10 Things About Iron Chef Chairman Mark Dacascos You Might Not Have Known

Mark Dacascos is not a name that’s familiar to even the biggest foodies and most ardent Food Network junkies, but his face is instantly recognizable as the Chairman of “Iron Chef America.” Although purported to be the nephew of the original Chairman played by Takeshi Kaga in the original Japanese “Iron Chef,” both are fictional characters and the two actors are not related. You may have seen him on “Iron Chef America” and you may have seen his back flips, but did you know these things about Mark Dacascos?
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  • 1. He’s a native Hawaiian.

  • Mark Dacascos was born in Honolulu in 1965, the son of a martial arts instructor father with Filipino, Spanish, and Han Chinese ancestry and a rock star mother of Irish and Japanese ancestry. He spent his first six years with his grandparents in Hawaii before joining his father and stepmother in the continental United States and in Hamburg, Germany.
  • 2. On “Iron Chef America” he ate only two bites of each dish.

  • The chefs on “Iron Chef America” not only had to create and complete five different dishes using the secret ingredient within the one-hour time frame, but plate five separate servings of each: one for each of the three judges, one to be photographed/filmed and another for the Chairman. Mark Dacascos limited himself to only two bites of each one (that’s still a whopping 20 bites per episode), and they usually filmed two episodes per day). Most would attribute that restraint to discipline, since Dacascos is a martial artist with a sculpted physique. The real reason: respect for the chefs.

    In a live online Q&A session, Dacascos said, “I almost always limit myself to two bites a course, even if I love the dish... It’s my duty to be fair to all of the chefs and not be so full that I can’t appreciate their work. Even if I don’t score the chefs myself, it’s only respectful to honor their creations by tasting them.”
  • 3. He’s not a fan of seafood ice cream.

  • As the Chairman on “Iron Chef America,” Dacascos got a chance to try otherworldly chef creations that mere mortals would never taste, but he did have his limits – even beyond the two-bite rule.

    "I would say that 95% of the food the chefs come up with is simply amazing,” he toldLAist. ”I am not, however, a fan of any type of seafood in desserts. If you've watched our show, you may remember certain chefs making ice creams with fish, or parfaits with uni (sea-urchin). Not things that I would order, but interesting, no doubt. I did enjoy eating turkey ice cream, though."
  • 4. He’s an accomplished actor who was discovered on the street.

  • Some of Hollywood’s greatest stars were discovered at restaurants, soda fountains and walking the street. That’s what happened to Mark Dacascos while walking through San Francisco’s Chinatown: he was spotted by Chris Lee (assistant director) and Rexall Chin (hairstylist), who were then working for director Wayne Wang. They approached him to appear in Wang’s 1985 film “Dim Sum: A Little Bit of Heart.” Dacascos got the role, but most of his scenes wound up on the cutting room floor. It would not be his last gig.

    Most of Dacasco’s roles featured him as a martial artist. He went on to star in “American Samurai,” “Double Dragon,” “Crying Freeman,” “Cradle 2 the Grave” and more than three dozen other films.
  • 5. He has a legitimate martial arts background.

  • Mark Dacascos was born into a family that knows a thing or two about martial arts. His father, Al Dacascos, is the founder of the martial art Wun Hop Kuen Do, which means “Way of the Combined Fist” or “Combined Fist Style,” in which he has an 8th-degree black belt. His stepmother, Malia Bernal, was the first woman to grace the cover of Black Belt magazine. The former national champions still teach, and they taught Damascos well. As a Hawaiian teenager in Hamburg, Germany, he found sanctuary in the kung-fu school and in the discipline of the art.

    Dacascos was a junior martial arts champion, entering his first tournament at aged 7 and winning his first international tournament at age 9. He competed throughout Europe before unofficially retiring at age 18. But his training never stopped. He lived in Taiwan for 6 months, training in the Black-Tiger Northern Shaolin style, then trained for 2 months in capoeira under Mestre Amen Santo before auditioning for his breakout role in the 1993 film “Only The Strong.” After landing the part, he trained five additional months during filming and continued capoeira for a year after filming ended. He also trained in Northern Shaolin, Wu Shu and Muay Thai, in which he is still active today.

    Dacascos has some favorite action scenes: the fight he had against Jet Li at the end of “Cradle 2 the Grave” and the opening staff fight in “Brotherhood of the Wolf.”
  • 6. His wife is an actress.

  • Mark Dacascos is married to actress Julie Condra, who starred with him in the film “Crying Freeman.” To many, Condra is perhaps most familiar as Madeline, a love interest of Fred Savage on the 1980s television series “The Wonder Years.” Together they have three children: two sons and a daughter.

    At home, his favorite food to cook for the kids is his Auntie Gwen's banana pancakes. “My kids expect me to cook them banana pancakes every Sunday morning and I love that they expect that from me,” he told LAist. “It's become our tradition... Auntie Gwen's Banana Pancakes continue to make me happy by bringing smiles and laughter to my own kids. To me, those pancakes mean love."
  • 7. He idolized Jackie Chan.

  • During his adolescent years in Germany, Jackie Chan was a huge influence, inspiring Dacascos to immerse himself in gymnastics, to be able to do the back flips that would later become familiar to “Iron Chef America” viewers.

    “I attribute almost breaking my back to a Jackie Chan film,” Dacascos told Kung Fu Kingdom. “In one of the movies I saw him do, he ran up something and did a back flip and I thought, ‘Oh that looks so cool! He does it so well!’ He made it look like it wasn’t that hard, so I went back to our kung-fu school where the ceilings were about 9 and a half to 10 feet high and there was this beam in the middle of the gym and I thought, I’m going to run right-up the beam and do a back flip, so running up the beam will be even easier. So I ran all the way up to the top and my head hit the ceiling, so before I even did the flip I was falling backwards and…bam! I hit my back! So I realized it was not as easy as it looked. However a couple of months later I tried it again and made it -was aware of the ceiling! But, Jackie Chan…he was just huge for me!”
  • 8. He was on “Dancing with the Stars.”

  • With his personality as an actor and his flexibility as a martial arts specialist, Mark Dacascos was a natural for “Dancing with the Stars” and one of the favorites to win it in Season 9. He teamed up with partner Lacey Schwimmer in 2009 and went far in the competition, finishing in sixth place in a season won by 1970s teen idol Donny Osmond.

    Although he did not win the competition, Dacasco got to show off his skills, determination and intellectual approach to the contest, making quite an impression on partner Schwimmer.

    "He understands competition – he’s so precise about everything," Schwimmer told Us Magazine. "I've never, ever, ever in my entire life of teaching had a student ask, 'So what should my head be doing? What should my fingers be doing?' From head to toe, this guy is asking everything."

    “He picks up super-fast, which is great for me," she continued. "I've been giving him super-intricate things… We're laughing pretty much the entire rehearsal, so it's a good atmosphere to work in."
  • 9. He played one of the great bad guys of all time.

  • Mark Dacascos spent four years playing Wo Fat, the arch villain of Steve McGarett on the recent re-boot of “Hawaii Five-O.” The 100th episode of the series made a major turning point and a shocking surprise for its viewers by killing off the Wo Fat character, but not before revealing that Wo Fat had a personal connection through McGarett’s mother.
  • 10. He’s in the food business.

  • Native Hawaiian Mark Dacascos teamed up with Alan Wong, Honolulu’s most esteemed chef, to create a line of packaged dinners that would bring some sophisticated deliciousness to on-the-go eaters. In 2015 he launched the Culinary Champions line of ready-to-heat meals, sold at Los Angeles area Costco stores. The first offering was Wong’s Pork Adobo, a family-sized box with two 16-ounce entrees for $10.99, with Garlic Ginger Teriyaki Chicken, Hawaiian Hoisin Ribs, and Kalua Island Pork the follow-ups. Dacascos plans to work with other well-known chefs, including Elizabeth Falkner of “The Next Iron Chef.”

    “We don’t put out any product that we wouldn’t serve to our own children,” Dacascos told Los Angeles Magazine. “We feel like we have a huge market because there are a lot of families that want to eat well but don’t always have time to cook on their own. No food we put in a package will ever come close to anything at Kitchen Stadium or at Alan’s restaurant, but it’s a good option if you don’t have the time to make your own food.”

    Dacascos and his wife have known Wong for decades and have been fans of his cooking long before this collaboration. In 1998 they held their wedding dinner at his flagship restaurant Alan Wong’s.

    Dacascos might only be an actor playing the Chairman on “Iron Chef America,” but for this project, he’s the Chairman.

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