Masaharu Morimoto

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Masaharu Morimoto
IronChefMorimoto.jpg
Masaharu Morimoto in 2004.
Born (1955-05-26) May 26, 1955 (age 59)
Hiroshima, Japan
Culinary career
Cooking style Japanese Fusion

Masaharu Morimoto (森本 正治 Morimoto Masaharu?, born May 26, 1955, in Hiroshima, Japan) is a Japanese chef, best known as an Iron Chef on the Japanese TV cooking show Iron Chef and its spinoff Iron Chef America. He has created a bridge between the culinary traditions of his native Japan and the American palate, bringing intense excitement, exquisite technique, and perfectly balanced flavors to the thousands of diners throughout the world. He has garnered critical and popular acclaim for his seamless integration of Western and Japanese ingredients and has effectively created a signature style that positions him as one of today’s foremost chefs.

After a shoulder injury ended a promising career as a baseball catcher in Japan, Morimoto began studying sushi in his hometown of Hiroshima. He quickly grasped the technique of this exacting food art and, at age 24, opened his first restaurant. Five years later, he moved to America to expand his culinary repertoire and explore the opportunities and possibilities he saw for a cuisine that would combine the best of both continents.

In 1994, Morimoto was recruited to join the original Nobu restaurant as executive chef, and in 2001, he opened his first eponymous restaurant in Philadelphia. He debuted Wasabi by Morimoto at the Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai in 2004, followed by a second Wasabi at the Taj Palace Hotel in New Delhi in 2008. Morimoto has received numerous accolades for his cuisine and aesthetic, including several appearances on San Pellegrino’s “Top 100 Restaurants in the World” list, a James Beard Foundation Award for “Outstanding Restaurant Design” for Morimoto New York, and in 2010, Morimoto Napa was named one of Food & Wine magazine’s “Best U.S. Restaurant Openings.” Today, there are additional Morimoto restaurants in Honolulu, Mexico City, and Maui, a Morimoto Sushi Bar in Boca Raton, and Japonais by Morimoto in Chicago. Morimoto South Beach and Morimoto Las Vegas will open in 2014.

Chef Morimoto first competed on the Japanese television show Iron Chef in 1998 and then became one of the stars of Food Network’s Iron Chef America in 1999. As Iron Chef, Morimoto was able to showcase his flawless technique and creativity with unique ingredients in front of millions of Americans. His first cookbook, Morimoto: The New Art of Japanese Cooking, won two International Association of Culinary Professionals awards, including the Julia Child Award for Best First Book.

Products[edit]

Morimoto Signature Series of beer was launched in 2003 in partnership with Rogue Ales of Newport, OR, and his legendary knife skills led him to create a line of knives crafted by Zwilling J.A. Henckels—combining German engineering and Japanese steel.

Iron Chef[edit]

Morimoto's official win/loss/tie record on Iron Chef is 16-7-1.[1]

Morimoto's costume on Iron Chef was silver with red trim and a picture on the back of Japanese and American flags tied together in a sheaf. On Iron Chef America, he donned the standard blue Iron Chef outfit with white trim and a patch of the Japanese flag on his sleeve (the other Iron Chefs having flags from their respective countries on their sleeves). In his professional life, to distinguish himself from his on-screen persona, Morimoto wears (purely aesthetic)[citation needed] glasses.

Unlike his predecessor, Koumei Nakamura, Morimoto's introduction as an Iron Chef came with little fanfare, debuting the week following Nakamura's retirement battle against Yukio Hattori. Morimoto was chosen based on his style of cooking, which seemed to border on fusion cuisine, as well as his international experience.

Chef Morimoto would become known as the Iron Chef whose dishes always seemed to come out of left field—a famous example is his Bell Pepper Sushi in a sushi battle in 1999. He would usually have a bottle of Coca-Cola to drink while cooking on the show; on one occasion he combined it with natto to fashion a dessert dish.[2][3]

Morimoto competed in the first sushi battle in Kitchen Stadium on June 18, 1999, against challenger Keiji Nakazawa. There were five theme ingredients for the battle: tuna, eggs, Kohada (Japanese Gizzard Shad), Anago, and Kanpyō. Both chefs were given time before the battle to properly prepare the sushi rice (sushi-meshi). Morimoto defeated Nakazawa.[4]

Morimoto is also memorable for being the target of Tadamichi Ohta, a vice-chairman of the Japanese Culinary Association and head of the notorious "Ohta Faction" of Japanese chefs, themselves noted for targeting all the Japanese Iron Chefs starting with Michiba. The Ohta faction lost three battles with Chef Morimoto before finally winning one when challenger Seiya Masahara defeated Morimoto in the anglerfish battle. The Ohta faction was not happy with just one win, however, and they sent in challenger Yusuke Yamashita, a sake specialist, to battle Morimoto. At that time, Morimoto had lost two straight battles and no Iron Chef had ever lost three in a row. The theme ingredient for that battle was cod roe and the battle ended in a tie. The overtime theme ingredient was scallions and Morimoto was able to defeat Yamashita in a 3–1 decision.

In his first battle with Bobby Flay in New York, battle rock crab, Morimoto famously declared that Flay was "not a chef" because Flay stood up on his chopping board after completing his dishes. Morimoto went on to defeat Flay in the New York Battle, the results of which Flay contested believing he was "given inferior cooking space and equipment" and because he had cut himself in addition to suffering several electric shocks during the battle.[5] This led to the two chefs competing once again in Japan during the 21st Century Battles. Morimoto lost to Flay in the re-match with Japanese lobster as the theme ingredient.[6] Nevertheless, Flay would become an Iron Chef along with Morimoto in the American spin-off, Iron Chef America. The two would face off a third time with Morimoto defeating Flay during the Holiday Ice Battle in November 2009.[7][8][6] A fourth battle between the two would take place in an episode which aired on January 1, 2012, with Flay and Marcela Valladolid defeating Morimoto and teammate Andrew Zimmern in a sea whistle salmon battle by a narrow 51-50 margin.

Iron Chef America[edit]

Morimoto and Hiroyuki Sakai were the only two original Iron Chefs to appear on Iron Chef America: Battle of the Masters. On this Food Network special series, he lost two battles with American Iron Chefs Mario Batali and Wolfgang Puck, but won a tag team battle along with partner Bobby Flay against Batali and Sakai.[9]

When Iron Chef America was greenlighted as a regular series, it moved from Los Angeles to New York. When Puck was unavailable, Morimoto came on board to replace him. His voice is usually dubbed by American voiceover personality Joe Cipriano during the judgment phase of the show; during the battle, his use of English is not dubbed, but conversations with his sous-chefs in Japanese are subtitled.[10] In 2007, Morimoto's third year at Iron Chef America, he published his first cookbook, Morimoto: The Art of New Japanese Cooking.[11]

As of December 2012, Morimoto's win/loss/tie record on Iron Chef America is 25–14–1, and his total combined record for both Iron Chef series is 41–21–2.

Morimoto opened a restaurant in the Boca Raton Resort & Club in late 2008.[12] He has spent time there ensuring a successful launch of the restaurant.

In The Next Iron Chef, Iron Chef Morimoto has made several appearances as a guest judge.[13]

Other appearances[edit]

In the 2010 season of Hell's Kitchen, Iron Chef Morimoto made an appearance on the show teaching the contestants how to make sushi. The contestants then had to replicate his dish.[14]

In Season 8 of Top Chef, Iron Chef Morimoto was the Guest Judge. Each finalist had to make a "Last Supper" for one of the judges. Finalist Antonia Lofaso prepared a traditional Japanese meal for Morimoto, consisting of miso soup and a sashimi bento.[15]

Awards[edit]

  • San Pellegrino's "Top 100 Restaurants in the World"
  • James Beard Foundation Award for "Best Restaurant Design" for Morimoto New York
  • Food & Wine Magazine's "Best U.S Restaurant Openings" for Morimoto Napa

References[edit]

  1. ^ "The Iron Chef can't win them all". Abilene Reporter. 11 August 2008. Retrieved 2011-04-17. 
  2. ^ "Iron Chef Japan: Rice Battle Episode Summary". Tv.com. Retrieved 2011-04-17. 
  3. ^ Musgrove, Mike (2000-06-25). "The Food Network's Entree; Dueling Chefs Leave It to Cleaver in a New York City Showdown". Pqasb.pqarchiver.com. Retrieved 2011-04-17. 
  4. ^ "Iron Chef Sushi Battle (1/5)". YouTube. 2006-09-23. Retrieved 2011-04-17. 
  5. ^ Stein, Joel (June 26, 2000). "The Joy Of Cooking". TIME. Retrieved on April 9, 2011.
  6. ^ a b Marin, Rick (2001-06-06). "Lobsters at Five Paces, Knives and Egos Bared". New York Times. Retrieved 2011-04-17. 
  7. ^ Bianculli, David (2000-06-23). "Hail To (half Of) The 'Chef'". New York Daily News. Retrieved 2011-04-17. 
  8. ^ Marcus, Erica (2005-01-15). "Japan's Food Fight Hits America". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2011-04-17. 
  9. ^ Haughton, Natalie (Apr 25, 2004). "Food Network's 'Iron Chef' to Stick as Close as Possible to Japanese Show". Los Angeles Daily News. Retrieved 17 April 2011. 
  10. ^ Doublebower, Robin (9 November 2007). "'Next Iron Chef' Stirs Up Drama". The Hofstra Chronicle. 
  11. ^ Denn, Rebekah (2007-10-02). "Iron Chef Morimoto Makes the Leap from TV Star to Cookbook Author". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved 2011-04-17. 
  12. ^ "Boca Raton Restaurants & South Florida Fine Dining". Boca Raton Resort & Club. Retrieved 2011-04-17. 
  13. ^ Joanne Chen (12 November 2007). "Michael Symon: Iron Chef!". CNN Money. Retrieved 2011-04-17. 
  14. ^ "Wednesday Returning Shows: 'Modern Family,' 'Hell's Kitchen' and More". The Dallas Morning News. 2010-09-22. Retrieved 2011-04-17. 
  15. ^ Tharp, Sharon (2011-03-23). "'Top Chef: All-Stars' Recap: "Last Supper"". Ology. Retrieved 2011-04-17. 
  16. ^ Culinary Hall of Fame Induction

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Koumei Nakamura
Iron Chef Japanese
February 27, 1998 - September 24, 1999
Succeeded by
None