Then & Now: Chef Masaharu Morimoto

The Iron Chef sounds off on his childhood experiences, favorite foods and inspirations.


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Superstar Chef Masaharu Morimoto is revered for his knife skills and haute sushi creations on the Food Network’s hit TV show Iron Chef America, but he hasn’t always been in the spotlight. Born in 1955 in Hiroshima, Japan, Morimoto opened his first restaurant in that city at age 24, and sold it five years later to travel and work in the United States. He appeared on the original version of Iron Chef in Japan. After Morimoto served as head chef at Nobu in Manhattan, he left to open the first of several Morimoto restaurants; he now has restaurants in Napa Valley, Philadelphia and Waikiki, among others. He still regularly appears on Iron Chef America.

FAVORITE BEVERAGE WHEN I WAS 6:

Fanta grape soda.

FAVORITE BEVERAGE NOW:

Shochu, a Japanese alcoholic beverage that is similar to saké, but is distilled and not brewed.

FIRST WINE EXPERIENCE:

Akadama, a sweetened red wine that was developed in Japan for those who were not familiar with authentic, oaked red wines from France and California.

EPIPHANY WINE EXPERIENCE:

The first time that I paired sushi with a white wine, I realized how wine could enhance the flavor of even traditional Japanese food dramatically. I cannot remember the specific name of the wine, but it was probably a Riesling.
 

MOST RECENT REVELATION CONCERNING WINE:

I was invited to a dinner at a prominent wine collector’s house where I learned that no matter what kind of excellent wine you drink, if you drink more than 10—not just tasting, but consuming full bottles—you don’t remember much about them.

FAVORITE DISH WHEN I WAS 6:

When I was a kid, on the day that my father got paid, he’d take the whole family out for sushi. Those were the times I enjoyed sushi most, and part of the reason why sushi inspires such happy memories today.

WHAT I LIKE TO COOK IN MY SPARE TIME:

When I was younger, I loved to make curry rice, but because I cook for a living, I don’t cook at home. Instead, my wife makes a great curry rice for me.

FAVORITE MUSICAL ARTIST WHEN I WAS 13:

Japanese pop music.

FAVORITE MUSICAL ARTIST/GENRE NOW:

Enka, a genre of music that incorporates traditional Japanese music with sentimental ballads. I like to sing enka when I do karaoke.

FAVORITE TOY WHEN I WAS 6:

I can’t remember.

FAVORITE TOY/GADGET/TOOL:

My iPad, though I only use it for email.

WHAT I WANTED TO BE WHEN I GREW UP:

A professional baseball player.

IDEAL VACATION:

I like to stay at a small traditional inn in a seaside town somewhere in Japan where I can enjoy the freshest seafood while relaxing. And my iPhone is nowhere in sight.

IF I HAD AN EMOTIONAL MELTDOWN WHEN I WAS 6, IT WAS MOST LIKELY OVER:

I was mentally strong and don’t remember ever having any emotional meltdowns.

WHAT WOULD MY 16-YEAR-OLD SELF THINK OF WHO I AM AND WHAT I’VE BECOME?

He’d be surprised. I thought I would become a professional baseball player. I was practicing every day and was a good slugger.

WHAT INSPIRES ME TODAY:

I left Hiroshima because I wanted to see the world. But it’s very important for me to never forget where I’m from and to help the Japanese people whenever I can. So I did a few fundraisers for the earthquake victims.

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