Japanese Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto, maybe unknowingly, helped pave the way for the American development of our own Iron Chef competitions, as well as the expansion of numerous food-related television shows that have become a craze for millions of amateur and professional foodies.
Before sharpening his blades, though, Hiroshima-born Morimoto had more than just a dream to play professional baseball – he did play for a professional Japanese league until a shoulder injury deflected his ventures toward cooking.
“I constantly check how all the Japanese players are doing in MLB. I don’t follow any specific team though,” says Morimoto, who threw out a ceremonial first pitch at a Philadelphia Phillies game this past summer.
Embarking on his culinary career, Morimoto developed a knack for creating dishes as a sushi and kaiseki student in Hiroshima. He then ventured to the U.S., New York particularly, and opened what is now world-renowned Nobu restaurant with chef Nobu Matsuhisa.
Morimoto’s prowess as a chef and restaurateur skyrocketed from Nobu’s success, and his appearances on Iron Chef. Since 2006, he has helped open self-titled restaurants in Philadelphia, New York and Honolulu, as well as a variety of related dining establishments internationally.
“I always try to reflect the local food culture. I also enjoy integrating local food in my menus. My Morimoto Waikiki menu has several dishes that utilize Hawaiian food and ingredients,” says Morimoto, who was featured on MidWeek‘s cover Jan. 5, 2011.
A busy chef, Morimoto likes to get back to Hawaii every couple months or so. He has had the privilege to travel, getting better acquainted with the foods and cultures of countries and continents.
“Every country has its own unique, delicious food. I recommend Chinese food in Japan,” he says.
Even for the mighty Iron Chef Morimoto, cooking is a learning process that comes with experience, sampling and pairing.
When asked about challenging ingredients he has had to mix into his recipes, Morimoto says, “Anything I have never tried. In one of the Iron Chef battles I had to use all kinds of chili peppers because they were the secret ingredients. It was a tough battle because I was not familiar with any of those exotic peppers.”;
Morimoto’s restaurants have quite a soothing, comforting atmosphere, which helps to raise the dining experience.
“As a restaurateur, I’ve learned that the food is just 30 percent of the business in terms of how much it can influence guests. Other important elements include service and the décor. Although I am a chef, I pay attention to not only food, but all other details.”