asked her what position she was aiming for. She wanted the top seat. Everyone kind of chuckled at her boldness, then she revealed her dish and everyone was shocked. They then flashed back to cooking time where she was making fried rice to perfection. It turns out that she used to watch her mother cook this all the time. Kouji was really amused and in a bit of disbelief that she actually cooked that. Then came time to pour the seafood over the rice and it really came out as a gelatinous mess. She got chastised a bit for just dumping it over the rice rather than making it look nice. Yumi took a spoon and tasted it.

Then the impossible happened...

It was delicious. The reaction around the studio was amusing, as both Kaai and Kaoru were stunned. But it wasn't a mistake, it was really delicious. Nakao also found it extremely good. Joushima and Kiriko were floored. Kouji, her harshest critic in the past was also extremely happy to pronounce it was a fine dish. Kentaro explained that it was done exactly right. Mie and Umezawa asked to try it, and both also said it was perfect.

Now to really understand what was happening, you have to keep in mind that there were three Special Epu's yet to be judged. Aoki, Umezawa, and Mie. You can do the math in your head, Umezawa and Mie were pretty much a lock for the final four, as was Sugimoto. Aoki should have the final spot, but if Yinling scored really well Aoki would be in trouble. When Aoki was asked about it, she never though that Yinling would be her rival for the final four. If Yinling beat Sugimoto, Aoki probably would not make it.

The judges entered their scores, and Yinling received a total of 84 points, only 2 less than Sugimoto. Kiriko got extremely emotional congratulating her, even bursting into tears. It seems that everyone was really happy with her success. Which is one of the reasons I like this show, because even if you are a bad cook, everyone wants you to do well. Which is why there has been such a focus on getting Aoki a Special Epu ranking. But in terms of the Ai no Apron Cup, Kaai was eliminated, and Aoki looked very concerned. But with only four more dishes to judge, the episode ended.

Normally, I'm used to three-hour specials, so I was surprised to find that they did not continue the judging of the last four chefs. If this had been intended, you would have figured they would have stopped after judging the A Team. I think that what happened with Yinling was so surprising, that they decided to use the week to promote the conclusion.

Next week: Will Yinling make it to the final four battle? Will Aoki?

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Mie - The Other Pink Returns

Air Date: 06/21/2006

Contestants: Mie (未唯), Mori Kumiko (森公美子), Nakazawa Yuuko (中澤裕子), Miss Debbie (デヴィ夫人), Aoki Sayaka (青木さやか), Yinling (インリン)

Guest Judges: Ootomo Kouhei (大友康平), Maino Umi (舞の海), Sekine Tsutomu (関根勤)

Theme Ingredient/Recipes:
Shrimp / Mixed Tempura Bowl and Egg Custard

Recap: This week, the episode revolved around the return of Mie (of Pink Lady fame) to the show. While she has been a regular on many of the specials, her appearances as a normal contestant have been rare. However, the few times that she has been on, she has always had the number one ranking. But since it's been quite some time since she had been on, she has slowly slipped down the ranking board to 8th. Which may have been acceptable, if not for the fact that Aoki is now ranked above her in 7th place. She was quite amazed. Also present was Mori Kumiko, who while a celebrity, had a good reputation for her cooking (even writing a cookbook). It was setup as the battle of these three versus the demon cooks (which was a bit mean to call Nakazawa that, because she was new to the show).

As expected by now, Cooking Time flew by, with most of the focus on the three top chefs. Which was nice, because it's fun watching the 'pros' go at it. They started talking rivalry, and Miss Debbie was asked who her chief rival was. She presumed that it was Yinling. Interesting was the new camera angle they had on Yinling, basically a 'down epu' shot.

Tasting Time as it has lately, had Aoki up first and just as before everything went smoothly. Aoki is steadily improving across the board, and it's really paying off. She did fine with both dishes, and once again Emi-chan had to throw in that one little comment that really irritated Aoki. Nakazawa was next, and although her custard was a bit soupy, it still tasted good. She appeared to have the same problem with her tempura, as it was a bit soggy.

Miss Debbie was next on the block, they were going to get through all the poor cooks before the final showdown between Mie and Mori. I always feel a bit sorry for her, as she tries and just can't get it right. They actually tried training her on how to cook a bit late last year and early this year, without much luck. Her custard was doomed from the start, as she forgot to turn on the oven. Which meant that it was raw and not going to pass. Her tempura was extremely salty, and resulted runs to the bucket. It turns out she made her sauce using nothing but wrong ingredients. To follow up that disaster, it was Yinling's turn. When everyone saw her custard they shouted out 'shiroi' (white). She used the entire egg rather than the yolks, so it was like fried egg custard. When it came time for Joushima and his reaction, Sekine suggested that he just imagine Yinling in one of her 'cheesecake' photos. Joushima responded that it didn't work. I don't think I even need to describe how bad her tempura was, it as a huge mass of ingredients and a complete mess. Bucket runs began anew.

Mori was next up, and having some experience as a chef, everyone was looking forward to her dishes. Before the tasting, they played a 'good luck' video from Shimatani Hitomi (島谷ひとみ). Hitomi is a well-known pop-singer with several hits (Perseus, Falco, Angelus, etc). I couldn't pick up the connection, but I would presume that they are good friends. Her custard was a big hit, in fact both of her dishes were. Even Aoki and Mie agreed that both were very good.

Before they started judging on Mie, they gave a brief background of her history. She has been appearing on the show almost since the beginning. Back in December of 2000, she hit the Special Ranking (and may have been the first to ever reach that mark). I'm still not clear how she fell out of the Special Epu ranking, but there may be a rule that there can only be a certain number of Special Epu's. Looking over the history, I don't see anytime that she wasn't scored as the Number One Epu after competing. I would presume that as people are ranked above you, you can eventually be pushed out.

Her custard was perfection, nobody had anything but good things to say about it. The thing that really clinched her dishes came with the tempura, where she had the sauce on the side with what I believe was sesame seeds to dip the portion in as well. Everyone was also impressed with the 'crunch' that went with eating it. It was so good, the last two judges didn't want to pass it down.

Judgement Time was a relatively easy decision. Nakazawa actually ended up in the Bottom Epu ranking, not bad for a first timer. Meanwhile, Debbie and Yinling ended up far outside in the rain. They are now on the street corner outside the studio. Oddly, there are a couple even further away. As for the three best cooks, Mie easily regained her #1 Special Epu ranking, tied with Pinko and Peter. Aoki now is placed halfway into the Special Epu category (She did lose a spot, but it was only because Mie moved ahead). Mori is right in the middle of the Top Epu ranking.

Next Up: The Apron of Love Cup Special

Ranking ( out of 118 ):
Mie: 1
Aoki Sayaka: 8
Mori Kumiko: 18
Nakazawa Yuuko: 60 (New Entry)
Miss Debbie: 114
Yinling: 114

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The Return of Pinko and Yuuko

Air Date: 06/14/2006

Contestants: Nami Etsuko (奈美悦子), Asagi Kuniko (麻木久仁子), Izumi Pinko (泉ピン子), Ogura Yuuko (小倉優子), Aoki Sayaka (青木さやか)

Guest Judges: Kusakari Masao (草刈正雄), Oowada Baku (大和田獏), Katsumata Kunikazu (勝俣州和)

Theme Ingredient/Recipes:
Pork / Mabo Tofu and Fried Gyouza

Recap: This episode features not only the return of Izumi Pinko (who has consistently been a Special Epu and in the #1 Epu ranking), but Ogura Yuuko as well (who I've recently posted a number of her previous episodes, having been over a year since the last time she was on the show). Pinko was going to be in for a surprise tonight however, since she made the fatal mistake of mentioning that she was terrible when it came to cooking Chinese. So it should be no surprise that tonight's theme ingredient was pork and featured two Chinese dishes. Pinko was not amused. Aoki figured this could be her chance to advance to the Special Epu ranking.

Cooking Time started and with a surprise from Pinko, as she brought her own knife. Pinko is a bit of a curmudgeon, so it didn't take long for her to start snapping at the other cooks. This attitude would work to her advantage as we will see later. Yuuko was promising a 'miracle' in that she would get a Top Epu ranking. For all her complaining, neither Pinko or the other cooks appeared to have much trouble with these dishes. As it has been recently, Cooking Time was fairly short.

As it has been lately, Aoki was first up when it came to Tasting Time. Just like the prior week, they pretty much flew through tasting her dishes. Though again, Emi had to make at least one sly comment about the overall taste. Pinko nudged Aoki a bit not to take it. After Aoki, Yuuko-chan was next up for the tasting, once again promising a 'miracle'. Her gyouza looked a bit white (not extremely fried) and they tasted good, but then Kusakari got a very strange look on his face. It tasted okay, but something wasn't quite right. Oowada tried them next and found them a bit dry. They still couldn't figure out what was bothering them about the taste, when Emi pointed out that Yuuko had used beef instead of pork as the main ingredient. Then they went to the replay, which showed Yuuko with pork in one hand and beef in the other, trying to ask Pinko which was which, and the response she got was to 'shut up'. Pinko's attitude when pressed was that she wasn't responsible if Yuuko can't tell beef from pork. That left the 'miracle' to occur with her Mabo, which wasn't going to happen since aside from her strange flavoring of baking powder and alum, it also had beef in it. Then the judges decided that Pinko needed to taste her creation, which had an amusing reaction. Then Pinko figured that Yuuko should taste it herself, which resulted in a very humble apology to Pinko.

But the fun was not going to stop there.

Asagi was up next, who managed to injure herself trying to keep up with Pinko. Her gyouza looked very good, with an asparagus garnish. Everyone was impressed with that, though Pinko pointed out that they were being judged on the gyouza and not the garnish. However, the gyouza tasted delicious, but there was one small problem. She used ground beef in both of her dishes as well. So even though both were good, they didn't use the theme ingredient. Nami did a great job on both of her dishes, they really liked the taste of her tofu dish.

Finally, it was Pinko's turn to be judged. From what I can tell, I guess in a drama that she has done, her role was the cook in a Chinese-style cafe. Which is why they find her dislike of this cooking style so amusing. Her gyouza were perfect and her tofu dish was even more amazing. When asked to compare Pinko's and Aoki's, Kusakari couldn't really compare. They were both good in different ways.

Ranking Time really hurt both Yuuko and Asagi, because they failed to use the theme ingredient more than anything else. The other three did very well. Nami dropped a little, but remained in the Top Epu ranking. Aoki found herself in between the Top and Special Epu ranking. While Pinko continues to reign as the Number One Epu (third time in a row).

Ranking ( out of 113 ):
Izumi Pinko: 1
Aoki Sayaka: 7
Nami Etsuko: 11
Asagi Kuniko: 85
Ogura Yuuko: 103